Home > Uncategorized > Employment Branding – To What End?

Employment Branding – To What End?

If your talent acquisition leaders are getting caught up in “employment branding” conversations with their agency, ask them, “to what end?”.  Fact of the matter is the value of your brand is determined by your target market, not by your advertising agency. Advertising creates awareness but awareness does not equal a powerful brand. Preference equals a powerful brand and outside of maybe the fashion industry, no amount of brand marketing can deliver the amount of preference or consumer choice required to create a brand.

Employment Branding is an even more nebulous, what does “employment branding” even mean? Ask 10 different agencies and you will get 10 different answers. Why, because employment branding is not easy to understand and many agency reps tend to explain it in a manner that makes it sound like recruitment marketing, which it is not. You may have a strong brand that helps you attract candidates like Microsoft, Target, Wall Street Journal or a strong local or regional brand, but the odds of you building an “employment brand” with a company that isn’t already a strong brand are slim at best. Yet millions of dollars are spent every year by talent acquisition execs that were lead to believe this would have an impact on their recruiting efforts.

Iin this day-and-age, with unemployment at historic highs, it is a rare exception when a job seeker actual stops before accepting or applying for a position to consider the affects of the companies brand on their resume or future employment. Today job title and location are the two big attractions and if I am an employer, I simply need to make sure that my jobs are easily found by job seekers and it is easy for the job seeker to interact with my company.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your company logo prominently displayed on all your recruitment marketing efforts, or an employment branding strategy, in fact I recommend it. But never lose sight of the fact that the first responsibility of a talent acquisition leader is to make it easy for your recruiters to find and hire quality candidates. Deploying an “employment branding” campaign will not be a means to that end.

The bottom line is that the only time when something called “employment brand” actually exists is when an unbiased third party like Fortune, Forbes, Money or some other magazine or respected media comes out with a “Best Places to Work” list and your company is on it. Other than that, you’re better off spending your employment branding dollars on lottery tickets!

In my humble opinion.

Stay tuned for my next post on the topic of “Brand Jacking”

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  1. April 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Wow.
    So let’s all take a step back from the rhetoric so we can analyze this problem objectively. First of all, I can easily say that no one of competence has ever really explained employment branding to you or shown you numeric results of how it can positively affect a company. And, I assure you from experience, it can.

    So let’s start with the basics:
    Employment branding refers to a larger group of services that treat recruitment and retention efforts like building a brand. It has nothing to do with creating brand-building tv spots like Nike or Apple, rather it has everything to do with using the same emotional triggers (often seen in good advertising and design) that draw someone to a brand outside of just rational benefits. Think Nike or Apple. Their products are more expensive, but their branding makes people want to buy them for the association and perception benefits.

    Case in point, the EVP, or employer value proposition, is an attempt to define the intangible qualities of working with your company. Other than their balance sheet and dental plan, what motivates me to want to work for Google over Yahoo; Nike over Reebok; or The Home Depot over Lowe’s? Sure, many of those things will be tertiary employee benefits, like bringing your dog to work or not working in a sweat shop, but they make a difference. Recruitment advertising throws a laundry list up on an 8.5×11 flyer and hopes somebody notices. It’s a classic push strategy. Employment branding takes those ideas and shapes them into a message that features the benefit of working with that company to a candidate. It uses both emotional and rational messaging to draw them into that company.

    Just like in a retail brand, the manifestation of an employment brand is the combination of several talent facing and employee facing concepts, including talent management software, referral programs, college recruitment programs, signature experiences, internal communications and recruitment. Shaping a consistent look and feel that delivers on a company’s core values is really where the agency comes in. They should be able to help a CTO or HR manager extract most of the core ideas for the employment brand from the company vision statement and extended intangible benefits. Then the agency can help them express that creatively in a campaign. Also, the agency should help them place it in different media that just classifieds and Monster. There are too many opportunities out there to get in front of potential candidates that just “the old standby’s.”

    And with the economy in the shape it’s in, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re getting the right people, not just warm bodies. Because your applicant flow will be far greater now, you need to be actively screening for good people that share your core values. Again, this is where EB comes in. Not only should it screen in the right people, it should effectively screen out the scrubs you don’t want. In work that we’ve done in our past, we’ve flat out told people that “this job isn’t for everyone.” You know what that effectively does? It tells the lazy dude to buzz off and encourages the competitive candidate to step up and apply. We’ve also done work that showcased different working environments that stiffer, more corporate types would hate. And in numeric, quantifiable ways, it has worked. But don’t just take it from me, take it from the Marine Corps. They used the “We’re looking for a few good men” line starting in 1776, and for over 200 years it helped them attract a different breed of soldier. Screening worked then, and iit will continue to work today.

    I know you like to think that agency folk don’t know what they’re talking about because it’s easy to hate on agencies. We lie, cheat and steal just like Darrin Stephens or Mel Gibson from What Women Want. However, some of us actually do our homework, know what we’re talking about and make a difference for our clients. Some of us do great creative work that’s strategically sound and helps HR managers get better people. So before you cast wide aspersions that employment branding is throwing millions of dollars away, dig a tad deeper. It does work.

    Actually, check out a presentation I did on the basic case for Employment Branding.
    It’s featured on http://www.Insightory.com this week as their key insight.

  2. April 21, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Very thought provoking article and response. I do have to agree with the response, however. The idea that an employment brand is nebulous is, as “mewrite” states, rhetoric. Is a consumer brand nebulous? Essentially, the idea and premise behind an employment brand is to use all the same principles of consumer branding, but focus them on attracting top talent, not new customers. “Why do people buy your product instead of your competitor’s?” is the same question as “Why do people choose to work for you instead of your competitor?”. This really isn’t a far stretch at all.

    Secondly, the point that you cannot build upon an employment brand unless you are a huge national brand is simply not true. There are wonderful small businesses all across America that attract top talent away from large corporations every day…and it’s not because they put their logo on their job ad.

    Finally, I also disagree with the notion that “your brand is determined by your target market.” In reality, an employment brand is determined by your current employees. That is, your culture and EVP are what your employees say they are-period. Again, this is parallel to consumer branding, just substituting employees for customers. In consumer branding, your brand is determined by your customers. In fact, your target market is identified by understanding what your existing brand is, then identifying people who will fit into that environment. Sorry TheJobGuy, but I think you’ve missed the mark on this one.

  3. Ryan Estis
    April 22, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Pick up a copy of the current issue of the Corporate Journal of Recruiting Leadership and read about the Employment Branding initiatives underway at Addidas (The Incredible Power of The Employment Brand), Microsoft and Catholic Healthcare. I think you may reconsider your position. You are dead on right in your assertion that Recruitment Advertising isn’t Employment Branding. And perhaps that misnomer has been incorrectly perpetuated and confused the issue. EB is proactively managing your image/reputation/experience as a quality employer among your primary stakeholder sets – Employees and Candidates. Its about creating positive, authentic, consistent experiences. I also concur that those experiences and what the stakeholders say defines the brand. Culture and Reputation have much more impact on a quality candidate’s consideration around applying for job than title and location. We’re still above 90% employment and that target demographic will carefully consider an abundance of factors and a specific and personal value proposition prior to both applying and considering an offer of employment. I think a lot of the work being done at Jobs2Web perpetuates an improved brand experience. But recruiting is only part of the story (and advertising less a part) as the Journal features illustrate.

    • April 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

      The reality is that with today’s social media and easy web access, organizations have less control over their brands. One bad tweet can cause an employment brand or any brand to go south. Best practice shows that organizations should monitor the web to respond to and prevent negative activity.

  4. April 22, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Great reply, to which I will add that the basic definition of a “brand” is a relationship (at least the way it was taught to me at JWT back in the day… JWT the brand-building agency). Your “employer brand” is the relationship an employer has with its workers. BrandING is the act of communicating and/or promoting that relationship or brand. Your employer brand does make a difference to job seekers, even in tough times such as today. (Many will take a job just for the paycheck. Question is, how well will such workers perform?) And it makes an even greater difference to your existing workforce. Data show that engaged employees– those for whom the brand is strong and authentic– are more likely to give discretionary effort to their work. Ignore your employer brand at your peril.

  5. Ken Horst
    April 22, 2009 at 10:16 am

    OK so maybe my post was a little sharp edged! I appreciate the thoughtful responses and information regarding the Art of Branding.

    To Mark’s points, “Your “employer brand” is the relationship an employer has with its workers.” I think of this as corporate culture and critical to recruiting efforts. I do however find it difficult to believe that any employment branding campaign can communicate that message in a way that fills open positions with qualified candidates in a timely manner and achieves a respectable ROI. Not saying a company shouldn’t do it, just saying they shouldn’t confuse it with recruitment marketing.

  6. Ken Horst
    April 22, 2009 at 10:31 am

    To Jason’s points;
    To your second point regarding national brands, I did include in my post strong local and regional brands as being relevant. I couldn’t agree with you more on that point.

    I also agree with your third point, that your employment brand is driven or determined by your employees. Instead of saying “..your brand is determined by your target market” I should have said that “the VALUE of your brand is determined by your target market” They either respond to your brand messaging , products and/or services or they don’t.

    Thanks for your comments.

  1. April 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm
  2. February 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

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