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How to build an unstoppable employer brand

By Jonathon Palmer

Omobono recently ran a breakfast roundtable event on employer branding, hosted at the Gherkin and set against the impressive backdrop of London’s changing skyline. With lively discussion from the start, we were joined by leaders from a range of sectors including finance, engineering, commodities, telecoms, social media, alcoholic beverages, energy and academia.

Setting the scene

Omobono began the event by setting the scene of a tough environment for brands wanting to attract the best talent. According to the BBC, the UK’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point in forty-four years – while job vacancies have increased to an all-time high. US unemployment is near a fifty-year low, with job openings there at a seventeen-year high.

Talent Crunch

Competition for talent is intense and getting fiercer. As every company is rapidly becoming a technology company, businesses are having to compete for the same tech talent across areas such as cybersecurity, AI and blockchain which means demand is quickly outstripping supply.

War on two fronts

Companies are having to fight the war for talent across both recruitment and retention by using a range of different tactics and tools.

For example, there’s a huge amount of investment in the automation in recruitment, with AI playing a more diverse role in everything from writing more relevant job descriptions to assessing candidates through voice and facial recognition software.

Companies are investing more in their candidate experience, but many still have a long way to go. Often companies suffer from experience inequality where they deliver great experiences for customers but have yet to apply the same level of rigour for candidates.

Looking at the data, it seems that companies are still falling short around employee experience too with Forbes stating that 85% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

The power of brand

Now more than ever, businesses are looking to their employer brand as a key tool in attracting the best candidates and keeping the best employees. In a recent survey by LinkedIn, eight out of ten talent leaders say employer branding has a significant impact on their ability to hire great talent.

This should come as no surprise as Glassdoor tells us that 84% of job seekers say the reputation of a company as an employer of choice is important.

The costs of not getting it right can be high too. HBR revealed that companies with a bad reputation must pay up to 10% more to make up for it while the cost of replacing staff is estimated at 50–75% of a new hire’s annual salary.

As 80% of job seekers are passive while only 20% are active by LinkedIn’s reckoning, employer brands can be a great way of staying front of mind for when that next superstar candidate decides to make their next move too.

Another key factor is changing demographics, as Bloomberg estimates that Gen Z will form 32% of the global population surpassing millennials at some point in 2019, with many looking to enter the workforce this year.  As companies figure out how to communicate with this audience, it’s clear that employer branding will play an important role.

How to build an unstoppable employer brand

Key themes

With the scene set, Natasha Dallyn, recruitment marketing advisor from Shell, kindly shared some examples of how the energy company is targeting early talent and building a global employer brand. During the following 90-minute discussion a number of clear themes emerged:

Sector challenges

Companies often have to overcome negative perceptions of their sector in building a good employer brand, particularly where there has been bad press such as within financial services.  Interestingly the appeal of the drinks industry was described as being a bit like Marmite – for some, the nature of the product is a huge draw, but for others, it’s a major deterrent.

Another challenge was that some parent brands are relatively unknown outside of their industry even if some of their product brands are household names. This means there is more of a requirement for educating talent, particularly for early career hires.

Two sides of the same coin

The link between a company’s reputation and its employer brand is greater than ever and shouldn’t be neglected.

As the lines blur between the corporate brand and the employer brand it’s wise to include a wide group of stakeholders at the start of your EVP project. Involving the brand/marketing team is advisable so that people feel involved and are not tempted to throw a spanner in the works further down the line.

Authenticity & transparency

Nothing beats the voice of the employee in getting across the culture of the organisation authentically.  Companies that take the time to discover and surface real internal stories have a better chance of connecting with talent. Gen Z, in particular, doesn’t want a photoshopped version of your company and are looking for a real sense of the what it feels to work at an organisation and the personal impact they will make.

Importance of employees as brand ambassadors

Employees can be great brand ambassadors and great recruiters too, so companies should think about how they equip them to play these roles.

We know from our own What Works Where research that nine out of the eleven audiences typically targeted by business (from customers to employees and the media) will receive communications from every department in the organisation.

Role of the leadership on social

Leaders are failing to embrace social media which is a missed opportunity for companies in attracting talent. According to Forbes, 60% of CEOs are not active on any social media channel, yet new joiners and early career candidates want to know what they think.

Social can be an excellent platform for them to share the reasons behind a company decision or communicate an inspiring picture of where the company is going and what it stands for.

Equipping recruiters

Recruitment is a people business and empowering your face to face recruiters through training and provision of the right tools is essential. As recruitment becomes more automated, it’s critical that businesses maintain a human touch. Graduates especially want a personal contact they can ask questions as they consider a job. We’re seeing that career fairs are becoming critical touchpoints, and in this environment, nothing beats listening to people who actually work at the company.

Global vs regional EVP

A core employee value proposition (EVP) is vital, but local employer brand managers need to have the flexibility to dial up and dial down some aspects in certain markets where conditions are different. It makes sense for the global HR function to conduct the research to feed into this, and a strong central EVP framework is essential with the option of creating local value propositions too.

Five generations in the workplace

With five generations now in the workplace, companies must work out how to communicate their employer brands to a diverse range of people. After all, there are vast differences between traditionalists born before the end of the Second World War and Gen Z born in the mid-90s.

Many companies are also focusing too heavily on attracting millennials and Gen Z’s at the expense of overlooking the value of older generations.  There’s a lot of potential to retrain and reskill talent which isn’t being used.

Unstoppable together

This was our first event of the year and was a great reminder of the power of getting great people together to share observations, experiences and ideas on how to tackle the challenges of the day.

If you’re interested in attending any future Omobono events or discussing your employer brand challenges, then drop Ellie Jones a line at

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