A company that gets poor reviews on bizzwacht.de, arbeitgebercheck.at or kununu.com can be faced with real problems when it comes to finding qualified, motivated and therefore valuable new employees. Websites such as these are only part of the new blend of techniques used in increasingly sophisticated employer branding strategies.
The largest employer review website in the German-speaking world has – in its seventh year of existence – some 600,000 reviews available online to read. And every day 900 new ones are added. Even the founder of kununu was rather surprised by the site’s popularity. Nevertheless, statistics show that one out of every four internet users reads reviews of employers and about 70% of them take these reviews into account when they are deciding on a job offer.
Although employer branding has been around since the late 1990s, it has only become a prominent topic amongst leading businesspeople and HR professionals over the course of the past few years. But it is still in its infancy compared to consumer-oriented marketing. And it is only just now that people are starting to take note of social media’s importance in all of this. That is surprising, given that HR staff have included checking the web presence of potential employees as a standard part of the hiring process for some time now.
It’s a simple and time-tested story actually: For easily understandable reasons, people looking for jobs tend to choose companies that are attractive, well respected, responsible and employee-oriented. For their part, employers tend to pick the best “employee grapes” from the bunch: well educated, flexible, highly motivated and “reasonable” in their demands. But like an old film that’s been remastered, this story is changing a bit now too. Good employees know their own value these days, they’re independent and confident, ready to lower their sights temporarily to keep their eye on their long-term goals. However, they are not willing to take any job at any price if it’s going to tie them down for many years.
Companies with ambitions therefore face a challenge when looking for employees that fit the corporate profile. There’s a new currency involved in this trade: me-stocks.
The German Employer Branding Academy has been a missionary of sort for building corporate awareness and was the first to define employer branding for the German-speaking world in 2006.
"Employer branding is the identity-based internal and external development and positioning of a company as a reliable and attractive employer.
The core aspect of employer branding is a strategy that is always specific or adapted to the particular company’s brand. The processes of developing, implementing and assessing this strategy are all undertaken with an aim to optimise the hiring of employees, employee loyalty, commitment and corporate culture in a sustainable way, as well as to improve the company’s image. Employer branding additionally improves business performance and brand value indirectly.” (http://www.employerbranding.org)
This is a simplified explanation of something that is actually as complex for every company as classic corporate branding. The difference is that the focus is not on the market in which the company wants to make sales, but on the labour market instead. Though positive spillover effects for the company’s projected image are, of course, welcome and a very real consequence.
Every company must carefully define its guiding principles, its positions, its USP or its portfolio and strategically communicate these to the world if it hopes to build a sense of emotional or intellectual connection with its target groups. It must also give similar effort to transmitting an authentic image of corporate culture in just the same way. This is true whether the aim is to maintain employee loyalty or to recruit new employees.
The desired external effect has clear contours. The employee branding presents the company as attractive and desirable to potential employees in terms of interesting scopes of work, promising opportunities for development, a consistent adherence to values and rigorous support for younger employees. The list can be expanded in every direction and can even include factors related to the tangible work environment, such as the presence of contemporary, intelligent office spaces, exciting architecture, flexible workspaces, green walls and colourful recreation zones. Google, Facebook, Microsoft etc. chose to design their offices the way they did for very good reasons. It is clear to all of us that nothing was left to chance and no amount of money or effort was spared.
On the other hand, promoting employee loyalty is an equally important aspect of employer branding strategy. Once a company has found talented individuals with high potential, it ought to do everything in its power to ensure that the promise shown during the recruiting phase comes to fruition. Only then will the positive effects derived from motivation, engagement and performance lead to increased profit. In the best cases, employees function as ambassadors of their company and assume a role as perfect image promoters.
It should be apparent from what has been said so far that employer branding is more than just a simple communications strategy. There are real people, real bosses, real working conditions and hopefully, values lived out in experience that can be found behind employee branding, all of which only come together in a tangible whole when the brand concept functions in real life.
Nevertheless, a diverse toolbox of measures is necessary if the message is to be conveyed both internally and externally. Whether classic job advertisements, social media channels, business networks, active sourcing, review websites or even company presentations on SlideShare – there is still a great deal of room for innovative formats.
Like it says on Apple’s Jobs website: “Amaze yourself. Amaze the world.”
1. An apparent trend at the moment: employer branding videos in which employees seize the reins as producers and presenters in order to give their company a public face. Some actual examples can be seen here.
2. Deutsche Bahn last year won the QUEB Award for their latest employer branding campaign. Read more about the winning campaign.