What the **** is Employer Branding?

"Businesses which don’t give this attention over the next few years are going to struggle badly"

I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by in the last year where I haven’t been involved in some conversation about Employer Branding. It’s a HOT topic. In fact, its one of those areas that pops up only a few times in a career and you really think to yourself; this moves the goalposts. Think Internet, think ecommerce, think social media. I genuinely don’t think I’m over exaggerating.

So firstly I should probably define it.

“Employer brand describes an employer's reputation as a place to work, and their employee value proposition, as opposed to the more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers.” Thanks Wikipedia.

I’m going to make a bold statement now.

Businesses which don’t give this attention over the next few years are going to struggle badly. Why? Because quite simply, they won’t attract new talent. Old staff will naturally move on, or seek employers who do value this. Without staff, what sort of business do you have?

It’s not just millennials and Gen Z that want to work for businesses with a purpose. There are some scary stats (well for employers anyway) that around a 1/3 of people have reconsidered their own purpose due to Covid and around half have thought about changing job/career entirely! Those who have a pupose, aligned with that of the business are more likely to stay and be engaged. The sad fact is that I know too many companies, who are stuck in their ways. They probably have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy on their website which none of their staff know about. Someone might have been asked to chose a charity of the year and they might just agree to people working from home a bit more because the global pandemic has shown that they can actually trust their people!

Every week, my agency Optix is approached for roles and that’s in a candidate shortage sector. My friends often ask how that happens when they are struggling to find talent themselves, so I thought it might be useful to put down a few of the ideas in this post.  

Being Active on Social – First things first, is your business active on social channels and not just selling its wares? Can candidates build up a picture of what it’s like to work for you or do they just see your latest news or deals? This takes time. You can’t put up a few posts of your team eating lunch together and expect people to pour in. It takes consistent work to show the personality of your business.

Being Active on Social – No, not a typo. Are your people consistently active on social? If so, are they saying nice things about your business? This is probably one of the most powerful factors when it comes to employer branding. Of course my company is going to tell you it’s a great place to work, however when the team say it…that you can’t beat! Remember your people are likely to be connected with likeminds and their peers.

The following posts were written by members of our team and as you’ll see, come straight from the heart.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/crystal-carter-digital_happy-birthday-to-us-happy-birthday-to-us-activity-6823188728840798208-182z

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jackwarne_exeter-agency-optix-solutions-recognised-activity-6802601024017321984-mOW7/

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/becky-brennan-46b246108_team-agencylife-activity-6825337632541700097-ZZB5

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jackwarne_digitalmarketing-ilovewhatido-passionfound-activity-6825691901593706497-2mII

You can’t fake this people. But you can treat people well, actually care about them and give them the tools and training to know how to share, should they feel the desire to.

Invest in your people – people (usually) want to grow and develop. If you’re the sort of firm which backs this then great, you’re already doing the right thing. Optix currently has members of the team studying for qualifications in project management, data science and people management. These qualifications all happen on our time and are fully supported by our Board.

Sustainability – Have you agreed to offset a few trees or do you actually care about sustainability and doing more to help? This year we’re focusing on wildlife and our local environment. Last month we did a beach clean in Exmouth. The whole team (plus some clients) downed tools at lunch on a Friday, put our out of offices on and headed off to the beach with cleaning equipment and in support of surfers against sewage.  Last year my co-founder James, rotavated a field and planted a wildflower meadow for us. We have two beehives which he keeps on that meadow. You can see some of the amazing footage of what goes bump in the night here.

Care about Mental Health – We’re a Mindful Employer company which ensures our people have access to resources and help at anytime should they be suffering. I think this needs to go deeper than that though. Both Rob and I as leaders within the business are very open about our own mental health and sharing stories which help others. Leading from the front in this way helps to demonstrate to your team that you genuinely do actually care and its not just a tickbox exercise. I recently shared a post on LinkedIn about mental health coping strategies and I kid you not, I had three people message me asking for a job because they wanted to work for someone who did that kind of thing openly! Recently being recognised on this year’s InsideOut Leaderboard for role model leaders across the world for helping to #smashthestigma is a very proud moment for me.

Ensure your leaders are visible – Its common that your leaders will have larger personal networks on many of the professional social channels than those more junior. They’ve probably been around for longer right. The question is are they posting regularly and is the sort of content they share the kind of thing that will attract candidates to the company? Sadly, if they’re not bought in or doing some of the things above then it might be hard for them to do this as you’ve got to have things to talk about! Rob does a great job of this at ours. You can follow him here.

Flexibility – If there is one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that it is actually possible to work remotely. I’m not saying its everyone’s cup of tea but if you are able to offer it rather than tell people they need to be strapped to a desk 9-5 in the office so they can battle 2 hours of rush hour traffic everyday then maybe you’ll attract more quality candidates.

Perks – I’ve left this til last because sometimes it feels a bit throw away. Everyone has these right? “Great rates of pay, x days holiday, sick pay, pool table, ping pong etc”…ok maybe those last two aren’t for everyone! These days this isn’t enough. You need to think differently to capture the imagination of a potential workforce. We’ve recently signed up to a corporate deal at our local golf and country club which means the team all have access to an amazing set of swimming pools, the gym, tennis, squash and classes, all on us. Next year we’ll be investing in golf too so those who enjoy the sport can play it when they like and we can take our clients out too. For the last couple of years we’ve also offered an hour and a half for lunch if people are doing something to improve their health and wellbeing.

Oh and then there are dogs. We have a few office dogs and they do wonders for the wellbeing of our staff and sometimes I think for our clients!

We take great pride in making our organisation an amazing place to work. This is born from leaders who actually care and are passionate about this stuff. If you find yourself booking a meeting to discuss your company benefits maybe you’ve gone wrong already…just saying. This should be part of your values and not something the senior leadership team dream up in order to attract people to your business.

What does your company do that’s a bit different? I’d love to know if you agree with my points above.