The Employer Brand Catch 22

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There was an interesting detail in the LinkedIn 2017 Global Trends survey, recently released, around the disconnect between what’s desirable and what’s doable. Among the recruiters surveyed, when asked to name one thing they wanted to spend more budget on, number one was Employer Branding. In fact, if money were no object, 53% would invest in Employer Branding, ahead of new technology (39%) and better sourcing tools (38%).

And it yet it doesn’t happen. According to the same source, only 8% of recruiters’ budgets are spent on Employer Branding. This is nearly one-third of the amount they spend on recruitment agency costs, revealing something of the ‘distress purchase’ nature of a lot of recruiters under pressure to hire.

So, why the reluctance to invest in an Employer Brand?

Surely the days of employer branding being deemed the plaything of budding marketeers in the recruitment team are behind us? And yet there still remains a whiff of suspicion about the ROI you’ll get. Key to overcoming this, is making the link between defining an employer brand, setting out its aims and then being able to apply this throughout an organization, which is the Best Practice vision of the CIPD.

Over 80% of leaders in the survey acknowledge that employer branding has a significant impact on their ability to hire talent. And plenty of studies can prove the effectiveness of Employer Branding:

  • Attraction of more talent: Organizations with a good employer brand are 250% more likely to rate their overall talent acquisition efforts as highly effective, according to Glassdoor.
  • Attract better quality candidates: In its 2014 report, CEB states that employers that invested in employer branding reported a 54% increase in high-quality candidates.
  • Higher levels of employee engagement: Those who invest are 130% more likely to see increases in employee engagement, according to a Gallup survey.
  • LinkedIn’s research found that 83% agree an employer brand has a significant impact on the ability to hire talent, reduced staff turnover by up to 28% and is twice as likely to drive job consideration as the company brand.
  • According to the Harvard Business Review, a minimum 10 percent pay increase was necessary to convince a candidate to take on a job at a company with a poor employer brand.

So why does Employer Branding still receive so little investment?

Perhaps because it’s not a defined, tangible, quantifiable thing that can be easily, and objectively, measured. Also, a company’s employer brand is now usually a shared responsibility between HR, talent acquisition, marketing, communications, operations or a combination of those functions. In fact, from 2009 to 2014, HR ownership of employer brand dropped from 46 percent to 38 percent, according to Employer Brand International.

According to LinkedIn, 59% of organizations are planning to invest more in their employer brand, year on year. But, until recruiters are given the chance to focus on these longer-term strategies rather than rely on fire-fighting tactics – we may continue to observe this paradox.

Reaping the rewards of an effective Employer Brand

At SMRS we have seen the benefit of an effective Employer Brand first hand, through our work with clients in this area, and we know it doesn’t matter which field you are in or the size of your organization, from a multi-billion £ business like Kerry Foods though to a national charity like Mencap. And we’ve learned a few tips along the way:

  • Understand why you are doing it and what you want to get out of it. A clear understanding of the business problem it is helping to solve is vital to ensure you make the most of the exercise
  • Buy-in is driven from the top – ensure the leadership are not only fully behind the project but are visible behind it
  • Include stakeholders from all parts of the business, not only to ensure a rounded view but to drive take-up through identifying potential ambassadors for the new brand
  • Ensure the agreed final outputs are fed into all parts of the organization so it becomes a living, breathing part of your business, from recruitment attraction, through PDRs to staff engagement forums.

About the author: Mike Hoffman is a Client Partner at SMRS, an employer marketing agency, specializing in employer branding and attraction marketing. 


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