Employer Branding: 19 frequently asked questions, now answered
HR Tips Eli McGarvie
At the beginning of this year, Talent Board predicted that “the number one recruiting focus for 2020 will be employer branding” and they weren’t wrong.
Two years ago, searching ‘employer branding’ in Google would yield around 2 million results. Today, you’ll find over 98 million. The workforce is more competitive than ever; the best candidates have more options than they can handle, and if you hadn’t thought too much about your employer brand before, then now is the time to think about how to differentiate your company. According to Google, many of you already are.
We recently hosted a webinar around the topic of employer branding with experts Marian and Kathrin who work extensively in the field. They gave answers to pressing questions around building an attractive employer brand, and illustrated its power with their own experiences.
Below we’ve listed all the top questions with the answers our experts gave, from ‘what is employer branding’ to ‘employer branding in COVID-19 times.’
Don’t feel like reading? In case you missed the webinar, here’s a link to the recording.
- Employer branding is about creating amazing experiences for your employees.
- It’s not always about creating a brand ‘identity’, but rather discovering it and helping to support and strengthen it.
- Every employee can work as a branding expert if they have support and encouragement.
- External chatter about the brand and company will foster pride among your employees.
- Evaluate your employee journey and identify the points where you can elevate the experience.
- Bad moments, i.e. layoffs, if done right, can be turned into positive moments for the brand.
- If you’re working to make a bad situation better it’s not going to happen in six months – it’s a long process.
- Create a brand-bible to explain what your employees can talk about, what they can’t, the tone of voice of the company, and provide some social media examples for them to follow.
- LinkedIn is working very well for employer branding. Meetups, Twitter, GitHub and AngelList are also good.
- Developers are more interested in future projects of your company than fluffy branding stuff.
- The pre-onboarding phase is great for creating a long-lasting employee impact.
- Employer branding experts can help to support top management in the current COVID-19 crisis by keeping the employees’ perspective in mind.
- Your culture is the best differentiator — culture is always unique, as are your employees and colleagues.
1. What does employer branding mean and what comes with it?
Employer branding is bigger and encompasses more than simply raising awareness for your brand or selling a brand proposition. Your employer branding should start within your company, in the culture and it should reach to every step in the employee lifecycle, from attracting talent to onboarding to development retention and even to the off-boarding stage.
It’s not just getting candidates in the pipeline — that’s a common misunderstanding. It’s about creating amazing experiences for your employees which they’ll never forget because employees are your best ambassadors. Employer branding is really about creating a great place to work internally and externally.
Check out our article on the Benefits of Employer Branding.
2. How would you try to create a great place to work for your employees?
Before you jump into any crazy initiatives, make sure there is no misunderstanding between the management and the employees. This is really the first step: identifying if there are some issues there, maybe with trust or transparency, or maybe something is toxic. You need to discover the issues and address them before you can move the culture and brand in a direction that is positive.
Employer branding can only be lived if it’s lived and breathed by your own employees. From here, the next step is to do some brand discovery; define what the company means to the employees, what values does it have, and how does it treat people? And you need to go straight to the employees on this one. You can use surveys, 1-on-1’s and focus groups.
As an expert, it’s not always about creating a ‘brand’ identity but more about discovering it and helping to support and strengthen it. Work to celebrate the company’s uniqueness.
3. How important is it to have a dedicated employer branding manager? What should they be in charge of?
Obviously, in an ideal situation, it would be best for your company to have an employer branding manager but it’s not going to be possible for everyone. The majority of companies just don’t have the budget. That doesn’t mean they can’t work on the brand – there are plenty of smaller things that can be done without a budget for a dedicated person.
First of all, every employee can work as a branding expert if they have support and encouragement. There are very small startups out there with amazing employer branding because the people who work there are in love with the culture of that company. Start with little steps and eventually it will make a huge difference.
Employer branding is also going to be very important for your company in times of crisis — in those times the experiences of your employees can become front-page news, and that can make or break your branding.
4. Can you give us some examples of internal employer branding you did – maybe it’s something that you’re proud of?
On Employee Appreciation Day (March 5th) we ran a very simple campaign, providing a hand-written note from the CEO to everyone in the company, expressing gratitude for all the hard work. It was something small but it went a long way to making people feel recognised and appreciated.
We also ran a brand ambassador program where people and influencers go out and spread the brand love to their peers. It doesn’t sound internal but all that external chatter about the brand and company actually fosters pride among the employees. And, of course, every employer branding manager has been put to the test in the last few months with this pandemic. There have been numerous opportunities to create lasting moments. This has mostly been around flexibility and treating employees well.
5. How can you create moments that matter?
There are many opportunities for this in every stage of the employee lifecycle. Start by evaluating your employee journey from beginning to end and identify the points at which you can elevate the experience for your employees to a higher level. The employees of your company will have many ideas around this. So run workshops with the departments to get ideas for how employee branding can be improved.
One interesting idea that came out of the tech department was implementing a greeting/application message into the code of the website. Apparently developers have a tendency to check code on every website they visit or want to work with, so the message was a nice way to elevate that experience and help our company stand out.
Taking the recent example of COVID-19 and switching from the office to remote, we created some moments based around feelings of safety and security. It was important that our employees felt safe and were not rushed or pressured to work. If people felt unwell, they could immediately work from home; if there were issues with childcare or school, they could work from home. We took into account their personal circumstances with every decision.
We even had the IT department managing the transport of IT equipment (even chairs and screens) to all our employees’ homes. We wrote playbooks for how to deal with the situation, from explaining the preferred methods of communication and the tools we’ll be using. The communication strategy completely changed.
Firstly, we gave everyone a platform to communicate on and we started a newsletter from the management informing the company of decisions on a daily basis so everyone could read about how the business was working. So you can see, even in a crisis situation there are opportunities, and even in bad moments such as layoffs, which can be turned into a good moment.
AirBnB modelled this well. They had some extreme layoffs but it was handled extremely well, the exiting employees were given career counselling, laptops and additional payments to really help them on their way.
6. How can people handle these bad moments and situations?
First of all, management and the stakeholders (HR and marketing) need to be educated on this stuff. It’s so easy for candidates to get the truth about a company from sites like Kununu and Glassdoor, so don’t bother ignoring it. If you have leadership on your side there is a lot that can be done to turn bad situations around. If you don’t, it’ll be an uphill battle. People need to understand that change is okay, but expectations need to be set. If you’re working to make a bad situation better it’s not going to happen in six months. It’s a long process and that should be clear.
7. Do you think work has changed for the good? What does it mean for employer branding?
What’s normal has absolutely changed. We’ve all seen how well remote work has been doing, there’s no denying that. And obviously, it’s a lot more decentralised — maybe spread across the country or continent. So this poses new challenges for employer branding.
It’s hard to say exactly what will happen as it’s only been a couple of months, but it seems like employer branding will probably become more hyperlocal. Performance marketing will be focused on local environments like certain streets or districts. What we can do is try to get ahead of this change and involve our employees in the future of the work-place. Run workshops, create task forces and get everyone involved in shaping their future work environments.
8. How would you try to engage more of your employees to take part in employer branding?
In a company with a flat hierarchy, it’s going to be much easier compared to the traditional old-school corporate German structure. There will be fewer barriers and employees will be more comfortable sharing their experiences in public. We would suggest empowering and encouraging them to share brand love. Sometimes they want to get involved but need a bit of coaching.
A brand-bible is going to be a good place to start. It’ll explain what they can talk about, what they shouldn’t, what’s the tone of voice, and try to provide some social media examples for them to follow. With these structures, employees have more security and less uncertainty about how they can engage with the brand. And look, sometimes people will get involved without being asked — that’s great! You should be thanking them and doing everything you can to encourage and support them.
9. What key marketing channels do you recommend for the developer/tech community?
At the moment LinkedIn is working really well for reaching the tech community. We get far more engagement there, and as much as developers say they hate LinkedIn, they are still using it to find companies and connect with people. You’ve also got meetups which are very popular among techies, they love knowledge-exchange so making your brand present in those environments is a great opportunity.
Also, make yourselves visible on GitHub and AngelList — you can involve your own developers in this. Twitter is also very popular, but it’s working more for creative brands, so don’t go there to sell anything; it’s not going to land well if you do that.
10. What digital tools should I use to help support efforts in employer branding and social media?
There are heaps of tools out there to support employer branding. But at the end of the day, it’s about what your main objective is. Do you want to create more brand awareness? Do you want to have more leads in the pipeline? Or is it about fostering a great company culture?
A good place to start is a company blog; we suggest Medium. It’s easy to implement and easy for your employees to share there. Developers are more interested in future projects and work than that other fluffy branding stuff which might work for your customers. Let your developers write about projects they are working on and speak to their peers. There are also a few things you can do internally.
For example, you could host little takeovers of the company Instagram.One of your employees could take the phone for the whole day and just share what the day is like working at your company. Employees tend to enjoy the content and talent can get some insights into the work-life of the company.
11. Is employer branding more of a communication marketing topic or a HR topic? Who should be in the lead?
You can’t do it without HR or marketing and communications because these departments will always be talking about the brand. Ideally, you’d be working with both departments, but in terms of where an employer banding expert would sit – probably towards the HR side. Whatever department, the most important thing is to onboard the stakeholders and have access to all those channels of branding because, without proper oversight, your employer brand can be destroyed in seconds.
12. How would you extend employer branding to new staff members to make them immediately feel part of the team?
As we said earlier, employee and candidate experience starts with the first contact, so make them feel part of the team at the very first stage. This could be when they are interviewed or signing the contract. There is so much potential to create a long-lasting impact in the pre-onboarding phase. From the time the contract is signed to the first day, it’s generally about six months.
Use this time to onboard them with the company culture and already help them create relationships and meet other team members. Sending them welcome packets and information will mean less time spent in the actual onboarding phase, which equals less money spent and a better-integrated employee.
13. How can I manage the step from company values to a believable employer brand?
Given that the company values were developed in a process with the employees and colleagues, and given that they can identify with them, I would integrate the colleagues into my employer branding strategy. Find employee stories based on your corporate values and start communicating them. Encourage all employees to share the stories and perhaps tell their own story that is consistent with the values. The values must be reflected in all internal processes, for example by incorporating them into your recruitment or onboarding strategy.
If one of your values would be transparency, then act accordingly in your candidate experience and give honest feedback to candidates – tell them how they can develop. Also actively use the feedback you receive — no matter what platform — and try to work on it. Only if you live the values in all hierarchies will you be able to create a credible external brand to the outside world.
14. How can I convince top management that employer branding is still important during COVID-19?
It is precisely in times of crises that the true character of a company becomes apparent. How does your company want to be remembered by employees and society? Employer branding experts can help to support top management in this crisis by keeping the employees’ perspective in mind. Treat your employees correctly. Giving them security, leadership and guidance is important but also listen to them. Do not focus on something external. External communication will follow when people, who are treated well, share their thoughts.
15. How can you make the difference in employer branding? What is a good differentiator?
Your culture is the best differentiator, because culture is always unique, just as your employees and colleagues are unique. Start talking more about the people behind the company, their personalities, thoughts etc. than about the company itself. Show how people can make a difference in the company and how they can shape and contribute to it.
16. What’s the best thing a company does if nothing else to improve employer branding?
Generally, I advise making sure your company culture and internal structures & processes are on the right track before starting any employer branding efforts. If employees feel excluded, they will become vocal about this. So, make sure before starting any employer branding efforts that your company can shine from inside to the outside and fully live, breathe, and support your employer brand.
17. How do I do employer branding when there are only very few vacancies?
Employer Branding is not all only about recruiting. A great employer brand can help you to level up the whole HR lifecycle (Attraction, Onboarding, Retention/Development, and Offboarding). There are many great initiatives you can make. What about building up alumni relations? Or an engagement campaign that fosters internal pride? Just think outside the box and be creative. :)
18. What are some best practices for reaching tech talent?
Tech talent is super diverse. Besides being visible on relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, Github and Angelist, you can create a workshop with your current tech employees. This is how you get to know your local needs and create with them the differentiator for your organization. Moreover, they will feel engaged and empowered to contribute to the success of your branding initiatives.
19. I’d like to see good examples from companies
There are many good situational examples of employer branding during the COVID-19 pandemic. I personally liked how AirBnB handled the layoffs, or also how German retailers re-framed some of its brand narratives of ‘essential workers’ to ‘our heroes’.
A good example is also Netflix, because they describe – in a very detailed way – the company culture and what they expect from future hires. I also read a lot about Yum Brand’s recognition culture where they encourage leaders to implement their own signature awards to recognize employee success. Moreover, they have special onboarding events celebrating new talents on a red carpet, and so much more. I think this is a great way to build and foster an employer brand from the inside.
Even though I do not agree with all of Yum Brand’s views or actions, I think, in general, it’s a good idea to just be open-minded and curious to pick great initiatives from various companies and mix & match them with your own idea and organization’s culture.
Meet Our Experts:
Marian Jarzak: is an Employer Branding Enthusiast, living in Berlin. Marian has a professional background in business and business journalism and has worked with a number of great companies like Rocket Internet, Project A Ventures, and Taxfix. His work has taken him to Turkey, Armenia and Denmark. If you’d like to know more about Marian’s passion check out his blog, which is dedicated to employer branding.
Kathrin Fronius: is a communications expert who’s dedicated herself to improving employee experience. Kathrin has a background in PR and communications, and specialised knowledge of communication structures, crisis communication, and event management. She’s a bit of a visionary and firefighter at the same time. Kathrin helps shape culture and the employer brand at Trusted Shops.
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