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The subject of recruitment has come up in a lot of my conversations lately. Across all sectors there are labour and skills shortages that are putting a strain on employers and their businesses. In particular I have been paying close attention to the marketing, branding and tech space.
It’s an employee’s market. And if businesses are to have half a chance of recruiting and retaining the best people, then they must get off on the front foot, positioning themselves as an employer of choice. But how?
Well, we’ve actually been going through our own hiring round here at Zebra Growth as we’re growing our dazzle, and feel that we can share a good perspective about our personal experience in this blog.
A solid employer branding strategy is essential to becoming an employer of choice. But the foundations of employer branding start from the inside, which is where many businesses are completely missing the mark. It’s not just a case of saying your business is a great place to work, you need to practise what you preach by demonstrating clear and consistent evidence of your culture if you want to attract and retain the right people.
But this isn’t just about recruitment. Because usually when it comes to last minute recruitment, you’re too late. Not having a strategy to nurture your organisational culture, and develop a first-class employee experience, often results in poor staff retention and a vicious cycle of hire-lose-hire. Treat the root cause, not the symptom.
47% of people cite company culture as their driving reason for applying for a job, so how do you make future employees recognise your business and its culture? Build an employer brand that is authentic that your current employees love!
Building a good employer brand starts with identifying how happy and engaged employees already are, building a cohesive plan to improve this across the whole employee lifecycle, before finally establishing how to clearly communicate this culture to future employees.
Top Tip: Want to identify how happy and engaged your employees are? Here at Zebra Growth, we use OfficeVibe, an online platform that offers managers an Employee experience solution to build better relationships with their people and create the conditions for great work. It’s essentially a safe place to exchange feedback and honest feelings so that your people feel engaged and happy at work, allowing us to keep our finger on the pulse of our culture.
What is an employer brand?
Similar to the way a corporate brand works (which offers a value proposition to customers, defining products or services in the marketplace), an employer brand includes the market’s perception of your business as an employer, but also describes your promise (or employee value proposition) to employees in exchange for their skills, experience and talents.
Employer branding is simply how you market your business to future potential employees and job seekers. Once you have a clearly defined and authentic culture in place, you do this by showcasing your businesses’ unique points of difference, amplifying them through communication to position yourself as a great place to work.
Done well, an employer brand will communicate that your business is a good employer and a great place to work, not only cementing your culture and motivating existing employees, but also attracting new motivated employees who are compelled to join your tribe. And when authentic employer brands really flourish, you begin to see employees sharing their positive experiences to their networks which creates amplification of the brand to other clients, customers, stakeholders, and potential future employees.
What is an employer value proposition (EVP)?
It’s hard to know where to start with employer branding, but an employer value proposition encompasses your company’s purpose, mission, values, and culture, and is a great place to start.
Think of it as a value exchange. Your company’s EVP is everything that you can offer an employee, in return for the skills, experience, talent and connections they bring to the table. Now put yourself in a skilled employee’s shoes, they bring a wealth of knowledge and an impressive track record to the table, and all you can offer them is a salary that’s slightly below market rate, and no career progression or additional perks. There’s a value imbalance that doesn’t add up.
That’s why establishing a well-designed Employer value proposition is so important, as it can attract and retain the best people, help with objective and goal setting, re-engage dispassionate workforces, improve company wide performance and reduce costly hiring costs.
The messaging you use to broadcast your employer brand isn’t just a list of perks and benefits you offer, that’s a job description! It goes much deeper than that and should be a collection of well considered component parts that make up the whole experience of working in your company. These should have been identified, defined, and tested with your current team in a collaborative way. Here are a few examples to consider:
- Company Moral code and guiding principles (Do’s and Don’ts)
- Company purpose
- Companies Vision
- Company values and culture
- Company location and facilities
- Salary and compensation
- Flexible working policies
- Ongoing employee recognition
- Professional and personal development
- Career progression
- Team structure and communication style
- Quality of work
- Approach to mental wellbeing
- Benefits and perks
- Sustainability and environmental policies
- Stance on social issues
- Job security
What makes a good employer brand?
The employee market is constantly changing, and employee needs are no different. As the world moves, what employees want from their working experience does too. So it’s important for businesses to shape their policies, processes and culture to match.
There’s no one culture fits all solution, but there are a few key trends that have developed in recent years that would be worth paying attention to:
1. Don’t focus on compensation
Of course people find salary important, but there are other more meaningful elements of a job that people value, particularly the younger Millennial and Gen-Z generations.
People are not just workhorses, they can be multi-faceted and have passions, hobbies and responsibilities to pursue outside of work, therefore flexible working can be very important.
Your Employer Value Proposition should be unique, compelling, and tuned into the deeper motivations of why a person might want to join your team, going way beyond the basic compensation. Someone will always have deeper pockets, and be willing to offer slightly more in terms of compensation, and that doesn’t leave you in a very good position.
However, it is also important to note that you need to be aware of the value of compensation at the same time, particularly in light of the current living crisis and inflation.
2. Employees have purpose
Employees are aware of the current roster of potentially catastrophic challenges that face humanity, and they expect their employers to be aware of this also.
You may not be in a position to change the world with the work you do as a company, but employees do expect you to be doing your bit, and rightly so!
Whether it’s a commitment to learning about social causes, evaluating your environmental impact, Implementing ESG, or looking closer at your governance, through commitments like becoming a BCORP. Employees want to work in a company that has an acute level of awareness about its impact on the world and want to know that what they are doing matters.
Employees also want to know that you recognise their efforts, knowing that the part they play in the company, contributes to the wider impact that it can have on the world. Having good processes in place for recognition are important to attracting and retaining good people. It’s less about money, and more about meaning.
Take ‘The Great Resignation’ as an example of people being sick of roles that don’t cater to their purpose.
According to the World Economic Forum, ‘The Great Resignation’, a term coined in May 2021, describes the record number of people leaving their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.
Resignations are coming in at unprecedented rates as the labour market continues to recover from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. The UK’s Labour Force Survey revealed in November 2021 that 391,000 of the 1.02 million workers who changed jobs between July and September 2021 had quit, the largest jump in resignations the LFS had ever seen.
And the resignation doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with one in five workers globally planning to quit in 2022.
The most upsetting aspects of the pandemic, according to Professor Dan Cable of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, may have sparked a stage of post-traumatic growth. People have been forced to consider carefully what they truly want from life, including their careers. People are pondering their true values and purpose in life at this time of great loss and illness. Professor Cable makes the very valid point, ‘Why would anyone want to spend their days engaging in activities that are inconsistent with those principles when we have such limited time?’
This new outlook on life, spurred on by the pandemic, has made people seek a deeper purpose in all they do. Therefore, it is crucial to convey your brand’s purpose clearly and authentically so that employees may decide whether they agree with it or not and, if they do, come join your business.
3. People want progression, or they’ll look for it elsewhere
People are thinking more about the future than ever before. In recruiting and retaining the best people, it’s imperative that you communicate with clarity the career progression opportunities that exist in your organisation.
Having well developed structures in place for career progression and professional development is a good way to articulate this to potential employees, so that they can make a confident and informed decision about joining your team.
It’s important to look at the whole employee lifecycle. When a person is evaluating joining your company, they need to be able to see how their career can develop into the future.
The employer branding process
So, we have chatted through the basics, but here’s a step by step guide on how to get started:
Step 1. Diagnosis
This is an incredibly important step, because if your employer brand lacks authenticity, employees will see right through it and avoid you with a barge pole.
Looking within, and seeking to understand and define your company’s unique attributes is the first step in developing an employer brand.
Being sure to involve key stakeholders and reviewing your purpose, vision, mission, values, and culture is the first step in the process. Understanding what your company objectives are, what type of business you want to build, what success looks like, how you are going to get there and what sort of team is required to achieve this is of vital importance.
My team at Zebra Growth are experts at facilitating workshops to help define these core elements of a brand’s culture.
Step 2. Audit your employer brand
You may already know how your brand is perceived by customers (If you don’t you need to speak with Zebra Growth) but you may not be as aware of how your company is viewed by your current employees or potential employees in the job-seekers market.
Engaging in conversation with your team to establish how they feel about your culture and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the employee experience is a great starting point. Leading on from this valuable exercise you can also look externally to the market perception of your brand by conducting interviews or surveys with potential future candidates.
Step 3. Define your employer value proposition
Defining your employer value proposition is a bit of an art. How do you curate a message that clearly communicates the unique elements of your workplace and your culture?
The most efficient way to do this is through expert facilitation. For example the team at ZG knows how to select the right exercises to extract all of the unique quirks and benefits out of a culture, before consolidating them into a clear value proposition.
It’s possible to do this yourself, with a whiteboard, post-its, and a good cross section of employees, but my advice would be to hire a wordsmith to condense your thoughts down into a powerful value prop afterwards.
Step 4. Develop your guiding policies
Once you have a clear understanding of your employer value proposition, a logical next step is to define and record how you will act as an employer. I like to think of this as your brand’s moral code, and it’s a fun exercise to do with your team.
In step 1 while exploring your employer brand, we covered ‘values’, which are simply the descriptive words or phrases that encapsulate how you act as a brand. Your guiding policies are an extension on these values and create the basis of a decision making framework for what you will and won’t do as a brand.
For example, at Zebra Growth one of our guiding policies is:
Everything we do as a business is designed to bring balance.
Between financial stability and social impact.
Between form and function.
Between quality and speed of execution.
Between creativity and performance.
‘Bringing balance’ is one of our core values, and by building it out into a guiding policy, it provides a clear framework for all employees to build it into their decision making processes on a day to day basis so that when is comes to creating something internally or for a client they critique it to ensure that is brings balance.
Guiding policies are the rules that you live by as a brand, so make sure that they are well written and easy to understand.
Step 5. Build engagement among current employees
To help you become a trusted employer, look no further than your current team. Your employees shape your company’s culture, live your values, achieve your objectives, and manifest your company’s mission. Without their participation, your employer brand would be nothing.
When it comes to potential employees doing their due diligence on applying for a job, it is your team that they are likely to reach out to to ask about culture and the role.
Here are a few ways to get your team members more engaged with your employer brand:
- Hone the message. Use a set of words or phrases that become a part of the company’s vernacular, as a way to describe your company’s values and what the experience of working for your company is all about. Keep it simple, clear, informative, and unique. Use this language in HR or recruiting meetings, and focus this language for your career pages, recruiting sites, social media accounts, and anywhere else your employer brand can be leveraged.
- Regularly monitor culture. It’s not a case of writing your employer value proposition and that’s it. Your culture is forever evolving and requires constant attention, discussion and tweaking to keep fresh, authentic and relevant. Engaging monthly, quarterly or bi-annual stakeholder meetings to review culture and policies is important to maintain an employer brand that has actually been developed with employee consultation.
- Foster Professional and Personal development. One of the best ways to develop skills in your organisation is to encourage career development. By investing in courses, training, and learning opportunities for your team you will strengthen your culture, and your customer experience. What’s more, your team will be proud to share their development in a public domain, which will foster the communication of your employer brand as one that invests in its people.
- Shine a light on your employees. LinkedIn or other professional networks are a great place for your employees to build meaningful relationships and to establish their own personal brand. Leveraging the experiences, expertise, and personalities of your employees by allowing them to engage in speaking events, networking, panel opportunities, or mentorship roles in relation to their particular field of interest is great for professional development but also a beacon of positivity onto your employer brand.
- Wider reach through employee profiles. With an authentic culture that your employees believe in, it’s more likely that they will want to proactively engage in conversation about the brand. Company news, job opportunities, and updates will be much more powerful when shared from individuals in your company, than just on your company channels alone. The average network size of a company’s employees is 10x larger than its own, therefore a good step in an employer brand strategy is to help employees use LinkedIn and other social media networks to represent themselves and spread the word about your company.
Step 6. Share it with potential candidates
Job descriptions are often the first contact candidates have with your company, so they’re a perfect way to promote your employer brand. Taking all of the unique elements that make up your workplace, culture and brand, you can now craft an engaging and compelling job description that stands out in a sea of competition.
Be sure to take your time when writing a job description and avoid some of the common pitfalls such as not putting a salary range, not clearly articulating employee benefits, and not conveying your culture and brand personality through careful use of language and tone of voice. You want your job advert to speak to your ideal employee, so make sure it’s crafted in a way that speaks to members of your tribe that share the same values and characteristics.
It’s also worth noting the importance of onboarding at this stage.
Onboarding is when a business provides new employees with training and information to help them get acclimated to their new position. This helps them to quickly understand their role, their employer’s expectations, and the company’s culture and values.
For example, here at Zebra Growth, our onboarding process involves vision and purpose meetings which ensures our new team members know exactly what our values are, but it’s also a chance for them to get their voice heard.
Personal development meetings, regular check-ins and of course, OfficeVibe are all key parts of our onboarding process which makes sure our new team members are comfortable and eased into their new role.
Additionally, having an onboarding process motivates workers to be dedicated to the success of the business and aids in the retention of new hires by making them feel like a part of the team.
The question really is; “Do your team believe in your brand?”
Brand strategy is commonly used to support external activity such as growing market share, building brand equity, and moving into new markets. But a lesser known benefit is that it’s an important factor in attracting, and retaining a strong and aligned team.
A good quality brand strategy helps you to articulate your core identity. In today’s job market, understanding your brand’s beliefs, building an organisation that truly reflects them, and telling your brand story effectively is crucial to attract and retain the people that will form your team.
Just like your brand fights to win over the hearts and minds of your customers, it equally has a job on its hand in winning over the dedication, passion and belief from your team, now and in the future.
Just imagine the potential of a brand that is authentic, coordinated, and truly believed in by its team.
By having full alignment and buy-in to your brand internally allows you to shine a light on your brand’s DNA, through your culture and content, and helps you turn your brand into a beacon.
Just like building a relationship with a consumer, to attract and retain the best employees, you need to foster a culture where everyone is bonded and driven by the same guiding principles.
Need some help?
What people want from today’s brands is authenticity; for brands to actually be what they claim to be. Purpose and values aren’t decided upon in a board meeting; they are discovered and evidenced.
Zebra Growth is a brand and ethical growth marketing strategy agency that helps impact startups and scaleups to build and communicate their brand authentically. We create robust brand and growth strategies for the companies that want to ensure that their future business decisions are coordinated, concentrated, and utterly authentic.
A big part of brand strategy is authentic culture, and employer branding plays a crucial role in this. If you would like to find out more about how brand strategy can help you to develop an employer brand then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org