Building an attractive employer image is a goal for many companies, but often the challenge is not knowing how to get started. We interviewed Pipsa Aro, an expert in this field. Aro is the marketing director and employer branding strategist at Finders Seekers Oy, a company that focuses on direct search for IT talent, comprehensive IT recruitment and employer branding services.
What Does Employer Image and Employer Branding Mean?
Employer image is not quite the same as employer branding. Image is the idea of what a company stands for, what an organisation does and why. Employer branding is just like the consumer brand of any product or service, but from the point of view of what people think of the company as an employer and the feelings it evokes in them. It is also worth remembering that all companies have an employer brand. Some have a positive employer brand, others a negative one, and sometimes none at all.
Employer branding refers to the actions taken to develop a more attractive image of the employer among the organisation's key stakeholder groups. In simple terms, it means marketing.
Employer branding, or employer brand building, refers to measures to develop an employer image that is more attractive to the desired groups of talent. In simple terms, it means marketing to them, but from the perspective of how to sell the employer to them as an employer in the most attractive way possible – and always truthfully.
The key to building an employer brand is therefore that the company knows its target group, i.e. the kind of talent it wants to reach, whose recruitment is relevant to the business. If the company has not clarified what kind of people it wants to reach, what skills they should have, what they value in an employer, and where they get their information, the employer brand will be lost.
How Can a Company Define Its Own Relevant Group of Talent That It Wants to Reach?
The person responsible for developing the employer brand should sit at the same table with the company's management, marketing and HR. This will give the most comprehensive picture of what the company's business is about, how to reach them, and how to make the recruitment process meaningful to the talent you want. Although employer branding is a marketing activity, the marketing team cannot do it alone, but needs a multidisciplinary approach.
It is important to think together about the kind of talent you want to reach - what skills does the company need more of and why? On this basis, a few different talent personas, or avatars, can be created of the talent you want to reach.
What Are the Most Common Mistakes Companies Make When Building an Employer Brand?
One is that the employer brand is non-existent, or doesn't evoke any emotion. Another problem is that companies want to jump straight to the highest level of employer branding, even though the basics are not right. You can't expect a company to suddenly be full of self-directed ambassadors if you haven't even worked out what kind of talent you want to reach.
If a company does not stop to consider where it is in the process of building its own employer brand, it is easy to start doing too many things at once. It is therefore important to be aware of where your company is at with its employer image and brand before you start to budget money for employer branding and take massive steps.
If employer branding is rushed too much, it is likely that the wrong things will be done, people will burn out and the desired results will not be achieved. Then people mistakenly think that "this employer branding doesn't work at all".
Another mistake is not measuring what you are doing. It is then impossible to know what is working and what is not. It is important to define indicators before taking action. It is equally important to have a clear definition of the talent pools and to know what appeals to them and why.
How Does Employer Branding Differ from Recruitment Marketing and Recruitment Process Development?
Recruitment process development and recruitment marketing are important elements of employer branding. Employer branding is a big picture that starts with the current employees and the talent you want to attract. Employer branding takes many forms online, face-to-face, in the recruitment process, at events or through student partnerships.
Recruitment and HR are the flagships of the company. If the recruitment process is poorly managed, it is a huge negative for the company's employer brand. Equally, if the recruitment process is handled well, it's a big plus. Anything done or not done is employer branding. Employer branding goes from the business plan of the company to the hiring process, and from the entire career of the person in the company to how the exit is handled when the person ever leaves the company.
Why Should Companies Invest in Employer Branding?
As mentioned, employer branding is marketing - without marketing, a company cannot reach potential customers. In the same way, without a strong employer brand, it is difficult for a company to reach potential talent. When a company has a strong employer brand, they get more relevant applications from the right people. A strong employer brand also saves money, as recruitment processes are often easier and shorter, e.g. because less time and money is spent on direct search. Potential talent is also often found through referrals, with existing employees recommending the company as a place to work to their friends and acquaintances.
How to Activate Staff as Employee Ambassadors?
The best way is to keep employees happy and let them know that their work is allowed to be communicated to the outside world. People often think that they shouldn't be allowed to talk about what they do and what it's like to work there if they don't have permission to do so.
It's also important to give employees tools to communicate - support with ideas, writing, using LinkedIn, choosing the channel they prefer, etc. It's also worth recognising that one way doesn't work for everyone. One person may prefer to write, another to go to trade fairs to speak and another to do podcasts. It is also worth remembering that employee ambassadorship must always be voluntary. No good comes from being forced or coerced.
What is Good Employer Branding?
The hallmarks of excellent employer branding, or employer branding at the highest level, are (of course, there are many more):
the CEO is ultimately responsible for the employer brand
analytics is predictive and data is easily usable between different applications
content creation comes directly from employees on their own initiative
The company has active referrers and employee ambassadors
the employee experience is high and invested in
the talent market has a strong bond with the employer and they may even be fans of the employer
desirable candidates apply for career interviews themselves
management, recruitment, marketing and communication teams work together to promote employer branding
It takes a lot of hard work just to get to the top, and it is certainly not something that a company should aim for right away if the basics are not right. It's worth taking it one step at a time.
How Should a Company Start Building a Strong Employer Brand?
Find out where your company is now – have you thought about the metrics, do you already know your target audience, are you currently doing recruitment marketing or employer marketing? It is also advisable to conduct research that draws on the views of employees. A good way is to send an anonymous online survey to staff to find out what is good about the company and culture, and what needs to be improved. This should be followed up with individual interviews to get a deeper insight into the current situation.
The next step is for the person coordinating the employer branding to discuss the results of the surveys and interviews with management, marketing and HR. The results should also be used on the company's careers website and social media. It is also worth asking staff who would be interested in becoming an employee ambassador. Even if you are not launching the scheme at this stage, it is a good idea to find out who is interested.
If it is found that the emotional bond and experience of staff with the company is not what is desired, corrective action needs to be taken before communication and employer branding can begin. It is important that the image of the company that is created is truthful.
Discuss with the team what kind of talent the company needs to succeed, what the company's promise is as an employer - what the employee will get in return for coming to work for the company, and whether the employer image should be built locally or internationally.
But the most important thing in building an employer image is to have the courage to start. You should not rush too much, but take it one step at a time, and work slowly and persistently.