In a recent NY Report webinar, “Become the Employer of Choice for Top Talent,” Jennifer Scott, director of talent acquisition at Workforce Engine, spoke about how to build up your company’s branding in order to attract high-quality job applicants.
According to Scott, employer branding is the distinct way your company is perceived in the marketplace, a reflection of who your company is, and the perception your organization wants to create. Branding is more important with smaller companies because they have fewer resources to spread the word about their brand. However, smaller businesses have an advantage over larger businesses when it comes to branding, because the visible faces of your company—you and your employees—give customers and prospective employees an instant personal connection.
How to Build Up Your Brand
Even if you’ve never established an employer brand, your business still has one, said Scott. “Your brand is created even—and especially—when you’re not paying attention to it,” she said. “Not acknowledging your brand doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” A strong employer brand is critical to your company’s success and is a driver of productivity and profitability. It will also help you get more applications for potential employees and attract higher-quality job seekers. As a business owner, developing your company’s culture should be your priority. “An employer brand articulates your culture and actually helps spread your message,” said Scott. “Tie your employer brand and employee culture to performance expectations and you turn around company performance.” To build a successful, positive brand, Scott recommended the following steps:
1. Do Your Research
The first step, said Scott, is asking your employees how they already perceive your company. There are several ways to do this, depending on the type of company culture that’s already in place. Scott recommended getting your employees’ opinions either formally, via a one-on-one interview, or informally, through a survey. If you’re worried that speaking to your employees directly won’t get you an honest opinion, your team may be apt to speak truthfully to someone who’s not in the organization. In this case, a third-party survey or focus group can be helpful.
To find out how your employees perceive your company brand, Scott recommended asking the following questions:
Who are we to you?
What do we offer that you appreciate?
Why do you work here?
What would make working here better?
Identify the key talent drivers and engagement factors that make people want to stay with your company. These can vary depending on the individual, but can include:
The chance to advance to a higher position
An employee rewards program
Freedom and work/life balance
You should also look at the company’s reputation from an external point of view to find out what job seekers are hearing and thinking about your business. Be prepared to hear the negatives, and be willing to address problems. “The worst thing you can do with negative information is nothing,” said Scott.
2. Make a Promise You Can Keep
The next step in the process is creating an employee value proposition (EVP) that will act as a promise to your employees. Depending on the results of your research, this can include features like compensation, a positive work environment, and advancement opportunities and skill development. However, be sure to remember not to make promises to your employees that you can’t keep, especially in terms of monetary rewards.
Once you have your EVP, define your branding goals and turn it into a step-by-step action plan that you can implement in order to reach your vision of a positive brand. Take your EVP for a test drive, Scott recommended, and start it on a small scale, one piece at a time. Then ask for your employees’ feedback. “Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. How do you feel? Is that how you want them to feel?” said Scott. “They spend far too much of their day in your office to not love what they do.” Share your vision with your team and explain their role in achieving it. “Help them feel like what they do matters to your success,” Scott said.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The next step is all about communication. “Communicate your brand so employees can understand, and know that they share the underlying values of your company,” said Scott. Use newsletters, your company intranet, training programs, performance appraisals, and your regular company meetings to emphasize your branding. If you do this enough, your employees will become brand evangelists for your company. Encourage their outbound communication about your company, and leverage social sharing. “They want to tell people they love what they do,” said Scott. You should also educate your leadership team and managers on the importance of strong employer branding.
Be sure to make the effort to communicate your brand through marketing efforts, as well. Put out press releases, engage with your local community, create YouTube videos with employee testimonials, and create (or rework) your website’s career page, even if your company isn’t hiring at the moment.
Michelle Court is the managing editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com.