Right. First things first. Let’s get some definitions out of the way. There is often confusion about the difference between employee branding and employer branding. Both involve presenting your company in the best possible light, and are effective ways of attracting top talent. But there are slight differences between the two. This article is focused on the former – employee branding.
EmployEE branding definition
Employee branding is about turning your employees (permanent, contract, freelance and contingent workers) into brand ambassadors. This is a relatively new concept in recruitment circles. It ensures that good news (and hopefully not bad news) spreads quickly amongst the networks of those who work within your company.
The end game is that the positive professional experience of your employees spreads to their families, friends and professional networks. This is all to meet the goal of attracting more talented people to consider joining the company.
EmployER branding definition
EmployER branding is how you promote your credentials as a welcoming, engaging and dynamic workplace for employees. By showing potential candidates how well you treat current employees, and giving them an exceptional candidate experience throughout the recruitment and on-boarding processes, skilled and talented applicants are more likely to sit up, pay attention and consider working with you.
Companies often build their employer branding via an employee brand program that typically includes:
- Corporate orientation, education and on-boarding to improve understanding of your corporate brand
- Regular job training
- Ongoing training, performance evaluation and rewards systems that support the employees’ display of “on brand” (or “on value”) behaviors etc
- A career development plan that facilitates employee advancement in the company
There is no doubt that a strong employer brand program improves your employee brand.
The importance of employee branding in attracting top talent
Positive employee branding plays a significant role in attracting talented candidates to your company. If your employees love working for your company, they become natural and authentic brand ambassadors.
This then leads to improvement in your brand perception in the candidate market. Consistent positive messaging to candidates in the marketplace will confirm that your company is a great place to work.
Turning your employees into brand ambassadors
Employee branding is a tactic for generating ‘on brand’ behavior. Behavior that expresses, presents and performs the attributes that the company wants as part of its reputation or brand. It attempts to influence the interactions between employees within the company as well as between employees and external stakeholders.
Turning your employees into brand ambassadors is all about creating genuine enthusiasm amongst those who work within your company. When an employee genuinely loves your company, it shines through to just about every person they encounter online and offline.
So what are some practical ways to turn your employees into brand ambassadors? Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Communicate with your employees consistently about what your company stands for, where it is going and your aspirations for what you want it to become. In time, your employees will then share these messages with their personal and professional networks
- Show your employees how to enhance your brand – provide them with content that they can readily share on social channels with those in their networks
- Find ways to connect with your remote working teams to make sure they are also able to spread the word about how rewarding it is to work for you
- Schedule regular events to build team collaboration, connection and camaraderie
- Create a feedback mechanism for monitoring the employee experience. Make iterative changes on the basis of themes in any feedback given
Authenticity drives employee branding
Treat your employee branding at surface level, and you will miss the opportunity to actually make your company a great place to work. Beyond any catch cries and jargon, there needs to be a actual commitment to making your company a great place to work and meaningful contributor to your industry sector and market. This does not happen overnight.
Build an authentic employee experience and positive employee branding will follow. Those within your company will promote and talk about your brand with pride both within and outside the company.
“WeRSM, a digital marketing firm specialising in social media, states that only 15% of users trust recommendations from a brand ambassador or the organisation, while 89% of users trusted testimonials from their network.”
We are a social lot. Humans love connecting with other humans about their lives, its challenges and its joys. Work is a large part of many people’s lives and as such, the company you work for gets mentioned frequently when you are connecting with others.
In this context, word of mouth spreads. It can have a significant impact on the reputations and bottom lines of companies of all sizes.
Combine this with technology, which has given everyone the power to communicate to thousands and thousands of people…for free, and employee sentiments about who they work for, spreads.
“There is one competitive advantage you have that no other business does – your employees (Forbes)”
When your employees talk with others, their social networks are listening. Not surprisingly Friday afternoon is a busy time on many social media platforms – where everyone is reaching for their vice of choice to forget their working week. What a sad state of affairs!
This phenomenon demonstrates just how important it is to create rewarding work for those who work within your company.
Practical ways to improve your employee branding
Communicate the values of your company. Model the values in action. Attract the best talent.
The values of your company need to be modeled each and every day by those within it if you truly want those values to define your company culture. Recruit in line with those values, acknowledge employees who model them and reinforce these values in communication from senior leadership and managers. Employees can then clearly see that those in the company lives those values.
Give permission to your employees to share great news about your company
When friends, former colleagues and industry leaders share their daily life on various social platforms, their networks listen. If you haven’t already, consider creating policies or guidelines for employees to share details of their experience with your company (see point 3 below).
“You need to give your employees the tools to do what they do naturally when they are connected, engaged and professionally satisfied – share the news with their personal and professional networks.”
In fact, your goal is to have employees sharing the many great things about their experience with your company regularly, organically and without prompting. When new roles become available in your company, encourage employees to share relevant details with their networks on their social platforms of choice.
Make sure your employees know what they can and can’t share publicly, as well as how to properly refer to the company and your products or services.
Provide guidelines for social sharing
Issuing a social media policy, communicating it when new employees are on-boarded and regularly reminding employees of your social media channels, will encourage a culture of celebrating your company and your clients as well as acknowledging individual and team achievements.
Encourage your employees to maintain social media accounts that are linked to your business as well.
Don’t fall into the trap of being overly controlling about what your employees say and do online. The average employee will typically practice good judgement when they know that they are representing your company.
If you trust your employees and give them a bit of freedom, they will appreciate it and be much more eager to enthusiastically market your company informally with their networks.
Create great digital content
The content you create is the driving force behind what your employees will share on their social media platforms of choice. It you are able to create compelling and relevant content it is more likely to be shared by your employees with their social and professional networks.
The more dynamic your content the better. Articles and industry news work well, but so do infographics, videos and behind-the-scenes content.
Let me be clear here. Your employee branding messages and initiatives must align with your actual company culture, norms and values. Employees simply won’t share content that they feel is disingenuous or “marketing hype”.
Make your recruitment and talent acquisition content easy to share
Many professionals are still getting their heads around social media in the context of their own professional brand. Consistent messaging and easy to share formats will encourage greater sharing of your content that builds your reputation as an employer of choice.
By encouraging employees to follow, like and share the company’s social media updates, you are also creating a perception that your employees are connected to your brand and therefore endorse it.
It’s even better when your employees are bonafide brand ambassadors who praise your company and act as walking advertisements even when they’re off the clock.
There are many tactics you can use to create a sense of enthusiasm and happiness in your workplace that will translate to employees who love where they work.
Creating an exceptional brand experience for contract, contingent and freelance workers
No company success comes from permanent employees alone. In our ever changing job market, strategic partners, contractors, contingent workers and freelance workers are playing an increasing role in your company success.
It is important to deliberately and proactively engage with your diverse workforce to ensure their experience with your company is positive. They too use social platforms and word of mouth to spread your brand messages informally.
“Cisco Systems noted that from a social media marketing perspective, employees’ social posts conjure eight times more engagement than posts from their employers” – Leaderonomics.com
Don’t force matters
As I have mentioned in other parts of this article, building your employee brand should not involve a forced, staged or over-marketed strategy. If you are a young company, allow your employees to see for themselves that your company is a great place to work.
Without this first hand experience, they cannot genuinely connect with their networks to share their excitement about working with you.
It’s important for employees to come to their own conclusion that your company is a rewarding place to work. Don’t demand the sharing of digital content or connecting with each of your company social accounts.
There is however, no problem asking your employees to help you find talented individuals, just like themselves, to join your company. After all, company success is shared by all who work within it.
Be honest with your employees and tell them that they are the most reliable brand advocates for your company.
Building your employer brand strategy is an important part of your company’s overall recruitment and talent acquisition strategy.
Your employees know your company better than anyone. They are a powerful asset in helping generate positive brand awareness, candidate sentiment and attracting top talent.
Further Reading and Resources