Like many large-scale organizational initiatives, employer branding was quickly placed on the back burner when the recession hit. This was unfortunate, particularly given the countless benefits and outcomes associated with strong employer brands, such as less turnover, improved engagement, higher offer acceptance rates, and reduced recruitment costs.
Thus, one of the most exciting things to emerge in HR over the past few years is the renewed focus on employer branding. Lately, I’ve enjoyed a number of helpful articles and interesting perspectives shared on ERE, from Jody Ordioni’s persuasive snapshot of the benefits associated with attractive employer brands (4 Things to Make Sure Your Boss Knows About Employer Branding) to Claes Peyron’s step-by-step approach to employer branding (9 Steps to a Successful Employer Branding Strategy). Both pieces emphasize the need to look at an employer brand as far more than a tagline and see it for what it truly is — a research-based effort that requires strategy, planning, and thoughtful execution.
But how, exactly, do you arrive at a point where your employer brand is more than a tagline and pretty pictures? Simply put, you need to start by properly investing in the employer value proposition development process.
After all, EVP is where it all begins. It’s your key to ensuring authenticity, and it’s the foundation for everything that comes after you’ve clearly articulated who you are as an organization and what you offer as an employer through deliberate and methodical research. If you get this piece right, then you’ll be poised for success in terms of brand strategy, creative development, and internal and external communications. Miss the boat on your EVP and you’ll find yourself floating aimlessly without the direction needed to solve complex recruiting and retention challenges.
Given this, along with a desire to follow the framework Ordioni and Peyron have used to share their thoughts on employer branding, here are five ways to get the most out of your EVP.
- Have a clear goal or intent in mind. We know that numerous benefits are associated with strong employer brands. But don’t make the potential outcomes, which will vary from company to company anyway, your sole reason for investing in an EVP program. You need to think bigger and tie the EVP effort to organizational goals, whether that means attracting and retaining key talent segments to launch new lines of business or to help establish your company’s reputation as an industry leader. Alignment among the stakeholders every step of the way is one of the most critical elements of a successful EVP effort.
- Identify your stakeholders and project team at the outset. Just as you would for any major organizational initiative, you need to identify the stakeholders who will support and guide the EVP, and the team members who will champion the project and get it done. Typically, stakeholders are kept apprised of project milestones and key findings along the way, while the project team — usually a mix of marketing, human resource, diversity, and employee communication professionals — oversees project planning and execution. Bringing people in at various stages in the process without clear roles will cause delays, and even worse, derailments.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Throughout the process, you need to clearly communicate to employees what it is you are doing, why you are doing it, and the role they will play. Don’t wait until you invite employees to participate in a survey or focus group to tell them about your EVP initiative. Take time before the project starts to map out an internal communications strategy for educating employees on the rational for an EVP, the benefits this effort offers them, and the ways in which they can be involved. And, once you’re done, launch your EVP and corresponding employer brand internally before any external communications take place. This helps you gain momentum through the support of existing employees. After all, who is better suited to help carry your messaging and image forward than current employees who believe in your brand?
- Be willing to embrace change. Companies are complex. They have nuances. They’re great at some things and only so-so, even bad, at others. Unfortunately, some of the things companies are only so-so at can result in poor employment experiences and, thus, recruiting and retention challenges. Don’t take the results of the research personally but do be prepared to make the changes that are required in order to improve the experience you organization offers its employees.
- Make sure your measure the results. As soon as you have your intent and goals established, start thinking through your success metrics. And, if you haven’t been tracking staffing metrics closely, you may need to spend some time gathering data so that you have a starting point from which to measure improvements, such as candidate quality, offer acceptance rates, engagement, and turnover. Reviewing the results of your efforts and fine-tuning your strategy in response will be an ongoing process. It’s also a great way to demonstrate the value you are delivering to your organization.
Implementing an EVP program does require significant resources, and there are many considerations that need to be addressed. But the results of your investment will be well worth it. Besides, the flip side is far more discouraging. If you don’t spend the time required up front, it won’t matter how compelling your brand messaging appears to the outside world because your organization won’t have evolved into a company that people are proud to work for and even happier to recommend to talented friends and colleagues.