The role of employer branding in attracting top talent
“It’s the HR equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses", explains Tamara Erickson, president of the Concours Institute, and Lynda Gratton, a professor of management at London Business School. According to the pair, businesses often try to match competitors’ offers, ensuring that their compensation schemes, healthcare benefits, training programmes, and other talent-management practices are in line with the rest of the industry in a quest to find and retain top talent.
“While this may be a useful approach for bringing job candidates to the door, it’s not necessarily the most effective way to usher the right people across the threshold – great employees who will be enthusiastic about their work and fiercely loyal to the organisation and its mission,” they add.
Employer branding is gaining ground
In the last three decades, brands have been playing an increasingly important role in business. “A product is made in a factory, a brand is bought by a customer,” Stephen King, R&D director at J Walter Thompson, famously said in 1976. And in the same way that marketers have been relying on brands to attract customers, companies are increasingly turning to employer branding to attract and keep the best workers.
“We have a recruitment brand because our employment offering is different from that of our competitors,” explains Paul Ryder, Head of Learning, Talent and Resourcing at HSBC. “We offer a unique culture and set of working experiences and want to attract people who feel at home in our culture and are able to fulfil the commitments we make to our customers.”
Strong employer branding attracts talented staff
But what exactly is an employer brand? “Just like a product brand, employer branding encompasses all the attributes, both tangible and intangible that makes it distinctive,” explains Jonathan Nicholson, Astbury Marsden’s Managing Director. “It promises employees a particular kind of experience and attracts the right kind of people that will thrive in the culture. Whether that be laid-back and creative or target driven.”
According to Nicholson, an employer brand is a powerful tool in the war on talent and can greatly aid companies in recruiting, engaging and retaining the best people. “The employer brand should capture the values of the company, and consequently the people the company attracts should reflect those values,” he explains. “By attracting people that fit in with the company’s brand, they will not only be more effective in their roles, but also more satisfied.”
Often the distinguishing factor between a good company and a great company is its workforce – people who love what they do, are thoroughly engaged in their roles and are less likely to be lured away by a marginally better salary or slightly more appealing benefits. Nicholson speaks from experience, as Astbury Marsden was recently named among The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For
list in 2011.
“You won’t find and keep such individuals simply by aping other companies’ best practices or talent-management moves,” continue Tamara Erickson and Lynda Gratton. Instead the pair suggests companies focus on telling new and prospective employees what it’s like to work at their organisation and to articulate the values and attributes that make working at the firm unique. “In the process, you’ll empower the people who share your values and enthusiasm for work to self-select into your firm, thereby creating the foundation for highly productive employee-employer relationships.”
Harvard Business Review:
“What it Means to Work Here”
CIPD: “How to develop an employer brand”