Employer branding is still an emerging discipline. Therefore, there is still a range of reactivity and sponsorship for employer brands (and related fields) from company to company. In this article, I provide a few approaches on how to create internal momentum for building your employer brand. Year over year, research firms and consultancies report that between 45% to 65% of HR leaders report that investing in external employer branding is a key priority in a post-pandemic workforce. Some organizations (like, SAP, Chipotle, Electronic Arts, Cox, and Kohler, to name a few) lead in innovative employer brand storytelling and outwardly demonstrate an ongoing investment of resources in supporting continual employer brand development and exploration.
This isn’t the case for everyone. Many employer brand specialists working inside corporate structures report that change resistance at executive levels can be a difficult roadblock to overcome when time is of the essence to differentiate your culture narrative in a competitive workforce.
Common challenges employer branders report:
- Duplicating effort to produce a business case or competitive insight report justifying the need for employer brand budget (or budget allocation) each time there is a need to explore a new method or tactic. This is usually the outcome of too few touchpoints with business partners to keep them updated on the performance of ongoing initiatives.
- Hyper-vigilance around bottom-of-the-funnel metrics and discarding of awareness-level performance. This usually sounds like, “We’d like to know how many high-quality candidates we can expect from this talent advocacy initiative.”
- Stop-start de-prioritization of employer branding initiatives due to lack of clarity on business priorities and hiring forecasts. Sometimes, it can feel like employer branding is marked as ‘optional’ on important executive agendas and that can result in long wait times for approvals.
It’s challenging to know where to focus in a tight labour market. Things change daily. Employer branders often find themselves in the position of having to justify budgets with immediate results or the plug gets pulled. Or, the individuals or teams responsible for employer branding find themselves so stretched with reactive recruitment requests (“We need to launch a sponsored campaign to hire twenty new software engineers by next month”) that the real, strategic work to define a visual identity and associated strategy never takes off.
Why is reactive recruitment a barrier to success?
A reactive recruitment strategy that persists is most often a result of embedded beliefs about what people are looking for in a career that is not reflective of what know is true.
Reactive recruitment assumes that there is a pool of talent in any given demographic with a passion for your purpose and the right skills and experience to work well at your organization. That just isn’t true. There are many indicators that the global labour shortage and shifts in the workforce landscape mean this is the Age of the Employee.
Without a brand segmentation strategy designed specifically to share your culture, your commitments to employees, and what you stand for, (and, of course, employee experiences and behaviours that back it up) it’s unlikely you will succeed in creating and sustaining pipelines of top talent.
Usually, change resistance stems from trepidation to invest often scarce budget in a relatively untested and unproven schema of talent attraction. That’s why so many business cases and metrics are commissioned – leaders and decision-makers are looking for reassurance that this is going to help. Overcoming change resistance starts with creating corrective change experiences – or, finding creative ways to leverage resources and tools at your disposal to generate proof-of-concept results and data to bolster confidence and pave the way for an organizational investment in employer branding.
3 Concepts to Create Stronger Collaboration and Generate Momentum
- Assemble a group of stakeholders with influence and keep them informed. Call it a steering committee, a cross-functional team… make sure Brand, Communications, and ED&I representatives are in the room. Use a regular quarterly cadence to report on employer brand learnings and progress and use this group as an advisory council. For example, when it comes time to refresh career site content, this team can help guide the creative direction of the site. Bringing influential leaders together as collaborators on key initiatives makes it easier to secure important green lights down the road.
- When it comes to Business Leaders, let goals be your guide. Often, an area of the business will fund an employer brand initiative (like, a recruitment marketing campaign). These are important opportunities to secure proof-of-concept data that you can leverage in future funding requests and business cases. For example, you have the opportunity to run a $100,000 digital media campaign to attract data scientists. Make sure you set clear, measurable goals with the line of business and recruitment leaders and create a continual communication and measurement strategy. Over the course of the campaign, monitor and report on your goals, tweaking the strategy (with business input) as needed. At the end of the campaign, even if you didn’t reach your goals, you now have a wealth of data to inform and strengthen your next campaign.
- Every initiative is a “backdoor pilot”. Every campaign, no matter how small and underfunded, is an opportunity to audition new ideas, content, concepts, creative, messaging, and brand narratives to your talent. The data you collect from these initiatives can inform your broader talent strategy, strengthening your approach and letting you know what talent needs. Not having a team, an agency, or a budget is the plight of the employer brand strategist, especially when so often “build the organization’s employer brand” is the only tangible bullet point on the job description. But, ever-evolving problems and challenges call for non-linear solutions.
An employer brander’s best tools are patience, creativity, and resourcefulness (in that order, I think). Leveraging these to cultivate strong relationships will open the door for the organization to embrace employer branding.
It takes a lot of courage to champion a new concept, especially when met with resistance and skepticism. A great strategy is to understand the root cause of the resistance (generally, fear or unfamiliarity) and find ways to collaborate with stakeholders and business partners to assuage their concerns using the principles and tactics you know will deliver value.
If you would like to discuss these concepts with our team of employer branding experts at Drift, we would love to connect!