We’ve all heard how our company has an employer brand - whether we actively work on it or not. How a good employer brand can greatly reduce recruitment and hiring costs. And how most people won’t work for a company with a bad one no matter how much you pay them.
But what actually is an employer brand? Where is it? And how does it differ from the company’s brand?
In my search for answers to these questions I found a lot of abstract concepts. Along with dense definitions belonging in textbooks that I could not relate to or understand in any real sense.
Luckily I also found the articles and podcast below, which helped make sense of it all. They don’t all have the same view and definition - but that’s ok. A brand isn’t black and white. It’s emotional and personal. Everyone will have their own idea of a company’s brand.
By looking at employer brand from different perspectives, hopefully we can better understand what it means to us, and how we can influence what it means to other people.
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Before diving into what an employer brand is, we should start with the basics - what is a brand?
There are many definitions, but the best I found is from Marty Neumeier, an author and speaker on all things brand:
“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.”
A good analogy is that the brand is the company’s personality. If the company was a person, who would they be? And what attributes would they have?
As with people, our opinion will be made up of all of the information we have available to us. From messages we see, to our experience of their product or service, and other people’s opinions. Taken together, all of these data points give us an overall impression of who the brand is. What they stand for. And why it is, or isn’t, important to us.
Clearly this is very subjective. Your view of a brand can be quite different to mine. Or to how the company wants to be seen. Because while the company can control aspects of their brand, such as the story they tell in their messaging or their customer service, they can’t control our reaction to these things.
But the best brands will evoke an emotional response. They have a clear voice and stand for something. They’re loved by some, hated by others.
Brands that try to be all things to all people are forgotten. They fade into the crowd. You’re aware they’re there, but simply don’t care. So when you need whatever they offer, you’ll pick on price or features - because all the companies are the same.
If we view a company’s brand as its personality, does that mean an employer brand is who the company is when they go to work?
This muddled idea is where I began, and the CIPD definition didn’t help:
An employer brand is “the way in which organisations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people.”
This seems at odds to what a brand is. While an organisation can control their messaging, they can’t control their brand. So it doesn’t seem correct to say that a company can actively “differentiate themselves in the labour market”.
From the following articles and podcast, my understanding is that an employer brand is just an extension of the company’s brand. It may relate to our view of what a place would be like to work for, but our impression of it is built in the same way.
As an outsider, it’s all about the interactions we have with the company: the wording of job ads, the feeling we get when we look at the career site, what the current employees share about their experience, what former employees say, the recommendation or warning we get from a friend, how we’re treated after we apply for a job, or when we’re rejected or successful.
Even our experience of the company as a customer. After speaking to customer service, did we think we need to switch to a competitor, or did we feel it was a company we’d like to spend more time with?
In building an employer brand, the company can control their messaging, the level of service they provide people looking at them as an employer (the concept of moments of truth can help here) and ultimately, the company’s culture.
Some of these are within the control of the recruitment team - others the broader HR team and senior executives. The following articles will help you navigate which is which, and give you some tips on how you can make a difference.
Your employer brand lives and breathes in the minds and hearts of your former, current, and future employees. And, as with all branding, crafting a strong employer brand is about good storytelling.
It’s about how you want to be perceived, and what specific message will attract the kinds of people you’re looking for. But also about whether you’re living that story. Is it something your employees recognise and will talk about when asked?
The article goes on to explore ways that you can build and improve your employer brand, such as:
After researching the online reputations of companies and analysing thousands of data points, an employer branding agency found 16 attributes that make up a healthy employer brand.
This article covers 8 steps to implementing an employer branding strategy, along with some examples.
It’s starting point is that an employer brand is your reputation as a place to work, and your employees’ perceptions of you as an employer. Therefore, employer branding is how you market your company not only to job seekers, but also your employees.
The 8 steps covered are:
This article agrees that a strong employer brand can be critical to attracting, engaging and retaining the best people. But it argues that building an employer brand separate from the company’s main brand is not the best way to achieve these goals.
From the authors experience, separate employer brands often focus too much on superficial benefits and perks, instead of how a job will benefit customers or the business.
As an alternative, they advocate for a talent dimension of the company brand. Developing one is a three-step process, led by the CEO and executive team:
Coming from a recruiting background, when Patty McCord was given the role of Chief Talent Officer in the early days of Netflix, she approached HR from a different perspective. She questioned everything, and thought about what type of organisation they wanted to build.
In essence, she wanted Netflix to become “a great place to be from”.
With this clear view of who Netflix was as an employer, Patty and the senior executives worked to spread it through all parts of the company culture. And by making this public, they built a strong brand that improved the quality of their recruiting: “people understood, or they didn’t at all.”
In this great interview she talks about her time at Netflix, why she believes some perks are overrated and the common mistakes companies make in both hiring and firing.
👉 And you can find the famous “culture deck” here.
That’s all for the moment. And if you’re looking for a way to improve your employer brand by delighting the people visiting your career site, get in touch by replying to this email. I can give you a demo of how my chatbot will help you start conversations and get more job applications.