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How To Build A Strong Employer Brand’ Tips For Big And Small Business

David Law

Fri, 13 Dec, 2019


David Law

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 6 minutes

Everyone knows that, when it comes to sales and relationship with your audience, branding is everything. A strong brand speaks of the company’s personality and allows customers to connect to you meaningfully. But perhaps even more important than consumer-directed branding is building your employer brand.

What is an employer brand? Essentially, it’s the company’s reputation among employees (and potential employees), the very thing that makes people want to work for you. Employer brand is the top element to attract and keep talented professionals.

Why it matters’ the image of your company culture is crucial to making good hires. The more people perceive you as an employer that provides great environment and opportunities, the better talent you’ll attract and the more you’ll grow.

What does a strong employer brand mean?

However important employer brand is, it’s not always easy to understand how to go about building it. First, you need to understand what it is that employees value the most in an employer. 

All too often, companies believe they need to provide the latest gimmicks (like ping-pong tables or in-office yoga lessons) or do whatever everyone else is doing (for example, promising benefits like telecommuting regardless of whether it works for that particular position).

Beyond all the trendy stuff and free snacks, there’s one thing that will always add value to your employer brand: development opportunities

What the best professionals out there really want are opportunities to grow and expand their skill set. They want to continue learning and be challenged in new areas. 

If your company decides to meet this need instead of going for a ‘cool’ image without substance behind it, your employer brand will skyrocket, as you’ll demonstrate you care about your employee’s core values.

The best motto:

Think of the company as a university

What do strong schools and strong companies have in common?

  • Both can provide educational opportunities. Just like a top university focuses on building excellent, well-rounded degrees, a good company should think of jobs as a hands-on framework for learning and growth.

  • In the same way a top school offers a nurturing environment that attracts and helps outstanding students, your company should offer a similar medium for outstanding, growth-oriented professionals.

  • If a school works to graduate its students, an employer works to advance its employees in their career.

  • Instead of hiring eminent academics with a love for teaching, your HR should find managers that are just as committed to mentoring and passing on their knowledge.

Grades are part of the game.

In our constantly online, increasingly crowdsourced information economy, a company will always be graded. And thanks to sites like Glassdoor or social media, reviews left by employees will be visible to all potential new recruits.

It’s the same way with colleges. Some Australian universities, for example, are well positioned in global rankings. A large portion of that ranking comes from student reviews. In turn, those reviews from current or past students go on to influence the university’s prestige and how much new students covet spots in it.

Nowadays, everyone goes looking for online reviews before committing to a decision. In your case, that means your potential candidates are paying attention to your reviews and online presence.

So how do you build a strong online employer brand?

  • First, share your culture. Use your social media outlets to show the world what it feels to work with you. Bring the company closer, make it more human, even add a touch of humour. Or allow your employees to share their experience themselves.

  • Don’t ignore reviews’ we’ve already stated how crucial those are. No matter if positive or negative, you should always respond. This shows accountability and a willingness to learn from mistakes as well as a real appreciation for the employee’s experience and perspective.

  • Be realistic in your promises and responsible for their fulfilment. Don’t promise new recruits unrealistic bonuses or perks you can’t keep up with. Don’t punish employees for using the opportunities you’ve provided (like working from home instead of in the office). Make integrity part of your employer brand.

Hire teachers, not bosses.

You don’t want managers that will rule authoritatively, merely taking from the employees instead of giving back to them. If the manager is not a good teacher or simply doesn’t care about helping everyone on their team grow, your best employees will leave for greener pastures.

This means your hiring strategy should start from the top. Focus on looking for soft skills:

  • Managers that are good at communicating and leading by example.

  • Managers with developed emotional awareness and intelligence. You want empathetic people who will treat employees as real humans with real emotions and goals.

  • Managers that can coach and that care about teaching. Look for mentoring experience in different fields.

A crucial trait in both managers and teachers is the ability to motivate and engage their mentee or team in the process.

Work ‘graduation’ into the culture.

Make ‘advancing your employees’ career’ a core part of your identity as an employer. Whether to a new role with more responsibility, to a different sector, or a different company altogether’ the progression of your employees speaks highly of the company.

How?

  • Career guidance is a good start. Perhaps your employees want to grow but don’t know in what direction. Or they might be too overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks to think about those big decisions. It’s up to you as an employer to create a time and space where they can explore their goals and possibilities. Offer coaching and guidance as a university would.

  • Development budgets. Abstractly supporting goals are not worth much if you don’t work for them. More and more companies are choosing to offer each employee a development budget to train them in whatever program suits their individual needs and career path best. Work to make those decisions together but give your employee control over their advancement.

  • Adaptable mentorship programs. Everyone has different needs and your company needs diverse perspectives and skillsets. You’ll have to figure mentorship programs on an individual basis. One case might benefit from a peer-to-peer approach to learn a different sector’s processes; another (a new recruit, for example) might need a manager mentoring them directly.

Tips for employer brand-building: Big companies.

The strengths and weaknesses of a company change as it evolves and grows’ and so will its employer brand. The size of the organisation does determine what it’s like to work there, as well as the strong points you can leverage to build a solid employer brand.

A big company has certain advantages when it comes to branding. In the first place, it has a large population sample and the resources to carry out an in-depth analysis. 

If your company is large, it’ll benefit from running a thorough survey (thanks to HR, Communications, and Marketing) taking into account the perception of past and present employees, outsiders and consumers. The goal’ finding out what values and perceptions are associated with the brand. What is working for you like? What do outsiders think it’s like?

When you have the results from that survey, you can work to make the culture and values that reflect your brand more clear and explicit. You can also take steps to fix what you’ve been told isn’t working.

Another good idea is to strengthen communication with your current employees. Their experiences in the company can even help you integrate creative branding strategies. 

An example: participative videos or testimonials that show how someone has grown since entering the company and what opportunities they’ve been offered. This fits the bill for information and authentic closeness to potential recruits.

Employer brand-building for small companies.

Smaller companies or startups might not have the same resources or population, but they have other strengths to leverage. The employer brand-building process for a small company will probably be more about carving out a niche and being the best at it.

The best benefit a small employer can offer: a personal, human connection with employees. Brand-building can use this by, for example, weaving together personal experiences of the employees and the company in their path to growth and narrating them through videos, blog, photos, social media.  

Another great small company strength is flexibility. Processes aren’t as solidified as in large organisations’ this means a small employer (just like a small college) can create a highly personalised approach and path for each individual. Here, highlighting individualized learning opportunities can be a winning strategy.

Our tips for smaller companies building strong employer brands:

  • Be transparent. Too often, startups hide metrics and numbers. It’s usually done for fair strategic reasons, but building transparency as an employer can get you a solid reputation. Follow the lead of Buffer and make salaries public and ensure that you aren’t offering a ‘learning opportunity’ in place of a real salary. No one likes to be tricked.

  • Put training first. Even if the learning opportunity is small, encourage employees to take it. Perhaps one of your managers wants to mentor a specific new recruit. Or another specialist might want to open a reading club to discuss important industry topics. Support them.

  • Be proud of your ‘alumni’. If your former employees have gone on to work at big-name companies, don’t hold a grudge. Instead, boast of that fact. You trained an individual so well they are now wildly successful. New candidates will covet a similar career progression.

  • Amp up the individualised approach, even in the benefits package. Not everyone wants the same benefits or bonuses, so it’s up to you to find out what gets each employee going. Some might prefer better healthcare coverage for their family, others might like more stock options or longer paid vacation. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Whether your company is big or small, you can build a strong employer brand by offering identity, human connection, and opportunities to grow. 

This helps you attract the candidates you want’ and we can help you with that.

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