Employer branding is a new approach progressive HR leaders are taking to win the war on talent as well as retain and engage existing employees once and for all.
But what is it, how do you translate it into something tangible, and how do you get the budget investment for it?
This post dives into these questions and more to help you develop an employer branding strategy at your company and then know how to tangibly translate that strategy into unique custom merchandise.
What is employer branding?
Put simply, employer branding combines the goals, values, and mission of the company to potential candidates, existing employees, and the employee value proposition (EVP).
Employer branding is essentially a company’s personality, including, and perhaps most importantly, the quirks and nuances that make it different from other companies in the same space.
The experience of working at a company that focuses on employer branding is intentional — strategically crafted to attract certain kinds of talent.
For example, the employer branding of a 30-person tech startup appeal to a specific kind of engineer by offering them a culture that they work best in — natural lighting, open office layout, ping-pong tables or other ways that encourage breaks, collaboration, and nap areas.
Compare this approach to say a wealth management firm where the culture is crafted to attract the ideal advisor and is catered toward sending a strong message through that they are treated like clients are by leadership. A top reason advisors leave top firms is because the employee is only seen by top management as revenue generators.
“In the end, culture might be the most important factor to some advisors, and they will be willing to accept less and overlook a superior compensation package in order to work for a firm whose values are aligned with theirs,” according to Mindy Diamond of Wealth Management magazine.
Why is employer branding important in HR?
When effective, employer branding can be a great tool for HR leaders, helping to:
- Increase retention
- Improve employee satisfaction
- Cut costs on recruitment and acquisition
- Manage appropriate spend in recruitment and retention costs
Culture is the largest part of employer branding. Companies that truly understand the culture their employees thrive in and respect it are successful at integrating the necessary components of an effective employer branding strategy: behaviors, systems, and practices.
“A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organizations espoused values,” says Melissa Daimler of the Harvard Business Review. “When gaps start to appear, that’s when you start to see problems — and see great employees leave.
How often do you hear someone you know accepts a great offer at a growing company that has amazing benefits and perks, but three months in, reality kicks in. The rose-colored glasses go clear; it was all just smoke-and-mirrors ploy to bring in great talent.
Employees are no longer going to accept the wool being pulled over their eyes. They will jump ship without a blink of an eye, and you will be left at square one, but with potentially significant reputational damage.
Employees want to be proud of where they work. They are discerning shoppers and will talk with their feet. When a candidate visits your company’s career webpage, they want to see how the employee experience is showcased and amplified.
If that page is not to the point or authentic, there is a gaping disconnect. The candidate will then likely head to Glassdoor or other review sites, where they will get a skewed narrative that could have otherwise been shaped by you, the HR leader, not a potentially disgruntled ex-employee.
The odd couple: HR and marketing
No longer is HR living under the stigma as the hire and fire department. They are the product owners — or coaches — of the company, all of its employees, and key stakeholders.
As so-called product owners, HR leaders are expected to keep a company’s mission, vision, and culture aligned with its employer branding strategy. This is not easy to balance without some help from marketing.
A lot of the discussion happening in HR circles has started to move toward the partnership with marketing. We now have to figure out different ways in which we talk to our internal and external audience, potential candidates and employee alumni. Here are some tips to learn about from your marketing team to help you align your HR efforts:
Segment your messaging
Segment your messaging by the different stages of the company’s employee experience journey such as recruiting and acquisition, on-boarding, retention, and alumni. Segmentation allows you to talk directly to a specific pool of people in your audience more personally and concisely by focusing on their pain points and challenges.
Employees are your customers
Marketers spends their time crafting different ways to bring in new customers or convince existing customers to purchase again. For HR leaders, they need to start thinking similarly when attracting new employees and keeping current employees engaged and productive; they are your customer.
Remind yourself there is the word “human” in human resources, and stay true to it. Marketers too often fall into the trap of thinking about customers as numbers— forgetting the human that is behind that number.
To that tune, HR leaders tend to forget that human element when their mindset is locked into the past. If you’re ever in doubt about how to treat your employees or what they are seeking from the company, ask yourself, “How would I like to be treated?”
Employer branding examples from Buildium
Source: Buildium Instagram
At Buildium, a Boston-based property management software firm, a strong element in our employee branding strategy is the use of custom branded swag or merchandise to let you take that brilliant employer strategy of yours and make it tangible — driving an emotional connection with your audience.
“Traditional marketing certainly has its place and time, but almost every demographic you will be targeting will be expecting authentic, more personalized branding that you can’t get through traditional means,” says Ted Church, principal at Anthem Branding.
How to tangibly translate employer branding throughout the employee lifecycle
Companies that make their employees feel they are a vital part of the team achieve their business goals faster and more efficiently than those that don’t. The recruitment savings to the bottom line is a strong indicator that employees are happy and staying for the long haul.
By incorporating branded merchandise items into every stage of the employee lifecycle, their experience is enhanced; making them feel valued through both show and tell.
Here are some out-of-the-box creative ideas Church recommends that your employees will love:
- Create an unforgettable new hire welcome package ready to go on day one inclusive of items like a custom hat or beanie, well-designed and high-quality backpack or laptop bag, or a travel tumbler
- Celebrate and recognize company and employee milestones with items that convey longevity. Think about the exclusivity of a Varsity jacket or a Members Only jacket, and what wearing those earned status pieces feels like. Premium merchandise is a perfect way to convey this.
- Reward your team members for exceeding their goals with an exclusive piece that is only given for achievement.
- Don’t go cheap on company gifts during the holidays.
We know the task of balancing the interests of the company with the needs of your employees. Making small tweaks in your daily routine such as walking around each morning while people are settling in for the day to catch-up and take interest in their lives. Collect useful and insightful employee feedback on ways to in which the company can improve its work experience.
When you prioritize employer branding and apply some of the insights shared here, employees will feel valued and develop a long-term lasting emotional connection with the company -- elongating their tenure, increasing retention, and ultimately, favoring the bottom line in both savings and revenue.