In today’s candidate-centric market, it’s not enough to just post jobs and hope great people apply. You have to show both active and passive candidates why your company is great—and why they should want to work there.
That’s where employer branding comes in. We recently tapped two employer branding experts, Lars Schmidt, Founder of AMPLIFY and Co-founder of HR Open Source, and Lisa Cervenka Co-founder of Brand Amper (now BrandBuilder by The Muse), for a webinar here at The Muse. They took a deep dive into the “anatomy” of a powerful employer brand, sharing actionable takeaways and templates from HROS case studies from companies like Lever, GE, Cisco, and Hootsuite.
Watch the full webinar here, or read on for six key insights into effective employer branding:
1. It All Starts With Storytelling
Don’t have a clearly defined Employer Value Proposition (EVP) or employer brand yet? That’s okay. In fact, you can (and should) use employee engagement to inform your brand and values. Lever’s employer branding strategy, led by CMO Leela Srinivasan, is a great example of how to do it.
Lever faced a unique challenge: acute hiring needs, rapid growth, and a primarily introverted workforce, who were reluctant to share their employee stories publicly. They knew they needed to create a safe space for people to tell the world about Lever in a way that was fun, organic, and 100% opt-in.
To do this, the company used Brand Amper (now BrandBuilder) to provide their employees with brand statements to use as a foundation for their professional stories—and the results were pretty great. Not only did Lever iterate their employer brand in real time, but they also got 80% of their employees to share their stories on LinkedIn, increasing their social visibility with prospective candidates.
2. Technology Moves Fast—So Embrace It and Take Risks
There’s a distinct advantage to being among the first companies to leverage a new technology: You have the opportunity to do something no one else has done before. Yes, it can be risky—being a “first-mover” also means making mistakes that other companies can learn from—but sometimes that's OK.
When Hootsuite designed their #FollowTheSun campaign, an employer branding initiative using Periscope to showcase nine of their offices across four continents, Twitter had just re-released Periscope to the public two weeks prior. Hootsuite planned to do a live broadcast from a different office every hour on the hour.
Great idea, but the majority of their employees had never used the app before. They took measures to avoid any major snags, like training employees to use Periscope and collaborating with marketing to boost engagement, but they still made one mistake: No one knew that the videos disappeared after 24 hours, so they weren’t able to repackage the videos for a campaign wrap-up! Still, it was a real-time success and definitely worth the risk.
3. Talent Acquisition & Marketing: The Dream Team
Employer branding is a huge part of recruiting and hiring, so it might seem like talent acquisition should own the entire process, but collaborating with marketing is actually the best approach because both teams have key expertise to bring to the table.
Jennifer Newbill, Director of Global Employer Brand at Dell, is a huge advocate of integrating talent acquisition and marketing efforts. When Dell’s talent acquisition team wanted to create a unique employer brand campaign, they partnered with their internal agency, Dell Blue. Talent acquisition provided the agency with their EVP document and all the social platforms, job boards, and event listings where they engage with candidates. In turn, Dell Blue was able to develop creative for what would become the “Bring Everything” campaign. Newbill also got Dell’s Social Media and Community University (SMaC) involved to make sure everyone was properly trained to execute the company’s employer brand.
4. Friendly Reminder: You Are Never Too Big to Change
If your employer brand isn’t authentic and doesn’t highlight true employee experiences, top talent will see right through it. Candidates are both savvy and skeptical, and they tend to trust people more than they trust marketing.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t shift the perception of your organization—even after you’re well established. The first step is to really know (and own) who you are.
Cisco is a great example of big-name company that was struggling to send a consistent employer brand message on social, despite being active across channels. That is, until they took a step back and really asked themselves questions like: Who are we as an organization? Who do we want to be? What are some of our talent challenges? The answers led Cisco to take control of their company narrative and turn their social media presence around with a strategy anchored by employee generated content, allowing potential candidates to get a real feel of what it’s like to work there.
5. Your Employees Are Your Biggest Brand Advocates
When you let your employees use their voices and tell their stories, you naturally shape your employer brand in real-time and in a way that truly resonates with top talent. The challenge, of course, is getting everyone in your organization to care about your employer brand. So, how do you do that? By showing employees that you trust them and that they have an opportunity to build their own brands at the same time.
When GE was transitioning to a Digital Industry company, they knew they needed to be open and honest with candidates about what was happening—so, they invited all 350,000 of their employees to help humanize their brand. The effort included a “How to Be a Digital Industrial Brand Ambassador” program that trained their workforce in how to refine their public personas. They demonstrated trust in their employees and gained valuable insight into what content actually engages in the process.
6. The Ultimate Resource: An Employer Brand Playbook
Once you’ve established your employer brand, the next biggest thing is to make sure everyone at your company is sending a clear and consistent message about who you are. This can prove difficult as you grow and mature, but it’s definitely not impossible.
One strategy is to develop an employer brand playbook. Hootsuite did exactly this when they were scaling globally and bringing in new people: To get everyone up to speed and on the same page, they built an employer branding asset library complete with tags so people could search and share rich media assets. The result was a more consistent tone, clear brand themes, and a 50% increase in qualified applicants per job (with 43% stating employer brand influenced their decision to apply).
There are a lot of tactics and strategies you can use to build and shape your employer brand, but the most important thing to remember is: Start with who you are. Consider your current needs, assess the resources you have available, and figure out what’s right for your company and culture. Try new things and, when in doubt, look to your employees for insight and support.
Want to learn even more about the anatomy of a powerful employer brand? Watch the full webinar.