This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Employer branding is a marketing strategy that helps businesses represent their identity as an employer to current and prospective employees and job seekers as a whole. It involves creating a unique brand that encompasses the entire employment experience, from mission and culture to salary and benefits. Strong employer branding can help attract top candidates, boost employee productivity, and increase employee retention.
No matter the size of your small business, your goal is to create an association between the company and positive feelings in employees’ minds. Since brands are interpreted by how they make people feel, it is important to develop and cultivate a best-in-class brand that is relatable to as many people as possible.
4 Steps to Building & Implementing Your Employer Brand
There are several steps that a small business can take to build a strong brand, including determining what your brand is or should be, communicating that, and evaluating your brand’s effectiveness. Start, though, by understanding the elements that go into an employer brand.
Step 1: Understand What Defines an Employer Brand
Current and future employees are trading their time and effort in exchange not only for pay but also for the experience of working for your organization. So, it’s helpful to think about your employer brand in terms of an employee value proposition (EVP).
An EVP is your company’s overall value to potential and current employees relative to what other employers are doing. It is a combination of the company mission, culture, benefits, and compensation and is part of a broader employer branding strategy.
Company Mission & Culture
Company mission statements give employers a voice and a purpose and can help create a sense of culture and community within the organization. In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever for employers to foster a positive workplace culture and identity. By doing so, employees will feel appreciated and motivated to stay with the organization, which can help the business achieve its goals.
Companies can brand themselves using their missions in a number of ways, including slogans, marketing material, and employee communications. By branding with a company mission, they can create a unified message that resonates with their employees and potential customers.
Total Compensation Package
Companies should craft a total compensation package that reflects their personality, and total compensation can include salary, bonuses, stock options, and other benefits. They should also understand how employees value these types of benefits—the more cohesive their benefits, the better their EVP and branding campaigns will be.
Here are some benefits you can focus on:
- Charitable involvement/volunteer work
- Health benefits and wellness classes
- Work–life balance
- Company culture, including dress code and food or beverages offered
- Vacation and paid time off
Nearly 1 in 3 people quit their jobs during the Great Resignation, citing a toxic atmosphere (including poor work–life boundaries) as the No. 1 reason.
Step 2: Determine What Your Employer Brand Is—Or What You Want It To Be
When it comes to developing a brand, there are a few things you should consider:
- What does your company stand for?
- What is your message?
- What are your products/services?
- How do you value your employees?
- How do you measure your success?
Your employer brand should connect your company, what it stands for, and the products you sell with customers, current employees, and potential employees. The best way to do this is to conduct a competitive analysis showing what your competitors are doing compared to your business. Once you have completed your analysis and identified what makes your company unique, you can use these as the pillars of your employer brand.
Some common attributes that make a company stand out from its competitors are its culture, leadership, values, and mission. By focusing on these key elements, you can build an employer brand that is memorable and attractive to employees.
Have Leadership Team Weigh In
A successful employer branding strategy depends on everyone’s input, particularly your managers and other company leaders. Having buy-in from them will allow you to see an objective picture of your EVP and foster a more concrete plan of how to move forward.
There are a number of ways to foster buy-in, but making your employer brand part of performance standards is one of the most effective. This allows leaders to objectively measure their own performance against established goals, which helps them determine where they need to improve and motivates them to do so.
Step 3: Get the Word Out Internally & Externally
Once you have defined your branding goals, you need to plan how to get the word out to current employees and potential hires (for when you’re ready to grow your team). Engaging your team, soliciting ideas and input, and getting everyone (e.g., marketing, operations, and customer service) involved and on the same page is essential for long-term success.
Inform Current Employees
It’s important that your employees are aware of the company’s employer branding. This may be illustrated through everything from your business’s logo and color scheme to the vision and values that the company espouses. You can send a memo to announce any changes in employer branding and follow through with initiatives that reinforce the brand (for example, hold events for Women’s Day and Pride Month if you want to emphasize inclusion and diversity). Employees who are aware of the employer brand can put their best foot forward when interacting with customers, other employees, and potential employees.
Market to Potential Hires
If you’re ready to scale and make new hires, then you will want to showcase your employer brand to attract talent. Ensure potential hires see why it’s great to work for your company. You can achieve this by discussing causes that are important to your brand or even including photos of company events that highlight how you implement the brand you’ve established in your website or other marketing materials.
Additionally, you can market your employer branding through job postings, company websites, and social media profiles. Employers can also communicate the company’s goals and objectives to new hires during the interview process. Each small business is going to have different channels to get the message in front of the right people, but here are some common ones.
The first place that many potential candidates will go to learn more about your company is review sites. Job boards like ZipRecruiter and Indeed have company profiles where job seekers and employees can leave reviews.
Make sure you keep your profile information up-to-date, upload photos that show happy employees having fun and doing activities that reflect your brand, and answer any open questions. A good place to start is to ask current employees to leave reviews. However, don’t try to game the system and ask a dozen employees to leave reviews at the same time—job boards will flag that as spam.
If you’re like most companies, your business website likely focuses on selling. But if you’re serious about attracting talent, you need to incorporate your mission and culture into your home page and throughout the site. A key spot is your careers page. Make sure it reflects the branding you’re after.
For many small businesses, your physical presence is just as accessible as your website. Review all the ways you’re visible to the world, such as uniforms, retail packaging, etc. The goal is to work your employer branding throughout as much of it as you can, alongside your product marketing.
If you’re like most businesses, your postings for job openings have some sort of company background and job description. Posting your open positions to a job board can get your company in front of thousands of potential new hires. When creating your job ad, be sure to highlight your company culture, benefits, and values.
Job fairs, which can be held at high schools, college recruiting events, and even military facilities, are a great way to increase employer branding. These events allow for employers to meet potential employees, display their company culture, and attract new candidates.
Step 4: Measure & Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Employer Brand
There are two main elements you’ll want to look at related to your employer branding strategy: how effective you are at delivering on your perceived brand (internal) and how well you are at getting the word out (external). Your long-term plan should include periodic reviews and adjustments to ensure your small business is effective over time.
Measuring how effective your employer branding is outside of your small business is a bit trickier. Here are a few ideas on how to measure it:
- Average number of candidates for job openings over time
- Time to hire
- External surveys
- Number of attendees at non-employee social activities
There are additional HR metrics that can also be a good measure of the success of your employer brand.
Tips on Using Your Employer Branding Strategy for Retention & Attraction
A well-developed branding strategy can help you reduce turnover and attract new talent by creating a unique identity for your company. We cover some tips to help you achieve that.
Brand equity, or the value of your brand, is key to the success of any business. Here are some tips for creating a successful branding strategy to retain current employees.
Build a Strong Foundation
As an employer, you must think beyond the simple task of filling a job opening with the best candidate. You need to build a strong foundation for your company culture and retain employees by using employer branding. This can be done through creating a recognizable logo, building an engaging employee website, and having a corporate mission statement.
Employer branding can create a sense of community among employees, which can lead to loyalty and a willingness to stick with the company. Additionally, strong employer branding can solidify a company’s competitive position.
Trying to be something you’re not can lead to failure. To be successful, it’s important to stay true to your brand and its values. This will help you build trust with customers and create a loyal following.
Brand loyalty is not only essential for customers but also for employees and shareholders. By staying true to your brand values, you’re ensuring that your products and services are consistent with who you are as a company and that you’re providing what your customers want. This commitment to quality will help keep current employees happy.
Creating an image or employer brand that is desirable is a great way to attract candidates. This can be done through things like developing a positive company culture and establishing clear job duties and responsibilities.
Look to Your Employees for Referrals
A great employer brand will reduce recruiting costs because you attract more candidates per position with less effort. Also, since the most effective hiring comes through employee referrals, a great employer brand means people who work for and know your company will be more likely to refer the people they know to your brand. This is the more cost-effective way to acquire top talent (more so than job boards or recruiters).
When your employees refer others, it likely means that they enjoy their job and feel the company culture and branding is one they can be proud of. Incentivizing your employees for referrals will also help create your employer brand by building the perception that the company believes in its employees and that everyone functions as a cohesive team.
Develop Clear & Concise Job Descriptions
Companies should create job descriptions that are tailored to their company culture and business needs. By using job descriptions, they can communicate their values, goals, and expectations to employees.
Additionally, job descriptions can help identify key skills and abilities needed for the position. Employees and candidates can refer to this resource for information and confirm expectations. Once you have an effective job description, share the information and post recruitment ads.
Tailor Brand Messaging
The more specific you can be in your branding strategy, the more you’ll benefit from it. Instead of saying “we’re a great company to work for,” you need to talk specifics.
Take a look at your current and future skill needs. Do you need customer service reps, engineers, designers, or salespeople? Often, different types of employees value different things. Designers might want creative freedom, whereas salespeople look for a fast-growing company.
You want a cohesive employer branding strategy but may want to tailor your message and choose varied channels as you try to reach different talents. For example, you might have a message about intellectual challenges when recruiting at an engineering school or emphasize a flexible work environment for customer service personnel.
Employer Brand vs Company Brand
While your employer brand relates to how people perceive you as an employer, your company brand is broader. It includes traditional sales-related branding efforts and how the public perceives all aspects of your company. However, there is often overlap between your employer brand and sales marketing efforts.
The main differences between company branding and employer branding are the focus and the channels utilized. For employer branding purposes, the highlight is on employee engagement, inclusivity, growth opportunities, and key benefits. Messaging should zero in on internal, employee-focused attributes. And, you’re going to use channels that put that message in front of employees and potential employees, not necessarily customers.
Meanwhile, company branding efforts focus more on outward directing channels, customers, leads, and society as a whole. Corporate branding refers to the practice of promoting your company’s brand name and its entire entity, including corporate social responsibility efforts, how your products and/or services make humanity better, and so on.
Employer branding for small businesses is important to attract top talent to your company and retain the best employees that you already have. By creating a strong employer brand, you can show potential employees what it’s like to work for you and convince current employees that your company is the best place for them to grow their careers. This improves your company’s image and increases its competitiveness.