The Ultimate Guide to Employer Branding Strategy – Part 1 of 2

A couple of days ago, I came across with this post on LinkedIn. It was an image of an empty office space decorated with balloons and colorful ribbons and the caption explained that the company contributes to their employees’ happiness by decorating the office for local holidays. I checked back on the company’s account to see what else they do to their employees’ happiness and found a few other occasional posts.

While this is only one of so many instances, I thought it was an excellent example of how a lot of organizations do employer branding: it rarely goes beyond those occasional social media posts of holiday decorated offices and team building events.

See, organizations are starting to realize that employer branding is becoming a requirement rather than an option if they want to attract and retain the top talent in the competitive talent market. Successful employer branding can help you position yourself as a top employer to both, your current employees and possible future talent. Consequently, it can reduce your turnover and recruitment costs because employees want to stay with you longer and because it pulls the ideal candidates to you instead of you having to go after them. So in order to gain these benefits, organizations start posting the above-described pictures on social media and hope that they will do the trick.

Now don’t get me wrong, these posts absolutely can be part of your employer branding efforts. However, there are two problems with them. One, when you explain in the post that your company improves employee happiness with office decorations, it makes it sound like that is the only thing you do, and unfortunately, it is not enough to form a solid foundation for your employer branding efforts. Or have you ever joined a company because they have balloons in their office? I didn’t think so. And two, these posts are unlikely to help you reach any of the positive impacts of employer branding if they are infrequent and unplanned.

In order to gain the benefits of employer branding, it is necessary to move past the occasional posts to a well-targeted and measurable strategy that goes way beyond posting on social media. This ten-step, two-part guide will help you on your mission to build a great employer branding strategy. In this first part, we will focus on setting up a solid foundation to build your strategy on. Y’all ready to ditch those occasional team building posts and gain the real benefits of employer branding? Let’s get started.

1) Build Your Authentic Company Culture

The organizations that base their employer branding efforts on occasional posting tend to skip this step and launch their campaign without considering what it is based on. However, there is a fundamental problem with this approach because employer branding can only work if it is based on reality. If you try to reflect an image to your external audience that is different from the reality that your employees live in, your efforts are likely to turn against you sooner or later.

Therefore, you should focus on your authentic company culture and solve any internal issues before launching your employer branding campaign. When you manage to build an authentic company culture, you are strengthening your internal employer brand and creating a reality that you and your team are proud to share with the world. For more details on creating an authentic company culture, check out our previous post on the topic.

2) Define Your Employer Value Proposition

In addition to your authentic culture, another key founding element in the bottom line of your employer brand is your employer value proposition, EVP. Your EVP is so important because it summarizes the why anyone would want to work for your company. It is typically a phrase or a paragraph that can be shared with your current employees and future talent across several touch points, such as your Careers page, job ads, internal communication tools, and your physical office.

Just like your culture, your EVP needs to be authentic. It also needs to be unique so that it distinguishes you from your competition and attracts and retains exactly the right talent. To ensure that your EVP is both authentic and unique, you should involve in the definition process the people who best know why working for your company is so awesome, your employees.

3) Know Your Target Audience

After defining your company culture and your employer value proposition, the next step on your employer branding strategy checklist is getting to know your target audience.

When determining your target audience, you should ask yourself what kind profiles are your ideal candidates. You will obviously consider the professional backgrounds and skills that you need the candidates possess, such as software development, customer service, or marketing. However, there are probably a lot of people who can write a decent code, communicate with customers, or create a marketing plan. Therefore, you should delve deeper into your ideal profiles and consider additional aspects, such as their other passions and free time interests. For example, if your company works in the travel industry, you might want to target people who are passionate travelers. Or if your culture is extremely dynamic and fast-paced, maybe someone playing sports in their free time could fit it well. To get a clear understanding of who your audience is, you can use techniques such as creating candidate personas.

4) Research Your Talent Competition

Once you have defined your target audience, do some research on other organizations who are competing for the same talent. This doesn’t necessarily mean your business’s competitors but rather companies that attract similar professional profiles or have a culture very much like yours. For instance, if you run a start-up, then other start-ups in the area are likely to be your talent competitors because the start-up environment attracts certain types of people, even if their product was totally different from yours.

To do your talent competitor research, choose 4-6 relevant competitors and then use as many sources as you can to gather data on their culture, career development opportunities, salaries, benefits, and any other relevant pieces of information. Do a Google search and read what the internet says about them. Investigate their social media accounts, Glassdoor profile, and Careers page. Read their job ads and use LinkedIn to get insights on their current employees. You can also take your research offline and go to events where you might meet them. Also, if any of your employees have previously worked for your talent competitor, they will be able to give you first-hand insight. Once you have gathered enough data, analyze your competitors’ strong points and weaknesses. The goal is not to copy your competitor’s employer brand – it needs to be authentic, remember – but rather to get an understanding of where your company stands compared to your talent competitors.

5) Set Your Campaign Goals

Most companies aim at attracting and retaining talent with their employer branding efforts. While this may be your ultimate, long-term goal, you will need to set more specific campaign goals that can be measured in the short-term. The impacts of your employer branding strategy will take time to really show up, and it may become hard to justify the resources put into it unless you have a way to measure the goals that you have achieved so far.

To set your campaign goals, pick 1-3 goals for each 90-day period. Anything less than 90 days will most likely be too short for any results to show up, and anything more than 3 goals can make you lose your focus. When you set your goals, make sure that they are relevant to your efforts and that they are measurable. For example, if you are looking to grow your candidate database, you can set the number of new CVs received as a goal. If your goal is to increase the number of participants in your meetups, then set the number of attendants as a goal. You may also have goals that carry over from one 90-day period to another, such as increasing your social media followers and reviews on Glassdoor.

In this first part of our guide on how to create an employer branding strategy, we have covered the foundation of your strategy: your company culture and EVP, your target audience and your talent competitors, and your campaign goals. Next time, we will be going into more detail on the practical aspects of executing your strategy. If you want to take your employer branding efforts beyond the occasional social media posting, then keep an eye out and follow The Happy Works on LinkedIn or subscribe below to receive the newest posts straight to your inbox!

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