Use Employment Branding To Hire, Keep Workers with Best Cultural Fit

By Pamela Babcock Jan 8, 2008

Creating a solid employment brand not only can help attract and retain high-value employees, but it also can help repel those who might not be a good fit with the company.

An organization’s leaders create and sustain an organizational culture, or a common way of thinking that drives a common way of acting, said Lizz Pellet, CEO of the cultural assessment firm EMERGE International, during a recent SHRM webcast titled, “Attract, Retain, Repel: Employment Branding and Organizational Culture.” An employment brand is the truest form of marketing an organization’s culture, whether it’s been purposefully created or not, she said.

“Organizations [that] are crystal clear about who they are and who they aren’t when building an employee brand bring people into the organization who will have an authentic and congruent work experience [with that cultural brand],” said Pellet, who is also a fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Those employees, she said, “will be the ones who stick around.”

A study conducted by California-based EMERGE and Chicago-based Rada Advertising Inc. found that a strong majority of organizations think employment branding provides a competitive edge in recruiting efforts, while two-thirds said they think their brand helps attract and retain top talent. Senior HR professionals, recruiters and marketing professionals from about 100 companies with between 350 to 35,000 employees responded to the study.

While 85 percent of the participants said that employment branding is important to their organization, less than half (49 percent) said it’s one of the top five strategic initiatives for their company in the upcoming year. Only 36 percent said they had budgeted money in 2007 to work on their employment brand, according to the study report.

Still, a majority (81 percent) of respondents said a cultural assessment would allow organizations to understand gaps that may exist between “what we are and what we desire to be” in retention and recruitment.

Assessing Culture and Employment Brand Congruence

Pellet said employment branding is more important than ever given the projected mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce, the unique challenges of attracting Generation Y employees, cultural integration issues during mergers and acquisitions, and the need to boost employee engagement and productivity.

Making a case for creating an employee brand isn’t hard, considering the amount of money spent on recruitment and retention. Pellet said the typical cost of one “bad hire” at the executive level in 2007 is three times that person’s annual salary. Such figures can help garner senior executive support for employment branding.

And HR should be among the key leaders driving the employment branding process, Pellet said.

“A lot of times we see this as being marketing driven,” said Pellet. “HR needs to be involved with this as much as marketing because we are accountable for many of the things we find in the brand.”

Pellet suggested that organizations address the following issues during an employment branding assessment:

  • Study job postings on some of the most popular external job boards. Local sites are increasingly popular, while job networks can be found in any state. Pellet suggests watching recruitment videos at to get ideas for your organization.
  • Conduct a self-analysis. Review of an organization’s own web site “can be chilling,” Pellet cautioned. Look for mention of the company’s vision, mission, values, culture or awards. How easy is it to get to and navigate the career section? “We say three clicks and you’re out,” Pellet said, adding that companies also should “look at the people depicted on your site. Who are they? Would you be attracted or repelled to work there?”

The timeline for doing an employment brand assessment varies, though it typically can go more quickly for a smaller and “more nimble” organization than a larger one, Pellet said. Expect to spend up to three months on diagnostics, including data collection, analysis and subsequent action planning. The plan should also factor in time to establish an employee value proposition, develop a brand message and implement rollout initiatives, Pellet said.

From there, she said, don’t expect to see full alignment, significantly better business results and increased ROI of recruitment & retention programs for another one to three years, Pellet said. And about a year into the process, Pellet recommends redeploying diagnostics to measure progress and track ROI.

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.


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