Your employer brand is the real perception employees and external parties have of your organisation as an employer. This means that your employer brand is strongly aligned with your ability to attract, retain and engage talent. As the quality of your staff is equally as important as the quality of your products and services in determining your success, are you dedicating sufficient resources to communicate and maintain your reputation as an employer?

Celeste Sirin, Director of Strategy Recruitment Marketing (Employer Branding Specialists) says, “As candidate markets continue to compete, more emphasis is required on the employer brand. Employers are waking up to the reality that they will need to market their features and benefits far more aggressively in order to compete for unique skills.”

To meet the challenges employers will face as we head towards 2020 a clearly defined strategy in achieving employer branding objectives will need to be part of strategic discussions.

Sirin says, “Companies entrenched in old school mentality will be left behind and will be doing an injustice to the company.”
To be regarded as a leading employer brand it takes more than a Careers Page and a “Best Employer…” accolade. Sirin provides insights into the steps that should be followed to assure you receive a valuable ROI on your brand.

1. Take Ownership of the Employer Brand
Debate over where responsibility for the employer brand should sit rages on. The overall majority, however, concur that the employer brand must be championed by the CEO who mandates HR and Marketing to work as a cross-functional team leveraging off each others’ strengths. The budget should be split between marketing and HR as jointly these departments are extending the brand into the market place.

Sirin says, “Training on employer branding is becoming essential for HR and Marketing. Marketing Departments are often unaware of the employer brand and HR is focused mainly on processes. A dire need for an Employer Branding Specialist as a key role within HR is emerging. There is a functional need for this whether internal or outsourced.”

2. Stock Take of Your Employer Brand
Employers need to have a departure point to work from and therefore it is imperative to stock take what employee and external market perceptions are of the employer.

Sirin says, “There are often disparities in what strategic management perceive perceptions to be and what real perceptions are on the ground. There is often an assumption by employers that the candidate market is educated on what they are all about. An open-ended survey where you ask the right questions will give you the facts of how people are truly feeling and how much they know or (are informed of) about your company. Success of your next steps will be reliant on you using this information wisely.”

3. The Strategy
As companies have a clear marketing strategy for their products and services, so should there be a clear strategy for the employer brand. By taking into account intelligence gathered, leadership vision, culture and competitor offerings companies can define a value proposition that is compelling and authentic. Plan how you will build awareness and how you will nurture and maintain your employer brand.

Sirin says, “An employer branding strategy must be consistent and driven through marketing efforts. Discover candidate touch points such as recruitment advertising, induction, career days, graduate fairs, interviews, vendors, career pages, social media, word of mouth, etc. Utilise the marketing tools at your disposal to give the employer brand the punch it needs. Remember not to rush into employer branding without a clear direction of where you are heading.”

4. Awareness
Now that all the ground work has been done it’s time to create momentum and get employees and external parties talking. Wow your target audiences with your unique selling points, accomplishments, culture, employee testimonials, interesting projects you have worked on, development programmes, etc. Remember to keep the information fresh as an employer branding strategy should be ongoing. Piggy back on your existing marketing tools as there could be a lot of cross-over from your consumer to your candidates.

Sirin says, “Many companies have loads of positive information that could form part of their employer branding communication but keep this information in-house. Companies go on the assumption that work seekers know about their company. This is often not the case. It is essential to bring this information to the forefront thus educating candidates upfront on the company’s competitive employer value proposition. It’s about top of mind awareness to the candidate market. You want to be visible. You cannot merely rely on a 1-page Careers section on your website with sporadic recruitment advertising to communicate your employer brand. A myriad of candidate touch points provide you with the access to get your message out. You need to keep reinforcing your employer brand; you need to be clever about what you are communicating.”

“Don’t forget the importance of word of mouth of employees. Call Centres are a good example to corporate companies in keeping their people excited and motivated through internal communications. Call centres have definitely got it right. They reinforce internal perceptions to keep people thinking positively.”

“Boost morale by having a pleasant likeable working environment, keep your people informed, get them involved and open the channels of communication. Negative comments made by employees can do great damage. It doesn’t matter at what seniority level an employee is in the business, they are your brand ambassadors and they are carrying your brand into the marketplace.”

5. Maintaining
By this stage you have put a lot of hard work into building awareness around your employer brand. You don’t want to stop now. You need to maintain your employer brand; you need to nurture it and you need to measure your success. Keep a close eye on changing internal and external perceptions. Don’t forget your competitors will be evolving too; so ongoing competitor intelligence is a must.

Sirin says, “Companies need to revisit and evolve the employer brand as companies change all the time. Your information cannot remain static. The employer brand can become tired and uncompetitive. Rely on your employees to feedback to you when things aren’t working. The champions of each department should be on top of this and be able to talk to HR. There needs to be top of mind awareness across all levels in the business. Issues unattended can have a knock-on effect and will be damaging.”

Employer Branding is not new to any of us, yet a large percentage of companies are struggling to come to grips with the concept. Leaders in markets who really understand how to work their employer brand are reaping the rewards. Their HR and Marketing Departments are working as one; they have a strategy in place and they are making use of all the tools at their disposal. These employers are populating their organisations with the best because they are attracting the best; because they are positioned as the best.

Leading up to 2020 the vast majority of employers are going to need to elevate their employer brand to be competitive. To benefit from successes, failures, advice and comments from fellow South African employers seeking to elevate their brand join the Linkedin Group “Employer Branding South Africa.”