5 best practices to build your employer brand

In part two of a series, branding expert Elizabeth Harr explores five best practices for employer branding that you'd be foolish to ignore.

Recently, I wrote a post explaining why employer branding is important to today’s government contractors. Today, I want to discuss five critical things you need to consider before embarking on one. I call these points best practices, but each one is so important to the success of your employer branding plan that you would be foolish to ignore any of them.

  1. Align Your Employer Brand with Your Firm’s Overall Strategy

Before you begin creating your employer branding plan you need to understand the larger business context it will support. Lay out your firm’s business strategy in front of you and think about the kinds of people you need to recruit to build an efficient and profitable company. Talk to a few of your best employees and ask them what they like best about working at your firm and what they would like to see you improve. Consider how you might implement some of these ideas and turn them into formal programs.

Think progressively, but don’t lose sight of reality — accept that you may have to phase in some the more ambitious programs over time. And not every idea is going to fit your business goals. Once you have a handle on what your employees value, test fit those ideas and values into your business strategy. Are there instances where the two visions simply don’t align? Be realistic and don’t promise more than you can deliver.

  1. Prepare to Be Open About Your Employer Branding Strategy

An employer brand only works if people can see it and easily grasp its promise. Many firms aren’t accustomed to this level of transparency, so rolling out a strategy like this may require a mind shift at every level of the organization.

Transparency is important to three key audiences:

First, the team tasked with implementing the plan must understand the strategy’s goals — what programs and messages need to be deployed to bring the plan to fruition. Without this clarity, the plan will be implemented inconsistently across the organization, and it will quickly collapse into incoherence.

Second, prospective employees need to recognize that your firm offers a distinctive employer culture and experience. If you build it but don’t promote it, your employer brand won’t help you recruit the talent you need. Some candidates may wonder why you aren’t talking about your internal culture — do you have something to hide? Like moths to a light, all these great people will be lured to other firms where the culture shines brighter.

Third, you need to equip referral sources with the appealing story they need to send qualified candidates your way. For this to work, the message must be simple, easy to articulate and compelling.

  1. It Must Reflect Your Client Experience

Every prospective employee wants to know about the work they will be doing. And your employer brand should address this issue honestly and directly. Do you promise direct interaction with important clients from the get-go? Do you promise mentoring or ongoing training? Then you better deliver.

On the flip side, you want to be sure that the work culture you describe matches the way your clients experience it. If clients were to check out the recruiting pages on your website, your culture shouldn’t sound like a strange, alien world.

  1. Balance Aspirations with Reality

Your employer brand should be based in reality, but it’s perfectly fine if some aspects of it are works in progress. No candidate is going to fault you for striving to improve your culture. But it’s easy to go too far and promise a workplace that bears little resemblance to the real thing. Some candidates may smell a rat and shy away. But an even greater danger lies in disillusioning new hires — and even losing the respect of long-term employees.

  1. Monitor and Optimize for Better Results

Creating and implementing an employer branding plan is an investment. So savvy firms use a variety of tools to monitor its performance and make adjustments along the way. These tools could include 1) web analytics to understand how prospective candidates are finding, navigating and interacting with your careers web pages; 2) research to uncover how candidates perceive your firm and your promotional efforts; 3) rollout oversight to discover if the plan is being implemented as intended; and 4) recruiting analyses to find out if you are attracting and hiring the kinds of people you actually want.

Next time, in my final installment of this series, I’ll walk you through the process of building an employer brand. Until then, think about the issues I’ve raised in this post and start preparing.