Employer branding used to be an afterthought, but it is now moving firmly into the limelight as companies realise the power it can have, and organisations who invest in their employer brands and take the time to define their EVP can really differentiate themselves from the competition.

There has been a recent increase in senior HR leadership roles looking for talent with employer brand and EVP development skills. In fact, a few organisations have started to build-out a separate specialist function and increase their demand for strategic heads of employer branding/ EVP or ‘talent attraction & engagement’. This relationship between talent, marketing and communications, and employer brand identity is so critical, many employer brand professionals are having dual reporting lines across traditional HR and the business to ensure effective alignment. But juggling budget and resource constraints can be particularly difficult and some employer brand leaders have to work with lean budgets and resources. Hiring someone with a marketing background can help bridge the gap between the functions, and often people from campus or broader TA backgrounds migrate into this space. However, the challenge is finding the right talent to understand that the EVP strategy needs to be holistic; it must encompass and be embedded throughout the employee lifecycle: attraction, experience, development and growth, culture and leadership.

The complexity of being global

Talent is more mobile than ever before and there is a need for organisations to ensure they are consistent in the way they market themselves as employers. Many organisations are struggling to build a consistent employer brand, and the most effective ones are those that have a consistent global, yet agile, framework that can be tweaked for certain markets–the fundamental messaging has to be the same, but the tone and sentiment should vary based on market differentiators.

This fragmentation of the employer brand and employee experience is also true across business divisions and functions. Key elements like company values and culture must always have global consistency, but the reality is, each market (including) division operates in a unique sub-culture, if you will, that must be considered and accounted for when developing a global/company employer brand strategy and EVP.

Leverage technology

If most organisations aren’t using AI, they are actively looking for ways to leverage machine learning. The most progressive companies are using it to help with talent acquisition efforts around specific targeting, programmatic advertising to and selection of candidates. And while a lot of organisations are excited about leveraging these technologies, measuring the impact and (defining) success of the employer brand, EVP and employee experience is not always straightforward. Engagement on digital channels can be one obvious litmus test, but then how each organisation and division defines engagement is relative (likes vs comments vs shares vs views).

Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other social channels can be insightful in understanding people’s opinions and experiences at certain companies. Ideally, employees are the ambassadors rather than the detractors, so encouraging and actively creating employee brand ambassadors is a key strategy to creating a robust EVP.

But, like so much of anything involving technology, it’s important to constantly review and refresh both the messaging and the channels for employee branding. What works one day won’t always be relevant the next.

Interestingly, digital distribution can help a lot with consistency. Brands (employer or consumer) need to be simple to understand and easy to remember (no one will remember your 9 brand pillars!), says Thomas Delorme, Vice President at TMP Worldwide. Inconsistency was less perceptible 20 years go, but now every information in any market is within reach, at the mere cost of a few clicks.

“Digital also helps companies move from telling their audience who they are and what they stand for to letting their targets experience the brand. Feelings are more memorable than information.”

Measuring the employer brand

Nimai Swaroop, an employer branding expert who has worked with Diageo, Shell, RBS and The British Army, agreed that a constant review and realignment to the market is essential: “Technology is a great enabler in helping organisations activate their employer brand and also measure impact. There are existing platforms that can help organisations provide local capability for teams to access relevant materials and ensure consistency. Measuring your employer brand is actually not that hard. There are both qualitative and quantitative measures that can be put in place to measure the relevance and resonance of messages. The quality of hires and application-to-hire ratios are also a direct result of effectively targeting candidates, and therefore, you can draw conclusions on the impact of employer brand on your cost of hiring and retention of talent. Further, there are a number of external indices that measure your employer brand.”

While others agree with Ms Swaroop that it’s essential to recalibrate, but don’t necessarily find it so easy because organisations are now actively targeting passive talent, and passive talent is the hard to convert. Therefore, using the same metrics to determine success doesn’t make sense.

But regardless of whether one finds it easy or a challenge, employee advocacy is crucial to building an authentic employee brand. “Hearing from a brand is nice, hearing from employees is real,” says Marije van der Togt, Senior Recruitment Marketing Manager for EMEA at Philips. “The actual opportunity to live the brand as an employee (and share it) and as a candidate is powerful.”

Other technologies such as VR and immersive gaming allow candidates to experience the brand and bring it to life.

Creating your EVP

Keep it simple and start small.

1. Build a consistent brand and a solid EVP.

2. Expose that brand to relevant social channels.

3. Prioritise a stellar candidate experience.

Bring it to life with these six steps:

  1. Leverage the EVP attributes of the aspirational companies you would like to hire from (where your most successful employees come from). And validate them with Glassdoor or Kununu if possible, so you can look into employee brand experience as well.
  2. Use insights; let the data do the talking and build an EVP that is driven out of your research both internally and externally. Keep it honest, differentiated and relevant.
  3. Balance the differentiating EVP attributes you distinguish with a number of high performing employees in your organization.
  4. Validate the attributes with business leaders and HR to make sure they are consistent with the employee experience. They must be aligned with what the senior leadership wants the company to be and the actual employee experience.
  5. Refresh. Make sure you validate this every few years, and importantly, keep it simple and focused on answering the ‘why’ from a candidate perspective first, not just the organisation’s.
  6. Deliver a high-level EVP that can be used to develop proof points per market or priority segment so they can be designed to meet the needs of specific audiences.

Mr Swaroop says, “This social landscape has led to more transparency, pushing organisations to keep on top of their game and build out their employer brand and ensure their promise meets the ‘lived experience’ internally. There is a growing need for organisations to understand how they are perceived by candidates, what motivates them and helps retain them. Investing in your employer brand can help you dig in and surface those insights.”

Mr Delorme believes there are two key things factors that organisations must focus on today regarding employer branding.

1. Differentiation: How many EVPs are articulated around “great place to learn and grow” + “chance to make an impact”, if that’s all you have, it’s the same as having “innovation” in your values, EVPs need to go beyond the simple hygiene factor.

2. Authenticity: If your employee’s voices do not reinforce and augment your message, you are wasting your time. Embrace your strength and your weaknesses to leverage your employee ambassador voices.

Hiring good talent remains a key challenge for most CEO’s and senior leaders and there is considerable amount of discussion and investment being made by companies to build out their employer brand to recruit & retain good people.