Showing yourself in the right light as an employer, ideally without a soft-focus lens whilst still being attractive to good applicants, is now part of basic business. Employer branding is not an elite discipline restricted to large corporations: an employer brand is now present by default, regardless of whether its contents and characteristics are managed or left to develop on their own – in a diluted and uncontrolled way. This may be due to the power shift between applicants and companies. Who actually applies where can often no longer be accurately predicted. The fact is that the image each company creates, whether intentionally or unintentionally, has become a main assessment criterion. So is it only logical that, if you wish to attract top talent to your own organisation, your employer brand must fulfil its purpose.
An employer brand is not a 'me too' product
But, what can be done when the financial and HR prerequisites for attractive employer branding in your company are not met? When you don't actually have trendy office accommodation, the latest IT equipment or a trailblazing team-building programme to highlight? The golden rule of employer branding is, at the end of the day, keep it authentic! Never use glossy advertising. Not every small office kitchen looks like a sanctuary of wellbeing. Not every meeting room is a modern think tank that stimulates maximum creativity. And sometimes a job is just a job – without the opportunities for personal development that companies like to promise their applicants. Should you drag your employees in front of the camera just to demonstrate authenticity, even when they obviously feel uncomfortable about it? The result is hardly likely to have the desired effect.
Authenticity? Yes, but be selective. An employer brand is not a 'me too' product. Just because some companies are able to score points with applicants with pictures of their modern offices, this does not automatically apply to everyone. If you don't have the budget for developing and producing a professional corporate video, you should not necessarily make the project the responsibility of the hobby filmmaker in purchasing (although there may be talented exceptions). In this respect, there are no 'must haves' in employer branding. The question is rather: what actually distinguishes me as an employer? What can employees expect from me and how exactly do I meet their needs? It is important to recognise and use your own potential for differentiation[USPs ??]. And what if there (still) isn't[aren't] any? Then it is advisable to invest in one's own attractiveness, rather than retouching the corporate image. Send your company for beauty treatment - from the inside out.
Get your own employees to be brand ambassadors
"But this is where HR marketing experts - both internal and external - reach their limits. They are used to making the most of the status quo, rather than improving it", writes Udo Völke from Personalwerk GmbH in the HR blog "The issue of employer branding is increasingly becoming interdisciplinary. People from HR support, training & development, personnel management, remuneration management etc. are coming together within organisations to put the 'employer' product on a sensible and marketable footing through concentrated actions."
Making the 'workplace' product more attractive does not always have to mean huge changes. There are numerous small screws and levers that can be adjusted within the company to produce a positive effect on the employer brand in the long term. Starting with the remuneration system, through training opportunities, recruitment processes, rules for dealing with one another, activities that improve the working atmosphere, to optimising work stations. These measures will not necessarily allow you to produce a trendy marketing video, but the company will benefit in the mid- and long term from employees that are valuable brand ambassadors.
"When I tell people about my new job, my friends sometimes accuse me of talking like a travelling salesperson peddling his or her wares", reports Linda Schipp on jobseidank.de. "But is that not how it should be? When your employees talk about the company with such enthusiasm that the listeners are inclined to immediately apply for a job there themselves, is this not evidence of successful employer branding?"
You can also achieve the desired effects with smaller external communication measures. "Design a career website that informs your target group about you as an employer, the benefits and your USPs; but also include information about corporate culture, your staff and the company's location", recommends Henner Knabenreich in his HR blog 'Personalmarketing 2Null'. "Outline what the infrastructure, cultural and leisure facilities, childcare and schools, property market and the cost of living are like locally. Do a bit of tourism marketing."
Social media? Not at any price!
Unnecessary costs can be avoided, particularly in external employer branding activities, if you have an exact idea of the target group. This enables you to not only determine suitable content, but also the channels for employer branding. If the desired candidates are, as rule, neither Facebook nor Twitter users, the company need not go berserk waving the flag in social networks. Those looking for reliable administrators should focus on factual issues such as pensions or health management. On the other hand, creative industries tend to draw people on an emotional level and candidates expect to see regular social media activity from the company. Nevertheless, if neither the know-how nor financial resources for adequately managing social media presence are available, it is better to keep clear of Facebook & Twitter etc. rather than present a distorted image. This is ultimately also a question of credibility.
In her article "Living Employer Branding", Linda Schipp raises an important issue: "Before you promote employer branding internally through a brand-new employee magazine, a colourful intranet and a vegan staff canteen, don't forget the many small everyday things that you can give your employees: time and - no not money, but appreciation. And showing appreciation starts with praise, a smiley in an email (Wow, how frivolous!), ordering a pizza at the agency's expense or simply a patient explanation".
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