Building an attractive employer brand

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

As we move into 2021 and reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 on our business life, employee well-being will resonate with most. Media coverage in 2020 regularly reported on employee anxiety, loneliness, and burnout skyrocketing due to social isolation and disruptive changes to people's daily work routine.

Some employers were woefully under-prepared and without the appropriate wellness benefits or culture to support their teams. In contrast, others were able to quickly build on their existing health and well-being packages and draw on their positive internal culture.

According to Gartner, up to two-thirds of organisations introduced new wellness benefits to support employees during the pandemic. These ranged from pulse-surveys to virtual care apps. Many employers also responded with compassion and empathy, changing the face of business to one more akin to family.

While some businesses have championed and encouraged mental health awareness and healthy lifestyles for several years, it appears as we embrace 2021, that employee well-being is now an expected feature of an employer's value proposition and attractiveness. From recruitment, onboarding to retaining employees, how an employer's brand is perceived and then lived within the organisation is crucial to attracting and retaining top talent.

Mark Connor, Managing Director of 6 Degrees Recruitment – Executive Search, concurs, "For those employers who have put staff care at the forefront, they now have an engaged workforce where productivity prospers and their businesses are growing. These organisations are finding that their goodwill has boosted the brand, making it easier to attract a high calibre of talent."

The concept of Employer Branding came into being in the mid-1990s. The idea was then expanded by academics Pierre Berthon, Michael Ewing and Li Lian Hah in 2005 when they created the employer brand equity (EmpAt) scale. The scale measures five dimensions of employer attractiveness: economic value, interest value, social value, development value, and application value.

Before 2020, there had been a growing interest in Employer Branding or as it is also known as HR Marketing, due to the difficulty employers were experiencing in attracting and retaining valuable staff. With Employee well-being coming to the fore last year, the trend will undoubtedly grow.

But it is more than well-being. Employers need to take into consideration how a person's job, duties, expectations, stress levels, and environment affects their 'employer attractiveness' but they also need to consider less tangible factors like a sense of purpose.

Since the mid-2000s, consumers have had more brand choice, and recent research indicates that their brand loyalty is determined by the purpose of a brand and how the brand's corporate social responsibility is perceived. So, it is not surprising that these influences - purpose, values, culture and vision – are now also impacting on an employee's choice of employer and their sense of loyalty.

"As an employer, we are very focused on our sense of purpose and brand values, says Mark Bowman, Chief Exec of careers management and personal development charity Inspira.

"Our values relate to how we work with our clients, as well as how we work internally. When we visited our Brand Values back in 2019, it was crucial for me to get the entire team's input into what the values were, as well as how we expressed them through our communications and service delivery. Be Bold, Be Resilient, Be Relevant; we live them daily."

The position a brand takes on subjects, like racism and gender equality is also having an impact on attracting or deterring candidates.

Brands spend a lot of time attracting, converting and retaining customers, so why shouldn't the same be applied to HR Marketing?

2020 has shown that employee well-being cannot be fixed with benefits alone. Giving employees a gym membership is all well and good, but not so useful in a lockdown. Employees are now looking for more which serve their mental, emotional and financial needs.

While the pandemic forced organisations to be agile, sustaining, that is only possible if employees are committed, happy, fulfilled, and ready to adapt. In today's workplace, a more holistic view of employee engagement which includes purpose, balance of power, and a sense of belonging could have more traction.

As we look forward and navigate the post-pandemic era, it seems now is an ideal time to revisit the employee value proposition (EVP) and rethink Employer Branding. By focusing on people's current needs, wants, and expectations, it is highly likely that organisations will attract the right talent and encourage a loyal and agile workforce to navigate the uncertain road ahead.

As seen in In-Cumbria January 2021.

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