In the depth of the Great Recession, many people took pay cuts, yet considered themselves lucky to still have a job. With few options to change jobs, the niceties surrounding choice of employer took a backseat to the realities of survival. Unfortunately, in this “jobless recovery”, this is often still the case.
But one little-noted side effect of Obamacare, as both skeptics and supporters now call it, is that insurance has become decoupled from employment. Uninsured workers can buy their own coverage. And those lucky enough to have employer sponsored healthcare can’t be turned down for new coverage due to preexisting conditions. This means salaried workers can entertain self-employment or working for a smaller employer without the golden handcuffs of corporate insurance keeping them in place. Knowing your employees have more freedom, you may, like many companies, be returning to the idea of Employer Branding.
It Exists in the Minds of Current and Prospective Employees
An employer brand means the idea of your company in the minds of current and potential employees. It is based on everything they see, hear or experience, before and after considering working for the company. A strong employment brand translates to excited prospective employees, ease of filling positions and your choice of the strongest applicants.
One major difference between an employer brand and a consumer facing brand is that employees have a front row seat to reality. Advertisements or Yelp reviews may be all a prospective buyer has to go on when considering whether to purchase from your business. A prospective employee may also start in the dark, but once she makes the journey from applicant to worker, her inside knowledge increases exponentially.
Tell the Truth to Your Employees
So employment brands have a lower set point on the bull*^$% meter. Employees not only see all of your buyer-facing messages, they see how much your company backs them up. Your consumer advertising might gush about quality, whereas employees experience the truth around cost-saving measures. Your salespeople might put a polished spin on the new product, but they’ll know if it’s still a work in progress.
So employer branding requires a heavier dose of truth, and intentional actions to keep it going. Since existing employees often refer the strongest new ones, you need to communicate this truth internally so that your built-in brand ambassadors can spread the word. Don’t like your truth? Then be honest about the company’s challenges and how you are working to change things.
Create a Strong Employment Brand to Drive Your Consumer Brand
Given up yet? I hope not. Because not only is a focus on employer branding good for bringing in new, skilled, excited workers. It’s also good for your consumer brand. People focus their efforts, words and intentions around ideas they truly believe. If they internalize your brand, their every word and action will bring it to life. Focused employer brands mean that buyer-facing branding efforts feel authentic and vibrant.
Spend Your Research Dollars at Home
How to start with your efforts to define and focus your brand? I’m always partial to research. Translated: talk to your employees and, even more importantly, listen to what they have to say. Current employees, especially those who have been with the company for a bit, know its health. They understand the frustrations of new hires, have lived the acculturation process from both sides and may have even thought through how to make it better.
Sometimes it’s best to bring someone in from the outside who can provide a safe place for employees to explain their thinking. This neutral third party researcher can bundle up the findings into insights to guide employer brand development.
Understand Why Someone Would Want to Come Work for You, or to Stay
You need insights from current and prospective employees about why they want to work for your company. How does your company stand out from its competitors, what beyond a paycheck attracts workers and makes them choose to stay? You can then actively position your company’s employment brand and create communications to bring people in the door.
Employment brands and buyer-facing brands are two sides of the same coin. In some ways the oft-neglected employer brand is the engine that drives the locomotive of your entire brand. Your employees bring your brand to life every day in a much more hands-on way than any other communications method you choose.
Help them live your brand and your brand will come alive.
Jennifer Cooper, President of BuyerSynthesis, helps established and emerging brands grow revenues through better understanding their buyers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.