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A to Z of Employer Branding Best Practice

What is Employer Branding? 

In the simplest of terms, the identifiable, unique employer identity (value concept) behind your organisation and potential it has as an employer, both of which differentiate it from competitors.  

Assurance of an employment experience | brand promise making it easier (cheaper) for organisations to attract the quality talent who will perform best and thrive in their culture.

Employer branding favours those businesses endeavoring to attract and retain great people with diverse experiences, skill-sets and ways of thinking.  Consistency, appropriate messaging externally and a resource to more effectively manage staff expectations, drive accountability, collaboration and advocacy internally.Employer Branding Framework  The Higher Mix

Why Employer Branding is so important? 

Every company seeks to attract very specific types of talent, people with skills (and fit) who will stay productive and engaged in your environment and culture.    Stark reality today though, is that many organisations struggle in their attempts to be truly different from competitors, to find the necessary efficiencies, for some, difficulty extends to even staying abreast of effective (relevant) talent acquisition practices.    

There’s a strong business case to introducing clear, compelling Employer Brand (EVP) into your organisation.    

Harvard Business Review demonstrates in Blog why CEO’s need to take Employer Brand seriously because that basically translates into an organisation becoming more competitive | winning in talent markets.   

Finally employer brand is hitting its straps; as recognizable ability to unlock enormous economic potential and future growth.   Orly if the brand is constructed strategically;  i.e focuses on developing resource capabilities company-wide;  not just attracting talent, retaining your good people in the process.   So, what we’re talking about here is a vital talent management tool.

What is EVP?

 

EVP enhances change, impacts on entire employment experience, positively affects people’s motivation, engagement levels and wider organisational culture at the same time. 

Again, only if employer brand strategy is crafted and executed properly.

 

QUEST FOR SKILLED TALENT, PROMINENCE AND APPEAL

Employee propositions differentiate organisations from their biggest competitors; but end-to-end strategic employer brand programs involve much more. 

Deep dialogue and engagement directly with key stakeholders, facilitated learning experiences through various functions, levels of a business, calibration of performance levels in direction of competitive norms, and support for different talent strategies (also correlates significantly to cross-cultural and gender diversity, longevity in the workplace, ageing workforce considerations and specifically, new ways of working etc).   

Companies of all maturity levels now aware of the incredible value (and opportunities) employer branding best practice brings – after all, improving capacity to attract, retain and engage great talent in today’s new economy can’t be underestimated.    Knowledge, technology and other niche skill-sets are competitive enablers – shortages will hamper organisational efforts, obstruct strategy delivery and/or render delays;  further straining economic growth and affecting the bottom line. 

Sometimes even posing a significant threat to that organisation’s sustainability (as is the case, right now for a good many companies.)     

CLICK  & CONTACT OUR EMPLOYER BRAND SPECIALISTS

 

 

Employer and company branding drives presence in markets, enhances your ability to win over talent and play at employer of choice level.  Internally, strong, strategic employer brands increase staff retention, reduce recruitment, agency and human capital costs, decrease time to fill and positively impact on the internal culture of your organisation. 

Perhaps your business has a great culture already – you just want it maintained, enhanced through growth?  Or company is mid-way through an ambitious transformation strategy, alternatively is revising business plan aimed at significant transformation, requiring faster access to specialised skills, across different sectors & locations?   Maybe market or legislative changes are frustrating retention-recruitment process | targeting efforts across national and global markets? 

Appeal (attract/retain) unique, valuable skill-sets and future-proof the business? Then look no further than employer branding to help you achieve these outcomes.  

Employer of Choice – So Much More Than Looking Different

Too many employer brands (and EVPs) are built in boardrooms.  Why many do fail to gain traction; leaders assuming they know employees well enough to be able to speak for them, how they feel and what it is they do actually want. 

As employer brand consultants we rely on the evidence.   Adopting strategic employer branding methodology and agile approach to mesh all the elements in determination of what an organisation should rely on to differentiate itself and drive its talent and business goals.

Brand Consistency 

Employer brands hinge on mental and physical availability, so organisations have to concentrate on building consistent actions and associations to their own talent, potential candidates and to the marketplace. 

Employer Branding  Employee Experience  The Higher Mix

By now, we know Employer brands allow organisations to more competitively compete in labour markets, prevailing across all types of market conditions to guide attraction, recruitment, induction, socialization, commitment.  Along with supporting existing HR iterations (organisational development, employee engagement, culture change and much more.) 

For these outcomes, the process must be elevated above it being all about “attraction” (in spite of what creative agencies, who infer they ‘do’ employer branding might have you believe; and subsequently direct both effort and investment into.)

Regardless of decisions you make, where focus is put (from employee experience perspective), be sure you arrive at it from a place of sound research and authentic feedback from your people.

Employer Brand Relationship to Company Brand

Employer branding methodology involves attention being directed at organisational branding elements too. 

Well-articulated employer brands attract the right talent to an organisation, for this to happen visible alignment between a company brand and its employer brand is essential.   After all, its company brand positioning and appeal that captures the prospective talent’s attention, and moves them into action right?   

Employer branding is synonymous with company reputation, but they aren’t the same thing.

Direct Correlation between Reputation and Employer Brand 

Deliberately nuanced, maintained using mix of science, creativity and purpose;  both present your company with stronger positioning but damage to one also weakens the other.  Employment-specific, often localized, fact remains employer brands intimately connect with and echo a company brand, and therefore directly impact on brand identity, internally and externally (and vice versa.) 

Here’s the kicker.  An employer brand can only ever be as strong as the company brand. 

That said, organisations can use one to influence the other.

Difference Between Employer Branding and Reputation   The Higher Mix

 

End-to-end branding means your company’s perceived identity/image and its actual organisational culture and people are one and the same.   Another solid reason for ensuring employer brand development is treated as strategic exercise; well considered and not crafted in isolation.

Best-Practice Employer Branding Process

Employer brand is a powerful business tool – and very much a science meets art approach.  

Before we launch into examining this process more closely, worth noting employer branding is actually one of the non-negotiable brand protocols all businesses need to have in place,  as evidenced in company branding process flow at 3B below.     Employer Brand (Part of a far bigger picture) Company Brand The Higher Mix

Employer Branding Framework (Simplified) 

On journey to discovering how to construct a powerful employer brand, first here’s a scaled-back version of our employer brand framework, from The Higher Mix,  introducing the basic phases of typical Employer Brand program:Employer Branding Framework (Simplified)  The Higher Mix

Probably becoming quite obvious by now – employer branding, done well, is a relatively complex (cultural) process.  Demanding mid-term view if your  business wants employer brand equity, along with the longer-term outcomes discussed in this Blog.

Ok, so let’s break an employer branding process down even further;  into its most vital phases and actions.

1.   Employer Brand is Evidence-Based

Strategically designed EVP relies on specific data; along with qual feedback gathered and analysed, so the employer brand is believable, authentic and deliverable.   

Employer brand strategy (and methodology) takes a long hard look at the entirety of the employment experience. 

Research uncovers basis for your EVP, and fosters the employer brand, well into the future.  Data and information gleaned from all over the business includes:     

  1. Existing Organisational, People and Talent Strategies 
  2. Stakeholders Input:  current employees + customers + partners
  3. Labour markets
  4. Competitors (for talent). 

2.  ‘Whole of Systems’ Approach

While employer brand processes guide companies to more fully understand market perceptions of both their brands; employer and company, also gives baseline to close gaps between what employees | potential candidates expect and what the organisation delivers.  

We aren’t just concerned with a workplace either – we pressure-test a company brand, its reputation by externally interviewing key customers, partners such as Recruiters, JV partners etc;  to deeply evaluate candidate/employee experience.   

Importance hinges not only on how Employer brand supports existing assumptions but dispels myths and bias. 

3.  Employee Engagement Matters

Internal Brand Meets External Brand   The Higher Mix

That rigour extends internally to examining specifics of company culture, and engaging internal teams in the process.   Ascertaining what goes to make your organisation so different?  What’s happening inside it?  How people behave?   How the work gets done?   How people are managed and developed? 

Understand how your employees feel.  What is it they truly value in the employment experience, get their feedback about working with your organisation, dealing with customers and project partners etc? 

Because when people let down, and talk from their heart – quite honestly, that’s where the real brand resides.  Also first class engagement exercise, and after all, a compelling EVP reflects that type of positive feedback.

Wider engagement ensues – this time externally, with recruiters and clients – they shine a valuable light on servicing, qualities (and shortcomings.)   Environmental scans assess existing labour market expectations, and competitor activities – evaluate these and it also helps us, to help you get the brand positioning right.

As Employer Brand Strategists, we review and use existing data-sets your company already has too (quantitative data; engagement surveys, employee surveys, focus groups completed, talent analytics etc.)  Breaking down the data – by area, location, commonalities; assess differences / gaps because employer brands need to echo nationally, globally as they go to market.  

4.  Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Every organisation has an Employer Brand, consciously developed or not. Thus they have the means to evaluate, use what’s at their disposal to keep employees happy, the brand appeal high and employment experience strong.

Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is the promise of a total distinctive employment experience; matching distinctive attractiveness to the total workplace experience, considering company values, systems, policies and behaviours, with ultimate aim of attracting, motivating, retaining existing talent and attracting new team-members.

EVPs are used in many ways – none the least as a tool for influencing brand appeal (improving a business profile as a “great place to work”). 

EVP strategy informs on how to best manage, where to effectively market those qualities.  EVP internalisation with Leaders and influencers ensures it cascades through the entire organisation.

4a.   Psychological Contract

Employee Experience Journey Mapping

Any organisation wants to access unique perspectives on strengths, gaps (actionable insights) on the talent experience – using this as an opportunity to unite, connect teams, managers and key influencers and achieve deeper engagement with them.  And as an informative means to articulate current state, the unfolding brand direction and strengths too. 

4b.  Critical EVP Characteristics

In developing Employer brands, of most concern to us (and should be to you) are critical EVP characteristics.  Analyzing and understanding what’s adding to or detracting from both the employee experience and culture in organisations.  Exploring the psychological contract between employer and employee – to understand what the parties expect to give and get from each other? 

Team contributions create organisational value and sustainability.   So employer brand solutions are therefore best developed with employee life-cycle in mind.   Typically, we analyse over 44 different attributes of the employee experience – to elicit important opinion on a brand’s differentiation, servicing and operations while we’re at it.    

EVP Characteristics  The Employee Experience

5.  Developing EVP Attributes 

Critical EVP attributes coupled with the value your company offers its potential talent and existing teams, amounts to brand differentiation. 

One of the most common mistakes we see from organisations though is they aren’t strategic enough about the specifics they want to brand and market.

EVP Attributes Model

Studies confirm a culture of career growth, innovation, challenging work, pay for performance and a values-driven organisation are fundamental EVP attributes workers do look for in ideal employer – but will these work for you?

When an employer brand is crafted properly, it considers very carefully how it is that organisation wants to uniquely symbolise its own sets of values and promises.    

Question remains, whether internal teams do actually have the necessary skills to apply plethora of knowledge gained, and context of just how the company is viewed/ respected as an employer, and a service provider? 

Exercise which requires strong conceptual abilities across multi-discipline group environment. 

Steering teams with the skills and ability to comprehend what & where the real value resides (from great many elements  a company has on offer.)  Choosing what to market, why and where, is as important, because sum total of wonderful attributes about a company can’t all be promoted at once.

Yet another important consideration.  If you want to avoid very real potential of derailment of any EB exercise – be sure to get execs and steering group collectively to a point where they can reach consensus; actually agree upon formalised EVP territories/ attributes/ resulting EVP statements.  Easier said than done. 

Employer Brand Strategy

Following confirmation of an authentic, deliverable EVP – employer brand strategy determines how, where to best market the value proposition effectively; definitive set of steps and actions organisations take to enhance their brand, strengthen appeal as an employer and build on relationships with existing or potential talent and/or external stakeholders.   

Whether the objective is a fresh approach to talent recruitment & development, transforming to become more customer-centric, achieving closer team/client relationships – they are all outcomes achievable from employer branding and specifically addressed as we develop EVP strategy. 

Does your organisation have an employer brand strategy?  Honestly ask yourself, is it resonating?  Creating a real connection with qualified, interested talent in and out of our business?   Driving advocacy inside the company?      Click to Contact our Employer Brand Specialists

Culture Underpins Employer Brand

Culture has a huge stake in Employer Branding.   Everyone knows brand position, customer loyalty and shareholder value depend intimately on a company’s ability to deliver quality, consistent team and customer experiences

No surprises then, employer branding is another tool (primary pathway) at your disposal to improve organisational culture.   

Culture-Employee Experience Model  The Higher Mix

Great companies often extol their competitive advantage/ differentiation as hailing from their own people;  even as we all work hard to elevate and evolve our cultures – its still about what people feel and believe is valued. 

Attitudes, behaviours, skills characterizing the entire organisation – what people do to ‘fit in’, be accepted, how they’re recognized, developed, rewarded and so on.    See now, just how intimately culture connects into (impacts upon) delivery of the EVP?  (As assurance of certain type of workplace experience.)

6.   Claims Test EVP for Authenticity 

Before marketing an employer brand, Pilot | Claims-testing your EVP will make certain the organisation is about to communicate a real (authentic) experience;  over one steering team might think or assume is the case.   

Claims-testing prior to activating a brand provides the opening to expose it to fresh eyes. To pressure-test it through their lens, tweaking and validating it for the assurance it stacks up – against competitors and appeals broadly, authentically, to local (and global) markets.

7.   Embed, Internalize, Align EVP 

Constructive behaviours from internal teams remains most effective way to deliver on business strategy.    Best practice Employer Branding connects organisational values, the heads and hearts of your people, human capital strategy and HR practices/policies.    As implementation of EVP nears, aligning and internalising an EVP becomes crucial. 

Over this phase, strategy and planning are activated.   Systems | Process | Practices | Technologies | Touchpoints | Behavioural Alignment (key messages aligned to employee attitudes & action) all  addressed as we integrate/ embed EVP into a business.

Anchor your the EVP with Leaders too, through any EVP alignment phase.    

We help organisation understands the implications, act on evidence previously presented in discovery phase, to be able to alter what’s impacting both employee experience and candidate experience.  

As with any type of implementation planning – about continually understanding where things are at, and actively addressing gaps and roadblocks.  

8.   EVP Communications Strategy, Engagement

Communications strategy ensures employers brand lays out foundations for a culture chock-full of brand ambassadors and influencers – in and out of the organisation. 

Planning and execution – rubber hits the road.  Moves to the launch of EVP – omni-channel and omni-device (incl. digital and workplace communications.)

Employee EVP education and orientation also key to successful EVP implementation.  Just as important as how the company goes about communicating its EVP externally – probably more so, if it wants far more brand ambassadors in its ranks! 

9.   Optimise and Measure EVP 

Lastly, continual eye on optimising and measuring of EVP;  key metrics in place to measure various components to employer brand strategy.  

Get more out of your Employer Brand Journey

We trust you found familiarising yourself with our methodology and IP on Employer branding useful. And we wish you well, in your quest to attract, develop, retain great talent inside the organisation.  

In closing out, as employer brand experts here are a few important snippets on the big stuff: 

  • Ensure company has documented, up-dated employee value proposition; one that has been, or is about to be internalised with your people.
  • Define organisational responsibilities and a budget for employer brand initiatives (common trait with top companies now,  because they truly get it (importance and criticality to protecting their futures.)   
  • Dedicate time to process of EVP development esp. engagement, internalisation phases.  Typically going to run timeline of between 4-6 months; out to more than 12+ months for sizable organisations – does not happen overnight. 
  • Firm focus on delivering value to current employees;  their empowerment and development. 
  • High-level executive buy-in (incl. line managers) makes the process strategic; and it is the only way forward.  Likewise, having the foresight to arm your own employees with a direct role in promoting the company’s employer brand.  
  • Include in an EB process:  Representative sample of different functions of your workforce, steering team a mix of high performers | A/B plus players who can, and will meet employer brand activities schedule / commitments. Usually select diverse group of people across the board – by gender, ethnicity, age, tenure, location, function and/or by level.  
  • Lastly, confidentiality and high-trust also key considerations because treatment of raw (and often highly-sensitive) data demands openness, integrity and aligned trust from a steering team.

Beware all the Employer Branding Pitfalls 

Potentially there are countless pitfalls, so let’s address three of ones we encounter regularly.  

Brand Vanilla.

Accounting for all the input, opinions, perspectives shared throughout this process – no surprise, orgs who had stab at building their own employer brands, will regularly find themselves rooted in the ‘safe zone’;  with a brand so dumbed down as result of trying to reach consensus.  They get EVP product which will no longer reflects their organisation’s most valuable cultural attributes or employment experience. 

Looks, sounds and just positioned like any other industry competitor.   And as employer brand specialists – we see this a lot.

Overpromise & Underdeliver.  

There can be no disjoint.   As employers, probably a whole stack of qualities we’d love our companies to be, but just aren’t.   So any claiming of what’s not part of the brand-employment experience is completely off the table. 

True to others, True to self  protects brand authenticity over longer term.  

EVP product entirely “Creative” (lack of structure and form)  

Often, we’re called in to support organisations to re-address lack-lustre EVP product – deficient in clarity, confusing messaging, with little traction, or unable to overcome stereotypical positioning, or its been sanitised beyond measure. Most times because it was way too focused on delivering ‘creative’ assets.   

Here’s your chance to really get this process right.   To be strategic about it and get the help / support internal teams will need. 

We wish you all the very best with your venture. 

 

Jo Woodfield is the Guest Speaker at event on Employer Branding held in Perth, Western Australia on 8 June 2018.   

Employment Branding Event 8 June 2018

About the Author Jo Woodfield

Jo is the founder and owner of The Higher Mix. As respected Organisational branding, Employer branding expert, she has consulted on national and international brand programs, for vast array of mining, engineering, retail and government clients. Jo leads The Higher Mix team of strategic management consultants, agile digital practitioners and research analysts as they assist client companies to improve their brands, marketing (strategic & digital offers), employer brands, transformational change programs, culture and leaders. Acclaimed keynote speaker on the topics of Brands (Company, Employer, Personal, Product Branding) along with Culture; invited guest panellist and/or speaker at over 150 domestic national events and conferences across Australia.

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