Why a Strong Employer Brand is Everything

October 30, 2018

Why a Strong Employer Brand is Everything

A clear, distinct brand is vital in all areas of business from marketing and advertising to customer awareness and loyalty, but one aspect of branding doesn't involve consumers at all. It's your employer brand. Put another way, it's your company's reputation. Oftentimes, it doesn't get the same attention that companies give their consumer-facing brand identity, but, especially now, that's a mistake.

In this incredibly competitive job market, it's more important than ever to focus on your employer brand. Why? A strong employer brand is your organization's best tool for attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.

This year has been a struggle for internal and external recruiters. The talent shortage is making life difficult out there. The rock-bottom unemployment rate is great for the economy, but it makes attracting and retaining top people a challenge, to put it mildly. And it's not just the fact that it's a job seeker's market. It's the increased awareness among those job seekers about employer brands.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 84 percent of job seekers feel that a company's reputation is an important factor in their decision to apply for a job. More than half, 55 percent, would pull their applications if they read enough negative reviews about the company on sites like Glassdoor. And 50 percent said they would not work for a company with a bad reputation, even if taking the job meant a bump in pay.

An employer's brand has been getting more attention from job seekers in recent years, with the Best Places to Work lists and all of the like-minded spin-offs popping up everywhere. But it's the rise in popularity of employer review sites like Glassdoor, Vault, and Kununu among others, in which current and former employees post anonymous (oftentimes scathing) reviews of what it's really like to work at a company. This pulls back the curtain and reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly in any given workplace. 

With a strong, positive employer brand, you'll attract more qualified job candidates. That's the holy grail of recruiting, and it can ultimately make or break your company's success. You'll also keep your star employees and reduce turnover costs. On the other side of that coin, a negative employer brand is like a death knell. You'll get fewer top candidates for open positions, eventually leading to a drop in performance. And you'll have to pay more to get those less-than-stellar candidates to sign on. Current employees will start looking for greener pastures. 

A negative brand doesn't just affect employees and job candidates. Vendors, customers, and anyone you do business with will be second-guessing their relationships with you. 

Employers need to not only react and respond to negative hits on their brand, but actively strive to create a positive, strong brand. Here are a few ways to do that.

Walk Your talk
You can't just create the impression your company is a great place to work. It really has to be that. If it isn't, it's up to HR and other members of the C-suite to lead the charge toward change. Survey your employees about things like engagement. Conduct "stay interviews" with key people in departments to find out what they like about their jobs and what they would change. Do 360-degree reviews in which employees rate their managers. How's your work/life balance? How is your reward structure? Do your employees feel valued for the work they do? Are there opportunities for them to grow?

Create Content About Your Culture on Social Media and on Your Own Website
Do you have a blog about your industry on your website? If not, get on that to engage customers, vendors, job seekers, and anyone else who does, or could do business with you. Take to social media: post photos of events, highlight employee achievements, and anything else you can put out there. Job candidates are going to check you out on social media, so make sure there are plenty of positive posts for them to find.

Create Your Company's Brand Personality on Social Media
The best brands on Twitter aren't all about the company, all the time. They're engaging, responsive, funny and clever, drawing people in. One of the masters at this is the smoothie company Innocent Drinks (@innocent on Twitter). Most of their posts aren't about smoothies. They're about creating a brand personality and making people laugh. One message states: "We interrupt our relentless smoothie-based marketing to bring you this photo of a baby skunk." Another of the funniest brands on Twitter is DiGiorno Pizza, which famously and hilariously live-tweeted the live version of Sound of Music on NBC a few years back and garnered 44 million impressions.

Hone Your Offboarding Process 
Most companies put a lot of time and effort into onboarding and training new employees, but few are focusing on offboarding. Yes, you're going to have a certain amount of natural turnover, no hard feelings on either side. But, when you're talking about layoffs, staff reductions, or just letting an underperforming employee go, it can be a very delicate dance to show those people the door without creating anger, resentment, and a whole lot of other negative feelings. Feelings that can easily find their way to Glassdoor. Along with a severance package and genuine recognition for the employee's hard work, it's critical to provide outplacement services to help exiting employees find their next chapter. Losing a job puts people at sea and can be frightening, even traumatic. Helping them focus on their next steps right away will not only ease the pain a bit and be a real service to them, but it also goes a long way toward squelching those negative feelings. A former employee who marches forward towards his or her next job courtesy of your outplacement service is far less likely to badmouth your company.

Monitor Glassdoor and Similar Sites and Respond to Negative Reviews
Respond to any negative reviews that disgruntled employees post. Glassdoor won't take the reviews down, but it may help take the sting out of them if you're showing that your company is responsive and concerned about the poster's problem. It's important to shape that narrative instead of ignoring it.

A company's brand is everything. Doing what you can to make yours shine will boost your hiring, keep your good employees, and cement your relationships with vendors and customers.

The Authors: 

Darren S. Kimball, CFA, is Principal and CEO of GetFive.