Even when a company has invested in employer branding to communicate the entirety of the employee experience, they generally cannot control the effects of the corporate brand on the general public. Corporate brand perception is all about how a company’s brand is perceived in the minds of clients, prospects, and employees – not what the company owning the brand says it is.
Numerous dynamics affect overall brand perception. Some aspects an organization may have a great deal of control over, such as consumer experience, marketing, and advertising. Others, including actions of industry players, economic shifts, and even the media, are totally external factors that can become determinants of brand perception.
While the employer brand is responsible for branding and marketing the entirety of the employment experience, a company generally cannot control the effects of the corporate brand on the general public – and the extended reach that has when customers become job candidates. Still, a strong employer brand is essential, and according to LinkedIn, it can help cut turnover rates by as much as 28% and reduce costs-per-hire in half.
Read further for more information on how companies can qualify the motivations of their audience, develop focused communications strategies that are effective (apart from the corporate company brand), and how talent acquisition, HR, and marketing departments can work together to build an employer brand that creates connections and resonates with its target audiences.
Candidate Persona Development
Persona development is a strategy that is employed across countless industries. In short, a candidate persona is a fictionalized character created to represent a pre-identified key candidate type, based on the behaviors, goals, and challenges of a hypothesized group of users. This is often used to identify where key candidates might be spending their time and attention and can guide content and messaging development to support the candidates' goals and spark engagement with the employer brand.Personas are important because they provide a deep understanding of the target market.
Since marketing and HR departments typically work with a lot of the same data in parallel, this is a great area where these teams can pool their resources—what they know about current employees, customers, and potential candidates—to develop persona profiles that accurately reflect the talent market. A certain amount of research and data analysis will of course be necessary, but some aspects are likely to be common to most employees and potential candidates at the present.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed some key aspects of what employees and potential candidates are looking for in employment. Things like remote work, time-off policies, and candidates seeking contract work are a direct result of the pandemic. The ensuing Great Resignation made it clear that employers are dealing with a more competitive hiring environment than they were three years ago. Social issues are much more important to the predominant make-up of current job seekers than they were in the past. To elaborate, many job seekers are looking to work for a company whose values align with their own, and many candidates are seeking companies that value DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging) and those who are socially responsible. Finally, the explosion in online resources has given candidates many more resources in their job search toolkit, making them more discriminating “shoppers” in their job search efforts.
Creating HR & Marketing Synergy
In crafting the employer branding strategy, there will always be elements of managing the overall corporate brand as it relates to recruitment, for better or worse. That said, the basics of marketing and branding still apply. Organizations offer products and/or services to address specific issues, and those same organizations need to hire the talent that can sell and deliver those products and services. With this in mind, marketing and HR interests within the company will want to effectively target:
Candidates the organization wishes to hire
Employees the organization wishes to retain
Customers the organization wishes to or may convert (to candidates)
Marketing For Candidates
Typically, HR departments will have a handle on how to promote the employer brand, while marketing departments often have more in-depth information and insights regarding how the overall corporate brand is perceived externally. Working together, HR and marketing can fine-tune a company’s recruitment marketing to attract the right talent.
What is “the right talent?” HR can answer that. Depending on the company’s needs, it may require top talent, it may need mid-level talent or it may require applicants who can start a job right away. HR can also answer key questions regarding what the company is offering the applicant, and what the ideal applicant for a position should look like. Feedback from HR to marketing departments will help the latter craft the correct recruitment marketing messages specific to candidates.
Creating synergy between HR and marketing also helps to convey a more accurate employer brand. For example, a company’s marketing department may have great ideas, messaging, and imagery to promote, but if it doesn’t accurately reflect the company’s culture, there are likely to be problems when people come to work for a different company than the one that was marketed to them.
In this regard, featuring employee stories has become a best practice in recruiting, since this is the easiest and most effective way to market to candidates. It also takes advantage of the myriad online platforms and resources that job seekers have at their disposal. Employee stories leave a lasting impression. Not only is this a great way of fostering synergy between HR and marketing, it practically guarantees an accurate representation of the company and the employer brand.
Marketing For Retention
In the past, companies used newsletters to convey important information to employees. With the advent of email, this medium became a staple for keeping employees up-to-date on company happenings. With the explosion of digital resources, organizations are finding that they need to be even more deliberate in maintaining a connection with their employees. Part of this has to do with the information overload to which so many digital resources give rise; another has to do with rapidly-changing work environments and the things that have become important to employees.
As mentioned above, the coronavirus pandemic brought a host of concerns into much greater focus for employees. Employer DEIB efforts have also become of far greater significance than in years past; one recent study reflected that 86% of female and 74% of male millennials consider a company’s policy when deciding on an employer. The level of an organization’s corporate citizenship has also become a qualifying factor amongst job seekers.
Nowadays, it just won’t do to have employees discussing the above issues, reading about them in the press and on social media, yet working for a company that ignores these issues, minimizes them, or simply has ineffective messaging in this area. Good intentions—and even sound policies—aren’t enough. Today, an organization must facilitate clear communication and instill a shared understanding of its goals and values.
Once again, this presents a great opportunity to capitalize on the combined insights of HR and marketing interests, with HR taking the temperature of the organization, providing insights, and marketing crafting the requisite messaging for employees.
In tandem with retention efforts, companies can also engage current employees to create employee (or internal) brand advocates. These are employees who promote the company brand through social media. These can be engaged individually or via employee advocacy programs. The credibility factorfor employee brand advocates is quite high, as this is practically word-of-mouth promotion. What’s more is that this not only enhances the employer brand, but the corporate brand as well.
Marketing For Conversion
Whether it’s a fast-food chain or a tech company, today, it’s far more likely than in the past that a job seeker applying at a company will have heard of that company before, if they haven’t previously done business with them. Again, today’s vast number of online venues and digital resources tend to bring company brands front and center. If a customer or someone employed in a given industry frequents social media, chances are that they’ll be far more familiar with an employer’s brand than they might have been ten years ago.
Of course, it stands to reason that companies with a strong employer brand have their pick of experienced talent when these individuals decide to change jobs. This is one very sound rationale for establishing an effective, positive employer brand. There are also numerous examples of companies—from McDonald’s to IKEA to Piggly Wiggly—that have employed innovative concepts to strengthen their employer brand to the degree that they routinely convert customers into employees.
Who are a company’s customers? The marketing department will have everything needed in this area. Based on the organization’s needs, marketing and HR can work together to design creative messaging that speaks directly to customers (as opposed to active job seekers), but which promotes the employer brand itself.
Through solid persona development and crafting strategies that specifically target those seeking jobs, current employees, and customers, marketing and HR departments can more readily identify opportunities and obstacles to engagement. This sort of synergy, combined with best practices of continuous improvement can help to create that all-important continuity of messaging across the right media and establish a powerful employer brand.