Employer brand – why and how to build it? Part I.

“The ease is over already.” This phrase is how the labour market situation could be summarised from the employer's point of view. Why? We live in a time when attracting well-qualified professionals to an organisation, as well as retaining existing employees, is becoming increasingly challenging. And this is where employer branding, among other things, proudly comes in. It allows you to build a competitive advantage and stand out from the crowd of other businesses.

What you’ll learn from the first part of the post is:

  • What employer brand and employer branding are.
  • What benefits employer branding brings.
  • Who should carry out EB activities.

What is employer branding?

Brand, brand name, product brand, and producer brand. These concepts have long since entered the common language and general circulation. They are not only used in the fields of professional marketing and advertising or by brand specialists’ milieu. Virtually every consumer knows them and uses them in everyday language, in addition to having their favourite brands. Some brands have gained an almost iconic status.

In recent years, although the term itself first appeared in the mid-1990s, the notion of an employer brand has also become increasingly prominent. This is nothing more than the totality of impressions and perceptions that employees of an organisation and potential candidates have about a particular employer – what they say about it to their friends and colleagues or what they write about it on social media or job seekers’ websites. In short, it is its reputation and popularity in the eyes of any interested individuals as well as the values that the company attributes to itself and its employees.

What is employer branding then? It is any action taken by a company to build the image of the organisation as perceived by employees and job candidates. It is a well-thought-out and carefully planned way of communicating with both existing and potential talent, in line with the organisation's business values and culture. Importantly, it should be two-way communication and an ever-living process.

Why invest in employer branding?

For strategically thinking organisations intent on attracting the best talent and retaining professionals within their ranks, EB activities have become a good standard. What is more, they are now an outright necessity, given the so-called employee market. Indeed, employer branding is an excellent way of achieving image-related and strictly financial benefits.

The most important of these are as follows:

  • Increased company recognition in the market.
  • Increased attractiveness of the organisation as an employer (so-called go-to employer).
  • Reduced employee turnover in the company, which translated into reduced costs of recruiting, hiring, inducting, and training new people.
  • A way to reach out to candidates who fit the organisation’s profile.
  • Enhanced effectiveness of the HR department’s recruitment efforts.
  • Increased employee commitment and loyalty and organisational culture growth.

Employer branding – with or without an external agency?

A key question arises as far as employer branding activities go i.e., whether to run them with the organisation’s resources or put them in the hands of an external agency specialising in communications. I don’t think I’ll surprise you if I say that there’s no clear answer here. It depends. First and foremost, it depends on whether there are adequate resources that the company could commit.

It is often the case, however, that the HR department (because it’s usually the HR department and the specialists working in it who play the role of the company's EB officer) is so busy with recruitment processes or day-to-day personnel matters that there’s a shortage of hands. It is in this situation that it makes sense to seek professional external support. What’s more, it can provide a fresh perspective on the company, which is often lacking, especially in the case of businesses that are long-established in the market space.

There’s one important factor, though. No one knows the organisation and the needs and pains of the people working in it better than the very people working there. Therefore, for employer branding activities to be effective (i.e., for people to accept them and find them to be genuine), close cooperation between the organisation seeking external employer branding expertise and the EB or public relations agency hired is essential. The agency can of course propose certain activities, themes, or content, but it is the company that is a kind of information hub.

Bearing this in mind, appointing a specific person on the company's side and holding periodic review meetings with the agency is the best way to maintain a proper rhythm and quality of communication. There’s one other key point, though. As far as EB is concerned, it’s essential for the bosses to understand this matter and to have patronage (even quietly) over any activities in this area.

In summary:

  • Employer branding is any activity aimed at building a company's image as a “go-to employer”.
  • EB can bring both image-related and financial benefits to an organisation.
  • The impetus for action in this area should come from within the organisation. It’s the people in the company who know best what they’re interested in, what their needs are, and what they would like to hear.

You will learn from the next part of the post where to start and what tools and specific activities can support your company when tackling employer branding.