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Getting a Grip on Employer Branding

Employer branding is a term that is being increasingly used today and is considered crucial to the survival of businesses. However, a number of businesses continue to suffer because executives or management confused about employer branding, try to pass it off as unnecessary. In most cases this is because they themselves are unclear about the implications of employer branding. To many such people, employer branding is nothing more than an extension of normal company branding developed for jobseekers. However, for the more enlightened others, employer branding supplements the product or service brand focus of a company and is a distinct phenomenon. Here we discuss common misconceptions as well as correct perspectives about employer branding as a separate process distinct from other branding elements of an organization.

Brand, branding, and employer branding

As long as the objectives of a company are clearly understood in employer branding exercises, whether it is seen as a distinct process or simply an extension of an organization's corporate brand is largely philosophical. However, what matters is understanding the relationship between brand, branding and employer branding.

A brand, usually, is conceived as a host of positive associations with the image of a company, service, or product. Branding concerns itself with communicating the attributes of a brand to target audiences. Unless one understands this, one would never understand how to strategize or execute employer branding successfully.

If you do not understand the difference between ‘brand' and ‘branding' then simple job advertisement approaches meant to creatively demonstrate employee experiences and differentiate an employer from others would be sufficient for employer branding. To most, in fact, this is sufficient.

However, for highly successful companies whose competitive edge in business is sustained by their consistent ability to attract the right talent, employer branding is something more than creative differentiation in recruitment advertisements. For such companies, which are usually multinational and global companies, or extremely successful companies in their own niches, employer-branding means communicating a brand through a well-defined set of employee value propositions.

Define your expectations in employer branding exercises

Before engaging in employer branding exercises, all concerned people need to agree on whether the need is to develop an employer brand or add employment context to an existing corporate brand. These would lead to entirely different sets of needs, expectations, and execution strategies. There are companies, which survive in the market due to employer branding, because even if a person holds their services to consumers as questionable, he/she would unquestionably accept their offers for employment. An employer brand makes a business much more future-resilient, as a company is only as good as its people.

Be ready to accept and execute change when developing an employer brand

An employer brand cannot be developed without employee input, and when employees provide input, they expect to see resulting changes – otherwise employment brand endeavors can lead to disenchantment of employees. Employer brand development usually leads to the discovery of operational issues that are otherwise ignored and keep festering by themselves. Such operational issues are not uncommon and usually result from a company's adapt and overcome strategies and tactics developed while facing new market challenges. However, usually such issues remain unaddressed unless there are positive exercises to develop an employer brand.

Be ready to deliver

Employer branding is usually tougher than service branding in general. Many a time, service and product brands are developed upon selling a perception in the market. However, in employer branding, you are selling an offer, which your target market would actually encounter, and also hold you accountable for differences between sold perception and reality. Employer branding needs to be much carefully crafted because if it backfires, it usually happens below the belt.

My last word of caution would be to understand that though employer branding may not be neglected, developing an employer brand is a serious decision. Every employer needs employer branding of some sort, but that does not mean every employer needs to develop an employer brand. Exercises in employer branding can result in opening the proverbial Pandora's box, and unless you have healers and medication ready for handling casualties – think twice before spending resources on developing an employer brand, just for the heck of it.

Reference:

Keiko Saito, "On Staffing," in On Staffing: Advice and Perspectives from Hr Leaders, ed. Nicholas C. Burkholder, Preston J. Edwards, and Libby Sartain (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004)