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Why You Need an Employer Brand (and How You Can Create One)

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Marketers are increasingly aware of the concept of employee brand advocates—but that usually means asking employees to share content and information in support of specific products and services. But if you ask a marketer, "What is an employer brand?" he or she probably won't know.

The employer brand deals with something fundamental to the organization: understanding and communicating what makes employees want to work there.

Creating and iterating an employer brand is something that, when done well, creates a natural path to employee brand advocacy.

Some of the best talent acquisition professionals are showing marketing just how this is done.

Wilson HCG Human Capital Group's recently released its report, "2014's Fortune 500 Top 100 Employment Brands." Not surprisingly, its top 10 includes Google, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. Consumers already know these companies' products. Many consumers also have a pretty good idea of what it must be like to work there, even if they don't know anyone who has!


This latter awareness, driven by the companies' employer brands, is best expressed by employees—genuinely, based on experience, and in their own words.

How do you create a best-in-class employer brand that employees can easily and willingly communicate?

Here are three fundamental have-to-haves:

1. An employer brand needs to be both flexible and consistent

The employer brand needs to move at the speed of social and flex depending on what employees are saying and what is resonating at the time. The employer brand cannot wait for lengthy focus groups and surveys to take place. It has to be constantly iterated based on what employees say it is.

Employees are the most trusted source of the employer brand and what they say can either contradict or reinforce what the organization says about what it's like to work there. Regularly taking the pulse of employees through various channels—including social media, job boards, and Glassdoor—is critical if a company is going to keep its employer brand aligned and consistent.

The underlying culture of the organization is not going to constantly change. Culture remains consistent. What changes is what is emphasized about the company at any given time.

Are there recent accolades that everyone is excited about? Are there corporate responsibility initiatives that resonate strongly during a certain period? Being able to recognize these shifts and focus on different flavors of the employer brand is key.

2. An employer brand has to be genuine and customizable

A really strong employer brand both attracts the right prospects and engages current employees. What makes it really strong?

Josh Schwede, an executive vicep-president with QUEsocial, states that talent acquisition and marketing need to be in sync: "How does your employer brand fit with your corporate brand? How is it different? All of these things have to be considered to make it authentic."

An integrated approach to the employer brand helps ensure that it is true to the employees’ entire experience with the organization.

Customization is a concept every good marketer knows, and social has made this need acute. Your employer brand is expressed on an individual level. So if you have 10,000 employees, you should prepare to have 10,000 slightly different ways of communicating the employer brand.

3. An employer brands needs to include the one key ingredient that is the most trusted source of the brand and what which companies control the least: the voice of employee

"Employer brand: You can foster it, you can lead it, you can reveal it," states Bryan Chaney, talent sourcing and attraction strategist at Twilio. "Only the employees own it."

This is not about control... It's about going to the people that know the employer brand better than anyone and helping them connect to the parts of it they love. Is it coworkers, location, good works, or mentorship?

When employees get the help needed to tell their story in a way that makes them look their best, they typically want to.

Make it easy for employees to look good by association to the brand. If their story can easily include the employer brand, they advocate in the most natural way, from social profiles to content sharing to Friday night conversations.

Employer branding is the No. 2 priority for 2015 among talent acquisition professionals globally, according to LinkedIn. Marketers need to understand it, embrace it, and work with talent acquisition to create employee brand advocacy rooted in something sustainable.


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Lisa Cervenka is co-founder and chief brand officer of Brand Amper, an employer branding platform

LinkedIn: Lisa G. Cervenka 

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