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ICYMI: Employer Brand Needs A Rebrand

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

As seen on Medium.

By Chelsea Howard, Drift Founder

Since it came into use, the concept and associated discipline of employer branding has undergone a significant transformation in how it is understood and applied by practitioners inside and outside organizations. Many organizations with leading employer brands confidently report the resounding positive impact on pipelines, retention, reputation and engagement associated with investing in and sustaining a robust employer brand. However, the reality is, most organizations in North America still have a long way to go in:

  1. Recognizing employer brand (and even, in some cases, employee experience is a critical investment, worthy of multiple headcount and a portion of the HR budget and

  2. Taking a proactive approach to employer branding — that means, deploying tactics that hit the entire talent attraction funnel.

I speak with executives and HR team members who are still relatively unfamiliar with employer branding on a weekly basis. In those conversations, I try to ascertain what the DO know. Typically, executives think of employer branding as “the thing you do on Glassdoor for the rankings and making sure that we are telling our story” and HR team members often describe employer branding in terms most closely associated with recruitment marketing. For a long time, those definitions mostly covered it. If a company had a decent career site and jobs that scraped to multiple talent marketing platforms, they were ahead of the curve. But now, with the shift in the global labour market due to the pandemic, a mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce and heightened talent expectations around the employee experience, it should be clear that it is no longer an employer’s market.

So, I think the term ‘employer branding’ needs a rebrand. Or, in other words, to emerge differently and more distinctly in the global toolkit of strategic essentials for leaders, employees and people & culture strategists.

Here’s my two-step proposal for reasserting Employer Brand and its role within corporate strategy:

STEP 1: Create a Definition for Employer Brand that Includes It’s Value to Organizations I’ve always been surprised at how disparate the industry definition of employer branding is from its component parts. Here’s what I mean, from Oxford definitions:

Employer noun a person or organization that employs people. Brand noun a particular identity or image regarded as an asset.

If we break employer branding down into its component parts, it basically denotes an identity that is associated with any company that has employees. This doesn’t quite cover all the complexity but it’s closer to the actual meaning of employer branding than the definition of employer branding than the one found on Wikipedia:

Employer brand is branding and marketing the entirety of the employment experience. It describes an employer’s reputation as a place to work, and their employee value proposition, as opposed to the more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers.

Now, the Wiki definition isn’t bad, but it’s not quite right. True, employer branding should be about the whole employee experience and workplace culture. But, this doesn’t happen as a silo from the ‘general corporate brand reputation’. The employer brand and the corporate brand exist in symbiosis, with the employer brand being a lens through which talent can view the organization as a potential employer, in addition to being a provider of a product, service or solution.

Additionally, the employee value proposition has historically been seen as the building block of the employer brand. And, at many organizations, it is. Creating an employee value proposition is a tried and true method to encapsulate the unique aspects of your workplace culture and employee support model in an integrated framework that inspires a consistent employee experience. But, many organizations also find that their behaviors, values, mission, vision and purpose offer the same cohesion as an EVP framework, so they opt to align employee experience and employer brand to those pillars.

Does that mean they can’t have a strong employer brand? Absolutely not.

Here is the definition of employer branding we use at Drift:

A signature creative identity and associated strategies (ie. segmentation, pipeline building) that enables you to attract the talent you need to propel your organization.

I encourage you to develop your own definition of employer brand, that aligns with your talent strategy and captures the value investing in this space delivers for your organization.

STEP 2: Understand the Role of Employer Brand in an Organization I am a kinetic learner, so creating models has always helped me comprehend and apply complex concepts. Here is my attempt at description the role of employer branding in context of all the other functions of an organization:

The company brand is an identity that helps consumers understand your ‘why’, what you stand for. It’s designed to differentiate your offering and create an emotional connection that fosters trust and loyalty.

Market segmentation strategies are what make your product/service/solution unique to specific audiences. For example, a company that delivers a niche technology solution will have a product marketing team that deploys strategies to attract new customers that amplify game-changing new innovations that make things easier and more streamlined. The same organization will create segmented marketing strategies that are designed to retain customers that speak to their signature approach to support. Different brand audience segments need different messages to foster trust and loyalty and maintain the emotional connection necessary to fuel your brand.

The employer brand is the market segmentation strategy that informs all of your employee experience and culture efforts. Recruitment marketing is just one piece of employer branding.The employer brand and company brand exist in symbioses. They complement each other by telling the whole story of your organization — your purpose, vision & culture. Flexible brand creative and messaging is a key ingredient for a powerful employer brand. Employer Branding the identity talent associates with your workplace culture & you, as an employer. Your employer brand helps future employees connect with your purpose AND your workplace culture. It can be seen as a kind of market segmentation that is overseen as a cross-functional effort between your People and Brand teams.

The most important thing is that we keep employer branding on the table as a topic of conversation around how our organizations will evolve to meet a new age in the global labour market.

It’s more critical than ever to take an employee- and talent-centric approach in people & culture strategy. Language and tone is a critical experience lever. Talent wants to connect with future employers on an emotional level. This connection begins with what you say and how you say it on key platforms.

Explore how to build an employer brand with me as your guide:

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