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Employer Branding: Why It Matters (and How to Build a Strong One)

“A well-crafted employer brand is instrumental in attracting better talent to companies,” says Senior Bilingual Recruitment Consultant Melanie McQueen. “A strong employer brand communicates a clear and compelling message about the organization’s values and culture, and showcases the unique aspects that make the company an attractive place to work and grow.”

This was the central theme of a recent conversation between Summit Search Group’s recruitment experts on the importance of employer branding. If you’re looking for more insights into the importance of employer branding, or want tips on how to create an effective brand as an employer, read on to get the Summit team’s advice.

Employer branding vs. recruitment marketing

The relationship between branding and marketing on the recruitment side is similar to their different uses for engaging with customers. Managing Partner Matt Erhard explains, “Employer branding encompasses the overall reputation and perception of an organization as an employer. It involves shaping the company’s image, values, culture, and employee experience to attract and retain top talent.”

Recruitment marketing, on the other hand, is a more active, targeted process to attract candidates to specific job openings. This is often related to the employer’s brand, and can even be thought of as a subset of that concept, but as Recruitment Manager Jessica Alcock says, “Recruitment marketing is focused on engaging with talent, which can be done in a number of ways from job postings to social media campaigns.”

Timeline is another major difference between these concepts. Aman Sodi, Recruitment Director in Summit’s Toronto office, points out that an employer brand “is not something that happens overnight. It is a process that requires reviewing metrics and KPIs over time.” In other words, while a recruitment marketing campaign often has defined start and end points, your employer brand is an ongoing, overarching concept that’s not connected to a specific role or search.

The target audience also differs between marketing and branding. Recruitment Consultant Mariah Beahen clarifies, “Employer branding targets current and potential employees, whereas recruitment marketing focuses on attracting candidates for open positions.”

In short, says Winnipeg Recruitment Consultant Braeden Demchuk, “Recruitment marketing should compliment the overall brand of a company, but has the flexibility to fit a target department, role, or audience.”

The benefits of a strong employer brand

We’ve already established that an employer brand can help an organization attract and keep talent. But what are the specific aspects of it that accomplish this?

Firstly, an authentic, well-defined brand can help you to build more credibility and trust with candidates. “A well-crafted employer brand instills confidence in candidates that the company will provide a positive and rewarding work environment,” says Melanie McQueen. This enables your organization to stand out from its competitors. “It serves as a powerful magnet, drawing in top candidates to seek opportunities within the specific organization.” This doesn’t just mean more candidates to choose from, but also makes it more likely you’ll attract high-quality candidates who can make the most impact within your organization.

A well-crafted brand is also a powerful tool to create or strengthen the company culture. As Matt Erhard explains, “It helps you appeal to candidates who align with the company’s values and culture, fostering a positive employee experience that encourages employee loyalty.”

He points out that companies known for their strong employer brand like Google, Apple, Airbnb, and Salesforce are highly-regarded for their inclusivity, positive work environments, and opportunities for employee growth and development, so having a strong brand and a strong culture often go hand-in-hand.

This isn’t just about bringing in new talent, either. “A strong employer brand allows current employees to visualize and get excited about bigger things in the future of the company,” says Melissa Krakana, Recruitment Consultant for Summit’s Ottawa office. This improves the engagement and retention for your current team, along with making it more likely they’ll refer friends and network contacts to you as new employees. 

The downsides of a weak employer brand

Where a strong brand serves as a magnet for top talent, a poor brand can be an equally powerful repellant. “Candidates can become investigators and conduct their due diligence,” Aman Sodi says. “A poor employer brand can make it difficult to attract passive candidates when headhunted and deter candidates from applying for positions.”

A weak brand doesn’t only impact whether you seem like an attractive employer to new talent, but it can also lead to higher turnover rates among your current employees. Recruitment Consultant Serena Milani notes, “Dissatisfied employees who feel disconnected from the company’s values and culture are more likely to leave. Additionally, existing employees may become dissatisfied and disengaged due to negative perceptions of the company. This increases the likelihood of talented individuals seeking opportunities elsewhere.”  Not only does that mean higher costs for hiring and training new employees, but it can also disrupt your culture, team dynamics, and workflow.

If your current employer brand is weak, though, there’s no need to panic yet. “A poor employer brand may not mean your company is not successful, but it may be an indication that your team has unlocked potential,” says Braeden Demchuk. In this sense, a weak brand can be an opportunity to expand your reach for talent by defining your company’s values, culture, and identity more clearly.

How to create a strong employer brand

The first step to creating an employer brand is to know what defines your company. This means having a clear vision, mission, and values, as well as a defined culture. Aman Sodi suggests starting with your Employee Value Proposition. In other words, she says, “What does the candidate get in return for working at your company? What are the unique benefits and offerings that set your company apart from others?”

Matt Erhard seconds this suggestion, saying, “It’s crucial to articulate a compelling and unique employee value proposition and align the internal and external messaging to highlight it, along with the company’s mission and values.”

A unique value proposition means going beyond basics like compensation. Mariah Beahen suggests, “Include the factors that employees care about like flexibility, growth, opportunity, and organizational stability. Other important components are how employees feel at work and how they are treated, a supportive work environment, and whether the company values recognition, trust, feedback, autonomy, meaningful work, and work-life balance.”

Melissa Krakana has this advice to offer for companies that want to strengthen their brands: “Transparency when it comes to job descriptions, a defined career path, and a strong website or social media presence can help potential employees to evaluate if they align with the brand.”

Social media is a powerful tool for creating and amplifying an employer brand. This doesn’t just have to happen on your official company social media channels, either. As Recruitment Director Amanda Graham says, “Having employees who are willing and excited to share their positive experience in working for your organization via social media channels will go a long way. Your employees, both past and present, should be your organization’s biggest advocate in the marketplace regarding your organizational culture.”

You can also feature these kinds of stories and testimonials from employees on your company page to reinforce your official branding efforts. Showcasing the accomplishments and perspectives of current team members demonstrates that your organization is committed to the success of your employees and gives them a voice within the workplace, things that will help to strengthen the perception of your brand in their minds.

Studying other companies that excel in their employer branding can be a helpful way to refine your brand. If you’re looking for examples, Mariah Beahen says, “Patagonia is successful in attracting individuals who align strongly with their mission and values, Unilever is known for their initiatives to support employee growth and well-being, and Southwest Airlines has been recognized as a top employer in their industry due to their commitment to employee satisfaction.”

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