Standards for employers have changed in recent years. It used to be that offering good benefits, fair salaries, stability and advancement were enough to be considered an excellent employer.
Today, employees expect all of these qualities in an employer, plus a positive work environment, inclusion and diversity, a good reputation, work-life balance, access to technology, stability, career pathing, flexibility, accessibility and leadership opportunities. These workplace characteristics help create a strong employer brand which, in turn, helps companies attract and retain talent.
“More than ever, employees today are looking to align with companies that share their values and mission in an authentic way,” says Carmen Graf, vice-president and head of global brand advertising and media at Indeed.
It’s all about perception – and profit
So what does a strong employee brand look like? At the simplest level, an employer brand is how job seekers and others outside of the company perceive an organization as an employer.
“A company is only as good as the talent that works there,” Ms. Graf says. “If you want the absolute best talent for your company, you have to show your best self to the candidate pool.”
A strong employer brand also makes good business sense. Companies that don’t work on the elements that go into developing an employee brand could see high turnover, which leads to lost productivity and increased recruitment costs. Employer branding should be considered an investment that requires leadership buy-in, resources for HR and marketing, and a commitment to adaptation.
It’s particularly important in today’s environment, as many organizations are impacted by the rapid shift in workplace dynamics. Consider that the current workforce includes up to five generations, each of which has distinct skill sets and experiences and unique needs. There’s also an increased focus on retaining talent through better engaging with employees, and a stepping up hiring strategies in the highly competitive job market.
“Everybody is battling it out to attract talent,” says Jennifer Warren, vice-president of global brand marketing at Indeed. “They’ve got to adapt to what people expect, or they’re going to find it difficult to recruit.”
How strong employer branding attracts top talent
All companies want to lure in top talent in their industry, but it’s even more critical in a tight labour market where companies are competing for candidates. It’s a top concern for companies today, despite economic uncertainties.
“We predict that job seekers will continue to be in power – and we expect that to be the case for quite some time,” Ms. Warren says.
According to the July 2022 Indeed Canada Job Search Survey, 51 per cent of the respondents actively looking for work indicated they were at least somewhat confident they could find a new job within the next month, up 8 percentage points from the year before.
Employer branding can make a huge difference in recruitment. According to Glassdoor insights, 86 per cent of applicants are likely to research company reviews and ratings when deciding where to apply for a job.
Through employer branding and sharing the company story, organizations can control how they’re perceived by job seekers and begin to shape the conversation. For example, the career page for the Toronto Zoo, which has been named one of Greater Toronto’s Top Employers of 2022, highlights employees as “conservation champions” and includes employee testimonials, as well as information about career paths and benefits.
Strong employer branding can also reduce recruitment costs. Since job seekers are more likely to recognize your organization and be drawn to job listings, it gives you a wider candidate pool and more qualified candidates faster. Candidates are twice as likely to apply to an open job when the posting highlights employer branding content – material that projects and defines the work culture, perks and employee experience.
A strong brand makes workers want to stay
Employer branding should not only attract talent, but also help to nurture and retain workers.
Ignoring employer branding is “a huge risk from a retention and attraction perspective,” Ms. Warren says. “Companies are trying to become better. If you don’t look at how to improve, you’re going to lose your employees to other companies.”
Losing employees is a liability, not just because of the loss of talent, but because replacing an employee typically costs six to nine months of that role’s salary.
Employer branding efforts aren’t just about marketing, but about making internal changes. The process begins by soliciting employee feedback – not only to evaluate what attracted them to their jobs, but to find out how the workplace and culture can be improved.
It’s meaningful for employees to feel heard. Even organizations with excellent employer branding stay ahead of the curve by continuing to listen to employees, iterating on successes and challenging themselves.
“That’s professional maturity,” Ms. Graf says. “You can’t get better until you know what employees want.”
Employers should also be prepared to act on what they’ve heard. Toronto-based LifeSpeak Inc., which provides wellness solutions for companies around the world, practises what it offers clients by giving its employees perks such as free tickets to sporting events, days off after busy stretches of work, and flexible, hybrid work options.
Happy employees will feel encouraged in their roles and also communicate their good experiences with job seekers. This word-of-mouth is critical since research shows employees’ voices are considered to be three times more credible than a CEO’s messaging.
“If you have a workforce that is primarily staffed with people who believe in your mission, your product, your service and your leadership team, they are going to want to stay longer and refer people in,” says Taylor Meadows, head strategist of employer brand and employee voice at Glassdoor.
What’s more, if the employer branding is authentic, new employees entering the organization will have a better sense of the company and, ideally, will stick around.
“If you can attract the right kind of employees for your culture and for your business, they are going to thrive,” Ms. Warren adds. “They’re going to stay longer, they’re going to perform better, turnover is going to be less and that’s going to drive your revenue. It’s just a lot better for business.”
Improving workforce productivity
Getting the right talent matters; not just the most capable hire, but someone who is aligned with your company’s values and mission, because it generates great work. Workplace happiness can increase productivity by 12 per cent, according to a University of Warwick study.
“When people can be authentically themselves in the workplace, they feel more confident, they feel more empowered,” Ms. Graf says. When that happens, she adds, “You bring your true self and ideas to work.”
Employer branding initiatives can even be targeted to specifically improve productivity through offering particular benefits. Employee wellbeing and workplace happiness, for example, have been linked directly to lower burnout rates, fewer sick days and higher work performance.
Intuit Canada, often listed as one of the country’s top employers, offers several employee health and wellness initiatives, including a $1,300 stipend toward any expense that contributes to an employee’s physical, financial or emotional wellbeing. It also offers nine paid “recharge days” in addition to typical vacation days, holidays, birthdays off, sick time and family support time.
Ms. Graf believes employer branding can be game-changing for many organizations, leading to new ideas that benefit the business long term.
“It will transform your company because you’ll use real insights from employees,” she says. “You’re getting the best talent, which will spur innovation.”
“With five generations in the workforce, are stereotypical notions hindering growth?,” The Globe and Mail, July 24, 2022
“The great retention,” The Globe and Mail, April 29, 2022
“Hiring automation can help attract top talent in a tight labour market,” The Globe and Mail, March 1, 2022
Glassdoor/Harris Poll, Sept 2019, US
Glassdoor Internal Data, Oct 2018 - Apr 2019
“40+ Stats For Companies to Keep In Mind for 2021,” Glassdoor
“Essential Elements of Employee Retention,” Society for Human Resource Management, 2017
“Meet Canada’s 2021 Best,” Great Place to Work, 2021
“40+ Stats For Companies to Keep In Mind for 2021,” Glassdoor
“New study shows we work harder when we are happy,” University of Warwick, October 2021
Advertising feature provided by Indeed. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.