What is employer brand anyway?

How to build that business case and explain employer brand to those who may not understand it’s importance yet.   

by FIONA WARREN | Published on May 27, 2022

Did you know that one of the most in-demand jobs globally right now is Talent Acquisition? If you are in TA then this will come as no shock. What does this tell us? Recruitment is at an all-time high, and there is mounting pressures on HR teams to deliver the best quality talent to join their organisation.  If you put that into the context of the world of work, employees are now in a position where they can (and are) demanding more from their future employers from wellbeing programs, hybrid working patterns and a well-executed purpose – there is mounting pressure for ‘People’ teams to deliver.  

So how can organisations help alleviate some of this stress? By building an honest employer brand that highlights its strengths so that they stand out from the crowd.  

When we talk about employer brand to those who are not familiar, we often get a look of confusion as if we have spoken a foreign language. I find it helpful to reframe it in the context of consumer branding…do we rely solely on sales promotions to inspire what we buy? Or are we drawn both by the familiar and trusted brand, and the enticing offer? Even if you are the thriftiest person, brand loyalty will still inform many of the decisions you make. So, why is it obvious that consumer brand is a major contributor to customer choices while the importance of employer brand is overlooked?  

Insight 1: You need to build employer brand trust/desirability/preference to gain the advantage and get the best talent 

When people decide between similar products – Coca Cola vs Pepsi, Apple vs Android, or Airbnb vs Stayz – the decision is made based on the perception they have of the brand. A perception that has been crafted through strategic communications over long periods of time.  We need to have that same strategic and long-term mindset for building our employer brands. There are many brands doing this well through clever and consistent messaging…I’m sure you can think of an organisation where you believe it is a great place to work, even though you are not one of their employees. This is because, over time they have been consistent in their messaging and built their employer brand. If you are not guiding the narrative of your employer brand through storytelling, people have to seek elsewhere to find information about you, leaving all perceptions to be created by review sites. 

Insight 2: Like a consumer brand, an employer brand starts with brand architecture – an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) 

The beginning of brand creation often begins with its brand architecture which is guided by a company’s purpose; vison/mission which, then informs the creative expression of the brand. In employer branding this architecture is defined by the Employee Value Proposition, outlining what makes your organisation unique and attractive to your people and to prospective talent. (How to develop an EVP is another article entirely!) An EVP will help you do that – by defining what makes your company unique, attractive to people and the ‘why’ people should join. Once you have defined your EVP, the employer brand will speak to the value of the organisation and drive brand recognition in this space.  

Insight 3: Consumer brand and employer brand must work together 

Every interaction with a brand, whether purchasing a product or applying for a role, is a brand experience. Often a candidate applying for a job will already have an awareness of the organisation, so the communication from the employer brand needs to be aligned and an extension of the consumer brand to build trust.   

Insight 4: Build awareness of your employer brand so candidates consider you 

Much like with consumer brand advertising, you need to build awareness of your employer brand to help candidates understand what they are investing time in. Show them what it is really like to work for your organization. A candidate may be initially attracted to a job description but, when they do their research or are making their decision, they want to feel secure that you practice what you preach. Think about when you shop, would you buy a product from a brand you have never seen or heard of before? (Unless you’re in Aldi, and that is a whole other article on brand experience and persona mapping). So how do we build awareness?  

Insight 5: Your influencers are your people 

What could someone see or hear that would make them consider you over another company? Authentic and honest employer brands hero their people. They don’t hire actors or models, but feature real employees in adverts and video content, speaking to their experience of the values identified in their EVP. Your employees are your influencers and having a clear ambassador program that is amplified across their social channels will tap into their network and increase the number of employee referrals.   

Insight 6: Content strategy is necessary 

When creating a brand campaign, it is imperative to have a strong communications strategy and channel mix so consumers see the content at the right time, in the right environment. This is true for both consumer and employer brand.  

How do we build a strong content strategy? Well, it all filters back to your employer brand, and what makes you unique. Your EVP architecture will guide content themes that ensure you stay true to your employee experience.  Use your EVP to become your north star for content strategy and gathering. 

Nailing the channel mix to showcase your employer brand is vital. A recent article by Glassdoor states 68% of Millennials, 54% of Gen-Xers, and 48% of Boomers indicated they visit an employer’s social media properties specifically to evaluate the employer’s brand. Social media is a great place to give active and passive candidates bite size insights into life at your organisation. The careers site also plays an important part in the candidate decision journey, with 64% of candidates saying they research a company online. The careers site allows you to control the narrative and provide further, more detailed information that you can’t fit in a singular ad or on social.   

Insight 7: Employer brand is a long-term strategy. Employer brand drives the ‘why’ and recruitment drives the ‘what’ 

You may get asked the question, ‘is building our employer brand going to generate applications?’ Statistically brands who invest in their employer brand are 3x more likely to make a quality hire, and in a LinkedIn global survey, 80% of talent acquisition managers believe employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire top talent. But relying solely on your employer brand cannot guarantee you applications, because the CTA isn’t ‘apply now’, but instead it is explaining why someone should consider you. It is a long-term gain strategy. If you only run recruitment campaigns, you will miss a talent pool of passive candidates in the long term. Employer brand drives they ‘why’ and recruitment drives the ‘what’.  

Finally, I know we all love a stat and especially when we are building a business case. Here are some to contextualise the need for a strong employer brand in the world we are living in today.  

Turbo charged by the pandemic, people are re-evaluating what’s important in their lives: 

  • 79% say that their passions and interests now define them more than their work – meaning your employer brand needs to align to what they value 
  • 71% are tired of brands’ empty promises – so once you say something, you have to back that up with examples 
  • Over 50% of under 35s say that they would quit if their jobs stop them from enjoying life – your employer brand can showcase the culture of your company  

At Havas People, we believe the lines between customer and employee communications are blurring. Organisations who are leading the way are those that treat their employees – and employee communications with a similar degree of thought and consideration as they do they customers. So next time, when you’re explaining what employer branding is and why it is so important, think about these insights and highlight the parallels with consumer brand language they are used to hearing.  Because, at the end of the day, employer brand is branding. We are just articulating it with a different perspective, to a different audience mindset.  

Good luck!