Employment branding gets a lot of coverage both at recruiting conferences and in recruiting publications. Despite the interest, however, most employers don't have an employment brand. They either can't be bothered or the brand they do create doesn't say anything memorable. As a result, they are a faceless organization, and that vacant expression becomes their image in the job market.
A strong employment brand is essential to success in the War for the Best Talent. Top performers have choices. They are almost always employed so they can stay with their current employer or they can consider a new one from among the numerous inquiries they receive on a regular basis. And, the single most important input to their assessment of the alternatives is each organization's employment brand.
Why, then, do so many organizations either lack an employment brand altogether or develop one that makes them invisible to top talent? Not surprisingly, each situation has a different cause.
The Case of the Missing Brand
Despite the constant battle for top performers in recruiting today, many employers never get around to developing a brand that will attract and engage these individuals. And yet, many of those that lack such a brand actually think they have one. They believe their organization's consumer brand is their employment brand.
Consumer brands, however, only work because buyers already know something about a product. They have experience with cars or computers or television sets, so the brand can leverage that knowledge and take shortcuts - in the form of a short phrase or tag line - to communicate an image or sense of the organization and/or its product.
Candidates, on the other hand, aren't shopping for an organization's products but rather for its employment opportunity. They've had no experience with the organization so know little or nothing about what it's like to work there. For that reason, an employment brand must be more comprehensive - in the form of a brief but descriptive statement - and communicate what the organization stands for as an employer.
Think of the difference this way: a consumer brand only has to entice a buyer, while an employment brand must educate as well as attract a prospective new hire. That's why using a consumer brand as an employment brand is the functional equivalent of not having an employment brand at all.
The Case of the Say Nothing Brand
Other employers think that they have branded themselves with the content on the career or employment page of their corporate Web-site. They believe that by describing the organization's benefits, facilities and corporate track record, they've established an employment brand that matters to top talent. They haven't.
An employment brand is not a description of the organization, but rather a window on what it's like to work for and in the organization. It is based on culture and values, to be sure, but it translates those organizational attributes into a signature statement about the unique experience it offers to the individuals who are employed there.
Why is developing such an experiential brand so important? Because research has shown that the nature of work in the organization is the #1 trigger for top talent. Sure, they want to know what the requirements and responsibilities of a job are, but whether or not they will choose to do the work will be based on the environment in which it is performed.
Top performers want to stay top performers so they look for organizations that establish the right conditions for their success. They look for an employer that provides the support, leadership, camaraderie and ethos they need to do their best work, and the first judgment they make about those conditions is based on its employment brand.
With too many open reqs to fill and too many applicants to screen, it's easy to put an employment brand on the back burner. In a highly competitive labor market, however, that brand is the single best way to reach and engage those top performers who will best contribute to an organization's success.
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