By Brian Kreissl
We’ve been hearing a lot about the concept of employment (or employer) branding – the process of establishing a “brand,” image or reputation for an organization with respect to the overall employment experience. The general idea is to create a perception in terms of what it might be like to work for the organization.
This is done through the creation of consistent and appropriate messaging and advertising, establishing an effective online presence (including the use of social media), creating a reputation about the organization, its work environment and organizational culture, furthering community involvement and having a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility. While the goal is usually to brand the organization as an employer of choice, great care must be taken not to misrepresent or oversell the organization.
HR professionals are keenly aware of the importance of employment branding to recruitment and selection. Yet, branding is important not only with respect to external candidates, but also internally in relation to the organization’s existing employees.
This is true for several reasons, including that an organization’s employees act as brand ambassadors. They need to understand the brand, how to conduct themselves in accordance with it and ultimately how to help promote the organization to new and potential employees.
The organization’s employment brand has a major impact on employees’ perceptions of the organization and what it’s like to work there. If the message isn’t congruent with reality, the overwhelming belief will be the organization is being less than truthful. In this era of social media — where transparency and authenticity are so highly valued in communications — younger employees in particular won’t stick around if they think, “This isn’t what I signed up for.”
Employment branding also has a strong impact on employee retention, since a company with a poor employment brand is going to have a harder time retaining talent. Why would an employee want to stay with an organization that isn’t recognized as being a positive place to work?
Remember, perception is reality. Even if an organization has many positive aspects associated with its work environment, culture, values and the work itself, if the company isn’t perceived as being a good place to work, that could have a negative impact on morale and retention. Employees — especially knowledge workers — care deeply about perceptions of the organizations they work for. If staying with a company isn’t going to look good on their resumés or give them the type of experience they need to further their careers, they’ll leave for better opportunities.
Employment branding isn’t just about simply positioning an organization as an employer of choice. Often, it requires reviewing and changing HR programs to actually make the organization a better place to work.
If you discover through surveys and focus groups employees aren’t satisfied with their work environment, the compensation structure and the degree to which work-life balance is recognized, simply repackaging and communicating information about the same old HR programs isn’t going to work. If you’re serious about becoming an employer of choice, you need to find out what current employees really think and consider revising the overall employment offering before communicating the employment brand to the outside world.
Any employment branding initiative should start internally. Examining how the organization is perceived by its own internal employees and dealing with any negative aspects of that perception is likely to have a positive impact on employee morale and retention.
By taking the following steps, organizations can start to build a positive employment brand internally:
•Treating employees as customers and segmenting their workforces (while also being careful to avoid stereotyping and discrimination).
•Understanding the needs and desires of the various employee segments targeted for employment.
•Creating effective strategies, policies and programs to retain those employees.
•Building employee engagement for those segments through a focus on improving job and organizational satisfaction, emotional attachment to the organization and the willingness to put forward additional discretionary effort towards the attainment of organizational goals and objectives.
Above all, building a positive employment brand can help to retain top talent, which will again be of paramount importance as we emerge from the economic doldrums over the next couple of years. This is especially important given the demographic challenges facing many Canadian employers in terms of the aging workforce and the impending retirement of the baby boomers.
Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.