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First there was “personal branding.” Now the new buzz phrase is “employer branding.” What is employer branding, and is there really a need for it?”All an employment brand does is give candidates a starting point, or birds’ eye view, into what a particular company is about,” says Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption at Monster, a global online employment solution job seekers and employers, located in New York City.
The need for employers to brand themselves for job candidates is no myth, say experts.
“There is definitely a real need for strong, distinct employer brands, regardless of current economic state,” explains Chris Perry, founder of Career Rocketeer, a career search and personal branding blog. “In the end, the best career matches for employers and employees come down to fit. The employer can quickly identify job candidates who fit their company brand profile, especially when the professionals know their personal brand and communicate it effectively and consistently. Job candidates are also trying to identify employer candidates that provide an ideal fit for long-term career success.”
Tisha Freer, head of client partnerships at Evviva Brands, an employee engagement and employer branding firm in Austin, Texas, agrees: “It’s a reality. An organisation’s employer brand always exists — whether they choose to promote it, change it, or engage their audience with it is another matter.”
The better question than whether or not employer branding is a myth or reality is how do organisations ensure their brands are positively received, says Michael T. Denisoff, founder and CEO of the Denisoff Consulting Group, a management and HR consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles.
“Even in the downturn, people are watching and aware how different companies are responding to the challenges of the economy. The word readily gets out and is spread around quickly,” he says. “If your brand is not seen as a positive, your recruiting efforts will be doubled in terms of challenge, and the best talent will search for companies with better reputations, because they can.”
Perception is reality, agrees Freer.
“Let’s say your perception of Google is that it would be a sexy, fast paced, entrepreneurial environment where you work exclusively with A-players and get to change the way people access information around the world,” she says. “If you get a job there and your workplace reality is as expected — the brand delivered on their brand promise — your engagement with your work and the company soars. If it’s not as expected — the brand failed to meet their promise — you are disengaged and it’s only a matter of time before you begin looking for a better fit.”
And your company doesn’t have to be a behemoth like Google. organisations of all sizes are impacted by their employer brands.
NextStage Evolution, a consulting, research, tool development and training company based in Nashua, N.H., has 15 to 20 employees at any given time, and founder Joseph Carrabis says, “People are congratulated when they get jobs with us because we’re very finicky about hiring, and people are constantly contacting us offering to work for reduced wages, no wages, or as unpaid interns, simply for the experience.”
According to Denisoff, there are three keys to building an employer brand:
1. The external brand must match the internal brand. If the external brand and advertising message are all about innovation and creativity, you need to make sure that is what is being nurtured and compensated internally. Potential employees are savvy enough to see through commercials and external marketing campaigns if they are not mirrored internally. Southwest Airlines demonstrated this well a few years back when all of their HR programs mirrored their ‘freedom to move around the country’ initiative. In today’s world, the internal brand and the external brand must be integrated.
2. The employer brand must be clearly articulated and developed. Effort and resources must thoughtfully be allocated to build the internal brand ensuring alignment, consistency, and fuel to make it go. The executive team should set the tone and model the brand as the rest of the company will follow suit.
3. The companies with the with best employer brand have a strong on-boarding process. Employees are immersed into the brand and culture right from the beginning in a multi-week orientation program. If you care about your employees, your reputation, and your brand, you will invest the time and energy into it to make sure it sticks.
A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plateau Systems reveals that, despite high job satisfaction, a wide majority (74%) of employed full-time and part-time workers would consider a new job opportunity. How does employer branding play a role in the “war for talent”?
“Now, there will always be candidates that are looking for positions just for the money or location, especially in a bad economy with so many people out of work,” Perry says. “Most professionals want security and success in their careers and know that, if they can find the right company that provides both, they will have a chance to advance themselves. Without employer branding, a company is just a company, and the jobs they offer are just jobs.”
Winegardner argues it’s a bit of a civil war at the moment.
“The first battle within this war for talent is really an ‘us vs. us’ battle. What I mean by that is we’ve absolutely got to shore up the talent we currently have on our payroll. We’re coming out of a very tough two-year period of time where we haven’t been able to invest in the current workforce properly. It’s no secret that many companies are expecting a mass exodus as the job outlook improves,” he says. “So, as we hire more, we need to look internally more first. recognise and reward your current talent, get them to re-engage with the company.”
There are two other battles at hand, says Winegardner: filling current needs and emerging talent.
“What talent do I need that I already know I need? Prepare to back fill for those roles you know you’re about to lose. That’s the hidden talent gap. We cannot assume existing talent is going to stick around forever. So, get the people you want for the roles you need today — that is the key,” he says. “And finally, the emerging talent factor. What are the new investments I need to make in preparation for emerging talent needs as our company develops new technologies and innovations?”
Get your employer brand ready for battle because it seems as though the war for talent has only just begun.
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