I was running some training sessions on recruitment last week, and in discussions with the delegates we got onto the topic of our employer brand. What was it, and why was it important, particularly in the context of recruitment? And – even more critically – what could we do about it?
The phrase ‘employer brand’ was first introduced in the 1990s, and has become increasingly prevalent ever since. An organisation’s employer brand focuses on the value proposition it offers to its employees and prospective employees, and how this differentiates from its competitors. Corporate branding – the value proposition to customers – has long been a primary focus for businesses as they strive to achieve and maintain competitive advantage; employer branding has historically been the slightly unloved younger sibling. So long as customers want to do business with us, does it really matter what employees – both prospective and current – think? Now, in an age of increasing competition for the best and brightest talent out there, employer branding has become a priority for organisations everywhere as they strive to stand out from the crowd.
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So, how do you find out whether you’ve got an employer brand in the first place? Well, whether you like it or not, in a world driven by the internet, your employer brand will already be out there. You can start by taking a look around the World Wide Web. Your website, your Glassdoor reviews, your employee testimonials, your job adverts… all of these combine to start to build up a picture of what it’s like to work for your organisation.
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With a strong, well defined employer brand – which is felt and believed by those who experience it, as well as those stakeholders who seek to set it out – these will align, and the feedback you receive from current, former and prospective employees will back up the branding statements that you make. This then starts to create a kind of snowball effect. A positive employer brand starts to attract more candidates to your roles. If the candidate experience is a positive one, these individuals will start to join those growing and expanding the reach of your employer brand. More prospective employees are attracted to you. The talent pool you are able to access starts to grow, and the talent you are therefore able to both recruit and retain (and we’ll talk more about the role your employer brand also has to play when it comes to retention in a later blog post) increases in magnitude.
What about if this isn’t the case though? If the employer brand for your organisation isn’t aligned, then the picture will be inconsistent. An organisation’s credibility can very quickly start to become damaged where the commitments you set out to make as an employer don’t mirror the experience of your candidates and employees.
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Let’s go back then to the question asked by my training delegates. What can we do about it? What is our role when it comes to taking responsibility for our employer brand, and how can we do everything possible to drive it forward?
In the first scenario we outlined, the danger is arguably that you start to take your employer brand for granted. Like most things, if you don’t provide it with regular focus and attention then there is the risk that it starts to fade and devalue. Every stakeholder within an organisation has a role to play in ensuring the strength of that brand is maintained. Each and every interaction with an employee, prospective or current, impacts on that employee experience and therefore the overall employer brand.
Where the employer brand isn’t aligned and isn’t sufficiently well developed to start to give real competitive advantage, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. What are the objectives of your employer brand, and how does what you are able to offer differentiate from your competition? What is going to drive candidates to want to work for you over your closest competitors? Which stakeholders are going to take responsibility for ensuring that the promises you make through your employer branding are delivered? How are you going to start to address experiences which haven’t aligned with your brand objectives? And how are you going to measure success against those goals? When this starts to become a priority across your whole organisation, your employer brand really starts to fly.
Does it really matter though?
Still not sure that it really matters? Well, the very best employer brands – Google, I’m looking at you – mean that candidates are queuing around the block to join your organisation before you’ve even posted your latest vacancy. With an unlimited pool of talent as an incentive, is your employer brand something you can really afford to ignore?