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6 simple ways to build a better employer brand

19 Dec, 2020 Employee engagement, experience, satisfaction, Marketing communication

By Jennifer Lisson

Strengthening your employer brand will give you a competitive edge and positively impact your company’s talent acquisition — 95% of job candidates say a company’s reputation matters a lot to them when considering whether to take a position, a recent Employer Branding Insight Report reveals. Moreover, 50% of candidates would never work for a company with a bad reputation, even if it offers a higher salary. In the current economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19, it’s all the more important that businesses work to strengthen their reputation as an employer and stay ahead of the competition.

So we are clear about what it means, employer branding is a framework for defining, managing and communicating about the total employment relationship with current and prospective employees. Another definition: employer branding is the perception of the organization as a great place to work by both current and potential employees.

Simple ways to build a better employer brand

1. Implement learning and development initiatives

Making sure your employees are happy, engaged, and continually learning at work is a key way to strengthen your employer brand. When employees are productive and satisfied, they’re more likely to speak positively about your business in person and in online review sites like Glassdoor.

On the other hand, employees are more likely to quit their jobs if they don’t enjoy their work and feel there’s no room for growth, a 2018 study reported in the Harvard Business Review reveals. The study found that employees who stay at their jobs in the long term use their strengths 33% more often, enjoy their work 31% more often, and are 37% more confident there is room for growth in their careers. Implementing learning and development programs is a great way to help your employees strengthen their existing skills or learn entirely new ones to help them advance professionally. A 2020 article from the World Economic Forum noted that:

COVID-19 is forcing a change in many areas of our life. The change in the way we feel and behave is foundational and will stay with us for a long time. Remote/online is becoming the new standard in education, work and health.

E-learning programs, in particular, are effective in allowing employees to learn and grow in their own time and remotely. Online learning is flexible; employees can fit courses in around their schedules, which further strengthens their time management skills without creating a work gap on their resume. Individual employees can also benefit from personalized skill building tailored to their own unique situation and goals.

Additionally, providing your employees with the opportunity to earn professional certifications and sponsoring all or part of their tuition fees can give you the competitive edge over other employers. Communicators would have a prime role in promoting these great opportunities to all employees, including comms staff.

2. Support employees more during COVID-19 stress

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing workplace stress, whether the work is at the employer’s premises or at home. People at all workplace levels and locations are feeling the strain. Communicators can recommend various actions to the executive committee to make life easier for employees and strengthen the employer brand.

An August 2020 Harvard Business School article offers several ways to support COVID-weary employees, which you can either recommend or implement, depending on the extent of your role. These interventions “can improve conditions for employees,” and include:

  1. If a supportive policy is not already in place, encourage management to allow sick employees to stay home with paid time off. Contrary to nearly all other Western countries, the US doesn’t provide equality in paid sick leave. A quarter (24%) of US civilian workers, about 34 million people, do not have such leave, according to a March 2020 Pew Research Center report based on data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. (“Civilian workers” refers to private industry workers and state and local government workers combined.) What’s worse – only 51% of workers earning wages in the lowest quarter ($13.80 or less) are paid during sick leave, yet around 91% of state and local government workers have access to paid sick leave. Only 12 states and the District of Columbia currently require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. The problem is that employees who don’t get paid sick leave tend to continue going to work when sick (‘contagious presenteeism’) more than those who do have paid sick leave access. This is particularly dangerous during the pandemic when such workers infect others with colds and flu, which lowers their immunity to more serious diseases like Covid. Providing sick leave pay would significantly improve employer branding and engagement.
  2. Show gratitude and facilitate social time to boost morale, ie employee recognition. Small non-cash rewards like enabling access to valuable online classes or fitness programs can contribute to wellbeing. Depending on the organization, the employer may pay the cost of these. Other non-cash rewards such as notes of appreciation from senior management or clients can increase workplace happiness. Create opportunities for informal communication – for example, scheduling 5-10 minutes for casual conversations before online meetings, arranging long-distance ‘happy hours’ and picnics, etc. All these activities have a high communication component as well increasing employee engagement, experience and satisfaction.
  3. Use ‘job crafting’ to let employees modify their distance-roles. Actions that employees can take to modify their jobs to fit their own needs, abilities, and preferences can increase wellbeing. Leaders need to trust and delegate work and not to engage in over-monitoring of employees. Communicators can advise management to abide by these changes and relay feedback from employees. This helps to build trust and strengthen the employer brand. Comms managers also can implement this approach directly with their team.

3. Prioritize inclusivity and diversity

Building an inclusive brand is essential for attracting top talent and increasing your revenue. In fact, one study by Boston Consulting Group found companies with more diverse management teams have a bottom line 19% higher on average. That’s because diversity spans a host of differences including, racial, socioeconomic, ethnic, sexual, geographic, and life experience differences. Naturally, this leads to diversity of ideas, minds, and approaches in teams, which ultimately results in better problem solving and greater innovation.

Creating a work environment that embraces people of all backgrounds is the best way to create an inclusive brand. It’s important to hire diverse team members and implement diversity-friendly policies without pigeonholing individuals. So, avoid assigning employees specific roles or tasks solely based on their gender or background. Instead, allow employees to use their unique strengths and skill sets to support the company’s goals – a positive contribution to employer branding.

4. Create employee advocacy programs

Your employees are the best and most trusted advocates of your brand — even more than CEOs and senior executives. For instance, when assessing credibility of various types of brand advocates, the Edelman Trust Barometer survey, “Brand trust in 2020,” found members of the public rated ‘a person like yourself’ just as highly as an ‘industry expert.’ Therefore, it makes good sense for an employer to select a few valued and loyal employees to promote their company brand on their personal networks for a program of employee advocacy. Companies with employee advocacy programs generate as much as 26% more revenue annually compared companies without these formal programs in place, statistics from Aberdeen Group show.

When employees promote your brand positively on social media, you gain access to their follower base and reach even more people than you could alone. It’s a great way to publicize the positive goings on in your company, as well as demonstrate your brand values and workplace culture. Employees can be encouraged to participate in employee advocate programs by providing them with incentives and reward schemes to recognize their individual efforts.

5. Involve all employees

We can’t forget the vital importance of all other current employees, not just employee advocates. Internal communication around the employee value proposition (EVP) serves to re-recruit staff, reminding them why they joined, strengthening their commitment to stay, and prompting them to refer others to the organization.

The 2020 definition of EVP is “an ecosystem of support, recognition, and values an employer provides to employees to achieve their highest potential at work.” Another way of looking at an EVP is to define it as a set of monetary and non-monetary benefits provided by an organization to its employees, in return for the skills, capabilities, and experience they bring and the contributions they make to the organization.

In an era when only 12% of employees put a lot of trust in what employers say about themselves, organizations must increasingly rely on their employees to be their spokespersons on the employee experience, according to a 2017 survey by KRC Research with Weber Shandwick.

6. Co-create content

Organizations are using the power of employee-based storytelling to strengthen the employer brand. When employees are central to organizational communication with their authentic and credible stories, they become a strong element in their employer’s brand. This is valuable internally as well as externally because research has shown that only a minority of employees in most organizations feel aligned with their employer’s brand. For instance, the 2017 Weber Shandwick survey, mentioned above, found only 19% of employees felt there was a strong match between how their employer represents itself and what they personally experienced working there.

Conclusion

Smart employer branding is essential if you want to attract and keep strong employees and grow your brand. With these simple tips, you’ll be able to effectively improve your brand’s reputation and acquire the best talent out there.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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