Employer Branding Vs. Reputation – Are You Living Up to Your Branding?
Are you living up to your employer branding? This is an important question for businesses to ask. A lot of times when people hear “employer branding”, their minds immediately go to how they are marketing their business to prospective talent. This is very true, but how you are marketing yourself goes beyond images and words on your website and job posting. You can go all out and invest a lot in your employer branding campaign and marketing strategy, but there has to be substance behind your sales pitch. For example, many employers put “competitive compensation” as one of the perks of working for them. Yet, they may still have talented employees frequently leaving their company for more compensation. You can market yourself however you want, but the substance matters.
There are some things that are very quantifiable in your employee value proposition, such as benefits, compensation, vacation time, etc. If you are marketing yourself as an employer that offers excellent compensation and benefits, a candidate will be able to determine quickly whether that is true or not. However, there are things that you may advertise about your company to attract talent, but they are not as quantifiable. This includes things like company culture, flexibility, work/life balance, family-friendly atmosphere, etc. These things take more time for candidates to determine whether what they were sold is what they are getting. Once they determine that they were sold a bill of goods, they are likely going to be disengaged and eventually exit the organization.
When thinking about how you will brand your company, it is important to take an objective look at reality. The last thing you want is to implement your employer branding campaign, attract a lot of talent to your organization, and have them leaving by the droves because what they were sold is not what they got. Ultimately, your employer brand will be driven by reality. How do you actually treat your employees? Word of mouth travels quickly, and will have a more lasting effect on your brand. If you treat your employees well and create a positive employment experience, the word will eventually get out. In contrast, if you treat your employees poorly, the negative press is going to spread. All of the marketing in the world is not going to fix the long-term issues. You have to actually build a reputation.
So, to me, the question of employer branding is more than a question of effective marketing. It is a question of reputation. If you are thinking about how you will brand your company as an employer of choice, you have to think beyond words and advertisements. You have to take a good hard look at your company. Here are a couple questions that are important to ask:
What is the brand that we want to portray?
Before you begin your branding campaign, you need to identify the image that you want to portray. What is it that you want to be true about the employment experience at your company? Maybe you want to be known as an employer with top-tier compensation and benefits, flexibility, a focus on employee development, a value on innovation, and great management. These things are all great. Then, you need to ask the next (tougher) question.
How do we match up to the brand that we want to portray?
This is where you have to be willing to take an objective look at reality. Identify the areas where your company is strong, but also identify the areas where improvement is needed. The good thing is that there are a lot of tools to help you gauge where you are at. You can evaluate your compensation and benefits against survey benchmarks to determine if you are truly competitive in the market place. You can also utilize any employee data that you have (i.e., exit interviews, engagement surveys, etc.) to evaluate the quantifiable and less-quantifiable items. What are your employees telling you? Are you taking to time to gather information from your employees, and developing strategies to leverage your strengths and improve on the opportunities? If you are not listening to your employees, that is a good place to start.
Once you have identified the opportunities, you have effectively identified the gaps between the brand you want to project and the current state. Take the time to implement strategies to get to where you want to be. Don’t sell your prospective employees a bill of goods. Build the branding strategy, but also build the reputation. Whether you do or don’t, your reputation will eventually become your brand. Recruiting talent is great, but retaining talent is equally (if not more) important. Branding is good, but reputation with branding is better.
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