Coca-Cola, Bank of Montreal, Hewlett Packard, Allstate. As consumers we are aware of these brands, and the products or services they represent. We recognize the brands – and related logos and distinct visual identities – we see on product packaging, at retail locations or in advertisements. When we are exposed to these brands, we have an immediate emotional reaction — which may be positive, negative or neutral. Deserved or not, our perception of these brands drives whether we as consumers will purchase their products or services.
What you may not realize is that each of these organizations, in fact every organization, also has a brand in the labour market — an employment brand. It is the image that candidates, current employees and others have of your firm as a workplace. Every time potential candidates review your job ad, or employees consider their future with your organization, they have an immediate emotional reaction — positive, neutral or negative. That reaction – that perception of your attractiveness as an employer – instantly determines whether you will be able to attract and keep the talent you need.
By definition, employment brands are highly subjective. They may be based on inaccurate information or a groundless rumour, yet they are no less valid because perception is reality. You may have a great position and a well-executed recruitment campaign, but if the candidates you are targeting hold negative perceptions about your company, they simply won’t consider the position. And if your current employees share those perceptions, the likelihood is strong that they are searching for new employment now, or will be soon.
If you’ve never given any thought to your employment brand, there is a compelling reason to make it a priority now. Demographic shifts and other factors are significantly thinning the supply of quality candidates in the labour market. Once a buyer’s market, with plenty of people to fill positions, today it is a seller’s market. Talented candidates are scrutinizing every job opportunity and becoming highly selective in the organizations they wish to work for. Our recruitment consultants see it every day in the level of interest that candidates have for the clients we represent. Clients with neutral or negative employment brands make our job much harder.
The companies that talented professionals are choosing – the companies that have the advantage in the increasingly fierce competition for talent – are the ones that have established themselves as employers of choice. These are organizations that develop and communicate a clear and positive employee value proposition — one that resonates with the type of employees they wish to recruit and retain. If your company has a neutral or negative employment brand, it’s highly unlikely that the talent you want will choose you over a company with a clear, high profile and appealing brand. To ensure your organization is able to secure the talent it needs to execute your business strategies, you need to invest in and actively manage your employment brand.
Clearly, your employment brand will make or break you in the labour market. Yet, there are companies across Atlantic Canada that haven’t made an effort to become or promote themselves as employers of choice in their industries. What these companies fail to realize is that you need to constantly sell yourself to your current and potential employees to attract and hold on to the best of the best. It’s not just about creating visibility; many leaders forget that even if you aren’t actively managing your brand, your employees will. They are your brand ambassadors. At weekend BBQ’s or via Facebook, they talk about you with their families, friends and colleagues. They may be rating you and sharing stories on websites such as Rate- MyEmployer.ca. If they only have negative things to say about their experiences with you, then your employment brand will be negative, making it all the more difficult, not to mention expensive, to recruit quality employees.
Good, neutral or negative, your employment brand is constantly evolving and changing in the minds of employees. It lives or dies day-to-day, even moment-to-moment, based on how you treat them, and what you do for them. Which means you always have opportunities to improve it. As you build your brand, you’ll find there is a solid return on investment, because it takes less effort and money to attract and retain the talent you need to be successful when people see you as an employer of choice. When you have and live a strong employment brand as an organization, you gain a crucial advantage in the tightening labour market.