Most companies understand the value of brand, and many work diligently to define and elevate it. But most of the time, they’re only getting it half right. In addition to your consumer brand—how people feel about buying your products or services—there’s your employer brand.
Your employer brand is the internal and external perception of your company as a place to work. As Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) explains, “Via our research and discussions with our Talent Acquisition Board members, it’s clear to us that an organization’s Employer Brand describes the experience of working at that organization and should be nuanced for both internal (employees) and external (candidates) audiences. In essence, it presents an aspirational truth about your organization.”
Organizations faced with digital transformation must consider employer brand equally as important as consumer brand.
While the companies that put the most effort into employer brand tend to be national or multinational enterprises, every company that relies on talent (in other words, every company) should be looking to improve its competitive position in the labor market. That means Top talent must be targeted, courted, retained and developed in much the same way that you pursue your most important customers.
4 Layers of Employer Brand
Consider the four essential pillars through which employer brand manifests itself:
1. Location: Different regions and cities across the United States have their own unique “microcultures.” In places like, Boston, for example ,these microcultures are meaningful even at a neighborhood level. Organizations in Cambridge, heavy in education, research, tech, and pharmaceuticals, do not have the same employer brand found in the Financial District.
The impact of location is huge, but not easily malleable. Still, there are ways to affect how location affects your business. John Deere and State Farm have funded college programs to grow the talent market in less-than-top-flight locations, to huge success. Providence, RI, benefits from its proximity to Boston, drawing talent from Harvard’s back yard with its 14 percent lower cost of living. On the other hand, GE’s move from Connecticut to Boston last year is another prime example of location in action. GE intentionally chose the city’s Seaport district to distance itself from manufacturing and position the company as a high-tech, innovative organization.
2. Industry: As GE knew and addressed in 2015, the best talent is attracted to industries in different ways. While GE could attract best and brightest mechanical and electrical engineers, industrial manufacturing is not an industry to which software engineers flock. GE shifted its talent focus to in two ways:
3. Role: Titles are important to us. Whether we like it or not, they facilitate, or hinder, social mobility. They open doors to new opportunity, new networks, and new lifestyles. Anecdotally, it’s much more common to hear people answer, “What do you do?” with, “I am a software architect at iTech …” than what was more common a generation ago: “I work for iTech.” The implication: I happen to be at this company right now, but my role is more important to me than the organization. The organization certainly adds (or subtracts) some gravitas, but employee mobility means what we do is fast eclipsing who we do it for.
The best way to ensure you’re reaching your target talent market is to advertise. And recognize that the primary advertisement for a role is the way you describe it in a job posting. If you’re looking for top talent to help digitally transform your organization but are using a templated job description from years ago, the best potential employees will ignore you.
Advertising doesn’t only happen externally. Shamim Mohammad, CIO and SVP at CarMax, speaks to the importance of advertising the contributions of individuals and teams, internally:
Companies all around the world are competing for top talent. To attract the best and brightest to CarMax, we’ve worked hard to share stories about how everyone on these CarMax product teams – from our empowered developers, product managers, data scientists and store experts – are driving the car buying experience of the future. Cultural alignment with new talent is essential for success, and we seek out strong candidates that embody CarMax’s values of integrity, transparency and respect.
Make sure HR is putting thought into the skills being requested. The skills your organization needs to complete its digital transformation are the same skills that will attract top talent and retain employees looking to grow their own career.
4. Individual: This one is somewhat nuanced, but nonetheless might be the most critical. Think of this as the likelihood your employees’ peers will want to come and work for you, and then identify the signals your employees’ peers see.
“Employer brand is a matter of perception, not reality,” notes Claus Jensen, CTO at Aetna. “Until you hire someone, they can’t really know what it is like to work here, so they are guided by general market perception and input from their personal network. What we can influence directly is the input from personal networks, in particular what current employees are saying about the place. Investing in your current talent helps attract new talent. Of course, the opposite is true as well!”
Focus on these three categories:
Employer brand not only attracts the best talent, it helps you retain your leading employees as well. Working on all four pillars—maximizing the value of your location, the appeal of your industry, how you “sell” roles within your organization, and how you turn employees into advocates for your brand—helps you attract and retain the talent that will carry your business forward, especially amid the challenges of digital transformation and disruption.
As i4cp’s Martin points out, “Marketing and HR need to work in partnership to ensure consistency of corporate and employer brand and awareness of what the ‘social’ sphere is saying about the company — its employer brand as perceived externally and internally.”
Ouellette & Associates works with companies of all sizes, across industries, to build and maintain their employer brand. Our SaaS Learning Experience Platform (LXP) for strategic workforce planning, IT Skill Builder, leverages timely labor market data to help you understand the competitive forces at play, advertise effectively, and bring transparency to employee development.
Schedule a demo of IT Skill Builder.
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