Develop Your Employer Brand Strategy
Updated: Jan 20
Employer Brand is the market’s perception of your company as an employer, but also describes your promise (or employee value proposition=EVP) to employees in exchange for their experience, talents, skills. This is very important part of Employer Branding - you should understand that branding is a promise - if you claim your company has the best training for young employees and the reality is completely different - than this can not be your EVP - because you are promising something and not delivering on it, therefore you will hurt your Employer Brand and fail to achieve goals related to it. The whole purpose is to position your company to those market segments and employees you want to attract and retain.
Why would anyone work for your company and how to identify as an employer?
We're exploring areas which have the most potential to improve HR practices. We have put a lot of effort into this topic as we see a lot of articles with little depth. Here's our attempt to help you explore new HR initiatives which have been proven to work in this talent driven market. Here is 5 most important steps for developing your Employer Brand strategy and how to make improvements in talent acquisition and retention. We're hoping this guide will help you to get these tasks done with clear understanding of every aspect of employer branding concept.
Before we start, let's just repeat what a strategy is: a method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem. Do not get cold feet about "strategic" topics. They only mean there should be some goals defined and some activities which will make those goals a reality. It does not have to be complicated, but it does have to be alligned with overall business goals.
Step #1: Figure out your business challenges
Employer branding strategy should be alligned with overall business and HR strategy. There is no use of building strong employer brand for IT developers if your business strategy is to become the best sales consultancy. Employer brand is a clever way of reaching your HR related goals which reinforce your business goals. How to figure our your challenges/potential areas for impact which will help define employer brand strategy?
Here are few tips:
Perform a gap analysis - helps you identify what resources your company has and what you’ll need in the future. When performing a gap analysis, you’ll assess your HR practices and infrastructure to determine where your company is falling short.
Survey your employees and job candidates - it will highlight most important areas for improvement.
Analyse business strategy and find areas where HR department/activities are important part of goal achievement or where HR has the skills to contribute.
Analyse the competition and their HR/employer branding activities
List all the challenges, trends, nice-to-have's, technology needs and try to make sense of the most relevant ones for your business.
Step #2: Make clear goals and explain how each activity contributes
Based on Step #1 analysis you should be able to list several challenges and issues which have the potential to become goals for your employer brand strategy. In order to reach several key goals, list every challenge/issue you have detected and score them based on complexity to change and overall business goals impact and add the monetary value (money) estimate of how much this challenge hurts your business.
This analysis should help you to finalize Step #2 and focus on goals which have the highest impact on your organization and which, if invested in them, have the potential to make improvements.
Each "MEDIUM" score or "HIGH" score should have a brief explanation - what is needed if you want to change/improve that challenge and why is this score low/medium/high.
This will be important input for making a business case calculations. You should have a clear understanding how much money is your company losing if you do nothing and how much money can you impact with your activities - investments in employer branding activities.
The output of Step #2 should be an outline of your Employer brand strategy. From prioritized list of challenges and your recommendations which activities and KPI's should lead to improvements - your organization's HR leaders and directors should be able to clearly understand how will employer branding activities improve business strategy and business goals delivery.
Based on your analysis, if you define that one of your goals for employer branding strategy should be to become a employer of choice for business sales people, you should be able to explain:
Why is this important for your company (what issues you are now having)
What investments will you need to execute that goal
What are main activities to enable goal achievement?
How will you measure you are on the right track (KPI's and research).
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Step #3: Define your EVP and action plan
You have identified a meaningful goal, calculated impact it has on your organization and now you need to put that plan into reality.
What is an action plan in terms of employer brand strategy? Firstly, it depends on which goals you are trying to achieve. In general, when having employer branding activities in place you should work on the following:
1. Clearly understand your EVP - employee value proposition
EVP is considered to be these two things, second one being more important:
1) EVP statement is a way to easily communicate the value your company offers to employees. It is a statement, a phrase, marketing slogan, something appealing and relevant for your target audience.
2) EVP model as everything of value that an employer provides to its employees — pay, benefits, training, career development opportunities and so on. EVP is a foundation to market your company to the workforce.
The more accurately your EVP reflects your organization's corporate culture and work environment, the more likely it is to attract fitting candidates and employees. Your value proposition is the core of your competitive advantage. It clearly articulates why someone would want to come work for you instead of going to a competitor.
How to write this and analyse your EVP?
2. Understand that benefits and rewards should be different from others and innovative
Many companies have a lot of rewards and benefits. Many of those benefits are of no interest to employees and often are under-utilized. If you want to make a next step in your benefits and EVP approach, you should be innovative and interesting enough to have something to market in the first place. If you need to differentiate because it is hard to attract employees - you need to have different benefits compared to other companies fighting for the same talent. The trick is, you can not just pull this out of your head, you should make a research and identify what really matters to employees you want to attract. Of course, having in mind it is in line with your business strategy.
3. Validate your EVP - confirm your assumptions via research
You will spend a lot of time with key stakeholders in your company and you will form strong assumptions and model your employer brand universe in your organizations. However, no matter what your ideas are and how well formed, you should validate EVP assumptions before pouring money and before making final program decisions. Do targeted surveys, internally and externally, focus groups or in-depth interviews are some of the tools which can help you confirm or discards some of the assumptions.
Companies often think that EVP and employer branding is just a nicer way of saying what you already represent as a company. No. The purpose of employer branding is to FIGURE out what your employees and future employees want, what will make them happy, what is your company/culture about, how will your business strategy, needs and goals IMPACT all things related to your employees and how will your HR strategy benefit from employer branding activities.
Constanly look for employee feedback. Companies across all industries globally are developing more agile employee listening strategies that go beyond of the traditional one-time in a year employee survey. Today, there are tools which make possible quarterly, monthly and even daily polls.
Not all benefits are relevant for entire workforce. If you have developed a job ad which fits perfectly with sales representatives, it is very hard to expect similar job ad which will attract IT profesionalls (or it might, but you need to be sure about it). Workforce segmentation is very important if you want to fine tune your EVP, at least to a point where you are addressing most important segments (professionals) for your business needs. If those people are customer service agents, then you should focus on that segment. If you have the need to attract and retain top performers from every field, than you should allign your EVP to attract that segment. It can be confusing and hard to do sometimes.
For example, if you claim your organization is investing a lot to develop talented employees and they will have plenty of challenging projects from day one, you might scare off average performers who you also need for those roles.
According to the 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards survey from Willis Towers Watson, employers that offer customized benefit programs are three times more likely to have highly-engaged staff.
Segmentation approach is the foundation to strategic talent management because it helps to understand potential value creation and costs to retain top talent.
4.a Three-step process to get started
1. Identify critical jobs
The basis for the segmentation in this example is to identify "critical jobs". This means to list every job that has high impact on organizational performance and future development.
2. Segment employees
Develop a model for meaningful talent segmentation which takes into account characteristics of employees and why should they be perceived as talented. Individuals may be assigned to multiple segments.
3. Critical jobs without top talent
Identify critical jobs with non-top talent. Look for opportunities to better match critical jobs and top talent.
Some segments could be:
Level 1 Successors
4.b Segmentation models
There are many different approaches to segment your workforce, and many of them are alligned with traditional views of the organization - dividing employees based on hierarchy, age, pay grade or something similar. These segmentation are of no value to strategic talent management and employer branding.
The most relevant segmentation is based on the VALUE each employee has for your organisation and SKILLS which enable them to deliver that value. However, this is not so easy to model in real-life. Many organizations have different value models. Some companies deliver innovative products and sell less quantities for a premum price, some value models have core competences in logistic and distrubution and some are delivering cheap products and their competitive advantage lies in cost reduction and productivity.
Your task here is to define what would be a VALUE model for your organization and how would that value model serve as a foundation for employee segmentation.
For example, model done by AWS is Skills-Based Workforce Segmentation Model, adapted from the work of Lepak and Snell (1999), provides a basis for analysing and segmenting roles according to two dimensions of skills:
Skill value and their impact; and
Roles can be assessed according to their decision making responsibility in the above 8 areas and their impact:
Sales and Revenue — maintaining or increasing sales to existing customers, securing new customer sales, optimising prices
Stakeholder Relations – contributing to customer service/satisfaction, maintaining the organisation’s reputation or brand with stakeholders
Costs — achieving efficiencies in production and delivery of products and services
Quality —maintaining or enhancing the quality of products and services
Innovation — incorporating research and development, strategy, design, capital expenditure, securing resources, feasibility studies, marketing research, etc., all relating to developing existing or new products and services
Organisational Capability — contributing to organisational efficiency, recruitment, development, and the engagement and retention of people
Reputation/Risk Management — risk management and compliance, protecting the organisation’s reputation
Financial Performance — doing cash flow models, raising money or borrowings from banks, ROI, tax management.
You create a questionnaire which can help you grade employees on these 9 areas and plot them based on scores achieved.
As another example, one Asian telecom designed bundled employment structures and incentive packages for sales force to appeal to four basic employee segments, each a different psychographic group. For example, “Hungry and Ambitious” workers, eager to maximize their income, could opt for a pay-for-performance arrangement that provided a relatively low salary but allowed them to achieve sizeable bonuses for exceeding performance and quality goals. “Waiting for Retirement” employees could work only part time and still qualify for their retirement pensions.
Segmenting helped the company increase field force performance by 70% and reduce unit costs by 30%. It also helped the telecom to optimize training costs - it could focus training efforts on employees who truly wanted to improve productivity.
Recommended read: Here you can find a good guide by:
Advanced Workforce Strategies for Identifying Critical Roles
Step #4: Employee experience as a foundation for EVP and your company story
You have identified business challenges, translated them into employer brand strategy and goals, analyzed and optimized your EVP. Now is the time to share that to the world. Now you have something which you should be proud of and what everyone in your organization should be alligned to - to build employer brand and reach objectives you have set in your strategy.
Everything you have done for bringing EVP to life should become a part of employee experiences. This means, every process relevant for your existing and future employees should be analysed and optimized for employer branding goals achievement.
Source: adopted from thehighermix.com
To analyse how employees perceive your processes, HR has adopted a well-known marketing tool - Customer Journey Map, or in this case - Employee/Candidate Journey Map. This tools helps you to write down every interaction (touch-point) between employee (job candidate) and organisation and then to figure out is this touch-point creating experience which supports your employer branding goals.
How to communicate your EVP messages and what does it mean?
The main objective of marketing employer branding externally, is to appeal to a specific target group. The primary goals of employer brand communications are:
the engagement of target group,
conveying the desired message and
forming a more unique and favorable brand image.
Internal marketing of the employer branding process is targeted towards the existing members of personnel. Marketing towards internal stakeholders aims to ensure that employees are engaged in the values and goals of a company. Your employees should be the ones with the most favorable perception of the brand.
Communication strategy of employer brand has two main segments, both being quite challenging for many organisations: CONTENT and CHANNELS of communication.
There are several content strategies you can use and adopt for bringing your EVP and employer branding activities to life. In creating content, we like this one proposed from
Job portraits, San Francisco–based creative studio that supports recruiting teams.
Tell your employer brand story based on these 7 main components:
Source: adapted from Job Portraits article
Interesting to note - perks and compensation are considered as weak selling points. You should avoid mentioning compensation as employer branding component and differentiate on other levels. If perks and compensation are somewhat unique and very well fit into your company values, then they can be highlighted. Example is AirBnB and their 2,000 USD perk to their employees for travel.
Job Portraits have prepared a Worksheet where you have additional resources to apply this methodology. You can find it here: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Employee Value Propositions
2. Channels of communication
Channels can be divided into internal channels (for employees) and external (for job candidates).
Channels of communication are the means through which people receive your message or communicate in an organization. These are like e-mail, SMS, internet, video, in-person, etc. However, when talking about channels, in this article we are talking about touch points where employees and job candidates consume your messages.
Application process is the strong touch-point for job candidates. If you have done something well and engaged them to apply, you do not want to ruin that experience with the application itself and lose the candidate in that process. It should be optimized for your hiring process, it should be easy, smooth, without 18 steps to submit every detail twice, etc. Yes you need to gather data but tread lightly.
Career Site is the home of your EVP and employer branding. It is the place where you have the most power to communicate your message in a controlled environment. You want to attract job applicants there and you want to inspire them to apply or come back and explore job opportunities at your organisation. If you want to differentiate - yo do not want it to look like any other Career Site. This is your most important asset and it only makes sense to invest into creating great brand experience.
Career Blog is an extension of your Career Site where you have the less formal, more storytelling content which should enhance your employer brand in an authentic way.
Social media is the place where your job candidates and employees spend majority of their free time. It makes sense to create high quality content which can engage your community and potential employees. The sky is the limit here, but it takes time and resources to build and regulary post.
Career Newsletters can help you constantly engage your audience. If you attract them to your website once, newsletter could be the only way to keep this communication going - if candidate has shown interest to visit your site, maybe it makes sense to keep them in your talent pool or at least informed about new career opportunities.
Employee Referrals are powerful way to attract good culture fit candidates. Everyone wins if employees have the power to recommend good job candidates because they are the one which are most familiar with your culture. Employee referrals don't work if your employees are not comfortable to recommend their friends and if they are unhappy at work.
Employment agencies which you use to help you in hiring/sourcing may have strong influence on your employer brand. Make sure they have all the notes and guides.
Job ads are critical point in reaching your objectives as well. They should be segmented, unique, offer all the relevant information to your target group and engage candidates to apply.
In-person touch-points like workshops, seminars, meet-ups, campus events, lectures from your employees to students or at a conferences. They represent unique opportunity to test your employer branding messages and their effectiveness.
Intranet resources - web site, career support, HR tools employees use...
Top management of your organization
For additional guidance about communication strategy in general, we recommend this excellent in-depth overview by Myk Pono which will help you to understand this topic a bit better:
Step #5: Measure, analyse, gather more data, optimize
You have probably noticed that once the company makes its business strategy for the next 2 or 4 years, this strategic planning process is being repeated EACH year. This is how companies manage their operations. They analyse strategic KPI's, deep dive wherever is needed to get a better understading why some KPI's are not as planned and they make new plans based on actual data, lessons learned, new trends, new investments, etc. The same goes with employer branding strategy. It has to be managed, it has to be measured and it should be optimized and re-evaluated over and over again. Once you keep rolling with it, you can't stop and forget about it.
Alonside defined strategy and goals, you should have defined KPI's which can be measured within organization and which are relevant for goal achievement. Here are a few examples of goals and KPI's:
Goal: to decrease time-to-hire by 10% until 2021
KPI's to measure goal achievement:
time-to-hire in days
time-to-hire per department
time-to-hire per manager/recruiter
cost of vacancy
Goal: to become number one employer of choice in British Columbia
KPI's to measure goal achievement:
external research/lists/publications of best employers and best places to work
surveys of job candidates (external and internal for new hires)
brand awareness research - top of mind brand in candidates perception
Goal: to increase quality of hire until 2021
KPI's to measure goal achievement:
quality of hire based on performance in first 6 and 12 months
internal 360 feedback
turnover in first 6 to 12 months
promotions (and other advancements of new hires) in first 6 to 12 months, and similar
Goal: to improve number of job applications via Career Site by 20% by 2021
KPI's to measure goal achievement:
number of career site visits
number of applications to open positions
number of open applications (candidates proactively apply)
number of applications started but not finished
candidate acquisition (from which channels have they arrived to your career site)
source of application (from which channels have applications arrived)
money spent on content and career site promotion per each application (total money spent / total number of job applicants in each quarter)
Goal: to implement employee referral program by 2020 and get 5% new hires from that channel
KPI's to measure performance:
number of employee referrals
number of new hires
money spent on incentives
turnover of referred employees
% share of new hires in total new hires
quality of hire of new hires via referrals
time-to-hire via referrals
How to measure your employer brand success?
We encourage you to be innovative and really think through what would be meaningful and relevant KPI's for your goals and activities. The LESS you have them, the better, as long as they are strong and realiable to measure. And don't be afraid about taking responsibility for new KPI's, it is always hard in the beginning, but it is the right path to go. What you and your teams create, will make a lasting impact on your organisations.
We helps companies to improve hiring with online and video testing and give better opportunities to job applicants to participate in the selection process. We know it is hard to earn trust from potential customers so we write articles and hope you might find some of the things we do useful. Eventually, some day, we hope you will reach out to learn more about our product. We write about hiring, analytics, employer branding, HR best practices and if you would like to stay in touch, follow us on Linkedin or create a user account here and join our Employer Branding Community Group.
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