Building an Employer Brand

There are many misconceptions around employer branding. Find out what an employer brand is, the elements that come together to make up an employer brand, the best practice for developing one and where an employer value proposition (EVP) fits in.

Developing a comprehensive employer brand is one of the most powerful ways in which companies can attract and retain talent. It brings consistency to recruitment and internal communications materials at every stage of the candidate journey. This, in turn, helps to shape companies' reputations, ensuring that they become what's known as an employer of choice.

What is employer branding?

An employer brand is a communications system devised to establish and maintain an organisation's reputation as a place of work. Many people think of it as a look-and-feel, but there is significantly more to it than that. It is, rather, encapsulated in the feeling you give people every time you interact with them from a career perspective.

The way an employee feels after speaking to a manager—that's an example of your employer brand in effect. But the way a candidate feels after listening to a podcast about working for you—so is that, too. The process of guiding, shaping and influencing those feelings is what we call employer branding.

There are number of key stages taken by employer marketing agencies to enable this.

Conducting employee research

The first part of the employer branding process is focus grouping your people to gauge their opinions of you as an employer. This essential research step tells you things like:

- Which media your people consume
- How they first became aware of you as an employer
- What they thought of your attraction materials
- Why they decided to apply
- What they thought of your ATS
- How effective they consider your current internal communication tools to be
- What they think of your Learning & Development offering
- What they think of the physical workplace
- What they love about working for you
- What they would change about working for you

This process should be conducted with a 5%-10% sample group of your entire workforce to ensure reliable data. It should also be conducted anonymously by your employer marketing agency—rather than internally—so as not to suppress opinion. The invaluable information gathered will be used to shape your messaging and all other aspects of your employer brand.

Identifying candidate touchpoints

Pinpointing each of your employer brand touchpoints will enable you to deliver your employer brand message at every stage of the candidate journey. Your focus groups will help to inform this process, as will your careers website data analytics.

As the candidate passes from awareness, consideration and interest to application, selection and recruitment, you have multiple opportunities to connect with them—from blog posts to ads to webinars showcasing your workplace offering. But the process doesn't stop there.

Once an employee is in your service, there are ongoing touchpoints that will influence their opinion of what it's like to work for you. Things like your Learning & Development offering, the way you handle performance management and your approach to things like flexible working and employee mental health.

Your talent attraction agency will help to ensure you don't miss any of them by delivering a comprehensive candidate journey map.

Creating an Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

Developing an impactful EVP tells candidates and existing employees—in one or two sentences—what they will get out of working for your organisation. Your EVP is the rhetorical encapsulation of your employer brand--its essence put into words.

The foundation of all your messaging, your EVP helps to:

1. Guide the marketing teams working on your talent attraction and retention strategies
2. Enable HR to develop its resourcing strategy based on delivering against the EVP's promise

Your employer marketing agency will develop your EVP by summarising the data uncovered during the focus grouping phase into a core set of employer brand pillars or themes. These themes will then be analysed for their commonality and their overarching message will be, first, condensed down into segmented Candidate Value Propositions(CVPs), which speak to each of your target audiences individually, and then delivered as your overall EVP.

The result is the identification of a single, simple message that identifies what is uniquely appealing about working for your organisation so that you can build all future employer content from it.

Developing your employer brand message and tone of voice

Establishing a strong employer brand message and tone of voice will differentiate you from other, similar employers. It will also ensure that the people most suited to working for you will be attracted to—and engaged by—your talent attraction and internal communications.

Messaging is the system of communicating your EVP in a consistent way across all employer brand touchpoints. It takes into account the themes raised during focus groups and addresses these, giving candidates and employees an immediate sense of empowerment by meeting their identified needs, wants and aspirations.

Here are a few examples of messaging in action:

- A video that shows working parents how to more effectively manage their time
- A blog post offering hints and tips on how to become a better creative thinker for innovators within your business
- A podcast discussing Inclusion within your workplace to help attract a more diverse workforce

What makes your messaging uniquely your own is that it is built on the subjects that you know your target audience is interested in. Just as importantly, it is expressed in a tone of voice that mirrors their own, too. Your focus group research will uncover how people like to be spoken to and how they speak to each other—and your brand tone of voice will be developed in accordance with these factors.

Designing a visual identification system

One of the most important factors in building your employer brand is establishing a robust set of visual guidelines for designers, photographers and illustrators. This will ensure that, wherever your employer brand appears, it is represented in a consistent and immediately recognisable way.

Whilst your visual identification system should have its own unique set of characteristics, so that it's clear it relates to your employer brand [rather than your consumer one], it should nevertheless draw from your overarching corporate brand guidelines. So, your employer marketing agency should work closely with your internal marketing department share information and determine dos and don'ts.

Your employer brand guidelines will include information on which colours and typography can be used and in which contexts. It will also detail how your logo can be used within your employer brand rollout as well as what types of photography can be leveraged--black and white, colour, posed, fly-on-the-wall, etc. Finally, it will include details on how illustrations can be incorporated into your content and which kinds of illustrations should not be used. And it will give detailed rationales for all these choices based on how they bring your EVP to life.

How long does employer branding take?

Depending on how much effort and resource you put into it, the employer branding process should take between 12 and 24 weeks from the point of the first scoping meeting with your agency to launch date. Your agency will be at pains to ensure that your input into the process is timely and comprehensive so that they are able to meet their deadlines.

Once your employer brand has been launched, however, it is an ongoing process to maintain it that requires regular analysis and subsequent revision. Yet, a well-delivered employer brand should last companies a lifetime--contrary to the industry trend to 'refresh' them every few years.

That's because a great employer brand is rooted in a set of universal truths about who you are and what you do as a company to make working for you rewarding for your people. The details may change over time--which means the execution strategy may need to be adapted—but the impact should remain the same. In other words, it will:

- Reduce your time to hire
- Reduce your cost per hire
- Increase the quantity of quality applications
- Filter out unsuitable candidates
- Increase employee engagement and satisfaction
- Reduce attrition
- Improve your reputation as an employer—making you an employer of choice

To find out more about building an employer brand - get in touch.

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