Decoding the Latest Buzzword: Employer Branding
What is "Employer Branding"?
Hiring the best people is hard work. Ask any recruiter worth his or her credentials. And, in today’s employee-driven market, employers are looking for new and better ways to lure top people into their company.
Hence the birth of a new buzzword: Employer Branding.
Like old-time cattle ranchers, marketers love to brand things. The idea is to evoke a strong, emotional image in the minds of prospective customers. Gauge your feelings when reading the following: Google… Pepsi… Apple… Ferrari… Congress… United Airlines.
The emotions you just experienced are a result of “branding,” and as you can see, branding isn’t always positive or consciously created. A company’s brand is its reputation, good or bad, and it reflects current feelings about the company and its products. While millions of dollars in advertising can shape a company’s brand, 98% of American companies build their brand through the quality of their products and how they treat their customers.
Will “employer branding” work?
On the surface, employer branding makes sense. You want to create a positive image of your company that entices the best people in your industry to apply for jobs.
However, employees aren’t customers. The best people will look past your brand because this is their life. It’s not a product they can return or toss in the trash heap. If their experience doesn’t match their expectations, they… will… be… pissed. And, they’ll leave.
Put another way, the quality of your culture is at the heart of your Employer brand.
How to make employer branding work
If done right, employer branding can work. To accomplish this feat, we must focus on building and then promoting a great culture. While you are welcome to name this your “employer brand,” it is your culture that you are promoting to prospective employees.
A key point is that if you don’t have a great culture, no amount of branding will enable you to hire and keep great people. So, first you build. Then, you promote.
There are three reasons that you want to build and then promote a great culture (aka, “your employer brand”):
1 Growing a business on a weak culture is like trying to grow carrots in sand.
An undesirable culture will attract and breed undesirable employees. You’ve got to begin with a strong, healthy, vibrant culture to attract and keep strong, healthy, vibrant employees. Start by creating the kind of culture that will attract the kind of employees you want. Don’t fall into the trap of painting a picture that is more abstract than reality.
What do I mean by “Culture”?
By culture, I mean:
- Your core values – who you are in terms of how you behave in the world, with each other, and with your customers;
- Your purpose, cause or passion – WHY you do what you do
- How you lead and manage people
- And, how you operate and run your business
2 At the root of many employee issues is the company culture
Either an employee fits your culture, or they don’t. A problem child in an otherwise healthy culture presents issues because he or she does not fit the culture. They don’t share the values, aren’t interested in the company’s purpose, cause or passion, and rebel against their way of doing things.
3 Great employees flock to great cultures
There are two pieces to this puzzle. First, you only want to hire people that absolutely fit your culture. These people are great for your company, and if you’ve got a great culture, these great people will step all over each other to work for you. Second, these great employees are perfect fits for the seats in which they’ll be placed. They GET the job. They WANT the job. And, they have the absolute CAPACITY to do the job well.
Suzane Hanifin at Acumen Executive Search likes to say that there are three things you need to know about finding and hiring top executives that will stay with you: culture, culture, and culture.
The process of first building, and then promoting a great culture will produce your employer brand. Larger companies can advertise their brand, but most companies will rely on word of mouth to promote their brand.
There is one additional way to promote your brand (values, vision, purpose, way of leading, managing, and doing things) to prospective hires: reveal all in the application process. You require candidates to understand and resonate with your brand (culture) before submitting their application. Yes, you can do this. Yes, we’re doing it today for executive and non-executive positions.