Perhaps the best way to look at Employer Branding, as a concept, is by asking yourself this simple question: “Does the market know who we are?” And by market, I mean current employees, future candidates, clients, stakeholders - basically the whole ensemble. I’ll explain in a bit why this is important.
This idea was birthed at the beginning of Generation Z under the findings of Ambler and Barrow (1996). Their definition of the concept is “the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with employing company”. But before we get very scholarly about it, let’s set the circumstances.
History and Miscellaneous.
We live the most competitive times in terms of business development, client attraction, employee retention, and so forth. But if we take a look back at history, we always have. How is this possible? Studies have tried to define this under the “War for Talent” concept (Hanking, 1997), and the recurring motive is ‘shortage of talent’, be it generated by one event or another.
Under these circumstances, the natural action to take is strategizing, since we do need a competitive edge. And that is exactly what Employer Branding is: a targeted, long-term strategy aimed to manage the awareness and perception of employees and related stakeholders with regards to a particular firm (Mahesh, Suresh, 2019).
But what is it, really? It is an image, a picture inside the organization showcasing to everybody willing to look, as well as to anyone that cannot but look, that working with a said organization is as wonderful as it gets. And we need to be front-line in perfecting this because it is potentially the most powerful HR tool we could ever possess.
Employer Branding as an HR Tool
Mahesh and Suresh (2019) wrote an article on this subject which I cannot recommend enough - you’ll find it top of the list on References. They have taken into account the global competition, all the technological changes/innovations, knowledge expansion, and the dire need for flexibility and expertise in the workforce. With all of these putting a strain on HR activities, Mahesh and Suresh propose changing skills and competency requirements for the survival and success of the organization. We have to identify, attract, recruit, and retain a talented workforce - this is the need of the hour. And because Employer Branding entails employer attraction, employer engagement, and employer retention, if struggling, that might be your missing piece of puzzle.
Comparing it to a product, just as we have a preference for one over the other, we have a preference for a company over another. And this is all part of a bigger picture we are viewing from multiple perspectives: the value proposition, the perks and benefits, the development potential, the work-life balance, and many more. Us, people, we function by evaluating everything surrounding and, also, categories.
Therefore, when we choose to accept a job with a certain company, it is only natural that we evaluate everything they have marketed, including the reputation through word of mouth via ex or current employees.
From an employer perspective, strong visibility and market recognition allow for a tailored pool of candidates that fit with your brand and your company’s core values. Think of all the savings in terms of cost per hire, cost of not hiring, cost of employee turnover, and all the other. It is absolutely vital, especially during these trying times.
The Psychology Behind It.
Aaker (1991) thought of branding in terms of thoughts and ideas that are associated with a certain brand, from a consumer perspective. The associations are almost visceral, meaning you can almost smell, taste, or evoke other feelings about the brand. The fact that we are extremely responsive and stimulated by visuals is nothing new, that is how the world of marketing fights its battles and wins us over. But this is also the mechanism through which we respond to a company’s ‘persona’ in the marketplace; except, there are other elements we respond to. Let’s find out.
In Hadi and Ahmed’s research (2018) we find that organizations today value their intellectual assets more than any physical resources. And it is only natural that this occurs since the greatest products are generated by extremely creative minds - hence, the asset. However, this shifted the focus towards recognition of the workforce, employee skills, knowledge, and experiences as the sources of value, both for firm and its stakeholders (Hadi, Ahmed, 2018).
Two theories have been proposed, based on conceptualizing an organization as a social entity: the Social Exchange Theory and the Reciprocity Theory. According to the first theory, an employer or an enterprise offer its employees value, thus proposition will result in higher levels of employee loyalty and faithfulness; a two-way street (Hadi, Ahmed, 2018). The reciprocity theory refers to the reward and punishment dichotomy: essentially, the management provides its employees with values, thus the employees are morally bound to stay highly motivated and loyal - high employee retention as a consequence. Basically, these two theories are quite intertwined.
It is imperative to maintain a strong brand by providing employees with a sense of belonging via the company’s core values, vision, and mission, according to Hadi and Ahmed (2018). This is the natural trade for commitment and loyalty.
Employer Branding - Dimensions.
Without further ado, there are 7 dimensions of employer branding, two of them most recent, and you can find them also in Hadi and Ahmed’s study (2018):
1. Interest Value, which translates to innovation and creativeness a job could provide.
2. Social Value, shifting the focus to healthy, professional relationships among coworkers that allow for a positive and welcoming team spirit.
3. Economic Value, meaning pay, perks, and benefits.
4. Development Value, encompassing career development perspectives.
5. Application Value, entailing actually being able to learn and practice what you learn.
In 2017 Dibirian and collaborators added the two new dimensions:
6. Management Value, focusing on employers’ attitudes towards employees. This is how Kirsty Boner, Oleg Vishnepolsky and Gary Vaynerchuk’s created their brand on Linkedin, I’m sure you’ve read at least a few of their “Good Bosses - Bad Bosses” stories.
7. Work/Life Balance, where employees are viewed as more than just that, being mindful of their identity and outside of work life. This is important.
These dimensions are the pillars of Employer Branding and should be regarded as checking points in every list you make for exposure, attraction, and retention purposes.
The Generation Intersection.
I only wish to touch on this briefly, as it is important to acknowledge that teams are inter-generational, meaning we might have Baby Boomers, Generation Xs, and Generation Zs working together, each responding differently to the value proposition.
Reis and Braga (2016) wrote about certain differences that we should pay attention to when creating an employer brand. Baby Boomers might appreciate personal development or learning a new skill more than certain financial gains, whereas Generation Y seeks fast promotions, flexibility, recognition, and everything generating novelty, change, and stimulation.
Their recommendation is mapping all the attractiveness attributes that contribute to actually establishing an employer brand, generational segment-dependent if we seek the best talent.
As a personal note, we believe employer branding is essential today and has proven to be essential over the years, also. It is a hallmark of business and HR strategies without which one becomes powerless when facing competition. More than what you see on the outside, it is within the company that we started our journey, creating a team that shares the core values and is offered tailored value propositions on all 7 dimensions. It is also an arm we extend towards all our partners, making sure their employer brand comes across accordingly with each candidate we engage in conversations.
We started this journey committed and true to our identity, which is why we grew to become probably the best IT recruitment company in the land, engaging strong talent and building valuable partnerships along the way. Although great efforts have been made towards this accomplishment, we know this is also a byproduct of our brand.
We started this topic with a question, right at the beginning of the article. Do you know the answer?
- Mahesh, R., & Suresh, B. H. (2019). Employer branding as an HR tool for talent management–An overview. International Journal of Management Studies, 6(5), 74-80.
- Hadi, N. U., & Ahmed, S. (2018). Role of employer branding dimensions on employee retention: Evidence from educational sector. Administrative Sciences, 8(3), 44.
- Della Corte, V., Mangia, G., Cascella, C., Zamparelli, G., & Tomo, A. (2012). Employer branding management as a strategic and organizational control tool. Chinese Business Review, 11(11), 996-1014.
- Reis, G. G., & Braga, B. M. (2016). Employer attractiveness from a generational perspective: Implications for employer branding. Revista de Administração (São Paulo), 51(1), 103-116.
- Ambler, T., & Barrow, S. (1996). The employer brand. Journal of brand management, 4(3), 185-206.
- Aaker, D.A. (1991). Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name, The Free Press, New York, NY.
- Dabirian, Amir, Jan Kietzmann, and Hoda Diba. (2017). A great place to work!? Understanding crowdsourced employer branding. Journal of Brand Management 60: 197–205.