Everything you need to know about employer branding in the digital age

GOOGLE is perhaps one of the best examples when it comes to understanding employer branding.

Candidates in the job market aspire to join Google. Employees love, admire, and value Google. Alumni respect Google. The brand has power, and it has earned its place in the hearts of its employees.

While Google is in a coveted position, what it has achieved is in no way unattainable for others. Companies like IBM, 3M, Apple, Daimler, and Boeing are on a similar footing in terms of employer branding.

The truth is that these organizations have made an effort to build and grow their brand in the eyes of employees over the past several decades and are now reaping the rewards.

However, organizations that have neglected employer branding must now wake up and take action. Continued neglect will cost them dearly as employees, especially the younger generation (Gen Z), are placing more emphasis on who they work for and where their paycheck comes from.

To help executives jumpstart their employer branding efforts, Tech Wire Asia spoke to Robert Half Singapore Managing Director Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard.

“Employer branding draws on the value and reputation of a company’s corporate brand alongside what organizations have to offer to potential and existing employees over others in their market space.”

Imbert-Bouchard encourages organizations to see it as a powerful recruitment tool, particularly in Singapore’s skills-short market where in-demand professionals have ample choices of where to work, they opt for employers that have strong reputations and values that align with their own.

“Jobseekers, especially Gen Zers, care about not only your company’s products or services, but also intangibles such as a company’s mission statement, values and vision, and whether it’s truly a great place to work.”

What is employer branding?

“An employer brand is, as the name suggests, how a company is perceived as an employer and is therefore based on the perception and experiences of former, current, and future employees.

But that’s not all. According to Imbert-Bouchard, the reality is that an employer’s brand is informed by many corporate attributes including its values and mission statement and organizational culture.

The company’s public reputation in the eyes of the industry, media, and broader public, and how they treat their existing employees through professional development, rewards, and remuneration, also play a role.

The point that the Robert Half Singapore MD is trying to make is that companies need to see the big picture when they think about the term ’employer branding’ and take note of the various bits that it takes into account.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Business leaders looking to take stock of their employer brand and planning for improvement must, therefore, must have a long-term view alongside the short and mid-term goals.

How can you improve employer branding in the digital age?

The short answer: Use social media and employer review websites.

“For businesses, social media and review websites represent certain free advertising opportunities. It can cost little to nothing to engage with potential candidates via platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook and can start a new relationship off on the right foot.”

Social media has accelerated the reach and impact of stakeholder advocacy on brand reputation exponentially, meaning that companies today cannot afford to overlook building a strong employer brand.

With the proliferation of online review sites, former and existing employees have also become powerful brand ambassadors who can independently share their own thoughts and experiences with a company.

According to Imbert-Bouchard, online employer branding tactics can also be strengthened by simply ensuring that career information is accurate and easy to find on company websites.

By building a positive work culture, clearly defining and promoting company values, and engaging in strong internal communication programs, businesses can cultivate a network of in-house advocates who are purposeful, loyal, and engaged in the brand.

Organizations, in turn, benefit from image amplification that can aide their recruitment drives and client acquisition.

Who is responsible for employer branding?

Imbert-Bouchard believes that an employer brand is not a fixed concept, it is a matter of perception in the eyes of the broader public, so the responsibility lies across a number of stakeholders, from HR, to business leaders, to existing staff members.

“Executive management is typically responsible for identifying what ‘brand’ the company wants to stand for and how they would like to be perceived.

“Once defined, business leaders will then – together with other business departments – develop a strategy to support this.”

Of course, marketing plays a key role in the grand scheme of things. It is the department that ultimately implements the strategy and ensures that internal employer branding efforts are communicated externally — marketing acts as a bridge between internal policy and public perception.

From making it easier for future employees to find the company mission and values on the company’s website, to overseeing job review platforms, to engaging with existing and former employees, or developing a promotional campaign that brings awareness to the workplace culture or staff benefits, the marketing department’s efforts can be crucial to building a strong brand.

“In the digital age, social media can sometimes be a complex communication medium: it’s useful to engage with customers directly, but it can backfire on a company’s corporate reputation if not appropriately managed,” reminded Imbert-Bouchard.

According to the Robert Half Singapore MD, it is therefore prudent to ensure a collaborative approach between HR, operations, and marketing.

Who and how does a strong employer brand help?

“A company’s reputation and name recognition can play a significant part in attracting potential talent. Even employers need a good elevator pitch, or they risk losing top candidates to competing firms.”

With a strong employer brand, recruiting skilled workers — including passive jobseekers — is less challenging than if a business flies under the radar, or worse, has a shaky reputation.

When candidates understand what a business stands for, they make decisions about whether the company at hand is a good cultural fit for them. This results in a stronger applicant pool, which is a win-win for employers and applicants.

“Employers without a strong brand reputation generally find it more challenging to attract the attention of top talent compared to those who already enjoy a positive public profile, regardless of how strong their internal company culture is.”

They may have to compensate for this with additional remuneration or rewards packages to differentiate themselves from competitors, which is not always a sustainable or economical solution.

At the end of the day, the reality is that a renewed focus on employer branding will go a long way. In the era of technology disruptions, strong human capital can, after all, provide both, a cushion as well as a competitive advantage.

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