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How to bring employer branding strategy to life

John Rost

Employer branding is one of those topics. Everyone knows they need it, companies throw energy time and money into trying to create it, but it’s still hard to even define! Is your employer brand what you say, how you act, what people say about you, what you post on LinkedIn? In short… yes! And no. And everything in between. But the good news is you don’t actually have to spin your wheels trying to pin down a definition if you just understand what you’re trying to do. Let’s get it into it!

According to a LinkedIn study, the number-one obstacle candidates experience is not knowing what it’s like to work at an organization.

That’s it! That’s the big-picture purpose of the all-purpose term, “employer branding!” We like to phrase the definition of employer brand as, “The face that you show to the world about what it’s like to work at your company.There are elements of this brand that you control, and many elements of it that you can only influence. Managing employer brand a company usually falls to some combination of these four departments:

  • Human resources
  • Internal comms
  • Leadership
  • Marketing

But the MOST powerful and important voice in your employer brand is employees. Current and former. The real brand isn’t the artwork, the logo, the slogans… it’s your reputation. So how do you create or manage reputation in the real world? There are three basic things to do, which we’ll talk about in-depth today. 

  1. Understand who you are and what you want
  2. Study how you’re being talked about
  3. Make it easy for your brand to come to life

Understanding your current employer brand

Before you can start creating any sort of employer branding strategy for your organization, you need to know where you stand today. This can be difficult… both difficult to understand it all and sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. Your employer brand is your reputation. Understanding your reputation can be a little like an honest lie-down on a therapist’s couch.

There are three elements of employee brand that you can influence directly:

  1. What you promise to employees and prospects
  2. How you follow through on those promises
  3. How you market what you do inside your organization

But we always say, “you’re building a brand whether you’re ‘branding’ or not.” A great deal of how outsiders decide what it’s like to work with you will be determined by:

  1. Word of mouth and “traditional” social media conversations
  2. Third-party employer-oriented sites (like LinkedIn and GlassDoor)

Completing an employer brand audit

The best way to get a 360-degree honest look at how your current brand health is to do a complete employer brand audit. We actually recommend doing this every year or 18 months. Download Workshop’s Employer Brand Audit Guide to get a thorough outline, surveys, sample communications, and advice for making sure you don’t miss anything as you assess.

download the brand audit guide template here

The employer brand audit goes through the seven steps you’ll need to take to have a vision, take stock of the situation, and implement and communicate changes. Here are some quick tips:

Take a look at your EVP (Employer Value Proposition)

Some companies (especially large ones) go the extra step of “branding” their employer brand with a tagline-style EVP. These are statements like “Unlock your potential” or “Let’s all thrive together.” These lines can inspire and give a quick understanding of your values, and they look great on a careers page. But, you have one of these, you still need lay out the basics of what it’s actually like to work at your company.

Craft an employer elevator pitch

Can employees, prospects, or even human resources give the differentiators for working there in 30 seconds or less? They should be able to. A lot of what companies call EVP looks like a short-list of 5-6 differentiators. Anyone looking at your business will be expecting this information, and it’s important to align them to your goals. Most employer elevator pitch statements include

  1. Company purpose, mission, or values
  2. What your culture is like
  3. Work-life balance philosophy
  4. Career development outlook
  5. Compensation and benefits

Compare your company values to your employee experience
How do your company values compare to the values that apply inside your organization? Sometimes they’re translated one-for-one. Some companies use an entirely different set of values for internal purposes. Both of these can work, but you will want to create a repeatable framework for employees to understand who they’re working with. Some questions to ask:

  • Does our employer pitch reflect the values of the company overall?
  • Does our employer pitch feel authentic to reviews, feedback, and experience?
  • Are we reflecting all levels and types of employment here?
  • Do we say how we are unique in our industry and/or location?
  • Is our statement concise and easy to understand?
  • Is our statement measurable with employee feedback?
  • Does our employer pitch support our employer brand and customer-facing brand cohesively? 

Evaluate employee perceptions

Fact is, there is really only one important opinion about the state of your employer brand… your employees. And the best way to find out what employees think is to ask them! If you can, arrange a survey specific to your employer brand. There are a few things you should definitely do to get healthy employee survey results:

  • Use all the internal communications channels at your disposal. Email, text, employee apps, intranet, all-hands meetings, department stand-ups, etc. With this diverse distribution, your tactics will have to be in-depth, too.
  • Ensure anonymity for all survey-takers. Real opinions about the employer/employee contract won’t be all positive, and team members will need to know that this is not a judgement of their happiness and won’t reflect on their standing or reviews.
  • Send reminders! Give an easygoing window for this survey (one week is usually enough), and send some gentle nudges through the same channel mix to try and boost your participation rate.
  • Lead with the fact that you’re going to share results and action items taken from this survey! Team members will be more likely to participate (and provide constructive criticism) if they know that it’s actually going to make a difference.

A little extra help – download these sample communications when asking employees to take a survey! 

 

Solidifying your employer branding strategy

To keep your employer branding strategy from being too broad, try crafting a few “stories” from your research. Let the stories guide what you try to accomplish and provide something you can measure in the future. Here are some example strategic stories from employer brand audits: 

Reinforce something that’s going well
Find some of the strongest results from your employee survey and plan how you can amplify them. If you heard your employees echoing a value that matters to you, consider how you can take it even farther!

  • Add a section about that strength to your weekly employee newsletter
  • Make sure that you’re talking about it on social media and job board channels

Clarify things that aren’t coming through
Surveying your team sometimes reveals thing they aren’t saying, too. If your leadership team expected employees to talk about an attribute of your company that you’re just not hearing, focus your strategy on bringing it to light. For instance, if you see good collaboration, but it didn’t really bubble up as one of the “special” things about your company, implement some ways to highlight the collaboration that’s happening.

  • Start an employee recognition campaign that highlights the attribute you’re not hearing
  • Build your values into your one-on-one and review process, so employees are getting that reinforcement

Fix things that aren’t working
The most disheartening thing to hear in an employer brand survey is “we’re not doing what we say.” If you discover a gap in your promise and your follow-through, it’s got to be fixed or removed from your platform. The very worst thing that an employee brand can be is dishonest – that’s what causes the friction that leads to dissatisfaction and, eventually, turnover.

  • Acknowledge your results to the team, and directly address what you heard
  • Be as transparent as you can with the team throughout your work

 

Set your employer branding KPIs

Employer brand can be difficult to measure, because there are about 100 different ways to measure it. So when you go about setting your KPIs, it’s important to just stay focused and find a few key things that you CAN measure and that matter to your goals. 

Direct employer brand KPIs

  • Number of reviews on GlassDoor
    • You can encourage current employees to post on GlassDoor, but remember you can’t tell them what to say!
  • Number of stay interviews conducted
    • Stay interviews are a great way to get even deeper on what’s really going on in your org, and what’s meaningful to the people who are thriving in it.
  • Employee engagement campaign metrics
    • Set benchmarks for your employee engagement (including email metrics) and track how they change with your employer branding strategy
  • Recruitment or hiring metrics
    • Number of qualified candidates for open positions
    • Cost of hire and quality of hire metrics
    • Number of submissions from career fairs

Indirect employer brand KPIs

Another way to measure the success or progress of your employer brand is to answer for yourself the question, “what do I want my brand to do, long-term?” The answer depends on your current struggles, your market position, your company growth goals… your employer brand goals should ladder up to something else your organization is trying to achieve. Some examples

  • Company goal: increase in applications to support growth —> Employee brand objective: brand awareness
  • Company goal: reduce staff turnover —> Employee brand objective: increase impact of employee engagement
  • Company goal: increase diversity of staff —> Employee brand objective: increase awareness of DEI program

Bring your employer brand channels to life!

With your employees surveyed and your strategic goals worked out, it’s time for your employer brand to head out into the world. Take the time to look at all of the places where you show up and plan Including the ones where others are submitting information (often anonymously) about you. These are the places where the real results of your employer branding efforts live. Some places to look and what to look for:

Your careers page

What to look for 👀

The careers page on your website is probably the main landing page for people directly searching for jobs with you and those coming from job board sites. Prospective employees expect to find

  • Your EVP, values, and/or employee elevator pitch
  • Descriptions and examples of your employee culture
  • Transparency about leadership and company direction
  • Career development and advancement opportunities
  • High-level descriptions of benefits and perks
  • Job descriptions and applications

Bringing your employer brand to life 💫

  • Include real employee testimonials with pictures! Make sure to get quotes from all types and all levels of employees
  • Get specific about values and DEI content wherever possible. Prospects want to know and see that you are walking the walk. Spotify does an amazing job of these on their page, even sharing interactive statistics about how their diversity picture has changed over the years.

spotify dei statistics example

 

Social media channels

What to look for 👀

Prospects will also certainly take a spin through all of your owned social media channels. They’ll be looking for different things from each one, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re being intentional with what you post and why

  • LinkedIn is the big one for job hunters. There are lots of tabs all over your company page to share everything from your Careers page plus lots of social proof and employee-driven content. Make sure all possible areas are complete and active!
  • Instagram, with a focus on image and video driven content, is a great place to share employee stories and real-life looks at your employee experience
  • Facebook and X and TikTok are all used very differently, or not at all, by different types of business. If you don’t have a strategy that matters, don’t be on the channel!

Bringing your employer brand to life 💫

  • Encourage employee-generated content sharing and product content starring your real-life team members
  • Start an employee-specific account (or at least a hashtag) on Instagram (@wearenetflix is a great example!)

wearenetflix instagram account screenshot

 

Job descriptions

What to look for 👀

Are your job descriptions generic? Are your job titles descriptive of the work and do they make sense for the level of responsibility? Your job descriptions carry the double responsibility of helping to find great candidates, but also for showing that your employer brand is effective, doesn’t waste time, and that you know what you’re looking for. Make sure that you’re including all the job descriptions basics first.

Bringing your employer brand to life 💫

  • Try to drive potential candidates to your careers page, even on descriptions written for job board sites. That’s where you can do the most work conveying your culture, and will help narrow candidates to those who can see themselves at your organization.
  • Use your brand voice in your descriptions! Let your marketing team, or the team that the position will report to, edit the description to make it super-true.

chatgpt prompts for adding brand voice to job descriptions

Communications and newsletters

What to look for 👀

Your employee newsletter is an excellent place to make sure that you’re amplifying the important parts of your brand. An engaging employee newsletter can should let employees see how the company and leadership are living the company values every day, and let employees see and hear each other. It should be something shareable, both inside and outside the organization, that gets people excited about the employer brand.

Bringing your employer brand to life 💫

  • Make your employee recognition program something that’s not just for internal use. The graphics and tone of your recognitions should be something that go over well on LinkedIn, and that employees can use to organically share the employer brand just by sharing their accomplishments.

employee recognition in workshop email software

 

Next steps: get the audit guide

Grab the complete Workshop employer brand audit guide below for detail on seven steps to success! It will walk you through how to

1. Get leadership buy-in

2. Assess how you’re communicating

3. Survey employee perceptions

4. Assess employer brand channels

5. Create stories about what’s happening

6. Share your findings and plan action

7. Plan to re-visit

And you feel like an upgrade to your internal comms strategy is a part of your revamp, please come and learn more about Workshop!

employer brand audit

 

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