Why should you care? Where do you start?
The technology job market in Australia, and globally, has never been more competitive. Most companies are experiencing low application volumes to their job ads and when they do find people who are interested in joining them, they are having to pay more than they expected to. Those job candidates are also looking at plenty of other job opportunities. On top of this, their current employees are being approached by other companies almost daily.
The wrong way to respond to market conditions?
In response to the market, we see a lot of companies moving quickly to appeal to the extrinsic motivations of potential job candidates They offer higher salaries, more benefits, sign-on bonuses and promotions in order to secure the talent they need. Whilst these things are important, they fly in the face of every survey and opinion about what motivates employees.
For the most part, people in the Technology sector are intrinsically motivated. Challenging work, the opportunity to collaborate with other highly skilled people, the ability to choose their preferred work options, participation in decision making, feeling valued for the work they do, feeling connected to the mission of the business, working with the latest versions of the technology, the ability to develop their skills and in turn take on more responsibility – these are all factors that rank higher than pure salary level to most technology sector workers.
In other words, simply offering people more money isn’t a long-term solution to the problem. This is where a strong Employer Brand comes into play.
No matter how much you pay people, a bad reputation as an employer will impact your ability to attract quality employees and drive your overall hiring costs up. Tech companies in particular have an ability to move away from what might be thought of as the traditional corporate brand. The market’s perception of tech companies, in general, seems to be one of a strong brand and company story which when coupled with a company’s mission attracts potential candidates.
What is Employer Branding?
The Employer Branding Definition is still subjective depending on who you ask. However, it’s essentially the way that an organisation describes, manages and influences its reputation as an employer.
Your employer brand is your organization’s reputation as an employer. In simpler terms, it’s what job seekers and employees really think of you. It’s what they tell their friends and family when you aren’t around. Though it may not be tangible, your employer brand is an asset that requires constant cultivation.
That’s where employer brand-ing comes into play.
Why ‘manage’ and ‘influence’ instead of ‘own’ or ‘dictate?’ Because your employer brand is not something you actually own. Your reputation as an employer exists in the minds of candidates and employees, and it is shaped by their thoughts and impressions. You have an employer brand, whether it’s actively maintained or now. Candidates and employees have an opinion about you, and if you aren’t working to influence it, you’re at their mercy.
Think about the totality of your firm’s recruiting and retention efforts as a series of individual interactions. Every touchpoint leaves an impression on candidates and employees that shapes your employer brand and your ability to hire and retain great people. Without proper management, each one of those touchpoints can become a deal-breaker, costing you candidates and employees.
The Importance of Employer Branding
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of employer branding.
While the concept has been around for decades, it didn’t gain widespread attention until the mid 90’s when the first online job boards were launched. Almost overnight, employees had access to millions of opportunities across the country. The workforce became more fluid than ever before, and the days of sticking with one company for the long haul were over.
Smart employers adapted to this shift (some faster than others) and began to take proactive steps toward attracting and retaining top talent, but thousands of organizations still fail to capitalize on the benefits of employer branding.
And those benefits are significant.
Let’s look at some stats — good, bad and ugly — that shine some light on why employer branding is so important.
95% of candidates identify a company’s reputation as a key consideration when exploring new career opportunities (source). Virtually every candidate out there — whether they’re active, passive or somewhere in the middle — will consider your company’s reputation before applying. A powerful employer brand positions you strongly in the (hearts and) minds of your prospective employees.
66% of job seekers want to learn about your culture and values (source). Candidates are literally telling us what they want to see during the job search. Your employer branding content can be a great way to communicate these features.
69% of candidates would reject an offer from a company with a bad employer brand, even if they were unemployed (source). Even the fear of unemployment isn’t enough to overcome a negative employer brand.
Companies with a poor employer brand must offer a minimum of a 10% pay increase to lure top talent (source). Imagine paying a 10% premium on every single hire you make. Now take a minute to consider the state of your employer brand and ask yourself if you’re already paying that premium without realizing it?
40% of passive candidates would accept a new position without an increase in pay if the company had a good employer brand (source). A positive employer brand is all it takes to overcome the stigma associated with a lateral move for nearly half of the workforce.
As much as 23% of the 18-34 year-old workforce would accept a pay cut for an opportunity to join a company with a good employer brand (source). While we would never recommend intentionally underbidding your competitors, this goes to show the power of reputation.
Only 49% of employees would recommend their employer to a friend (source). This one is especially scary, as employee referrals are often the best source of quality applicants. You can kiss those hires goodbye if less than half of your employees would recommend you to their network.
More than anything else, these statistics prove that employer branding impacts every facet of the employer-employee relationship. While it is most often associated with recruitment, employer branding also affects employee engagement, retention and even profitability.
How to Build an Employer Brand
So you’re ready to get serious about your employer brand. But how do you get started?
You may not be able to hire dedicated experts to handle this function, but there’s no reason you can’t build a compelling employer brand. Breaking things down to the most important tasks will make the process much more manageable, so let’s cover the basics.
Conduct an EVP Audit.
You can’t hope to influence or manage your employer brand or develop any employer branding strategies if you don’t know what your current employees think about you, so an audit is a wise first step.
This is a two-pronged fact-finding mission designed to uncover how the company is currently presenting itself to candidates and employees and what those people actually think about the company.
First, it’s important to get as much buy-in from your people as possible so you can gain quality input and feedback from your current employees. This can be a bigger task than many realise and depending on the size of your business, it’ll become a huge project for your talent acquisition or hr department to manage alone.
Engage Key stakeholders.
We recommend forming a working group made of willing team members from each of your employee groups (leverage employees from sales, someone from engineering etc). You may have a better chance of engagement if this is managed and run by the teams themselves, It’ll feel less like corporate messaging and more inclusive.
Build out your questioning around the things that your people value the most and remember to ask why these things are important. This is context, and selling context to future employees is more effective than selling broad catch-all statements such as flexibility (flexibility means different things to different people of course).
Providing multiple options to provide this feedback is also important. Group workshops, one on one interviews, and anonymized Google forms are all examples of this. Some people will be really comfortable with doing this, others may feel a little awkward discussing it in a public forum so providing options maximises your ability to collect data.
Remember, the idea here is to understand how people really think and feel about the company, so be sure to ask questions that will provide meaningful information.
How would they describe the company to a friend? Why did they originally choose to apply? Why did they choose to accept the offer? Why do they stay with the company year after year? Why are they leaving the company? Do they feel the company “walks the walk?” Are they satisfied employees?
Authenticity is everything.
One of the biggest challenges we see is where a leader or leadership group dictate the brand and brand message. Obtaining a real cross-section of data from different teams and people allows you to shape something that is authentic and that resonates with people whose values align with yours.
For example, you could also talk to former employees, the recruiting team or human resources team will have contact details for them. Maybe there are brand advocates that you didn’t realise you had?
Next, examine everything, and we do mean everything, you’re saying to candidates and employees that could impact their perception of the company. Your job descriptions, career page, social media profiles, social media accounts, acceptance/rejection letters, onboarding materials, internal communications, and performance reviews — if it exists, analyze it.
Do these things match the feedback you’re receiving in your audit? Most likely not, but once complete, the audit will help you identify and correct the gaps that exist between how the company is presenting itself and how it is perceived by candidates and employees.
Craft Your Employee Value Proposition
Armed with the information collected during the employer brand audit you can find the common themes from this research and use these as a primary tool. Document them, and show them back to your teams and leadership group for a sanity check. At a high level, your EVP may want to talk briefly about the Company’s story, but it is a chance to talk about the company’s culture and the company’s values.
Once you’ve got a consensus, you’re ready to craft your employee value proposition (EVP).
The term EVP refers to the components of your company’s work experience that your employees value the most. This can include your company leaders, your company values, team members, the way that the work is actually done, how feedback is given, how progress and change is communicated and so on. It’s the lived experience of your people.
So with this in mind, think of your employer brand proposition as the outward-facing manifestation of your EVP.
From here you may want to use a creative team to build out your themes. Good copywriting and creative thinking should bring your EVP to life. If you have a marketing team that can build on what you’ve already produced then that’s great. If not, an external provider can be used.
Implement Your Employer Branding Strategy
At this point, you should be ready to take your message to the masses. But what channels are most important? There are countless avenues you can utilize to promote your employer brand, but when getting started we recommend starting with the lowest hanging fruit.
Job Descriptions – Job descriptions may not sound like the place to let your personality shine, but a job opportunity is often the first interaction job seekers will have with your company so make sure they reflect your desired employer brand.
Careers Page – Your careers page is the anchor of your employer branding materials, making it one of the most important touchpoints with potential candidates. Compelling photography or video, employee testimonials, your core values and more can all help convince candidates that you’re the place to be, so spend some time building this out.
Online Reviews – These days, almost every job seeker reads employer reviews before applying to a job, and coming across a negative review can stop them in their tracks. While you can’t control anonymous reviews, you can respond to them, and that can have a serious impact on perceptions. 62% of job seekers say their opinion of a company improved after seeing it respond to a negative review, so pay attention to what people are saying about you and don’t be afraid to respond.
Social Media accounts – Social media searches and social media posts should be forming a part of your branding efforts. Potential employees with no brand awareness or knowledge of the company’s identity could be targeted easily.
Candidate Experience – If you’re lucky enough to convince a great candidate to apply, at some point, you’ll interact with them offline. Whether it’s an initial phone screen or in-office interview, the experience that candidate has must align with your employer brand or you’re almost guaranteed to lose them.
Think about the assets you’ll need, such as long-form and short-form video and copywriting. Your employer brand strategy should be considerate of where your target audience spends most of their time. Recruitment marketing in the wrong channels can render all your work to this point meaningless.
Remember to walk before you run. Employer branding isn’t easy, and there’s no sense in rushing the process. Once you’ve tackled these items, you’ll be able to dive into more advanced employer branding projects.