5 reasons to start investing more in your employer brand
When I reflect on my own career story, one of the most surprising things I notice is that I’ve ended up running a business focused on something I didn’t know existed until I joined EY in 2010 - employer branding. It’s been something over the last 8 years that I’ve had to explain numerous times to family and friends when the ‘what is it you do?’ question pops into conversation, and each time reinforced with me more and more just how important employer branding is to everyone. The work that we do, and the identity that we attach to this, is a huge part of our lives, and so, to me at least, it would therefore seem logical for all businesses to be investing heavily in their employer brand. However, I just don’t think that this is the case. It’s certainly becoming more important, and some businesses are becoming great examples of best practice, but I continue to be baffled by the ways in which businesses continue to invest their time, budget and resources on only the activities that provide a direct return on investment - ‘brand’ often being seen as something which can wait or be paid no attention at all. But these businesses have got this wrong. Brand acts as a foundation for everything else and should come first, rather than being treated like a piggy bank, saving for a rainy day.
Here’s 5 reasons why:
Your employer brand is an asset just like any other on the balance sheet
Intangible in many ways, yes, but still an asset, and one which is often determined by the customer/candidate themselves. Reputation is everything. The perceptions, feelings and connections they attach to your brand are all important ways in which their actions are informed. But like any behaviours these can be shaped, managed if you prefer, to build an employer brand that truly answers the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question.
Despite what you think people do not know you are
Brand complacency is dangerous. The smart businesses, maybe even your competitors, have already realised this. They’ve taken the first-mover advantage and left you in their dust. They’ve invested time, resource and hefty amounts of their budget to understand their target audiences and built an employer brand around what they are looking for in a career. They’ve often been bold and re-launched themselves, creating a new legacy. Their tone of voice might have also changed from one which tells the candidate what they want them to know, to one which starts a conversation asking candidates what they can do for them. They’ve created an emotional connection and built trust and loyalty through introspective consideration of its value.
You’re missing the opportunity to meaningfully differentiate in a crowded market
Take student recruitment for example. The growth of apprenticeships in the early careers market over the last ten years has created a host of new opportunities, and highlighted a number of gaps in the market. Gaps which your brand can leverage to attract better quality candidates for example. Changes to a recruitment process, work experience and insight evenings to provide moments of inspiration (that might even lead to a candidate choosing to go somewhere else), or tactical brand campaigns which spark a discussion about the elephant in the room, or champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace to tap into the feeling of belonging. Brands have been playing it safe for far too long - it’s time to start thinking differently.
To ensure that the candidate always comes first
Provided you don’t ‘half arse it’ and you stand your ground. Take control of your employer brand, building a strategy that takes away the guesswork and builds brand cohesiveness. A strategy which is guided by the candidate and seeks to deliver a best-in-class experience. Not one which is guided by the fire-fighting practices which are symptomatic of a business that pretends to listen, and goes in the direction they want to, even if the research and insight you have diligently prepared suggests otherwise.
And, because your employer brand really does add to the bottom line
A clear brand proposition, story and identity will create leads, traffic, followers, referrals and applications, and whilst these might not be directly linked to profit, they are metrics which can be used to educate your stakeholders when you frame them within a discussion focusing on how you are actively managing brand perceptions and measuring performance to drive profit further down the line. It’s here where we can often forget that without people, businesses don’t become profitable. And without investing in your employer brand, you won’t attract the people to join your business in the first place.
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