It’s a war for talent, a candidate’s market and everyone is vying for the same people. We’ve heard these statements before, so perhaps they’ve lost some of their impact. But the idea that people are your organization’s most important asset is truer than ever — even though attracting and retaining the best isn’t always easy.
There are many reasons for this. The candidate profile has shifted, and millennials are dominating the workforce with Gen Z quickly catching up. Their expectations of employment have changed from lifelong security and salary to joining a mission and being part of something special. There’s a power shift, too: These candidates know they have career options and they know their worth.
Add to that the digital, uber-transparent world we live in. Your business can’t hide, lie or catch people’s attention like it used to. And don’t even think about containing the conversation. Access to endless information — Glassdoor, social media and blogs, to name a few — creates a challenging environment in which to manage your employer brand.
But here’s the good news: There’s an answer. It’s developing or refining your employer value proposition (EVP) — a consistent, compelling and coherent brand message that will help you become a magnet for the people you want and need to employ. This is the first step to taking control, changing the conversation and appealing to the people who will thrive in your culture.
As a leader of an international employer branding agency, my focus is to help organizations define their EVP and use it as a lever for building an effective employer brand. So, while I can’t share all of our secrets to success, I will share five key things to bear in mind when starting to define or redefine your employer brand.
1. Sell the experience.
A consumer marketing approach is the typical go-to for employer branding. That’s because these approaches usually already exist, time and effort have been spent getting them right and, of course, HR people aren’t often marketers. But this isn’t the same as marketing your products or services.
The brand promise you make to employees is different than the promise you make to customers. It must tell your story in the employment context. Shift your audience from customer to candidate, change your perspective accordingly and make sure you’re answering, “What’s in it for them?”
2. Be true.
We can never say it enough: Authenticity is critical. While everyone wants to be the next Google or Apple (or wants their talent), don’t try to be them. Because it won’t happen. A robust EVP is based on internal research and consultation.
An immersive research program will get to the core of your employer brand and what your organization stands for. During that process, objectivity is critical since there are so many competing ideas and legacies when it comes to brand.
3. Connect emotionally.
People respond to emotion much more than they do to reason. The qualities that make you different and special must connect to the people you want to employ. While research plays an essential role in uncovering what sets you apart as an employer, you need to convey it in a way that wins hearts and minds.
Messages and ideas that don’t appeal to your target audience aren’t worth the effort. The creative expression of an employer brand and the channels used to communicate it are as important as the messaging and strategic foundations that sit beneath it.
4. Channel your ambition.
We shouldn’t talk about change like it’s a one-off program. It’s the new business as usual. Your EVP shouldn’t be based only on the current reality of your business — it must also align with the vision of leadership and your company journey.
While your EVP can be a guiding force for change management internally, it can also enable you to attract talent for the future. Using aspirational messages in your employer branding can bring in people who will advance your business.
5. Think holistically.
An employer brand can fundamentally transform the way you engage with talent, both internally and externally. This is much more than an HR initiative, and it’s definitely not just about pretty words and pictures. It’s about articulating your story and getting your messages out through every relevant touch point. Think about attracting, retaining and engaging the people who are going to drive your business to success.
Get this right and it more than pays for itself. An effective employer brand means that you’ll become an employer of choice, and build a pool of talent who will flourish in your business — not just for today, but for the future. With the right people working for you, you’ll have a more engaged workforce. And as we all know, more engaged workforces lead to higher performing organizations. Who doesn’t want that?