How employer branding can help your business

feature-branding-400Employer branding is a relatively new concept in Australia, but smart businesses are fast catching on and reaping the benefits.

It’s not surprising. Imagine having plenty of skilled candidates beating your door every time you need to fill a vacancy. Not only would this increase the chance of you finding the right person for the role, it can also cut down on recruitment costs significantly.

According to Corporate Leadership Council research from a few years ago, successful employer brands access up to 20% more of the talent market, enjoy a 30% increase in productivity, can reduce new hire compensation premiums by up to 50%, and reduce turnover probability by up to 87%.

Employer branding can also add profits to the bottom line and help you save on recruitment and advertising costs. In fact, one Australian business claims it saved $100,000 in recruitment and training fees a year, which it put down to its emphasis on employer branding.

How employer branding began

Employer branding agency The Face helps businesses identify and create what it is about their business that makes them an appealing place to work. A brand for the employee market is then created, put to market and used to lure potential talent in the door.

Liz Weeks, general manager of The Face, says employer branding grew in importance about five years ago as the country struggled with candidate shortages.

“Employer branding is about selling the right message to the market about your business. Most importantly, an employer brand needs to be created from a basis that is truthful,” Weeks says.

SMEs have become particularly adept at employer branding because they are competing with bigger organisations for talent and need to find ways to compete on something other than salary, she adds.

“It’s completely fruitless to compete for talent based purely on salary because someone else can always offer an extra dollar for the right candidate. I spend a lot of my time trying to convince company directors about the importance of employer branding and the direct impact it can have on the company’s bottom line,” Weeks says.

Employer branding can also affect the bottom line in other ways, she says.

“There’s nothing worse than going into a retail store and it being blatantly obvious that everyone hates their jobs. There’s no way you’re going to buy from them.”

The EzyPay story

Outsourced direct debit service provider EzyPay began employer branding in 2008. It didn’t take long for the hard work to pay off. In 2010 and again in 2011 the company was named one of the BRW Best Places to Work in Australia.

Celeste Kirby-Brown, EzyPay director of sales, marketing and relationships, says it was tough to take a group of 30 people and come up with only a handful of values that summarise how they feel about the business.

“But at the end of our navel gazing process, after a variety of crazy activities, word association games and too much coffee, we had settled on our four core values.”

And while attracting top talent has become easier, the process has also been attributed to a profit boost of around 30% a year.

The company says it has saved around $100,000 a year in recruitment fees by using LinkedIn and promoting its business as an employer of choice, she says.

But Kirby-Brown says you need to invest a significant amount of time in the process.

Overall, it has achieved a framework to hire and fire on, she says.

“You then need to invest time and energy into developing the culture, actively working on it, hiring on it, firing on it and having fun with it.

“You also need to have ‘culture carriers’ in your business who embody the values and culture that you wish to create. As an owner/manager you will be personally responsible for the values and culture, but your ‘culture carriers’ will make your business the place you wish it to be.”

The Reload Media experience

The highly competitive marketing and advertising sector has long taken employer branding to the extreme.

Queensland’s Reload Media says an effective employer branding strategy is helping the business with both recruitment and retention, general manager Craig Somerville says.

“In terms of retention, we have about a 95% staff retention rate in an industry that averages closer to 75%. In 2011, this saved us over $100,000 in recruitment and training costs that we didn’t have to undertake. And happy employees make for productive employees, so there are obvious returns there as well,” Somerville says.

Reload Media has worked hard to position itself as an employer of choice, investing in things like weekly massages, Friday drinks and staff events, and creating a culture where people are the brand.

“As a result, we were able to recruit talented individuals and we’re now seen as an employer of choice for our industry, meaning we’re getting the best and brightest straight from the universities.”

Red Balloon

Red Balloon has also tackled employer branding and says its people are valued and encouraged to work in a way that plays to their strengths, not ‘developed’ according to their weaknesses.

The firm was named one of six Hewitt Best Employers in 2009, with an engagement score of more than 90% for three years in a row (the average Australian business is around 55%).

“Brand is about the consistency that every interaction with our people, employees and suppliers delivers for our customers. If we’d failed to connect our people to our brand then everything else that we do would start to fall apart at the seams. Get the interactions right through a strong employer brand and sense of connection for employees and the rest falls into place much more easily,” the company’s corporate engagement specialist James Wright says.

Implementing employer branding

Recent research by Red Balloon suggests that top performing organisations spend between $1,000 and $3,000 on engagement activities per employee per year that deliver the employer brand in the workplace.

“When you consider that a disengaged employee can cost as much as $50,000 in lost profit through their negativity it’s a pretty sensible investment and certainly delivers more for your customer experience than $3,000 of TV or newspaper advertising ever will,” Wright says.

Giorgia Castello, of Sydney marketing consultancy Playground Communications, says businesses need to remember that if teens and young adults believe a company would be a cool place to work, they generally think the company’s products and services are also cool, which can bolster sales.

Castello says employer branding actually saves money in the long run, with costs reduced in the areas of recruitment, training and efforts to build efficiency and business reputation.

“Everything we do to market Playground – from our logo to our Facebook page to our blog – is designed to reflect our core values; that we are youthful, vibrant, energetic and smart, both as a brand and as an employer.”

“Employer branding should be intrinsic to your marketing. Potential employees are also potential customers, and what they think of you as a place to work affects your entire brand,” Castello says.

To identify and create an employer brand, Weeks builds a picture of a business by analysing exit interviews, speaks to recruitment consultancies to find out what job applicants are saying about a business and also interviews current employees.

“It’s important to gather the negative elements about a place so we can close the gaps and get the full picture of a business.”

Some people stay in a job because they enjoy peer-to-peer relationships, others like the fact that they are challenged every day, while others enjoy an organisation’s culture, Weeks says.

“It’s a matter of identifying what it is that makes an organisation a special place to work and then using that information to attract the right candidates when positions become available.”

Wright says that employer branding can include things like reward and recognition programs, employee engagement programs, external recognition or more intangible things like the way an employee feels when they come to the office every day.

“Recognition programs are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to maintain excitement and maximise connection, and they can be delivered for as little as $2 a week per person,” he says.

Showcase what you’re like as an employer by blogging, using social media, talking about your company culture on your website and also via your job ads, Reload Media’s Craig Somerville says.

“Potential employees need to be able to get a peek inside the culture before they join. The second part is to actually back it up. If what’s being shown to the outside world doesn’t match what’s going on inside, then staff will feel deceived and leave,” he says.

The last word

But businesses should remember that being a great employer doesn’t stop when times get tough and profits are thinning.

“In fact, it’s during the tougher times that employers have even more of a responsibility to look after their people and make sure they still love your brand when times improve,” Wright says.

TOP TIPS FOR IMPLEMENTING EMPLOYER BRANDING:

  • Be authentic. Employees have access to the inside scoop either way and can spread the word in a million ways. A positive experience working with you will go a very long way.
  • Consider your current reputation. Consider how you look in the market currently. Sites like glassdoor.com and whirlpool.com can be a good start for reviewing what the marketplace thinks and talks about when referring to your company brand.
  • Get inside their head. Know what the type of person you’re trying to hire likes. Weeks discovered that the engineers she was trying to recruit were into sport and the outdoors, enabling her to place job ads in appropriate magazines to attract the attention of potential candidates.
  • Look beyond your front door. Understand that market factors like wider financial instability or a rate rise can affect your employer branding. Speak to employees regularly to make sure your branding still resonates.