With the ongoing scarcity in STEM talent, employer branding is essential to successful recruitment and retention. We consider how to use your employer brand to communicate why you are a good employer and a great place to work, and how employer brand management should be at the heart of your business.
Candidates are enjoying more choice than ever in potential employers, which means organisations need to work harder to impress the best talent and keep hold of their current people. Critical to this is demonstrating how you are a good employer and a great place to work. Candidates want to know what it would really be like to join your workforce, and this is where employer branding comes in: it is a company’s reputation and its essence – the values, vision and purpose as a business, which are reflected in the experiences you offer to staff and the workplace culture you create. Employer branding is communicated by your own people’s opinion of you, so the image of your company – both inside and out – all links back to your staff. A really strong employer brand also needs to have genuine purpose, particularly as younger generations typically respond really well to this and are prizing it highly in an employer, keen to work for organisations whose values align with their own.
The CIPD’s Good Work Index 2002, polling more than 6,000 UK workers, found that one in five people were likely to quit their role in the next 12 months, with job quality a key factor. People who find less meaning in their role are also significantly more likely to want to leave, says the CIPD. According to McKinsey & Company, more UK workers are leaving their jobs than ever before. The Work Institute’s 2022 Retention Report insists that the data shows it is employers who “caused the great resignation” – with many professionals who reflected on their workplace believing “it would be better to work somewhere else”.
In such a tight labour market, how can employers stand out? To get your ‘shop front’ right and attract candidates who are a good match to your organisation, it is essential you are bringing the best of brand management to your people at work, making it the lifeblood of your business. We consider how best to do this below, with insights from the pioneer of the modern-day employer brand management approach, Simon Barrow whose time as brand manager with Knorr and then Colgate-Palmolive helped him bring the best of brand management to people at work.
Study the people
To ensure your employer brand is the pumping heart of your business today, what should companies be thinking about? Barrow, of Simon Barrow Associates, says they should study the people just as carefully as the numbers. “Employer brand management is fundamentally about the employee experience, and it is the realities of being at work that make up the employment experience you provide,” he explains.
“The focus should be on everything that comprises this experience, including the rapid actions you take and the culture you create. It is this which creates your employer brand and it is communicated by what your own people say and feel about you.”
Companies cannot “spin their way to an employer brand”, he warns. “You have to earn your way there by having the right priorities and taking the right action – this will demonstrate the trust, respect and opportunities which create your reputation as a place to work.”
In the world of work right now, companies are grappling with the many changes and challenges facing the people function of their business, says Barrow – from the effects of hybrid work environments on workplace culture to coherently managing and coordinating the many elements that make up an employer’s HR function. Today, this ranges from payroll and legal to recruitment, assessment and development/training, and from organisational development to employee research and performance measurement. It also includes the facts on employee turnover, satisfaction, competition reviews and innovation, notes Barrow.
He believes that never before has HR or the “people management” function of a business faced greater pressures, particularly with the record rise in people either leaving their jobs voluntarily or considering a change. But done right, people management should have the ability to influence everything that impacts the employment experience, he says. Good employer brand management should also come from the top, with senior management across the board demonstrating “confidence, interest and involvement” in managing and measuring the employee experience.
A few of Barrow’s top tips:
- Brand management must be close to senior management and the same is true for the employer brand. Success in employer brand management means influencing practical and urgent change, as well as the future strategic direction necessary to create your reputation as a great place to work. This can take determination and courage to change the way the business works and the behaviours of those responsible.
- Employer brand management needs to be at the heart of HR/people management and not tucked away as a specialist unit alongside recruitment and communications. With this can come massive influence, fervent belief and inspiration across an organisation.
- A company’s HR function needs a much stronger two-way relationship between people specialists and modern leadership. Many brand managers become senior line managers and CEOs. But HR should also be a potential springboard to the top because this experience is a key part of being a great boss.
- Conduct a coherent, holistic review of the business – looking at everything from the many HR elements (outlined above) to the actual employee experience you provide, which includes every part of the working environment – from colleagues through to leadership, and from individual development and career planning through to rewards. Ask your staff questions like: Are you listened to? What’s the level of trust in your leaders?
- Scrutinise your standing as an employer in your own community and consider how your alumni are doing. If you cannot demonstrate alumni success, why should talented and ambitious people join you?
Creating a workplace culture that will support and empower your staff will help you to recruit, nurture and retain talent. But it’s also important to identify the people and skills you need in your organisation to make sure it’s the right talent. No single business is trying to appeal to everyone. If your employer brand genuinely reflects who you are as a business, you will attract candidates who are a good match. If you try to be something you’re not, you’re in danger of attracting the wrong recruits and your attrition rates will be higher. So pinpoint the core characteristics of your ideal employee – as this will help you to attract and develop people with the right cultural fit.
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