Despite the ongoing pandemic, supply chain disruption, and high inflation rates, a broad spectrum of CEOs across industries foresee robust growth for their companies in 2022. According to a recent survey conduct by Fortune, 65% of CEOs who participated are expecting strong or very strong growth, especially those in the technology, finance, and professional services industries.

Underneath this rosy outlook, CEOs have some specific concerns. 71% see the current labor and skills shortage as the biggest obstacle to their growth plans. In 2021, over 47 million people, voluntarily left their jobs, an annual record. As resignation rates continue to set records in 2022, with over 4.4 million Americans quitting in April, the question is whether there is a fundamental shift in the way Americans are viewing work in what has been called “The Great Resignation”. The competition for top talent has become even more intense, with companies looking to hire the right workers and job seekers looking for the just the right place to work.

All of which further reinforces the importance of employer branding and developing a strong “employee value proposition” as vital tools in today’s recruiting wars. For companies seeking specialists and highly skilled personnel, having a winning employer brand (EB) that separates your business from competitors is more important than ever.

Why You Need a Compelling Employer Brand

What is an EB and why has it become a major competitive weapon?

An EB is much 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, an EB focuses on your qualities and characteristics as an employer. Just as a product or service brand represents your promise to your target market, an employer brand does the same for job seekers. Here’s the kicker: you already have an employer brand, even if you don’t think you do. That is, prospective employees likely already have a perception of you as an employer (or they’ll find information on Glassdoor or Indeed). If it’s not a strong employer brand, be prepared to get left behind. With great brands, their employer brand and market-facing brand will both be strong.

In January 2022, with nearly 11 million jobs available across virtually all industries, today’s job seekers are in the driver’s seat. With so many ways to learn about your business and its work environment, they can often make decisions about whether to work for you without even interviewing. First, they will look on your website to see how you describe your company’s work environment. If they find nothing but job listings, or what you say about yourself doesn’t peak their interest, many will scratch you off their list without going further. Job seekers can also visit websites like Glassdoor or Indeed to see how others rate your business as a place to work. Meanwhile, social media, particularly LinkedIn, and Internet forums provide further information about your employment brand.

Keep in mind, and we can’t emphasize this enough, that you already have an EB even if you don’t know what it is. If it doesn’t appeal to job seekers, especially top talent who can pick and choose where they work, they will reject your company before you even have a chance to recruit them. The position you’re looking to fill may be a perfect fit with someone’s attributes, experience, and expertise. But if your workplace doesn’t address the candidate’s priorities when deciding where to work, you can kiss them goodbye.

If you haven’t made development of a winning EB a top priority, now is the time to do it.

Why Employer Branding Efforts Fail

Increasingly, employers seem to be catching on to the importance of becoming an employer of choice, but they can fail for many reasons. Some think they already have a strong brand and aren’t open to feedback that suggests otherwise. Others fail because they attempt to win the 21st century recruiting battles with 20th century strategies and tactics.

One of the most common missteps is an outdated career web page that offers little more than a listing of jobs. This page may include the standard language of competitive pay, great benefits, paid time off, etc., etc. But these no longer create interest because job seekers consider them must-have points of parity. As a result, your career page doesn’t help people understand why your employee experience is different and why they should consider working for you.

Another major pitfall involves putting HR in charge of developing the employer brand. Why is that a problem? Because employer branding should be a marketing activity, and with all due respect, HR is not marketing. HR handles everything from recruiting and onboarding to payroll and benefits to compliance, employment law and more. What HR professionals don’t really know how to do is sell your workplace. They don’t know how to convey uniqueness – an essential quality for separating your EB from the competition.

Perhaps most important, many employers don’t understand what today’s workers want. As mentioned, pay, benefits, time off, etc. are mandatory just to get you considered. Top priorities for today’s workforce include meaningful work, responsibility, a collaborative environment, diversity, inclusivity, and making a difference to clients and in the world! To recruit top talent, these must become an integral part of your EB.

To get an idea of how to effectively communicate an EB, visit the career web pages of companies like Apple and Microsoft. Look how they start out: “Join us. Be you.” “Do what you love.” Look at the colors, the video, the short but compelling copy that addresses what today’s workers want in a workplace. That’s how to convey uniqueness! Career web sites don’t have to be as large or visually creative as these two examples. Check out the WD40 career page to see what smaller companies can do.

Becoming an Employer Brand of Choice

Clearly, the hiring landscape has shifted in favor of the workers. Your best response involves developing a winning EB using tested brand strategy concepts as opposed to a series of unconnected tactics. The ultimate goal is to become an employer brand of choice, offering a workplace so compelling that talented workers seek you out rather than waiting to be recruited.

How can you do this? Start by treating job seekers like customers. Find out what is most important to them when making employment decisions and create a workplace that meets their needs. Be honest and open about what it’s like to work for your company, and never promise an employee experience that doesn’t exist.

Conduct research to find out what the kind of people you want to hire are looking for in an employer. Ask your best employees, “What makes our workplace a special place to work?” Ask your tenured workers, “Why have you stayed with us?” Ask all your employees, “What is important to you when making decisions about where to work?” Gather data from external resources by reviewing workplace and employment surveys, recognizing that different generations of workers will have different priorities.

Update your career website presence with engaging and relevant content that answers the questions job seekers are asking about your company. And tell stories – genuine, authentic employee stories – that give prospective employees a real sense for why your company is a great place to work. Posting the same old “We offer competitive salary, medical benefits, great place to work, blah, blah, blah…” alienates the most desirable candidates because it fails to differentiate your EB. Especially turning off millennial workers for whom culture, work-life balance, and purpose-driven organizations are critical to their decisions about where to work.

Responsibility-wise, many companies have had success by partnering HR with marketing to develop their EB because both teams bring critical skills to the endeavor – HR knows the people and marketing knows how to create a brand.

Above all, your EB must be competitive and align with your corporate brand. It should accurately define who you are as a company and a culture and how you make a difference in the world. On the business side, satisfied customers are your strongest selling point. On the employment side, it’s your employees. Give them a great place to work and they will refer the kind of people you need to keep it that way.

Need help defining and creating an employer brand that resonates with today’s job seekers? The Bottomline Marketing gurus can help… let’s chat!

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