To compete in today’s war for talent, organizations need to become enriching places to work. Put simply, beyond being compensated fairly, talent needs to enjoy being at work, not constantly looking for better opportunities elsewhere.
While many organizations can rely on strong consumer brands to attract talent — think Apple or Google — not every firm can stand on this leg alone.
Many firms have to build separate “employer brands” to create an inviting message to prospective job seekers that puts their corporate mission in the public eye and makes their employer value proposition stand out.
The cost of mismanaging this is high: According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions research, having a poor corporate reputation can cost a company at least 10 percent more per hire. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars executives are shelling out in additional compensation dollars each year to counter a poor employer brand.
The good news is establishing a strong employer brand isn’t expensive. In fact, leaders are likely to establish one through the work they’re already doing to make their organizations a great place to work for the employees they already have.
Here are eight steps CEOs should take to jump-start their employer brand strategy:
1. Conduct Discovery
Much like every customer base is broken down into different segments, the same can be applied to an organization’s employees.
To establish an employer brand, leaders need to conduct discovery of their own employees to understand the different segments that exist within the employee population, said Kevin Finke, chief storyteller at branding firm Willow based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Discovery is where you have to start — because that’s the building of your value proposition,” Finke said. Leaders need to understand what each employee segment wants out of an employer. “You’re starting to understand how you are perceived vs. how you want to be perceived.”
2. Delegate Ownership
Who on a CEOs leadership team should own employer branding? Finke said it’s a question every company needs to define early. The term employer brand “has come out of the HR industry,” Finke said, “but they are not communications experts.”
Ultimately, Finke said the branding process is a collaboration with HR, marketing and corporate communications leading a strategy that extends to multiple ambassadors throughout the company.
Still, the entire C-Suite needs to lead and be closely involved in this process. Without leadership creating the culture that eventually translates into the company’s employer brand, the effort will fall short.
3. Empower Managers
Managers — especially those interacting with a company’s job candidates — must be proficient at dealing with people, according to Elaine Orler, chairman and co-founder of nonprofit recruitment research firm Talent Board.
Managers interacting with applicants throughout the interview process should know how to communicate openly with each candidate, Orler said. This is even true when the candidate is not a good fit for the position. The more honest and transparent managers are with poor-fit candidates up front, the less likely the company’s reputation — and, therefore, employer brand — is going to suffer as a result.
4. Turn Inward
Perhaps most important, leaders need to focus their attention on giving the talent already working at their organization the best possible employee experience.
After all, there’s no better employer branding strategy than having passionate and engaged employees sharing with their network their satisfaction and excitement working for a given company.
“Workers now have voices,” Finke said. “They have opinions that matter and needs that need to be met in this talent economy.”
5. Provide Feedback
One of the ways executives can turn inward is by providing employees more open and honest feedback, according to Bryan Chaney, director of employer brand at job postings website Indeed.com.
“I think one of the biggest mistakes [CEOs] can make in employer branding specifically is assume that you know the [employee] voice and misrepresent the voice,” Chaney said.
For feedback to be effective, however, it must be frequent. “What you really have to do is [ask for feedback] on a regular cadence so that the thing that they’re left with is that you actually care about their feedback and their experience.”
6. Be Authentic
This is the first thing that a candidate looks for when researching companies they want to work for, Talent Board’s Orler said. Above all, candidates want to work for companies that appear genuine in their mission — and aren’t afraid to openly admit the areas in which they fall short.
CEOs and other executives especially need to translate this authenticity to the way they tell their story, which is increasingly through social media and other internet outlets. “You need to be comfortable sitting in front of a video and telling your story,” Orler said.
7. Build Culture
All of these strategies point to a larger goal of building a strong workplace culture. Without a strong culture where employees are engaged and excited to come to work, no business model or product can survive.
“Building a great culture and experience is something a CEO should obsess about as much as they obsess about the financials,” said Will Staney, founder and principal of Proactive Talent Strategies, a recruiting optimization and branding firm based in Austin, Texas.
8. Tell Your Story
Once the first seven strategies are in place, leaders can turn to the act of telling the company’s employer brand story to the public. Social media, company blogs and other communication channels should be used to translate this message publicly, Staney said.
And it shouldn’t just be the company’s leaders engaging in this outreach; employees should also be invited to participate in the branding process, from writing blogs and other social media posts down to interacting with candidates during the hiring process.
“Start to activate that workforce into amplifying your employee experience,” Staney said. “Then you get employees to do culture videos, to write blogs, to share content on their social media that is true to their sense of working there.”
“The best hires come from the people you already have,” Staney continued, “and there’s a lot more employees than there are executives at the company, so there’s power in numbers. But it’s got to be real and it’s got to be authentic. It can’t just be marketing.”