This is a guest blog written by Eric Harris, Founder and CEO of MindHandle, an employment branding agency.
Accepting TikTok video resumes. Increasing pay. Offering four-figure bonuses to new hires in hourly positions. Beefing up benefits packages. Providing more paid time off. Paying off employees’ student debt. These are only a handful of ways businesses are fighting in the trenches against today’s labor market. Will any of them be worth it? Not likely, unless companies also give their employees something larger than money, perks, or time. In this market, employers must inspire a sense of purpose, providing something in which their talent can believe—otherwise known as their employer branding strategy.
HR departments all over the world are turning inward to refine their companies’ employer branding to compete in the war for talent. Applicants and current employees are choosing to align with companies that express these brands effectively and consistently. But what exactly is employer branding, and how can it give a business an advantage in a market defined by the empowered employee?
To answer this, HR professionals must understand and leverage the psychology behind branding, tear pages from marketing strategy playbooks, and apply these principles to their internal communications and employer branding strategy.
Every Interaction is an Employer Branding Action
We don’t interact with companies. We interact with brands.
Whether you’re a consumer or an employee, the sensation of interacting with a company is actually just a simulation. You’re interacting with a communication device. The customer service team, the headquarters, and even the product itself are merely tools the company uses to add up to your perception of it.
Consider a central heating unit in a house. From the thermostat to the furnace to the ductwork, a heater is the sum of an intricate collection of parts, each with its own role in a delicate operation. When it functions properly, it produces heat, which is the ultimate benefit to the user. When it doesn’t work, the user feels the absence of it in the form of cold.
The heater is like the average business. Complex parts are seamlessly integrated, working in unison to provide something to the end user. And like the heater, users of a business (customers and employees) do not engage with it for what it is. We engage because of what it does for us. We don’t approach the thermostat because we want the heater. We do it because we want the heat. The benefit.
Human Benefits Strengthen Your Employer Branding Strategy
The best marketers in the world gain an advantage over the competition by building an employer branding strategy that communicates benefits. Igloo and YETI offer painfully similar products, but YETI claims to be “built for the wild,” and suddenly the Igloo cooler in the garage looks weak and puny. Oreck and Dyson both make vacuums, but Dyson says we can “see the clean,” and that opaque upright bag machine instantly appears to be obscuring the truth.
This may seem elementary, but it’s where many HR and corporate communications pros have missed the mark for decades. They forget—or choose to ignore—their responsibility to communicate a brand, and they talk about the company instead. Consider the difference between these two statements:
- “We offer an on-site fitness center, and our insurance package includes access to medical, as well as mental health and wellness coverage options.”
- “You mean everything to us, so we take good care of everything about you.”
One is a statement of attributes about the company (what we offer). The other is a statement of benefits (the advantage to the employee). The first is something that could be said by any company, while the second frames those attributes through an emotional expression unique to the organization. Further, the benefit-oriented statement reminds you what the organization expects from you, paying you a compliment in the process.
The first is the heater. The second is the heat.
Like consumer branding, employer branding gives a voice and a purpose to what would otherwise be a transaction between a human and a business. The best brands in the world don’t talk about themselves or tell us what to do. They remind us who we really are. Employees are humans and have needs. We want to be seen, to belong, and to find purpose in what we do beyond punching a time clock.
Internal Communications is a Team Effort
Employer branding strategy is where marketing, human resources, and internal communications intersect. Any one of these departments acting alone is not likely to succeed without the help of those experienced in branding. Employer branding combines:
- The essence of effective marketing principles (creating, changing and reinforcing beliefs, perceptions, and habits)
- The audience of internal communications (employees)
- The subject matter expertise of HR (what gives the organization an advantage as a great place to work)
Something to consider: Are we really fighting? Do we really need weapons? The war for talent is less of a war than a revolution, and it belongs to the employee. In the age of empowered talent, what is your organization doing to make it more attractive to join, stay, and grow with your company? Maybe it’s time to turn up the heat.
At MindHandle, we build employer brands that empower champions for multi-unit organizations with distributed workforces. Contact us to learn more about strengthening your employer branding.