For the past few years, workers have had the upper hand in the recruiting process. Record low employment rates and stiff competition for top talent, especially in technical fields, have given job seekers more choices. And they’re not settling for employers that don’t meet their criteria.

But if you think the millions of people laid off due to the COVID 19 pandemic has put employers back on top, think again. Unless you have a powerful employer brand, you’re already losing out to companies that do. And when the pandemic passes and the economy starts growing again, you will quickly get left behind in the talent wars.

What is an employer brand?

It’s like a company brand except the target audience consists of current and potential employees rather than customers. Instead of guiding perceptions about your product or service, it focuses on your qualities and characteristics as an employer.

When assessing your employer brand (you have one even if you don’t think you do), people may already perceive you as either a desirable or undesirable place to work. Do you know your rating on Glassdoor or Indeed? If they have heard about you and they don’t like what they’ve seen and heard, they reject your company before you even have a chance to recruit them. And if they have never heard of you, you better present yourself in a desirable light when they encounter your company in their research.

Don’t Lie to Potential Employees

In today’s recruiting environment, job seekers can learn everything they need to know about your company before you know they’re looking. Often, the first place they look is your web site, and most companies get it wrong from the get-go.

The first mistake is generic language that sounds like everyone else – “We offer competitive salary, medical benefits, great place to work, blah, blah, blah.” This drives away the most desirable candidates because there is nothing attractive or differentiating about what you are offering as a place to work. It’s just the same old stuff that’s on almost every web site. In particular, this alienates the millennial workforce population where culture, work-life balance and purpose-driven organizations are critical to their decision when selecting where they want to work.

The second mistake involves promising a work environment that doesn’t exist. Throwing out catch phrases like “ “collaborative work environment” and “we believe in teamwork” may attract the kind of people you want. But once they discover these desirable workplace characteristics don’t exist in your business, they get rightfully ticked off, and immediately start looking for a business that actually has these characteristics while torching your company on Glassdoor.

Candidates can usually tell during interviews and by talking to a few employees whether your workplace actually aligns with your employer brand promise. If you do manage to land a top performer, they’ll soon realize your culture doesn’t come close to what was promised and be on their way. Either way, you’ve lost a top performer and have created a negative opinion of your employer brand that will get shared with others both directly and through employer review sites such as Glassdoor.

Employees as Customers? You Bet!

So how do you create a strong employer brand?

Start by understanding that treating employees like customers is the new recruiting paradigm. Then engage in research to find out what the kind of people you want to hire are looking for in an employer. Ask your best employees questions like:

  • What about this place makes it special to work here?
  • Why do you stay?
  • What is important to you when making decisions about where to work?

The feedback from these questions will provide the information needed to create and communicate a powerful employer brand.

Next, evaluate your competitive environment from an employer standpoint. When assessing other employer brands, be sure to look at all competitors, not just those in your industry. Suppose you run a company that manufacturers an industrial product and need to hire an accountant. You are not just competing with other industrial product manufacturers; you’re competing against any company in your area that is currently looking to hire an accountant.

Importantly, the process of creating a powerful employer brand provides an opportunity to identify and resolve HR/operational issues that don’t support your employer brand promise. Suppose you claim to be a collaborative firm, but mid-level managers tend to hold on tight to information rather than sharing. Now is the time to change processes and/or personnel to rectify the situation. As with your corporate brand, you either deliver on your brand promises or you suffer the consequences.

A Tale of Two Brands

In Seattle, a company called Gravity Payments generated a media storm a few years back by setting a “minimum wage” of $70,000 for all their employees. To help fund this paradigm-shifting act of generosity, the owner and CEO cut his own salary from $1.1 million to $70,000. His goal? To enable every employee, regardless of his or her job, to earn enough to live a good life.

Read the full story here.

Contrast this with General Electric’s old approach of eliminating their worst employees by cutting the bottom 10% of performers every year. Their approach was, “We only wanted the best and brightest, and don’t bother applying if you’re not part of this elite group.” At Gravity Payments, the mindset is, “Every one of our employees is valuable. We believe in paying them all at least $70K so they don’t feel like we’re taking advantage of them.”

Imagine how many unsolicited resumes from talented candidates they receive, and what the retention rate is of current employees! In 2015, shortly after the compensation adjustment, the company’s employee retention rate was 91% (compared to the industry average of 68%).

Two very different philosophies. GE enjoyed success with their approach for many years, but the business is currently struggling. In response, they have begun recruiting talent in a very different manner, as evidenced in one of their recruiting videos. Gravity Payments enjoyed initial success with their company minimum wage but are still in the experimental phase.

The moral of this story is that target audiences for employer brands are more about personality characteristics than being the best and brightest. Prospective employees must have the skills your organization needs. But for them to consider you an employer of choice, your culture needs to fit what they are looking for in a work environment. For today’s job hunters, especially younger generations of workers, that means employers that are mission-driven, value work/life balance, and look for ways to improve their employees’ lives.

Opportunity In Disaster

COVID 19 has sent millions of Americans to the ranks of the unemployed, disrupting countless lives in the process. But in doing so, it has also created a huge pool of employment talent. Companies with the right employer brands will have a unique opportunity to get first dibs on the cream of the crop from this vast reservoir of talent.

To do this, your Employer Brand must speak to what your target audience wants from an employer. It must be competitive and align with your corporate brand. Most important, it must accurately define who you are as a company and a culture in a compelling manner. If you don’t succeed in translating your Employer Brand into a very attractive proposition, you will get left behind in the upcoming recruiting war. Period. End of story.

Not sure how to craft an employer brand that resonates with today’s job seekers? Let the BottomLine Marketing gurus help. Reach out to us and we’ll set up a time to talk.

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