Glossy websites. Slick marketing. Eye-catching visuals. When you think about great employer brands, these are the things that come to mind. But are they the most effective way of engaging and – crucially – retaining candidates?
Gallup data tells us that the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees in US is 1.8–1 – the lowest it’s been since 2013. Employees are less and less connected to their employers, leading to the rise of economic trends like quiet quitting and the great resignation.
People are, on the whole, more cynical. 2023 Edelman Trust research demonstrates high levels of pessimism across UK society as a whole, and widespread distrust in leadership and authority. Where, in the past, employer communications would have been seen broadly as a source of truth, social media has granted candidates greater access to the lived experiences of employees.
If these don’t match what your employer brand is selling, candidates won’t buy it.
In an attempt to recruit and retain more effectively, organisations have poured more resources into sharpening the way their employer brands are communicated – as a means of better engaging with both prospective candidates and existing employees. And they can be incredibly valuable. If done right.
It’s easy to reduce employer brands down to assets and messaging. But, in order to work effectively, they need to be much more than that. Your employer brand is about more than just looks and words. It’s the totality of the experience had by employees – right from when they first hear about the job to the moment they leave.
Stylish comms are essential for piquing the interest of candidates, but so often employer brands are seen exclusively as attraction vehicles. They might get people through the door, but what happens when the reality doesn’t match the marketing?
The answer is simple: People leave. And then they leave bad reviews.
Organisations are much more porous than they’ve ever been. People trust people more than they trust businesses, and sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and social media platforms mean that any poor experience had by candidates or employees is now easily accessible – and highly persuasive – to your talent pool.
Honesty is the best policy.
Why? Because people see through the spin. If the great resignation and quiet quitting have taught us anything, it’s that people are less inclined to put up with workplaces that don’t meet their needs.
Walk the walk
Your employer brand needs to work holistically. It should have plug ins to learning and development, training, benefits and culture. It should answer, and deliver on, the single most important question held by employees:
What’s in it for me?
That means you can’t afford to be anything but authentic. Your employer brand has to be recognisable to your existing staff – grounded in their lived experiences, and reflective of your culture. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have an effective employer brand if your culture isn’t yet quite where you want it to be. It should be aspirational. Looking at your business through a future-focused lens is a great way of rallying your existing staff around an inspiring mission, and of future-proofing your employer brand.
It also shouldn’t be confined to a singular function.
To work at an optimal level, your employer brand needs to be adopted meaningfully by leadership, and embedded into all elements of the company culture – including performance management, career development, rewards and benefits, and the full suite of HR policies and procedures.
The best employer brands are embedded all across the organisation in question, but it’s not an all-or-nothing issue. Whatever candidate and employee touchpoints your employer brand informs, it can be a hugely effective tool in your recruitment arsenal. But it can’t be fabricated. A few final thoughts when creating a great brand:
- Be realistic about where you are, and but ambitious about where you’d like to be
- Champion thought leaders in your business
- Engage meaningfully with your staff – in research, launch, activation and management
- And, more than anything, put your people at the heart of everything you do.
‘’Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’’Richard Branson