Why Employer Branding is Key to Gaining a Competitive Advantage

May 19, 2020 • 5 min read

Why Employer Branding is Key to Gaining a Competitive Advantage

Brie Mason

Brie Mason

Getting the right people into the right positions is the ageless hiring challenge. In today’s candidate-driven market, the best employees have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing opportunities. The struggle nearly all companies face today is standing out from the crowd.

Even if you offer a competitive salary, there’s no guarantee that a candidate will think you’re the right fit. There are many drivers that influence a candidate’s decision to apply for a role – and creating a compelling employer brand that highlights these factors is critical to attracting top talent.

Why you aren’t coming across as unique

The truth of the matter is, most organisations’ EVPs don’t do anything to differentiate them from their talent competitors. Look at your EVP – does it reference any of the following?

The reality is, in 2020, nearly every company offers some degree of the above.

It’s easy to talk to these benefits when you know, in practice, how good your company is at them. But when everyone is saying the same thing, these EVPs begin to blend into each other as noise. The result is candidates have little means to assess whether your company’s offering truly meets their current needs.

Most of the time, EVP issues don’t stem from proposing the wrong things, but not going far enough into what that specifically means in their organisation. It is critical for companies to not only uncover what is important to their audience and how well they are delivering on this, but also how well their talent competitors are doing the same.

Take for example, flexibility as a benefit. In one company, flexibility is about allowing people to go to a doctor appointment or take leave when they need it. In another it is about being a fully remote workforce, with no standard working hours and unlimited leave. However, both companies typically use a limited narrative that simply references “flexibility” when attempting to attract employees.

Most of the time, EVP issues don’t stem from proposing the wrong things, but not going far enough into what that specifically means in their organisation.

Successfully communicating what your company is really about is a major undertaking that requires collaboration between HR, the business and leaders. Companies need to have candid honesty and call out what they are good at, and not good at. By being true to who you are as an organisation, you’ll attract more of the right people, reducing candidate drop-out and talent attrition.

Keep in mind if your offering in a particular area doesn’t stack up to competitors, no advertising campaign or brand positioning will fix this – candidates will find out the truth very quickly!

That’s why it’s important to define specifically what you want to be known for, and improve that part of the employee experience. This is same principle as improving a product to meet the needs of specific buyers.

Communicating value with your employer brand

Even when your EVP – your core message statement – is pitch perfect, it needs to be brought to life, embedded and communicated consistently across all employee touch points to be believed and celebrated. But how can you do this, while making sure you remain sincere and engaging to your talent audience?

One way to approach this is to apply marketing and communications tactics to your employer branding efforts. Written content, photos, video, etc. can all help to showcase a company’s authentic story to differentiate them as an employer. This content needs to provide proof points and evidence for how your EVP is lived within the organisation.

Today, many companies are using innovative techniques along the candidate journey to provide an inside look into their business. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, for example, has developed a recruitment process for their call centres where they play simulated call recordings and show videos of real employees working in call centres to reduce job shock.

Even when your EVP – your core message statement – is pitch perfect, it needs to be brought to life, embedded and communicated consistently across all employee touch points to be believed and celebrated.

A currently-unnamed global trading company is also soon launching a virtual reality experience that provides an opportunity of experiencing being on a trading floor, allowing candidates to move through the office space, interact with everything within it and hear from employees during their work – showing the realities of working in that environment.

Employer branding doesn’t have to be overtly innovative. It may even just be as simple as taking Netflix’s approach, which is making sure their amazing and unique company culture is explicit in every single one of their job ads. What matters most is that your messaging is coherent, authentic and aligned to the EVP.

What separates great employer brands from “good” or just “okay” employer brands? The truth is, most “ordinary” companies simply can’t compete with the unicorns of the world in terms of employer brand strength. So relying on top company lists and rankings is not going to help most organisations understand how well their employer branding efforts are paying off.

Although no company likes to come off as having any weaknesses, I’ve found that those that are most successful in building a distinctive employer brand are candid about what they are good at and not good at. It is futile trying to be attractive to the widest pool of candidates possible. All you need is to be able to appeal to the single candidate, or niche of candidates that best suits the position. By being true to what it is, a company will attract more of the right people to the business, reducing candidate drop-out and talent attrition.

The companies that succeed in their employer branding efforts also stay on top of outcomes. Unless you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t know what progress you’re making.

The companies that succeed in their employer branding efforts also stay on top of outcomes.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring employer brands, as the objectives you set for your brand should be unique to your organisation. However, for many organisations the focus is on attracting top quality people, so common metrics used to measure success are applications per role, cost per hire, quality of hire, time to fill, offer acceptance rate,  etc.

An advanced tactic would be developing a holistic employer brand strategy that stretches across the full employee lifecycle, and in this case, the focus would be  on measuring the employee experience and whether it stacks up against the promise (EVP).

A final thought

The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak may see a drastic change in the talent drivers for many industries. People whose employment has been impacted will naturally prioritise job security and high paying wages over other things, as they have been financially suffering throughout the pandemic. Those who have spent more time at home with their families recently could be looking for better balance and flexibility from their work life. Alternatively, people may be craving the chance to leave their home each day and be around others in a busy and fun work environment again.

In the near future, we may see a real divide in what people value most. Pinpointing the state of your industry and key talent segments could be what gives you the edge to develop a unique EVP.

About the author: Brie is an employer branding thought leader and pioneer in the Australian market, with over 15 years’ experience dedicated to building multi-award winning employer brands in the APAC region. Brie has successfully translated marketing and communications concepts to the world of HR to attract, recruit and retain talent.