The Hidden Benefits of Employer Branding

By Amy Gulati Feb 26, 2015
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Recent upticks in the economy and the labor market in particular have changed the balance of power between employers and job applicants, bringing the concept of employer branding to the forefront.

HR professionals with a strong understanding of the connection between effective employer branding and talent acquisition may still be surprised to learn that investing in building and marketing your company’s brand can have positive impacts on internal metrics such as employee engagement and turnover.

If your company has made branding a priority for 2015, you should begin by assessing the current strength of your brand. Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a boutique digital recruiting firm, emphasized that your employer brand is not simply a company logo or career page. Instead, it is “the emotional reaction people have to the idea of working for your company.”

Once you’ve identified the central elements of your brand, it’s time to choose a communication medium that resonates with both job candidates and current employees. The use of logos, career pages and social media are all common ways to do this.

Don MacPherson, president of human capital consulting firm Modern Survey, asserts that social media is the perfect place to tout your brand and reach both audiences. He pointed out that “the relationship between level of engagement and social media activity is significant. About 80 percent of disengaged employees do not follow their company on social media, compared to 44 percent of fully engaged employees.”

Shannon Smedstad, employment brand director at corporate advisory firm CEB, said that sharing brand messages “can even offer recognition to existing employees by telling their stories, which helps to highlight and amplify the employment brand.”

When measuring the return on investment from a branding initiative, Dmitry Kucherov, Ph.D., senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Management at Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, explained, “You should clearly realize why you want to implement branding … Depending on your goals, you can specify which key performance indicators branding could affect.”

In other words, branding should follow the same assess, design, implement and measure methodology as any other kind of HR initiative. For example, if your branding program is focused on improving talent acquisition, you might choose to measure the impact of branding on employee referrals. Experts tend to agree that a high referral rate indicates a healthy employment brand. As Costa put it, “You want employees to feel strongly and positively enough about working for your company that they want to invite others to work for you.” If referrals are high, it is a strong endorsement of your brand from those who know it best.

Candidates that come via referral are also less expensive than those who are reached by advertising campaigns, and are often higher quality. Moreover, employee referrals tend to indicate that the workforce is highly engaged. MacPherson defined several tenets of employee engagement:

  • A willingness to refer the organization.
  • Pride in the organization.
  • Having a sense of future.
  • Intent to stay.
  • The extent to which an employee is inspired to give extra effort.

“Employment branding influences employees’ willingness to refer the organization and their sense of pride, both of which have huge benefits,” he said.

However, according to Modern Survey’s research, there is a huge opportunity for improvement in many companies, given that only about half of the U.S. workforce say they would recommend their employer.

Another area where employment branding can positively impact outcomes is candidate experience. Research conducted by CEB in 2010 concluded that 49 percent of job applicants leave with a negative impression after an unsuccessful application. More alarming is the fact that one in five of those applicants stop using or buying from the company as a result. This is of greater consequence for a company selling directly to consumers, but the implication is clear: How you treat candidates and how they perceive your employment brand can affect your consumer brand and reputation in the marketplace.

Smedstad summed up the importance of a talent acquisition professional’s job: “If recruiters are not successful brand ambassadors, it can affect the organization overall.” Because of the connection between employment and consumer brand, Smedstad also encouraged HR practitioners to work cross-functionally with colleagues in marketing and communications. The benefits of pooled resources and brain power cannot be overstated.

As HR professionals prepare for a more competitive labor market and draft the business case for increased spending on employer branding, it is important to remember that your employment brand has an impact far beyond talent sourcing. When undertaking a new branding initiative, make sure that you consider and measure all of the potential benefits.

Amy Gulati, SPHR, GPHR, is an HR business partner at Helios HR, based in Reston, Va.

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