The key to a strong employer brand? A strong brand!

August 12, 201412:55 am584 views

The business lexicon is constantly invaded by new cliches, and the current king of the management cliches is Employer Branding. There. I wrote it — but I was cringing when I did. If you ever hear someone nattering on about employer branding, please interrupt them and ask, “Can you please define what an employer brand is? And tell me why I should direct money I’m putting into growing my brand into this?”

I bet most won’t give you a very good definition or reason. I am sure that many people reading this will also be suitably aghast that I even questioned one of recruitment’s current sacred cows, and that I am asking them to compare it to good old fashioned branding. That said- I think its time to prick the pomposity bubble that seems to surround employer branding.

Why should companies spend fortunes and waste thousands of hours designing internal value propositions to allow company recruiters to become “front-line brand ambassadors” without giving them clear directions on what they should be ambassadors for? Stop wasting your time and money, and get back to basics.

And that is defining what an employer brand is. Lets keep it simple: An Employer brand denotes an organization’s reputation as an employer.

Therefore by extension, employer branding is the proactive process of using marketing techniques to communicate a perception of your company as a great place to work among current and prospective employees. Yes that means you need to ensure you have something to communicate.

And as long as you don’t have enough to talk about, investing in expensive software, or training programs, or even a Facebook page will not create a tsunami of applications, or a flood of of unbelievably talented people begging to work at your company.  Sorry, its not going to happen. Not even close.

Why? Because your employer brand is 95 percent determined by the wider perception of your company among the general public. Speak to your marketing manager- and he or she will tell you right off the bat that in today’s world- your brand is transmitted continually via your relationships with consumers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, neighbors and the Earth itself. Where I am coming from here is that to effectively understand employee branding- one must take their cues from contemporary marketing and branding- which are determined by three key truths.

1. Millions of people will, of their own volition, announce to the world, their affection for a brand. They could also announce their hatred for a brand in the same way.
2. Whether you like it or not, people are listening to your marketing and branding messages, but it is not stopping them from forming their own opinions (positive or negative) about you. And each of those expressions of like, affection, dislike or disgust has an exponent that reflects the outward ripples of social interaction.
3. In short- as you may have realized, you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversation that have little to do with your cute little recruitment or ad slogan. They are instead busy talking about your brand’s essential self- ie the whole package that looks at your products, your services, your brand’s performance against competitors, and finally what employees think about working for you.

Google receives tens of thousands of applications every month because they have lots of jobs to fill. But they also are a very profitable company, growing quickly which means tasty salaries and stock options. Then there is the perception that working for Google looks damn good on your resume, as it’s very tough to get in. And for prospective employees, they apply knowing that they will be involved in cutting-edge work, as Google is at the forefront of many industries. This of course leads to the Social kudos associated with the statement, “I work at Google”, helped by all those awesome images of google’s workspace. Nothing more needs to be said beyond this.

The same goes for brands like Apple, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Facebook, and many others. To quote Steve Jobs when tempting John Sculley to leave PepsiCo to join Apple, ”Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

The fact is- only a very small percentage of candidates applying to Apple or Google are doing so solely because these companies HR departments did employer branding work. Much more likely, the driving force is the wider perception of Apple or Google as a great brand from articles in newspapers, from news reports seen about a new product launch, and most crucially of all, by the public’s positive interaction directly with these brands.

For the average company with very limited media coverage (and by average I include even very big firms), you can spend hundreds of hours creating and thousands of dollars creating a 500 point employer branding strategy. You can spend thousands on a glitzy corporate video placed on your careers section. I can tell you right now- it is still not going to make a huge difference. The PR that Apple received when launching the iPhone or iPad was infinitely more powerful than anything the head of employer branding could do.

My point is this: don’t believe the hype that is peddled by employee branding consultants. Even the most fantastic program you develop will make only a marginal difference. If you want people queuing up to work for you, you need people queuing for your products and services.

In part two of this article- I will provide a perspective on how you can tap on marketing and branding techniques to portray your company a cool place to work at in the court of public opinion.   In the mean time- lets talk. Do you think there is too much hype and not enough fact surrounding employer branding? Drop me a note at to share your views.


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