Employer branding for everyone
By Sarah Sturgess
Here at SMRS we are experts in employer branding, having partnered with over 20 companies to develop their employer brands in the last few years.
Employer branding used to mainly be a focus for large companies and well-known brands, but recently, we’ve witnessed a significant shift to an era where everyone is now thinking about how they can develop their employer brands to both attract and retain talent. Charities, small and medium sized businesses, NHS trusts and digital start-ups are seeing the value of telling their story and communicating the unique cultures they have created (or they want to create). We’ve also seen growth amongst large organisations with lesser known brands or in skill shortage areas.
We see employer brands simply as ‘what people think and feel about your organisation as a place to work’. So, if you think about what attracted you to where you work, what keeps you there, and what you say to encourage people to join, these questions can really help you to appreciate that you already have an employer brand. The next step is asking more and more people so that you can really understand what makes you special as an employer. What story can you tell which is …
- true to who you are and where you’re heading
- meaningful to the people you have
- attractive to the people you want.
Engaging with the leaders of your organisation to build their understanding and gain backing for employer brand development is critical. There is plenty of evidence out there to support your business case, here are a few facts from a recruitment perspective:
- 67% of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptional online reviews
- 83% of business agreed that their employer brands had a significant impact on their hiring
- Strong employer brands found a 43% reduction in cost per hire
- An average of 28% reduction in staff turnover
If you already have a well-known brand, you probably already invest heavily in marketing and may naturally invest in your employer brand and see the value it can bring. The companies that do this will have slightly different employer branding challenges though. These will vary but mainly include a desire to change the composition of staff i.e. diversity challenges, high volumes of applications, a focus on using an employer brand to find the right cultural fit. Often there will still be a challenge around attracting and retaining in skill shortage areas.
For smaller or less known organisations, employer branding can make the difference you need. Budgets are often smaller, and money is often being spent on recruitment consultancies or a heavy use of job boards. Being sensible and looking at how you can use the money you have differently can help to build awareness, change perceptions and sell challenging environments.
Now, where an employer brand will come into its own, of course, is where there are skill shortages. The reasons for this can be categorised into 4 sections:
- The growth outstrips the supply (i.e. Tech/Digital)
- Changing demographics (i.e. Ageing Population)
- Decline in traditional industry skills (i.e. STEM)
- Social shifts (i.e. cost of living & EU workers)
Here is a spotlight on some of our favourite employer brands we have created that have tackled this.
The first sector is construction, with the hottest topics being STEM skills shortages, females and school kids needing to be encouraged to join the industry. In the past 25 years, only 20% of Physics A level students were female, and this hasn’t changed once. The number of women studying engineering or physics has remained virtually static since 2012.
When we created Balfour Beatty’s employer brand, we focused on scarce skills, digital transformation, internal mobility, ex-forces attraction, early career, and women in engineering.
Next is tech. Every business is looking for tech skills, so representation problems are barely visible. We recently completed work for Balfour Beatty, using the IT team as the face of the employer brand. We are now developing the employer brand for DWP Digital too.
Then the health and social work sector. With the impending news of Brexit looming over everybody, the sector has an uncertainty that has impacted EU nursing registrations. Worst of all, the bursaries to train have been replaced with loans.
London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust were one of the first trusts to use an employer brand to compete for their talented candidates. There was a staggering 400% increase in applications in some areas, and the vacancy levels dropped another 8%.
Another good example is Mencap. We took the toughest parts of the job and highlighted those. The employer brand tackled both attrition and skills shortages by attracting those who could cope well with the pressure of the role and therefore meant that they stayed longer. Truthful stories were shared, even the tougher ones.
To summarise, there are a few key takeaways that can help you to build a successful employer brand. Firstly, establish your employer brand drivers. You need to set clear and concise measures of change, and to map out your journey. You need to see employer branding as a way of working, because it’s not just a project. This is your journey to achieve the culture you want. Lastly, you need to accept the challenge of this, and to realise that all those small steps will add up.