Employer brand: What actually works

The good news is that it’s no longer a case of trying to convince your senior leaders of the importance of employer branding. It is now widely recognised that an organisations message to market is essential in securing the best hires.

The bad news is that every company and their dog are desperately seeking to develop a distinctive employer brand. Now, the struggle lies in creating a brand that helps you stand out from the crowd. Without the right insights and knowledge, this will be an impossible task. But equipped with an understanding of how your company’s name fares in the market, you will be able to create a unique employer brand, surpass your competitors to gain the best talent and (most importantly, if we’re honest) impress your boss.

Okay, Wilbury, tell us, what are these insights? This part is simple. They come from the very people you are looking to hire. If you want to know what’s going to make them want to work for your company, you need to ask them.

Of course, the difficulty lies in how easily they’re going to tell you this. And if they do agree to tell you, how do you know they’re being honest about what they think? Managing the research process through a third party is the most effective way of getting true and representative data.

Now, as promised, we’ll let you in on some of our secrets. To help you reach your goal of creating an impressive employer brand, we have compiled a number of insights from our research reports.

So, here we go.

Number One: Create a Workplace Culture That Will Make Candidates Desperate to Work for You

Let’s begin this section with an example from our work. It might not come as a surprise to hear we find that FS firms struggle the most to convince candidates they have a desirable workplace culture, while tech firms find this much easier. Even among candidates already working in FS, those we speak to are often unenthusiastic about the reality of life at some of the sector’s largest companies.

However, companies struggling to promote their culture need not despair. There is still plenty they can do to show prospective candidates they offer a great work environment:

  1. Create an online narrative – a tip we learned from a telecom giant is that the best social media teams tell a compelling story about employee experiences, successes and initiatives. This is effective because it not only informs candidates about the reality of the role, but also showcases company culture.
  2. Introduce the team and tour the office – when a small fintech began releasing blog posts that featured an employee taking the viewer on a tour of the office and introducing members of the team, they reportedly noticed a surge in candidate interest. This strategy helps humanise the company and allows perspective candidates an inside view.
  3. Host meetups – to form a sense of “the people, the place and the culture” is the reason one firm gave for hosting meetups at its London office.
  4. Attend networking events – “it’s about ensuring a cultural match between your organisation and candidates” explained a senior HR leader from a tech business. Networking events are great way to promote your culture through the people who know it best – your staff.

A common thread running through the examples above is transparency. Which leads us onto tip number two…

Number Two: Don’t Tell Fibs

Now, when you think about it, this one should be obvious. We all seek transparency in our day-to-day lives. As a consumer, we want to buy from companies that are honest about their products.

It’s the same if you’re an employer. If you lie or exaggerate about the benefits you can offer prospective employees, then you’ll see them making a quick getaway soon after joining. They’ll tell their friends. Suddenly, your employer brand is ruined and the only one left on your team is Gilly, the office goldfish.

We found this to be a particular problem with companies that are trying to attract highly sought-after tech talent. We have spoken to many frustrated software developers who have joined organisations based on a job description that was too good to be true. One source explained “when role descriptions lie, it just pushes the problem further down the line”. They suggested that they would prefer a recruitment process that encourages honesty and openness from the start. Not only does this prevent disillusionment once a new employee joins, it also builds trust and helps to create a happy, energised workforce.

We find this approach works even for companies that have been through challenging times, when it may be more tempting to embellish role descriptions and benefits to bring employees through the door. Recently, we worked with a global FS firm that had experienced high-profile difficulties, leading to a lack of trust among customers and employees. When we asked prospective employees about the company, perceptions were negative at first. However, we established that negative reactions could easily be addressed once candidates learned more about the firm’s journey to correct its previous mistakes.

Number 3: Prove You’re Up to Date with Technology & Innovation

Like it or not, we live in a world where some friends will judge you if you haven’t upgraded your phone for a few years. The same goes for candidates considering a new employer; they will be unimpressed by companies not investing sufficiently in tech and digital transformation.

Naturally, this attitude is widespread among tech talent. Tech companies are therefore taking steps to showcase their systems through open-sourcing and other initiatives. These companies revealed that this not only gave them an advantage in attracting talent into their business, but also had the added bonus of ensuring new joiners were relatively up to speed with company systems on day one.

But don’t panic. Even if you don’t have the latest technology to show off, it’s still possible to use tech and other innovations to enhance your employer brand.

Number 4: Show Them How They’ll Grow

No one wants to feel like there is a ceiling on their professional growth. So to keep your current employees, and to attract new ones, it helps to show off the development paths available at your company. In fact, across our studies, this tends to be one of the most – if not the most – important factor candidates consider before moving.

One source was critical of a company’s attempts of attracting new talent through offering “free coffee, free breakfasts and a pool table”. Perks are nice to have, but they aren’t a substitute for progression opportunities. Candidates really want to know how they can grow, what skills they will gain and what pathways there are to more senior roles and ultimately, more money.

Businesses can easily incorporate career progression as a talking point in their market outreach work. We have found organisations actively promoting the fact that they organise buddy schemes, training sessions and high-achiever initiatives. Employee development plans are front and centre in their employer brand.

Okay, Wilbury, this is all well and good, but won’t we need a big marketing budget to do this?

Actually, no. Our research shows there is not clear a link between marketing budget and employer brand. Meaningful engagement with prospective candidates does not have to come at a high cost.

Phew. So what do we do now?

Get to know the talent pool you’re struggling to hire from. Find out what they’re thinking about, the channels they’re using, the events they’re attending. In short, be as proactive as you can.

And you could use our help…

Simply put, we talk to the people you want to hire. We know who to speak to, and most critically what questions to ask them to help you gain the most useful insights for developing your employer brand.

We love to connect with people, it’s what we do for a living. Give us a call on 01273 741 300 or email Amelia at ag@wscl.com to find out more.

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