Employer branding. What’s the big deal?
By Dr Grace Mansah-Owusu
What makes your organisation the ‘place to be?’ How do you attract the brightest and the best from all over the world? The latest buzzword on the block, Employer Branding- that’s how!
The term employer branding has been bandied about since the 1990’s where Ambler and Barrow (1996) chose to apply the language and techniques of brand management to HR management. They defined an employer brand as: "the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment and identified with the employing company”.
The gold standard of employer branding includes companies such as Google and Facebook. In 2010 whilst Google were recruiting for 6,000 jobs they received a reported 75,000 applicants, which can be mainly attributed to their unique employee brand. So does this fancy phrase actually help organisations?
What’s the big deal?
Employer branding has been taking from the marketing language and is a child of its time. The late 90's was an era of a buoyant labour market. Employees were fighting for the best places to work and employers were desperately trying to differentiate themselves to attract the best talent. Employee branding was used to communicate a company’s story, ethos and culture to attract the best.
With a clear employee brand organisations can cut the costs of recruitment, increase productivity, motivation and retention of top talent. If an employee perceives they are getting what was promised in the employee brand communication, the psychological contract will be fulfilled and equity is maintained.
With an active and dynamic employer brand an organisations reputation amongst current and potential employees can be increased, leading many to perceive the organisation is a great place to work. Employees and investors alike will be queuing up to work with the organisation (in theory).
What makes employees stay- psychological contract explains
The psychological contract is defined as “mutual expectations between the employer and the employee” (Levinson et al 1962) and is strongly linked to employer branding. The psychological contract describes a loyalty to the firm in exchange for job security. Employees will try and fulfil the needs of the organisation if the organisation fulfils the needs of the employees. Where the psychological contract is the unwritten promise between the employee and employer; employer branding is the communication of the culture of the organisation to potential and current employees.
Both concepts need to be adhered to when developing and maintaining an employer branding concept in order to keep motivation high and to attract and retain talent.
How can Employer Branding be used?
A way organisations can use the unique aspects of their brand to attract the best talent is first to establish what that is. Researching what makes you special, talking to current past and potential employees may be a way to do this. Conducting interviews or focus groups can be a way to do this effectively. What is important at this stage is to make sure the research captures something special about your organisation. What are the unique offers? What makes employees want to work for you? What makes them want to stay?
The next step is to communicate this message to current and potential employees. This can be done in a variety of ways, internal messages, emails, bill boards, meetings, recruitment events and glossy brand brochures.
Many fans are singing the praises of employee branding for retention and selection however there are some disadvantages. Critics have stated that employee branding is a fad, a fashion statement with no substance. Many employee value propositions have very similar wordings or rhetoric and do not differentiate themselves from other companies.
Clambering to be on the front pages of Best Places to Work or The Times 100 is futile if it doesn’t actually mean anything to your employees. What is important is to make sure employee branding is done genuinely, followed through and is not just a gimmick to attract graduates. Once an employee spots a disconnection in the employee brand proposition and the reality of the nine till five the psychological contract may be broken leading to poor retention levels and bad feeling.
About the author
Dr Grace Mansah-Owusu is a member of the British Psychological Society and has had 6 years experience working in a variety of organisations in diversity, training, assessment, selection and lecturing.
She has recently completed her PhD which focused on the boundaryless career and its applicability to black knowledge intensive workers in the UK. Grace is an active blogger and would like to spread awareness of HR trends and information to increase organisational effectiveness and well being.