All organisations need to understand what their employees, stakeholders and customers think of them. Marketing professionals have developed techniques to help attract customers, communicate with them effectively and maintain their loyalty to a consumer brand. Employer branding involves applying a similar approach to people management and describes how an organisation markets what it has to offer to potential and existing employees.
It’s the way in which organisations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people. A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent and establish credibility. It should connect with an organisation’s values and must run consistently through its approach to people management.
A key part of an organisation’s culture and values are the ethical standards that the employer upholds through the practice of its employees. Employer brand is therefore influenced by the ethical perspective that prospective and current employees take, as well as through business actions.
It remains relevant in uncertain economic times and particularly in a marketplace where there are skill shortages and organisations competing for talent. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed employer responsiveness into the spotlight. For example, employers risk reputational damage if they treat their employees poorly which could have a negative impact on future candidates’ perception of the organisation.
CIPD’s People Profession 2030: a collective view of future trends report highlights an increasing demand for responsible business, transparency, and accountability, suggesting areas where employer brand management needs attention.
Additionally, their Best to good practice HR report identifies individualism as a trend that’s influencing future work: specifically, increasing employee expectations by personalising their employment relationships and having a voice within their organisations.
The use of social media is only going to increase and this underlines the importance of continued attention to the employer brand. Although in the past, people have been more likely to use social media in their personal rather than their professional lives, this had rapidly changed. Organisations need to be particularly aware of both the positive and negative feedback that can be given by past or present employees on social media.
An employer brand approach involves research with employees to understand their attitudes and behaviour, for example, through a staff attitude survey or focus goups. This employee insight can inform metrics on ‘people performance’ in the organisation, giving an opportunity to demonstrate links to organisation performance. Organisations could choose to monitor their employee brand through quantitative data such as number of applications for roles, acceptance of offers, employee engagement scores, reduction in costs or more qualitative feedback. Organisations should be able to answer questions on ‘what sets them apart from their competitors’.
Organisations can use an employer brand to help them compete effectively in the labour market and drive employee loyalty through effective recruitment, engagement and retention practices. For example, our 2021 Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey found that of those organisations who have taken steps to improve retentions, 19% of those have promoted their employer brand to employees.
All organisations have an employer brand, whether they’ve consciously sought to develop one or not. Their brand will be based on the way they are perceived as a ‘place to work’, for example by would-be recruits, current employees and those leaving the organisation. Organisations should also consider inclusion and diversity as part of their employer brand to ensure they are attracting a diverse range of candidates (for more on inclusion and diversity in the recruitment process, see our 2021 Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey).
To be effective, the brand should not only be evident to candidates at the recruitment stage, but should inform the organisation’s approach to people management. For example, it can affect the approach to:
- Performance management and reward.
- Managing internal communications.
- Promoting effective management behaviours.
- People leaving the organisation.
To deliver benefits, it’s important that the employer brand is not merely rhetoric restating the organisation’s values, but reflects the actual experience of employees. As our Employer branding: a non-nonsense approach guide (available to CIPD members in our HR and L&D archive database) points out ‘People who like the job they do and the place they work become advocates for it’.