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HR and Marketing: Collaborating to Build Employer Brands

The Human Resource (HR) function in the world of commerce has long been an integral part of building and sustaining every business. Long recognized as a function that touched upon nearly every aspect of an organization, the HR department was responsible for recruiting, training, and hiring personnel across the organization. The process was often the strict purview of HR which determined the design and implementation of the recruitment strategy and often outsourced much of the recruiting function to organizations specializing in marketing job positions to prospective new hires. Branding was something the marketing department did to differentiate and promote a company’s product offerings to a consumer via advertising campaigns that focused on selling a product, service, or idea to a potential customer. But employer branding is a concept that is growing in popularity as the supply of qualified labor is diminishing across all sectors of industry.

Employer branding is the process of managing and influencing an organization’s reputation as an employer among job applicants, employees, and other stakeholders. The effort is merging the talents of the marketing department with the traditional “headhunters” in Human Resources. The increased collaboration between the two disciplines, rarely enjoined in the past, is focused on attracting talent in an extremely competitive marketplace where qualified talent is in short supply. Establishing an employer branding strategy has become a critical function to optimizing the search and acquisition of qualified workers.

Merging HR skill sets with a company’s marketers to implement an employer brand strategy is making the process of recruitment simpler and improving employee retention rates. Studies show that a positive employer brand receives twice as many applications as companies with a negative brand. A strong employer brand can reduce the cost per hire by as much as 50%. Eighty-four percent of job seekers say that the reputation of a company as an employer is important to deciding where to work. Many successful employer brand campaigns have the art of storytelling at the core.

Lauryn Sargent, Co-Founder and Partner at ‎Stories Incorporated, says, “The easiest and most effective way to market to candidates is to use employee stories. While this is a best practice in the industry, companies still sometimes miss the opportunity here to feature employees. Quotes and pictures of the office are great — they get the candidate picturing themselves in the work environment which is important — but stories leave a lasting impression.” According to Glassdoor, 92% of employees would consider changing jobs with no salary increase if the opportunity was with a company that had an excellent reputation. It is evident that most employees desire to be members of a winning team.

The act of recruiting employees is very much like marketing a product. Large corporate firms have historically practiced basic marketing tactics to build a reputation that would appeal to the most qualified candidates. The process begins when an effort is made to gain talent awareness of the company, build the interest of qualified candidates, encourage them to apply, and ultimately move them to accept a brand’s offer. For emerging and smaller organizations, building awareness around the employer brand is equally as important as the consumer brand.

Current employees are the most effective builders of employer brands, so conduct regular employee surveys to learn what they think about the employer. While many employee surveys can be painfully honest to management, the feedback can reveal many positive aspects of the employee experience. Measure the effectiveness of the survey to identify inherent flaws in survey format and function and address any inadequacies. The best performing and most positive employees are a very good source of identifying potential new candidates.

Like a product marketing plan, an employer brand message must be targeted, personal, consistent, authentic, and mobile across all collateral and mediums. Like savvy consumers, prospective talent will invest significant time and effort researching employers on multiple digital channels. Prepare to meet your prospects where they are listening and, like closing a consumer sale, refine and simplify the process from application to acceptance.

Is your employer brand attracting the best talent?