Employer Branding – The Secret Weapon in the War for Talent

In its 2016-2017 Talent Shortage Survey the Manpower Group, a specialist in innovative workforce solutions, reported that “more employers than ever are turning to training & development to address talent shortages.” According to the survey the ratio of these do-it-yourself companies has constantly risen since 2012, from 34 percent to 40 percent of all companies. In Germany, according to research institute Prognos, there will be a skills gap of up to three million qualified workers by 2030. Prognos describes this unsettling trend as a threat to the economy. In fact, one out of three vacancies for qualified labor in the country cannot be filled. As a consequence, the ratio of employers who are forced to help themselves through this predicament by training existing employees has doubled from 1 in 5 to more than half during the last couple of years. No wonder that PwC reports 93 percent of CEOs as saying they “recognize the need to change … their strategy for attracting and retaining talent.” – Welcome in the brave new world of employer branding.

More and more companies are forced by the expanding skills gap to position themselves as an attractive employer. With their firm´s overall growth strategy in mind they try to design an engaging employer brand in order to stick out in the marketplace and differentiate themselves from the competition in terms of being a magnet for talented people. But there is a second important factor at work, motivating companies to make a value proposition as a great place to work. In the past, candidates wanted to be a good match for a prospective employer. Nowadays, with Generation Y migrating into the workplace, the yardsticks and criteria have changed. Candidates have become more demanding. They want their future employer to be a good match for their own professional beliefs and career plans. In a paper dated January 2017 on Employer Branding Und Personalmarketing, authors at Otto-Friedrich-University in Bamberg reported that 73 percent of job hunters in a poll claimed their demands towards potential employers had risen in recent years. This has clearly intensified the existing competition between rivaling brands.

Research and Preparation – Drawing the Roadmap

But what does a well-crafted roadmap to a top-notch employer brand look like? Maybe it should start with a clarification, one we can find in an essay published by the Harvard Business Manager: “An employer brand does not contain a new brand promise. It is subordinate to the overall brand. It only adds details to the key elements of the corporate brand with regard to the labor market. It signals to candidates what the company stands for as an employer and what makes it unique.” In other words, your employer branding strategy should be aligned with the company´s overall strategy, the stated mission and purpose, the core values and the business strategy. And it should explain to job seekers exactly why they definitely need to send a copy of their application to you.

If the employer branding strategy does not align with the company´s overall strategy you are taking an unnecessary – and potentially high – risk. If your company, for instance, happens to be a large group or conglomerate the radiant power and charisma of the parent company will not be spread to the subsidiary brands. As a consequence, the brands under the umbrella of the group won´t be as attractive as the shining parent. Building an attractive employer brand requires a thorough understanding of employees and applicants along the various touch points they have with the company. In this aspect, this endeavor resembles the art of mapping a stakeholder journey that helps identify pain points and other shortcomings but also best practices which can be built on later. Remember: the stakeholder is the talent you’re looking for!

#1 Start with Sound Research

In order to give an authentic and engaging description of the company there needs to be sound research first. Talk to your own employees, to recent hires at your firm, to job seekers and other stakeholders in order to identify the key points for your strategy. A lot of questions need to be answered. For example: What sets us apart from competitors? How do employees experience our firm? How do job candidates learn about the company? How are employees treated? Are there leadership opportunities? Do you have a plan for professional development? How is high performance rewarded? Is there a commitment to diversity? What are the ethical standards? If you want an unfiltered view and honest answers to all these questions it may make sense to hire an outside consultant to explore these important points.

#2 Explain, Why it is Better to Work at Your Company

After this initial step you are ready to design your employer brand strategy. You need a statement that describes how you as a company are different from other employers in the industry. In order to point out that this is actually more than a promise, you need to work on existing pain points. Then you need to explain why it is better to work at your company. Try to be exciting, describe the experience of working in one of your teams. And finally describe how you promote employees. And keep in mind: Money is not all that matters. For a lot of candidates in the young generation non-monetary aspects like the life-work-balance, the working climate and social engagement are just as important as the paycheck.

#3 Show & Tell – Improve your Visibility

Once the employer brand strategy has been formulated, you need to show & tell. The employer value proposition needs to be communicated. The website is your key tool. Successful companies have set up their own career sites, for example “Be Lufthansa”, which informs in detail about jobs, training, requirements, trainee programs, careers and the possible entry into the airline group. You also get information about the different brands within the corporation and all the necessary details for an application.

The website presentation needs to be exciting and tempting. Use videos, testimonials of your employees, pictures highlighting the work experience and examples illustrating the culture and good reputation of your company. Display the social life in the company as well. Short and persuasive elevator pitches from your employees can be key in convincing candidates how exciting and fulfilling it is to work in your company. Some companies are quite innovative in order to engage and convince candidates. SAP for example has created a Facebook assessment app. It offers a personality profile which can determine within a few seconds whether there is a perfect match. Other companies developed recruitment games on social media platforms, presented videos on YouTube, or offered face to face digital training sessions. The sky is the limit when it comes to engaging content that attracts talents to the company.

But the employer brand campaign also needs to be directed towards the inside of the company. In this regard it is essential to keep in mind that an authentic employer brand must be lived, not only demonstrated. Therefore it makes sense to rally the existing staff around this effort and explain to them that they are ambassadors for the company and that living the brand is probably the most convincing part of the overall effort.

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