Attract Top Talent with an Employment Branding Strategy
Focus on consumer brands may be losing candidates, employees and money
Remember the good old days when companies just had to worry about the brand they presented to consumers? Today, it is more important than ever that these same companies develop, manage and market their brands if they hope to attract and retain the best talent.
Employer branding, which was barely on any organization’s radar a decade ago, is now one of the top trending issues within the C-Suite, as companies struggle to find and keep high-level workers in a tightening labor market. Employer branding is particularly important when it comes to attracting, retaining, and motivating Millennials, who already represent the largest portion of the workforce.
Employers want to staff their organization with A-players to maximize the productivity, effectiveness and potential of operations and sales. The cost of having a team made up of predominantly B- and C-level workers can be high in terms of lost revenue, low productivity and high turnover. What more and more companies are discovering is that employer branding is playing an increasingly vital role in attracting and keeping top talent.
Research from LinkedIn shows that companies with positive employment branding get twice as many quality applicants compared to those without. This is undoubtedly why nearly 50 percent of organizations recently polled by Deloitte plan to increase spending on employer branding.
Engagement with an employer’s brand begins with the job search. One study found that 62 percent of job seekers research companies on social media before applying. Not surprisingly, companies with poor brands have a more difficult time getting those candidates in the door.
One survey found that 50 percent of job seekers will not even consider working for a company with a bad reputation, even if the job comes with a salary bump. In a survey by Glassdoor, 69 percent of respondents said they would turn down an offer from a company with a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed.
Companies lose more than just candidates when they have a weak brand; they lose money. They have to spend 10 percent more on recruiting to overcome their bad reputation, according to research by the Harvard Business Review.
Furthermore, 84 percent of candidates would consider leaving their current employer if another company with an excellent reputation offered them a job. The cost of losing an employee to more reputable companies ranges from 60 percent to 150 percent of that individual’s salary to replace him or her – recruit, retrain and lost continuity.
Companies cannot afford not to develop and manage their employer brand. The price is the loss of potential candidates, higher recruiting costs, low employee engagement and morale, and increased employee turnover.
So, what makes a good employer brand?
According to a study by LinkedIn and ICM Unlimited, the top three factors associated with a strong employment brand include the organization’s efforts to foster engagement, make a social contribution, offer opportunities for advancement, and build a motivating culture and influential team.
The same study found that the biggest factors that contributed to a bad brand include concerns about job security, dysfunctional teams and poor leadership. Meanwhile, other research ha found that an organization’s brand reputation is established before employment even begins.
As recruiting consulting firm Jibe pointed out in a recent article, a job seeker who has a horrible interview can rate their experience on sites like Glassdoor. Knowing this, 95 percent of professionals recently polled think the quality of their candidate experience impacts their employer brand.
Building a strong employer brand cannot simply be about having a foosball table in the breakroom or providing after-work beer. The brand starts from the core and weaves its way throughout the organization. Candidates and employees can see through hollow efforts to slap a pretty face on a company’s brand without actually having any substance behind it.
The following are steps that companies can take to enhance their employer brand:
CREATE A SYSTEM THAT IDENTIFIES AND TRACKS EXCEPTIONAL EMPLOYEES
Having a roster of A-players will help an organization attract more A-players. So, it is vital that employers have systems in place to identify high-potentials and top performers. It is equally vital that employers resist the urge to hang onto poor performers in the hope that they will improve. Most will not improve to the degree that will make a difference and the acceptance of mediocrity could be disruptive to the employer brand, and thus, recruiting and retention.
IDENTIFY, FILTER AND PLACE EMPLOYEES IN POSITIONS THAT UTILIZE THEIR STRENGTHS
An individual’s resume, previous experience or job title is not necessarily an indication of where that person’s professional strengths truly lie. New employees should be given the opportunity to explore different jobs and departments. Assessments should also be used to help identify his or her strengths.
The importance of mentoring and professional development cannot be overstated. Those left to sink or swim will simply get out of the pool. Mentoring and training are about so much more than merely learning the ins and outs of a given job. These programs should be as focused, if not more focused, on personal growth, as opposed to professional growth.
DON'T JUST TEACH YOUR YOUNGER TEAM MATES, LEARN FROM THEM
Many young workers feel as if they are constantly being told what to do and how to do it. There is a fine line between mentoring and micro-managing. Furthermore, many workers may feel that that they have a lot more to contribute if they were simply given the opportunity. Companies with a strong employee brand find ways to give all employees a voice when it comes to how their their teams, departments, and companies operate.
CREATING A CULTURE IS CRITICAL, BUT DON'T OVERLOOK SUB-CULTURES
Corporate culture has been in the news a lot these days. When companies like Uber fire 20 employees for creating an environment that is hostile to women, it is summed up as a bad or toxic culture. When Zappos.com is able to outsell most brick-and-mortar shoe stores, not on price and convenience, but on exceptional customer service, it is said to have an outstanding culture. Corporate culture is difficult to define, because it is often multi-faceted. But even companies with a positive overarching culture can have employees who feel left out. It is important to recognize and embrace the various subcultures. If the company sales retreat is always held at a tropical getaway that might be more enjoyable for married couples, single or LGBT workers might feel excluded.
GIVE EMPLOYEES AMPLE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN, GROW AND ADVANCE
Professional growth is important, particularly to millennials, who rank it higher than salary when it comes to what they want in a job. In fact, statistics from Glassdoor indicate that 60 percent of millennials consider growth opportunities to be the most attractive employee perk. The same survey found that 46 percent of these young workers actually left their last job due to the lack of growth. So, training and mentoring are important, but if workers still feel like they are standing still and not able to face new problems and challenges, then they will grow bored and seek new opportunities.
Similar to building a consumer brand, an employer brand is only as strong as the effort put into communicating it to target audiences. A survey by public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, found that only 17 percent of employees gave high ratings to the communications efforts of their company's top leader and senior leadership. The days of simply posting information on bulletin boards and a weekly memo are over. Organizations must use all of the tools in their communications toolbox, including digital newsletters, social media, town hall meetings, video, and even traditional advertising. General Electric recently launched a multi-million dollar television ad campaign not to highlight its products, but to alter the perception that it is a stuffy, old-line, manufacturing conglomerate.
Devon Kerns is co-founder and chief visionary officer of SoCap Consulting, a full-service marketing and consulting firm that helps organizations connect with and build community around millennials.