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How to Build an Employment Brand That Attracts and Retains Great People

May 26th, 2022 Chelsea Smith 6 min to read

Your business is growing. You want to attract and retain talented people. How do you build an employment brand that will help you do just that?

First, when we think of “brand,” the first thing we usually think of is the consumer-facing brand. Or, what your audience sees and feels when interacting with your business.

But your employment brand (how current and prospective employees experience your business) can be just as vital to success.

In fact, in a time when talented people are increasingly mobile and focused on finding work that fits their life (the concept of work-life “balance” is being replaced with work-life integration), your employment brand might be the most important thing you can focus on in the near future.

What is an employment brand?

Your employment brand is how your current, past, and prospective employees perceive the employment experience.

For prospective employees, your employment brand influences how they imagine their experience might be in working for your company. You’re setting an expectation.

For current and past employees, your employment brand is their actual (collective) experience.

How can my employment brand impact my business?

A good employment brand can help attract and retain top talent. It enables prospects to evaluate your business on more than role and compensation. If built well, can give you an advantage over your competitors.

It also helps current employees form a stronger attachment to your business. One that isn’t solely reliant on how their compensation compares to similar positions elsewhere.

An employment brand that is neglected, however, can have a negative impact for the same reasons. If you’re offering prospects and current employees little in the way of culture, perks, and overall employment experience, you might find yourself struggling to attract and retain top talent, even with higher-than-average compensation.

Talented people are looking for more than a competitive salary (though, don’t forget that part). They want to grow their career somewhere that fits their life. So, how do you stand out?

How to build a great employment brand

There are a few different methods when it comes to how to build an employment brand. By going through the process below, you’ll be set up for success.

Take a pulse check

Know where you are now to guide where you go next. Survey current and past employees to get a sense of their experience. An anonymous survey is best for this.

Give people the freedom to reflect honestly on their experience, the company culture, everything from their on-boarding to their off-boarding (for past employees).

Everyone experiences things in their own way. Getting a read on the collective experience will help you understand your employment brand as it actually is. If there are positive or negative outliers, you'll get a sense of why they occurred.

You might feel like you have a solid understanding of your employee-facing brand, but you might be surprised. It’s not enough to say, “our business is this kind of business” or, “most of our people feel this way about how things work around here.” If you haven’t asked for anonymous feedback, you don’t really know. Not only will this help you develop your employment brand, but it’ll also help raise any red flags that need to be addressed immediately.

You can also survey prospects who were a good fit in your eyes but ultimately chose a different career opportunity than the one you were offering. Don’t frame it as “why not us?” but as “what made the other opportunity a better fit?”

Address what you learned and fill in the gaps

Once you gain an understanding of where your employment brand stands, you can begin the process of making adjustments toward where you want your employment brand to be.

Decide what kind of employment brand is right for your business, and in your industry. Identify the things you need to do to get there. Be sure by this point you’ve identified the type of person that makes a great fit at your organization. A great employment brand isn’t just something you’re proud to stand behind. It’s something that speaks to the type of people you most want to attract and retain.

Are there quick wins you can implement right away? Are there changes that pose logistical challenges that need to be addressed first?

This process can be long, especially if there’s a culture change involved. But stick with it and keep your people front and center. You’ll start seeing positive results.

Ensure the messaging matches the experience

This might seem obvious, but it’s crucial to ensure that the way you communicate life at your business to an external audience or prospects matches the lived experience of your current team.

As tempting as it is to be aspirational or get overly excited about what it’s like to work at your business, instead, keep it grounded and authentic.

For one, a disconnect between what is being promised and what is being delivered can have a negative impact on current employees. You may find people who look at what’s being promised and think, “if that’s the way things are supposed to be here, why isn’t that my experience?”

Two, if you do end up making a great hire based on the promises made by your employment brand, failing to fulfill those promises can cause senses of disappointment and regret. It can lower the chances of retaining that person long-term.

Keep it real and put in the work to make the employment experience every bit as grand as you want it to be.

Keep your finger on the pulse

Like your consumer-facing brand, your employment brand requires constant care and attention. Brand, in general, is not a “set it and forget it” aspect of your business.

Check in regularly with your people. If things change, re-visit external communications to ensure they still match the authentic experience.

If you’ve landed on an employment brand and decided, “this is who we are,” ensure the decisions you make that affect your people first and foremost keep in the spirit of your stated intentions. You may think you’re doing what’s right for your people, but in the process, may not be doing right by your people.

That doesn’t mean your business needs to become a democracy, you’re still the business owner and you still must make the best decisions for your business. But consider your culture and your employment brand more broadly and ensure the way you make and communicate decisions that impact your people matches the promises you’ve made.

Building an employment brand isn’t just a marketing exercise, it’s a whole business exercise. It can impact everything from how you operate to how you attract new talent and retain the great people on your team. Keep it authentic, relevant, and inspiring.

To quote Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

Now go build it.

And if you need help, we're here for you.