Employer Branding - Definition and Fundamentals

Before we look into what, why and how of employer branding, let’s look at the below table*, containing best companies to work for in various countries.

Company Name Country Standout Policies
Google (Best company to work for, for the sixth year in a row) United States of America
  • Parental Leave Benefits (New parents, whether male or female, adoptive parents, surrogates or domestic parents, can avail 12 weeks of paid leave.)
  • ‘Baby Bonding Bucks’ - $500 to new parents to spend during first three months of child’s life.
  • Paid offers for volunteering
RMSI (First time winner toppling Google) India
  • Reward & recognition programs to drive creativity, leadership & teamwork
  • Fast track growth paths for high performers
  • Initiatives for women (anti-sexual harassment, gynecological problems, extended maternity leave)
  • Alternative skill development
NetApp Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, U.K.)
  • Culture of fairness, credibility,, pride, respect and camaraderie
  • Down-to-earth management style
  • Competitive salaries, benefits and focus on employees’ overall well-being
Marriott Australia, UAE, India
  • Intertwined culture of service excellence and employee autonomy
  • Attention to work-life balance
  • ‘People first’ Philosophy

* ‘2015 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For’ List

Each year Great Place to Work For Institute comes with ‘100 Best Companies to Work For List’ – Fortune, which lists top 100 employers of the year. The company along with Fortune conducts a survey each year to identify the best employers throughout the world. The list is prepared on the basis of the perception of employees, company’s policies, work culture, employee happiness level index, work environment, flexibility or work schedule, learning curve, growth prospects, competency development initiatives, etc.

Why Create a Better Workplace?

What does the above table show?

It shows that workplaces are getting better with each passing year. In fact, it seems that the top management has awakened and enlightened, and is making every possible effort to take their companies to new levels of excellence, trust, pride and camaraderie. They are blending the best of the cultural traditions, workplace practices and policies and procedures to make their employees feel at home. In short, they are working towards establishing their employer brand.

The world of work has changed forever. Gone are the days when employment seekers would go out of their way to please potential employers and convince them to take into their service. As the global economy becomes more local and consumer dynamics experience major shift, the role of employees has become far more important and relevant in anything that an organization does.

The availability of information has empowered buyers, making them demand high level of services. Not only has the quality of service become important, but the speed of response is equally relevant. The focus of organizations in the ‘customer age’ is to optimize experience at each customer touch point.

Who helps organizations in making this happen?

Clearly, their employees! This means employers need people as much as people need to associate themselves with organizations. It’s a two-way deal.

One of the ways companies can compete effectively is by hiring and retaining the best talent. And this is why there is this new war for talent going on the job market. Companies, irrespective of their size and nature of operations, are trying to lure the best talent, so that they themselves can remain at the forefront of competition.

What is Employer Branding?

By now, you must have gotten a fair idea of what employer branding is. Well, if we define it more precisely, employer branding is the process of:

  • Positioning or promoting an organization
  • To a desired group of talent/professionals
  • As an employer of choice

And employer brand is a company’s reputation in a job market as an employer. The need of building a strong employer brand is more than ever. As it has a direct impact on hiring, talent retention and ultimately company’s reputation, c-suite executives need to apply strong focus and consistency to establish their employer brand. Clearly, the table above shows that the development of employee value proposition is the key to get there. The process of building a strong employer brand is concerned with

  • Attracting the best industry talent
  • Engaging and retaining talent
  • Balancing the rewards and benefits offered to employees in return for their performance
  • Identifying unique policies and programs to demonstrate a company’s commitment to employee well being and growth
  • Employer branding, in a nut shell, is constantly
  • Improving the understanding of unique employer traits
  • Sustaining the brand as a living identity
  • Showing strong commitment towards people
  • Establishing the company as an employer of choice

Origin of Employer Branding

Employer branding is not a new concept. It’s just that the term has gradually become popular and is now taken more seriously by the employers. Employer branding was first defined in 1996, in the Journal of Brand Management in December 1996 by Simon Barrow (chairman of People in Business) and Tim Ambler (Senior Fellow of London Business School). They defined employer branding as “the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with employing company”.

By 2001, within just five years of coining this term, it was found that 40% of the 138 companies surveyed (by the Conference Board) in North America were actively engaged in some form of employer branding activity. In 20013, the Economist conducted an employer brand survey on a global level, which revealed that 61% of HR professionals and 41% of non-HR professionals are aware of the term ‘employer branding’. In 2008, Jackie Orme, the Director General of the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel Directors confirmed that employer branding was absolutely integral to business strategy and it was not only an HR function. Since then, there have been numerous books written and conferences held on this subject.

Employer branding is an umbrella term for employer brand management, employer brand positioning and internal marketing. It’s an inside-out, implicitly-explicit, value-based approach to shaping the perceptions and behaviors of employees as well as external talent.

Culmination of Employment and Brand Management

As discussed earlier, employment is not just a mean to survive a sustain; rather it’s a platform where people from diverse backgrounds come together and work towards achieving a common goal, while holding each other like family members. Offices are new homes where work and play co-exist.

Nowadays, employer branding is a niche concept as opposed to brand management, which is a more general term. However, employment and branding seem to co-exist, in response to the ever growing competition for talent.

Times have changed. The rise of social platforms has compelled companies to be more transparent. People are more likely to join a company based on what its employees perceive and say about it. This means talent attraction depends on employee advocacy. Vice versa is also true. Employees want to stick to their company for long, if it is perceived as an employer of choice.

Employer Branding in Emerging Markets

A big opportunity is in store, just as emerging markets around the world prepare themselves to become as economic powerhouses. Just as Asian countries are realizing their strength, so too are its workplaces trying to rise to the new levels of engagement, trust and work-life balance. They are leaving no stone unturned, in their reach, to make employees feel at home.

According to Great Place to Work’s report on Best Workplaces Asia 2015, the great workplace era emerges in Asia. The best workplaces are getting enlightened and ready to walk the talk. The report selects 60 organizations as the 2015 Best Workplaces in Asia, basis employee trust levels, transparency, camaraderie levels and workplace culture, management’s interest in its people, and recognition and rewards.

Employer branding is now a global movement. Developed world has already adopted the concept and developing world is embracing it without hesitation. This has become possible with the arrival of balance-minded millennials who want their workplaces to be as comfortable as home because the boundaries between work and home are constantly diminishing.

Fundamentals of Employer Branding

In the 20th century, most organizations and people would associate the term ‘brand only with products and services. It’s now used far more widely and for almost everything including workplace, skills and content. When the term is used as a suffix, it represents a distinct identity, thought and personality attached to it.

Similarly, when you think of employer branding, the organization for which it is being used carries a unique identity and is an employer of choice. It sets the organization apart from the rest.

Here are the fundamentals of employer branding that every organization can lay its focus on to achieve their goals:

  1. Transparency: So is the pressure on organizations to disclose information related to employee happiness level, labor relations, employee engagement, community development, environment impact that it’s providing unparalleled transparency into organizations. Moreover, advent of social media has led them to publish scenes behind the screen, offer details of events and happenings and exposing their initiatives.

  2. Momentum: Developing a positive culture is not sufficient. It’s important to continue to work towards it to move in an upward direction. Employees of great workplaces take great interest in how enthusiastically it is working towards keeping them happy.

  3. Well Being: Identify unique opportunities to ensure overall well being of employees at work. Being at work is stressful for almost everyone. Organizations need to look into how they can place more value on both physical and mental health of employees.

  4. Additional Perks and Benefits: The millennial generation is demanding an all-inclusive workplace, as they spend more and more time at office. In such a scenario, day care for their children, schools and universities, family events, paid time off can be a part of their compensation structure.

  5. Rewards and Recognition: In the table above, you’ll see that the companies recognizing the contributions of their employees and rewarding them are considered the best places to work for. This makes it clear that employees are propelling companies to recognize their efforts and provide them with employment growth opportunities.

  6. Culture of Fairness and Diversity: Most companies claim to be ‘equal opportunity employers, which indeed they are not. Develop a culture of fairness, justice and equality while simultaneously ensuring that your workplace is as diverse as possible.

  7. Women Empowerment: The best workplaces in the world have more than 25% women in executive management positions. Plus, these companies take initiatives to ensure their safety, teach them self defense, grow them as leaders and help them pursue alternative career options.

Employer branding is not a fad. It actually works. Don’t believe? Let’s conduct a quick experiment:

Simply ask yourself where you want to work. Which company would you like to be associated? What comes to your mind? I’m sure most people will say – Google, Twitter, McKinsey, etc. Why? Because they are big brands! Their employees have loads of fun working in company premise and get a lot of benefits.

This is employer branding.

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