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Your ultimate guide to employer branding

13 min read
When the employment rate is high, employees can be choosy about who they work for. Who wouldn’t want to apply to a company known for offering clearly defined values, a great workplace culture, worthwhile benefits and a decent salary?


In an employee’s market, company reputation is everything. 79% of UK adults are less likely to buy from a company with a poor reputation, and this reputation includes how that company treats its staff. 50% of job candidates would not work for an organisation with a negative brand, even if paid more.

You’ve created a compelling brand story that effectively sells your products or services. How do you make your company as compelling to attract and retain the best talent? This is where employer branding comes in.

What is employer branding?

At its simplest, employer branding is how the outside world sees a company as an employer rather than a supplier. It’s based on how it treats its employees, how the employees feel about working there and its company culture. Employer branding is effectively how a company markets itself to both internal and potential employees.

An existing employee, when asked what it’s like to work for a company, is unlikely to focus on the product; they’ll talk about management, conditions, culture and values. These are the things that will convince someone to come and work at, or stay at the company – not what it sells.

To hire and retain top talent, your employer branding needs to tell a compelling story. The ‘show, don’t tell’ device of storytelling is never truer than here – simply telling people your company is great is not enough – you, and your employees as your best advocates, must show that it is.

Why does employer branding matter?

Investing in employer branding is critical for your business’s bottom line and delivers a substantial return on investment (ROI). Hiring good people is expensive; an employee with a £27,600 salary will cost a company around £53,000 – you don’t want to lose them to a competitor after a year. At an average of 3-4 weeks to hire, it can be time-consuming for HR to recruit one person. With good employer branding, top talent knows that you are a great place to work and comes knocking on your door.

What is an employer value proposition (EVP)?

To create an effective employer brand, you’ll need an effective employer value proposition. An EVP is the offering to current employees and potential job applicants that makes you a desirable employer. It needs to be uniquely good to make top talent passionate enough to choose you over your competitors, or elect to stay with you, and it has to be true and representative.

Your EVP ideally offers five elements:

  • Opportunity: How employees can grow and develop their careers at your organisation: training or sponsored courses; business travel; scope to work abroad; the potential to work on prestigious, innovative projects, and promotion prospects.
  • People: How good the leaders, managers and co-workers are, and the general working atmosphere: the level of trust and collaboration; how well teams support and communicate with each other; positive relationships across hierarchies, and a thriving workplace culture.
  • Organisation: The company’s prestige as a ‘great employer’ in its particular market, not only for the market position of its product or service but also for: diversity and inclusion; employee empowerment; ethics; environmental and social responsibility; formality (or informality) of the workplace and investment in technology and systems.
  • Work: How meaningful, challenging and fulfilling the job is: its impact on the bigger picture; alignment of the job spec with business requirements; work-life balance with flexible working or telecommuting; recognition for effort and achievement.
  • Reward: The salary, bonuses or share options; benefits such as medical insurance, company car, pensions, gym memberships, paid leave, free canteen. Rewards are usually the last item on an EVP as most people want to feel that their work will be meaningful, regardless of salary. Potential candidates are more energised by your company’s purpose and positive impact.

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What’s the link between employer branding and the employer value proposition?

Every company has an employer brand by default, good or bad: it’s how current employees, leavers, retirees and potential recruits regard it and talk about it, based on their experience of actually working there or having dealings with it. EVP is internal, asking ‘what can we offer you as an employee?’  Employer brand is external – the face your company presents to the world. When a company can align the internal and external with great employer branding and an enviable EVP, it’s a recipe for attracting and retaining top talent.

How to create an employer branding strategy

1. Know why your company is unique

Be absolutely clear about what your company stands for – its unique value proposition. It should be relevant, valuable and different from the competition. Focus on your vision, mission statement, values, culture and business needs to make sure they chime with these three attributes, then decide what type of talent you need to attract to meet those objectives.

2. Audit perception of your brand

Before you can usefully start making changes or adjustments, you’ll need to get a clear understanding of how people – employees and external audience – view your brand and its reputation. Analyse:

Employee feedback – you’ll probably be using surveys as part of your employee engagement program. Redeploy them to help you identify what’s great about your company and problems that might be affecting your ability to attract and retain talent. Three surveys you can repurpose are:

  • eNPS: ‘On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our brand/company to a friend or colleague?’ This simple survey is ideal for gauging workforce sentiment as part of your wider employer branding program.
  • Pulse surveys: Frequent and quick, these are particularly useful to collect employee experience feedback about specific topics, such as brand perception.
  • 360 surveys: These offer the chance for employees to give and receive feedback from their manager, peers, direct reports, as well as themselves, and can highlight deeper issues.

Employment review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed. 53% of workers or job seekers look for information on a company they are considering working for on job search websites. What is your star rating? What are people saying about your company? What are positive reviews highlighting? Are there any negative reviews and, if so, have you addressed the gripes effectively?

Social media – Commentators on social media don’t hold back, whether on your own social media channels or via #hashtags and mentions. Use online reputation management tools to track those mentions of your organisation over social media, to gain a deeper insight into how people view your company.

3. Publicise your EVP

You’ll have formulated a great employer value proposition, and now it’s time to get it out there, on your website, recruitment literature, LinkedIn company page and HR department. While you’ll need to mention reward in your EVP, the main focus should be on your company’s deeper purpose and how it’s helping to change the world.

4. Make your employees your advocates

Nobody knows what it’s like to work at your company better than your employees, who can offer an authentic perspective on their experience to prospective candidates. Put testimonials or well-produced video interviews of real employees talking about their experiences on your website, social media and recruitment channels.

And harness the power of (willing) employees’ personal social media; people are more likely to trust a company based on what its employees say on social media rather than advertising. You could ask employees to post when the company does important or fun things such as charity or special interest events, giveaways or awards, perhaps with specific, all-channel #hashtags for the events.

5. Make your company story visual and shareable

It takes more than one channel to change the market’s perception of your company or brand. Use a wide variety of messaging: blogs, sponsored content, videos, photos, interviews, talks, slideshares and slideshows. Showcase topics that matter most to potential candidates on your company social media channels – diversity, professional development, social responsibility, environmental policy and corporate culture.

6. Make onboarding a strong and positive process

What happens during onboarding sets the stage for an employee’s entire career with your company.  A strong and exciting EVP attracts in a new hire, and it’s important that their onboarding develops that positive connection. Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organisation does a great job of onboarding. A nervous new hire thrown into work immediately with no context or training, proper introduction to the rest of the team, or managerial feedback may well end up being one of the 50% of employees who leave within the first 18 months. It’s crucial that new employees are welcomed, appreciated and rapidly made to feel they belong, in line with your EVP:

  • Don’t go silent on a new hire in the period between job offer acceptance and first day: check in by phone and dispense with first-day paperwork tedium by asking them to complete it at their leisure and send it through before they start.
  • Plan the first day: set up a new employee’s desk, ID badges, tech, accounts and passwords; give a welcome pack with swag and cards from the team; pay for a team lunch; introduce them to the whole company and begin to embed the culture from the get-go. Include some meaningful work.
  • Set a full schedule for the first week or so the new hire is not left wondering what to do next. This could include 1:1s with people in every department so the recruit can see how their role fits within the wider organisation.
  • Appreciate that nobody ‘hits the ground running’; successful onboarding takes time, together with clear, realistic, short and long-term goal setting and managerial support.
  • Run onboarding feedback surveys to find out what worked and what didn’t for new recruits.

7. Focus on diversity and inclusion

The strongest employer brands are committed to building and developing diverse, inclusive teams because diversity is good for business. Hiring people from different backgrounds and at different stages of their career grows your talent pool and brings a range of new ideas, skills and experiences. Diverse workplaces are more innovative, with each person able to bring a different perspective to the ideas that bounce around. Employees from diverse cultures who speak different languages enable a company to operate more globally, opening up new markets and client bases. Employee retention, performance and morale improves in an inclusive workplace where employees feel equal, treasured and comfortable.

8. Measure ROI on employer branding

A good employer branding strategy costs money and it’s important that you measure its return on investment. There are several metrics you can use to calculate how successful yours has been:

  • Employee retention – A traditional HR standard to discover the percentage of happy employees, work-related issues on your employees’ minds and to identify what changes are needed to improve morale.
  • Employee engagement – Regular eNPS, Pulse and 360 surveys keep track of how well a workforce is functioning.
  • Cost-per-hire – External recruiting costs (e.g. recruitment software, agency fees, expenses, advertising, vetting fees, interview time) and internal recruiting costs (e.g. HR dept, HR training and development, hiring manager costs, referral bonuses) divided by the number of hires in a time period.
  • Brand awareness How familiar people are with your brand through its attributes or images.
  • Quality of candidate – an experienced HR team will be able to give quantifiable feedback on the quality of applicants.

However large or small your company is, you’ll need to invest time and money in employer branding to attract and retain good people. As the unemployment rate drops and the number of job vacancies increases, only companies who have got their employer branding right will be able to snap up the best talent.

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