This is what the CIPD has to say about employer brand: “the way in which organisations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people. A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent and establish credibility. It should connect with an organisation’s values and must run consistently through its approach to people management.”
Since social media, in particular, facilitates increased transparency around the employment experience there is increased emphasis on the importance of HR monitoring and enhancing the employer brand. Both positive and negative feedback from past and present employees is likely to be readily available on social media and HR need to be aware of the impact this may have on the organisation’s image and message. They also need to use social media channels to deliver job related information and strengthen the employer’s image and corporate message in dialogue with candidates and other stakeholders.
Managing the differentiation message is important because it plays into employee engagement, employer credibility, and brand power in a globalised and inter-connected marketplace. People choose a job, not because of the salary or job title, but because they appreciate the corporate culture and feel they will fulfil their potential within that culture.
The key to success in building and employer brand lies in using employee insight to inform HR strategy, communications and personnel management; HR professionals are increasingly learning from marketing techniques and applying them to people management. Management can delineate a picture of the customer for the organisation’s product or services, employer branding applies the same insight to which job candidates will buy into the organisation’s culture and fit well in the workplace and be productive long-term.
Engagement and performance
It’s not necessarily straightforward: Tamara Erickson and Lynda Gratton looked at the issue in their 2007 Harvard Business Review article ‘What it means to work here’ and say that “what makes your ﬁrm unique, can dramatically improve employee engagement and performance” but point out that this underpinned by the fact that different types of people will excel at different companies, and that not all workers want the same things.
Kevin Keohane, in a 2014 Training Journal article, talks about a model that aligns brand and talent, making a connection between the employee and her development needs with the purpose of the organisation and constructing a clear, consistent link that motivates the employee about the part they play in achieving the organisation’s objectives.
In a difficult economic climate and a marketplace characterised by skill shortages and a competition for talent it’s significant that there seems to be less trust and loyalty to organisations. With changes to employment contracts the psychological contract changes and so do employees’ attitudes to work, engagement and job satisfaction. The ‘psychological contract’ represents the agreement between employer and employee; building a strong employer brand provides the opportunity to sell the organisation as an employer.
Vision, values and culture
A good starting point when thinking about employer brand is to articulate the vision and values embraced by the organisation and leadership. Does the HR message reflect those values? If the organisation cites creativity and innovation as important is that made obvious in describing the product or service offering? A strong employer brand connects organisational values, HR strategy and policies and links to the organisation’s brand.
Talk about culture and fit to describe how employees fit into the overall structure of the wider business, so individuals can visualise what their roles are really all about and how they contribute to the big picture. Aim to develop a clear vision of what the organisation stands for, the benefits for employees and what is expected of them, so as to offer a distinctive ‘value proposition’.
The CIPD point out that you have an employer brand whether you consciously develop it or not, it is based on the way the organisation is seen as a ‘place to work’ by potential recruits, current employees, leavers and retirees. Employer brand is not just about reiterating the organisational mission statement and values, but is predicated on the real, lived experience of the workforce: “People who like the job they do and the place they work become advocates for it”.