How to leverage employer brands to attract top talent

In such difficult economic times, when high unemployment levels and rumors of fiscal peril abound, it can be easy for internal recruiters and HR to assume that they have the pick of the litter when hiring help. However, for those of us seeking top talent, instead of simply status quo hires, it’s important to understand that this is nothing but a terrible misconception; we’re actually in a stringent global hiring competition.

To put it another way, consider this: there can only be one winner, one top competitor, in any contest. Similarly, only one candidate out there is the best among all those in their field. So how do we not only find, but also attract those prime candidates? Well, there are many ways, but one of the most influential areas that too many firms are currently overlooking is their employer brand.

A 2011 study by TMP Worldwide found that of those organizations leveraging employer branding, 35% feel it has been a significant contributor to reduced turnover and 45% have found it leads to increased engagement. Such a positive impact is further supported by a 2002 Watson Wyatt Work USA study which found that the three-year return to stakeholders was 36% higher at companies with a strong employer brand than at those without. What’s more, studies range in the reported cost of a new hire, purporting single hire expenditures from $10,000 to upwards of $100,000. And yet despite these hard numbers, Employer Brand International’s Global Research Study found only a mere 14% of companies are truly capitalising on employer branding!

Employer brand should not be confused with product brand. Although the two may be related in that they proscribe overarching facets of an organization to stakeholders, they are certainly not interchangeable. Product branding refers to a firm’s persuasive marketing communication with its prospective customers.

Employer branding, on the other hand, refers to the conversations (both real and implied) that a firm has with its existing and potential employees about what it’s like to work for them.

In essence, employer branding is how we tell the world, “People want to work for us, and here’s why!”

Without this practice, HR are often bombarded with run-of-the-mill candidates, many of whom wind up as unsatisfied, unproductive employees. However, by capitalising on employer branding, companies get noticed by top performers who have goals and values that are aligned with those of the organisation. This results in a powerful synergy that drives not only business, but also future recruiting.

Take Google as a prime example. Everyone wants to work for Google and while not everyone knows why, we do: Google’s employer brand is loud and clear. They offer a free spirited, fun environment and value dedication, hard work, and creativity above all else. As a result, candidates around the world not only know what to expect, but are interested in being part of such a remarkable, well-defined culture. From their coveted international internships to their salaried Silicon-Valley positions, Google subsequently receives millions of applications every year from candidates that many of us would move mountains to attract.

So how do we emulate what Google has mastered in regard to employer branding?

To begin, it’s important to understand what a company brings to the table in terms of intangibles for all of its employees, not merely senior positions. In other words, what does the organization truly stand for? After all, studies show that financial compensation is not actually the top motivator for employees. Talent managers should consider the organizational culture and vision, overall work experience, management practices, and engagement factors to best determine this.

Likewise, its paramount that HR have a clear “target candidate” and understand what such candidates are looking for in an employer. After identifying both perspectives, the key is to then align them and effectively communicate such alignment with all internal and external stakeholders through a collaborative long-term strategy.

As in any race or competition, no champion can remain top dog forever. Yet by investing resources in building a strong employer brand, HR can stay ahead of the game and attract those future champions before the candidates themselves even know how good they are. After all, even Barclay’s Robert Diamond and Mitsubishi’s Ken Kobayashi were once just children with big dreams. In turn, HR will be exempt from searching out top candidates and, instead, will be tasked with determining which of their top applicants will drive the most business. The latter is a much better problem to have.


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