How to use the employer brand to protect against a massive brain drain


Employer branding occurs regardless of whether you strategically design and shape it. So investing time and energy in your employer branding strategy is crucial to avoid ending up watching talented people walk away. These suggestions can help you get started on building a strong employer brand.

Businesses everywhere are grappling with a mass exodus of talented people. This includes many decent and good businesses – not just organizations that abused or undervalued people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This June, approximately 3.9 million employees have left their jobs. The phenomenon has been dubbed the “Great Resignation”. After a year of upheaval and soul-searching, people are re-evaluating their lives. They have recalibrated to find their own “new normal”, and their current employers sometimes don’t align with that vision.

Some are heading to other companies, others are launching startups, and a few are completely quitting the race. After resisting the intensity of the past year, people realized that they no longer wanted to work for their current employer. Perhaps it should be called the “Great Epiphany”.

How can employers best respond to this paradigm shift? As CEO of an employer brand agency Creative Ph., I have worked on employer branding, employee value propositions and talent engagement strategy with companies like Apple, American Airlines, Virgin Media and Magellan Health. The best thing for businesses to do right now is to start building a strong employer brand.

What is an employer brand?

An employer brand is best described as the reputation you have as an employer. This includes the expectations you set and the experience you provide for candidates and employees. It’s the sum of the employee experience you provide and what the public thinks when they hear your company name. It’s all that makes you different today and what your business aspires to be tomorrow.

People seek authenticity and transparency from their employers. They want their employee experience to be meaningful. By refocusing on your mission, vision and employee value proposition, and then communicating them with employees, you can differentiate your organization, re-engage the talents you have, control expectations around your business in general, and strengthen the reputation you want to cultivate.

When we started work with Virgin Media, the company faced a major challenge: it had lost 7,500 clients due to candidate rejection or poor candidate experience, a figure that translated into a loss of revenue of more than 5 millions of dollars. So we focused on the heart of the matter: people.

Through workshops and mapping of personalities and experiences, we worked to better understand Virgin Media’s recruiting process and candidate experience, which allowed us to uncover the company’s value proposition. Why? Because people are at the heart of any value proposition. We then created a site designed to guide candidates through the hiring journey in a way that communicates Virgin Media’s value proposition and delivers a focused and enhanced candidate experience.

Employer branding happens whether or not you work to strategically design and shape it. That said, investing time and energy in your employer branding strategy is crucial to avoid ending up watching talented people walk away – and the most promising replacements join your competition.

Launch an employer brand to mitigate talent migration

Building your strategy and shaping your employer brand is not possible without clarity, conviction and intention. The following suggestions can help you get started:

1. Focus on Accuracy When Considering Your Preferred Reputation

An employer brand is made up of several elements, including your company’s reputation as an employer. While you can’t predict or control everything that is said about your business, you can actively influence the conversation. The trick is to choose specific attributes that you want your business to be known for, and then deliberately reflect those attributes in your employer brand.

Don’t say something vague like “We want to be the best at what we do”. Why do you want this? And a phrase like “the best” is not tangible. Instead, think about what you specifically want people to think when your brand appears. Do you want to be known as the strong employer who ultimately makes hard work worth the investment with opportunities for growth? Or the employer who may have a less upward trajectory but can offer incredible people and passion? Consider what would best serve your overall business strategy, focusing on these attributes rather than generic alternatives.

2. Be bold in the premise and promise of your employer brand

You don’t want to have a brand so lukewarm that everyone is applying to join your organization – volume alone isn’t your friend. Your employer brand must have a “push-to-constrain” effect. By design, this should deter bad people from applying to be on your team and force those who will align with your vision. The challenge that some people enjoy should be the barrier that others avoid.

Could you potentially lose candidates if your employer brand seems too strong or too distinct? May be. But if your employer brand is basic and indistinct, you are losing the opportunity to build a strong, tangible culture that people are proud to embrace and eager to discuss on your behalf.

3. Choose and use digital tools wisely

The way you use technological tools (eg, AI) is important. Think of it this way: our company is headquartered in Liverpool, England, which just happens to be the birthplace of the Beatles. The Beatles relied on drums, two guitars and a bass. But the instruments alone did not turn four local children into global phenomena – the way they used those instruments did.

When developing your employer brand, remember that tools are just tools. You can’t buy your solution to employee-employer branding issues or avoid employer branding altogether just because you’re using the most advanced technology. You need to communicate the heart, rhythm and essence of your brand using your tools strategically.

For example, you can use digital polls to take the collective pulse of your team. If you do nothing more than analyze your results and stick with it until the next survey, even the most powerful technological tools will have no impact. Instead, find information in employee responses to help you uncover useful-told stories that align with your employer brand themes. Remind people of the impact of their contributions and the value they add to those around them.

4. Measure the results of the employer brand that make sense for your business

Listening is essential to strengthen and refine your employer brand. To choose metrics to follow along the way, and make sure those actions are what count. These can include anything from current employee retention rates to new employee turnover statistics, but they should be specific and aligned with the organization’s existing priorities.

For example, it is difficult for recruiters to hire people effectively if they are inundated with applications, mostly from unqualified candidates. In this situation, the percentage of candidates assessed is much more useful to know than the total volume of candidates.

You may also want to reduce the time it takes to go from posting a job to hiring. This can be done by reducing your target number of applicants and revising your job descriptions to raise the bar higher. Measure only what you need to know and what serves your interests.

The public already has an impression of your business. So are your employees, many of whom are ready to change after a tumultuous year. But does it feel like you to want them to have?

Take back control and really listen to your team. Remind them why they are important to your organization while improving their employee experience, and you will rekindle their loyalty with a strong and strategic employer brand.

Written by Bryan Adams.

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