10 Steps to a Successful Employer Branding Strategy

by Michael Sarsteiner in — October 2020
Would you buy an anonymous product from a disagreeable vendor with bad online reviews? We wouldn’t, either. Just like products, businesses have a brand or an image that lives inside the heads of their employees and candidates. The employer brand ought to communicate what a business stands for and what makes it unique. Both are things that cannot merely be thought about, but also have to be lived day-by-day to be authentic. Does that sound complicated? With our 10 Steps for Successful Employer Branding, it does not have to be. Discover our tips and inexpensive next steps.
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You know how quickly an online review can be written and spread amongst friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Companies that fail to take care of their image increasingly have a bad hand when it comes to winning the war for talents. Professionals these days are extremely choosy and make clear demands of the companies they apply to.

Why Employer Branding Is Important

Every business wants to call talented and motivated employees their own. The employer brand will become more important than ever as headcounts shrink and the importance of each placement grows. Sustained employer branding campaigns increase the efficiency of recruiting, influence the quality of the applications received, and promote the loyalty of employees to the company. Which employer branding measures are effective, sustainable, and inexpensive? Before we look at strategy and implementation, take a look at what employer branding is not. Do not confuse employer branding with an empty marketing campaign promising the world and failing to deliver. That kind of campaign creates a backlash.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker, management pioneer

Summary: The Goals of Employer Branding

  • More successful recruiting
  • Securing the loyalty of existing employees
  • Reducing turnover and saving money
  • Keeping know-how in the company
  • Ensuring competitiveness with qualified employees
  • Improving company culture and climate
  • Increased productivity
  • Last but not least: improving your image as an employer

“Our strong employer brand helps me win over new talents for epunkt. I don’t have to try to get candidates excited about our company – they come already excited after seeing our employer branding page on the website, hearing word-of-mouth, and getting recommendations from current and former employees. This means we can concentrate on finding out if we are a good match personality-wise and if the open position corresponds to the candidate’s dream job, “ explains Astrid Fladenhofer, Human Resources Talent Acquisition Manager at epunkt.

Astrid fladenhofer 1

Sexy and you Know It? How to Craft a Powerful Employer Brand

“Employer branding doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to ask yourself how you want to be as an employer. The answers have to be authentic and coherent – both to yourself and others. Bad employer branding is worse than an employer brand left to chance.”

Astrid Fladenhofer

Sharpen your profile. Start with an analysis of the status quo and define your goals. Answer the following questions:

  • What defines me as an employer? What is my Employer Value Proposition?
  • How can I score a 12 as an employer on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • What can I do to offer an attractive workplace?
  • What feedback do I get from employees and candidates? What do I do about it?
  • What is especially important to employees in my target audience?
  • How do my company’s employee benefits stack up? Avantgarde, state-of-the-art, mediocre, or on their last legs?
  • Why should a qualified professional stick with us?

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek, author and consultant

10 Steps to a Successful Employer Branding Strategy

  1. Know your USP. What is your employer DNA? What are your company mission, values, vision, and culture? These are the pillars of your employer brand. Are you communicating them? Careful: 20 years of recruiting have shown that only authentic messages work as the foundation of a credible employer brand. Let Simon Sinek inspire you with the simple question: “why?”
  2. Ask the painful questions. It might hurt. But you have to feel it to heal it. Take an honest look at the status quo to discover where you can improve. Painful questions might include: “Why isn’t anyone applying for our open jobs? How attractive are we as an employer for the candidates we are trying to attract? What do the professionals we are looking for want? How can I attract the attention of the right talents for my company?”
  3. Let’s get real: employee surveys as the key to the employer brand. Employees are
    1. Part of the employer brand
    2. The target audience
    3. Brand evangelists

      Nothing makes more sense that developing the brand from the inside out and getting high internal buy-in. Whether strategy workshops, focus groups, or regular surveys (we use TeamEcho): the insights you gain are invaluable.
  4. Chuck vague job ads. According to a current study from Monster, seven out of ten candidates complain that job ads are too imprecise and reveal too little about the job. As a rule, candidates use search engines and job portals to find jobs that are described clearly and accurately with very specifically formulated job descriptions. Taking time to formulate a clear job ad saves time on the back end when you are selecting candidates. Put yourself in the shoes of the job seeker and formulate the job ad the way the job seeker will look for it. Check out more tips for formulating the perfect job ad here.
  5. The career pages on your website: an underestimated tool. Your career pages are one of your best employer branding tools for external communication. They are perfect for potential employees and for presenting yourself as an attractive employer. The pages should be completely dedicated to the target audience (personas can be very helpful here). The user interface should be clearly structured and easy to use with important information compactly and intuitively communicated. All open positions, videos, contact information, and a direct link for online applications should be easy to find. Careful: inflationary platitudes (like “we put people first”) quickly boomerang and scare off the best talents just as quickly as benefits that no one wants, fixed working hours, or dress codes (believe or not, they still exist!).
  6. People love stories. Tell yours – with pictures, videos, blog posts, or slideshows. Storytelling isn’t just for job ads. It is also an effective way of convincing candidates during job interviews.
  7. Make your onboarding process the best one your candidate has ever experienced. New employees integrate professionally, socially, and emotionally faster and better when there is a structured onboarding process. Be a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10 and go long on respect and appreciation. We have a short get-to-know-you with the team before the first day (nips nervousness in the bud), a welcome breakfast on the first day, a welcome binder with important information like an organigram and the training schedule, a welcome day for all newcomers, a buddy system, scheduled feedback meetings, and cross-departmental trainings. Good recruiting doesn’t end with the employment contract. A good onboarding process is a sign of respect that makes new employees feel welcome.
  8. Encourage growth with opportunities for training and development. Most employees leave their jobs because they are bored, want new challenges, or don’t seen any meaning in their work. It doesn’t have to be this way. When you help employees develop new skills and grow into new roles, you gain their loyalty – even in times of crisis.
  9. Look at Glassdoor and Kununu as opportunities. Kununu derives from the Swahili word for “unwritten page.” In the meantime, there is hardly an unwritten page for any of the more than 950,000 employees to be found in the portal. No one wants to buy a pig in a poke. Candidates give employers a background check, just like employers do with candidates!
  10. “Action eats everything for breakfast.” We agree with Johan Eriksson, Head of Specialists at Google. To create real change, you have to act. Fulfil those promises, open up communication, allow for mistakes, and express respect and appreciation.

“Inconvenient and nonfunctional application portals and missing contact information can be enough to disappoint candidates, not to mention incomplete information during phone calls or, worst of all, completely failing to respond to applications,” notes Sam Zibushka, Managing Director at epunkt.

Cheap Yet Priceless: Inexpensive Employer Branding Opportunities

Employer branding is a process. It’s a marathon, during which you can sprint from time to time. The most attractive employer isn’t the one with the biggest budget for several different activities. That is because employer branding is primarily about putting your company culture to the test in daily business with employees and candidates, not about getting attention. These inexpensive and free activities build your employer brand:

  • Use your blog, newsletter, trade fair booth, and events to show your desired candidates why you are the most attractive employer in your branch. Use interactive content like videos, pictures, graphics, and GIFs in addition to texts.
  • Offer glimpses of the work environment and let the team and manager talk.
  • Take an active interest in the candidate journey. This includes anything a candidate may experience during the application process – from the search for a job ad, to the application process (online and with as few steps as possible), to the job interview. It should always be quick, simple, user-friendly, and characterized by reliable feedback and friendliness.
  • Post internal “job ambassador” messages on social media. That makes your employer branding tangible and attracts positive attention.
  • Do good and talk about it. Many companies have attractive offers for employees but fail to communicate them actively.
  • Transparency, communication, and appreciation in times of crisis: a current survey by the Deutsche Employer Branding Akademie (DEBA) of 500 Austrians shows that 90% of respondents think the behavior of their employer during the Corona crisis influences the attractiveness as an employer.