How to Build an Employer Brand Strategy

By: Christina Zurek
employees discussing employee branding strategy
We’ve shared why employer brand matters and how this is vital when looking to win the war for talent. So it was inevitable we’d need to take a dive into the area of employer branding. A company’s employer brand communicates why the company is an attractive place to work and also sets you apart from other companies competing for the same talent, which is critical when it comes to successful recruitment strategies.
But it’s also important for retention of the great talent you already have. An effective, authentic employer brand message resonates with your employees and reinforces what makes you great to work for. When done well, it isn’t highlighting superficial perks—it supports your organizational culture by reinforcing shared values and creating unity around a sense of purpose. Even better? It impacts overall company success, as evidenced by recent research that found that, for a typical company, a one-point increase in reputation score can yield about $1B in added value for the organization.
Here’s the deal, though: buying in to the concept of employer branding is the easy part. The successful execution of an effective employer brand campaign—and internalization of that message—is the sticking point for many organizations. To ensure you don’t end up stuck there, too, here are our tips on the four can’t-skip stages of a successful employer brand initiative.

Start Your Story From the Beginning—Your EVP

The essence of a successful brand campaign is actually pretty simple: tell a good story. And, as we all know, the best stories need to start at the beginning, not mid-way through when the hero realizes there’s a problem and needs to solve it—fast.
In a successful employer branding initiative, the beginning is when you define your unique employee value proposition (EVP). Many companies have worked on this step for years, but research from Mercer shows that only two in five employees believe their organization has a compelling EVP. Clearly there’s still work to be done. The underlying problem with many EVPs? They were developed with shockingly little influence from actual employees. When you ask them what makes the brand and company unique, you develop more authentic image that resonates with your people. You’d be surprised at how excited employees will be to have a voice in this, so whether you collect their feedback through formal methods (like surveying or focus groups) or informal strategies (like small group or individual chats), this is a critical step that can’t be skipped. Once you’ve gathered your employee-centric perspectives of what it means to be part of your organization, it will be time to sift through it and solidify your official EVP. If you have a very diverse business model, you may have multiple EVP messages to ensure relevancy—and that’s OK. Remain open-minded.

Tell It as Only You Can—Your Employer Brand Message

Next up: determine your employer brand message campaign strategy. Now that you understand (in employee-centric vernacular) what makes your organization great, it’s time to determine what specifically you want to say to current and prospective talent, where you want to say it and how you can ensure that you say it in the most effective ways. If the “telling” part of storytelling doesn’t come naturally to you, consider tapping your marketing counterparts on the shoulder for support—they’re typically the storytellers within an organization. When thinking through your campaign strategy, don’t think of it as a one-and-done launch; making an initial splash is certainly important, but if you want to integrate this message long-term in to the daily experiences of your employees, you need to think long-term and ongoing.

Keep Your Audience Captivated—Activation & Internalization

Once you’ve developed your message and its supporting plan to create alignment, turn your focus to the activation and internalization of the message. Keep in mind, this is about more than just an internal employee communications plan—think about creative ways that you can unify employees using tactics like company events, integration with other employee initiatives, or enlisting the support of employee ambassadors to create excitement and reinforce the authenticity of your message (we’re looking at you, Heineken).
Related: In order to get real results from engagement initiatives, human resource professionals need to think like marketers. Learn how your organization can captivate its audience with consistent and targeted messaging.

Make Your Story Even More Irresistible—Assess & Reinforce With Data

Finally, once you’ve launched your message and given your campaign a little time to soak, be sure to evaluate and analyze the impact of your efforts. While the foundation of your message shouldn’t change dramatically in a short period of time, nuances may emerge that you’ll want to attend to. You can also use this as a time to assess the ways you’re communicating and reinforcing your message to figure out what’s working and what might need to be adjusted to increase impact. Short-term, you’ll want to focus on employee sentiment and, in particular, their degree of alignment with the brand message. But later, look in to the impact of your strategy on larger organizational metrics like time to hire, cost to hire, retention and overall engagement.
By taking an intentional, strategic approach to developing and executing your employer brand message, you’ll more effectively share the story of what makes your organization unique for the employees working with you today—and those you want to work with in the future. In 2018, a staggering 41.4 million U.S. workers voluntarily left their jobs and 74% of recruiters believe hiring will become increasingly competitive. This issue is endemic across all industries, and now is the time for organizations to focus efforts on renewing and reinvigorating their brand message to enable them to more effectively compete for talent in this increasingly tumultuous world.
Are you ready to more effectively engage and retain employees for the long-term? We have recommendations for change you can make today in our white paper, Why Good Employees Leave: The Unintended Consequence of Great Onboarding.

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.