Getting started with employer branding
The current overheated labour market makes it even more important to come across as attractive an employer as possible. How do you win the hearts of today's talents? Employer branding is crucial. About Now, How and Wow!
The booming economy is causing overheating in the labour market, especially among skilled workers. The lack of staff means hospital beds lie empty, construction projects are postponed, and rows of impatient citizens and businesses queue up at government offices. The battle for talent has erupted, and merely posting vacancies on job sites is simply not enough to attract the right people. The talent we are looking for is already working (at the competitor), being fought over on campus, hiding behind adblockers (the ability to block certain elements on a page, such as pop-up ads), or is deregistering from LinkedIn to avoid recruiters.
This is a time, in every aspect, when organisations really have to look closely at their positioning and ability to attract labour. What is our story as an employer? Are we ready to take on the new generations entering the labour market? How do we capture the heads and hearts of today’s talent? These are generations who want to be inspired with more meaningfulness, dynamism, development, coaching, freedom, and working authentically under their own steam. All this demands a fresh vision in terms of employer branding, also called the only long-term recruitment strategy.
Besides the shortage in the labour market and increasing competition, there is another important reason for having a unique employer branding strategy; more selectivity. These days, organisations have to be even more critical about who they take on. The right ‘reMarkable’ talent brings colour to the culture, adding individuality, spice and flavour to the brand, and making an organisation recognisable to its customers as a consequence. However, talent is also looking for organisations that already exude colour; organisations that believe in something and go for it, and in which the talented can recognise themselves. Nowadays, it’s people who make or break the brand by the way they act and communicate. Committed people, who believe in their brand, really get behind the business. They are enthusiastic, they perform, and they communicate with pride. Medewerkers (co-workers) become ‘medemerkers’ (co-branders).
The essence of building a strong employer brand lies in building a strong brand culture, based on the simple principle: don’t sell the job, sell an inspiring culture which makes people proud. A culture about what they want and what they can do, not what they need, and which inspires performance and can fulfil the brand's promise to the client. In such a brand culture, HR and marketers pull together in optimising a people-driven brand, and brand-driven people.
At the heart of this culture is the organisation’s identity; its soul, spirit, and energy. Finding that unique, energetic and authentic identity is the heart of the employer’s brand strategy and associated promise made to talent; the EVP (employer value proposition). The key building blocks in this are an organisation’s mission (why), core values (how) and core competencies and ambitions (what). We can optimise each of these building blocks to maximise meaningfulness, distinction, and energy.
The next step to finding identity is to activate and celebrate identity to the full. ReMarkable leadership can also lead the way in communication, HR policy (an HR cycle, from recruiting, selecting, onboarding, developing, and assessing, to ‘reMarkable' rewards and career trajectories), facilities (such as processes, buildings, work environments, tools, etc.). Not forgetting, of course, recognisable services and products. As long as identity and culture are unambiguously and consistently at the heart of everything that is communicated and done, the brand will be powerful, striking, distinctive and recognisable in all its forms, whether on the labour market (employer branding) or internally (internal branding)
The right ‘reMarkable’ talent brings colour to the culture, adding spice and flavour to the brand
Intrinsically more attractive
Employer branding is not a quick fix. It’s difficult to work sustainably on a strong employer brand when budgets might be related to random current vacancies. Starting on the inside gives results on the outside. The most important strategy in employer branding today is firstly to become intrinsically more attractive as an employer. Secondly, it’s necessary to facilitate enthusiastic 'medemerkers’ (co-branders) in their role as ambassadors in their online and other social networks. Examples include snackable content, social media training, ambassador apps, etc. In our new world of flexible working, it’s also worth considering a much broader target group with whom you want to establish that brand relationship. The most valuable ambassadors are enthusiastic flexitime workers, interim workers or cooperation partners, because these are also the ones who promote the employer brand at competitors.
Ultimately, we want to click, to enchant, to inspire, and to enthuse. To make things viral, with a serious risk of infection; this is another area where we make the difference. The 'How' might be all about building a good story based on energy and distinction, but the 'Wow' is about how it’s perceived. The story must touch both the head and the heart; it must go beyond information, and inspire. There are many forces at play which can strengthen this Wow factor, such as the power of a strong, unique vision and products. One example is Apple, which has become a global talent magnet thanks to 'think different', iPhones, and Steve Jobs. There are also striking examples closer to our home in our Netherlands, such as Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg Nederland, who is revolutionising the world of healthcare with his vision on self-management, . Another example is the municipality of Molenweerd, which decided not to build a town hall and simply issue passports to citizens at home, or let the town council meet in local businesses, pubs or living rooms. This really brings the core values to life in a personal, intimate and digital way. It’s so ‘reMarkable' that it’s the talk of the town, and really put Molenwaard and its role as employer on the map. Of course, it also used the power of beauty for the Wow effect, with imaginative and articulate texts, videos, images, work environments, art and other forms. This can be seen on sites such as Werkvoordelft.nl or Werkenbijallenovery.nl, where the council organisation is beautifully represented alongside a narrative with substance.
Exploiting the power of the leader as a narrator
Finally, I would like to make a plea for brand leadership, which is something I believe is often underused in many companies. Leaders with a connecting role (ultimately at every level, even informally) should be more aware of their crucial role in building and activating the desired brand culture and attractive employership. A few more ‘attention vitamins' and more time for in-house staff wouldn’t go amiss. Good examples are people like Dik Wessels from VolkerWessels, or Colette Kloosterman van Eerd from Jumbo, who demonstrate with exemplary behaviour positive values. Their behaviour is contagious, and spreads the culture like a virus. It’s about using the power of leadership to be a storyteller, and not hesitate to repeat the core story time and time again, and about the strength of leaders who look around the company carefully, noticing and celebrating ‘reMarkable’ behaviour. It puts people on a platform, and appreciates and rewards them.
Bringing things to life
Perhaps you were thinking about asking the communication department to make a nice story on your recruitment website. Well, it’s an option for sure. However, if we incorporate the Now, How and Wow into our story, we build an employer brand that comes to life in all aspects of the employee journey. Then, thinking about building the holistic concept of brand culture becomes exciting; building an authentic and inspiring connecting culture as a driver of achievement, movement, inspiration and attraction, for both customers and talent. This is the potency of a living employer branding strategy, which connects leaders, HR and communication around the theme of a great working community in finding and telling a great story.