Employer branding has been around for decades. Most companies, however, have just started feeling its importance. A strong employer brand puts a company at the forefront of the competition and gives it access to a wider pool of talent. It contributes significantly to how people perceive and think about it. The new breed of employees are more demanding and value freedom, simplicity, experience and feelings more than baby boomers and Gen X employees. Organizations need to strategically establish their employer brands, to attract millennials and deploy their excellent skills and ideas.

By definition, “Employer Branding” is the process of promoting a company, or an organisation, as the employer of choice to a desired target group, one that a company needs and wants to recruit as well as retain.

It was first defined in the mid-90s and denotes an organisation’s reputation as an employer, as opposed to its corporate brand. It led to the development of Employee Value Propositions that outline the key employer benefits offered, and employer brand guidelines to standardize a company’s recruitment advertising. Predominantly outward facing and advertising driven, it was placed under the purview of HR. The recent rise of social media has resulted in companies becoming more transparent. People now trust the opinions of real employees more than a company’s recruitment advertising. Due to this, talent attraction and retention today relies more on employee engagement and advocacy.

Companies that are results driven prefer to hire for skills rather than attitude. Others prefer to hire for attitude and train for skills, which they feel should be a given. Many people leave companies largely because they do not fit into the culture, do not like their leader, or have different beliefs in relation to work and life culture; not because they do not have the skill sets required. Richard Branson once said, “You can copy everything but you can’t copy our culture.” In response, many modern companies are now building in culture and values into their performance management systems, judging employees by how they live these values. There are companies, like IKEA, who specifically hire for cultural rather than job fit.

So what makes a strong employer brand?

It is always important for an employer to ask themselves just what exactly they can bring to the table for employees and candidates. Unless you can pay every employee top dollar more than your competitors, you must recognize that you will need to build your brand based on things other than compensation, such as flexible hours, innovative technology, workplace diversity, remote work opportunities, or your package of office perks and benefits. Whatever it is, make sure it resonates with everyone in your organization, and that it is something that is truly of value to them. This is what will help you define what your employer branding message is going to be.

Open communication is an absolute must in order for an employer to listen to authentic, candid feedback from their employees in order to achieve a greater understanding of the employee experience. By maintaining an awareness of how your team is doing and how they feel about the culture, compensation packages and their roles in the organization, there will be more of an opportunity to engage your talent base.

Employees need encouragement and recognition. When employees do something right, show your appreciation by recognizing it. Congratulate them. Show them that you see their hard work. However do not praise employees for everything they do, only when they do something out of their daily work task, or when they complete a large project.

Social media is a great tool for companies looking to strengthen their employer branding. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn aren’t merely platforms for publishing branded product they are also venues for growing your network, and for sharing inside stories that will show off your strengths as an employer and drive engagement with the kind of talent you’re hoping to attract.

In this day and age, if will take more than posting job openings or designing a fancy Careers pages on your website to create a brand that resonates with job seekers. In the evolving landscape of recruitment and HR, companies with a strong employer brand will always stand out in the eyes of top candidates.

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