Your Employer Brand: It’s Serious Business

brandingIs your company or category going through a major transformation?

Are you in the midst of launching a new consumer brand promise?

Do you have trouble articulating your employment story to candidates?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you may want to consider re-evaluating your current employer brand. Here’s why.

Employer brands were once thought of as simply defining an expectation between employee and employer. But today, the employer brand plays a much bigger and more vital role within organizations and in driving their futures. It informs the guest/customer experience, aligns employees and candidates with your purpose and business aspirations, and it distills your employment offering into simple, actionable, and easily understood language so everyone can contribute. It’s inspirational, empowering, and unifying.

If you are going through a major transformation within your organization, a shift in mindset, behavior, culture, and direction may be at play. If that’s the case, employer brand can play a pivotal role in defining the new employee expectations and aligning them with the business focus. The employer brand can be used to enlist brand ambassadors contribute to building the new culture, engage customers, reward internal performance, share, and mentor others.

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If you have a new consumer brand promise to launch, don’t forget that’s a promise to customers, not employees. This consumer brand requires translation for your employees so they understand how to deliver on the customer experience. And you need to consider how that translation lives and breathes in the halls of your workplace, how employees treat each other, and the opportunity and potential that exists for them.

For those in talent acquisition and HR communications who are frustrated with their current careers website, social media, student recruitment communications, and more, as it doesn’t tell any clear story about “why candidates should work here,” you may want to to re-evaluate your current employer brand. A clear story should be at the top of the pyramid informing the channels, experiences, and programs you implement. By leading with your employer brand story and letting it drive the conversations and experiences you have online (and off), you’ll attract the candidates you want most. The story will resonate with their values, aspirations, backgrounds, and desire to make a contribution.

No matter where you are in your employer brand journey, be sure to include your audience in everything you do. Involve them. Enlist them. Empower them. Give them the opportunity to participate, define, share, own. Nothing makes employees feel more valued than being active contributors in your success and further believers in the cause.

Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Transforming Your Employer Brand in the Face of Extreme Challenges,
    Wednesday, April 23, 3 p.m.
  • Recruiting Across Multiple Brands or Businesses: Implications for Your Recruiting Department, Wednesday, April 23, 4:15 p.m.
  • Recruiting for Fit with Corporate Culture, Thursday, April 24, 3:15 p.m.

Michael Savage, the director of employer brand at JWT INSIDE, is a communications strategist, storyteller, and business partner. He has collaborated with executive leadership across a wide range of industries to develop employer brands that align workforces, attract talent, and drive business forward. These employer brands have inspired enviable online and offline experiences -- conversations, cultures and causes that employees and candidates alike want to join. Contact him at


9 Comments on “Your Employer Brand: It’s Serious Business

  1. Great article Michael. I especially love the title because, as I indicated in another ERE article on the same subject ( an integrated Employer Brand identity produces very tangible business results and real returns to a company’s bottom line.

    Yet, as the founder of Brandemix, an employer branding agency, I know that while the results you mentioned: employee attraction and engagement, and organizational alignment are certainly outcomes everyone aspires towards, the employer branding process can seem daunting to smaller or very large global enterprises.

    I encourage anyone looking for more information on how to drive a branding project within their own organization to refer to my latest blog post here

    Keep up the good stuff.

  2. Thanks, Michael and Jody.

    I think EB is to Recruiting as Marketing is to Sales.
    IMHO, it’s basically designed to try and convince prospective applicants that your company is a better place to work than it actually is, and to get better people to work for you than you could reasonably expect to get. Except in a few cases where a carefully targeted program to get “a LITTLE better” people than you could otherwise expect, money used for EB could be more effectively used toward targeting and sourcing the best people you COULD reasonably expect to get ( The only “clear story” the great majority of the candidates that you can get (including often some very good ones) is: “We have a FT job with benefits for you. Interested?”

    Happy Friday,

  3. For the majority of the companies out there, there is no overriding reason why anyone would want to work for them. And for a significant amount of them, there are reasons why many people would want to actively avoid working for them. For such companies any significant branding work has limited ROI, and can actively backfire due to Streisand Effects.

    I’m aware of a company locally here that’s dealing with the latter issue. They’ve been through a few HR people in the last couple of years, one of them was big on ‘branding’ from what I recall. It’s a horrible company to work for, the owner is a drunk who gets juiced and comes to work and berates people for hours on end. There’s apparently a fairly well known story of a woman who worked there, a new hire. During her second week she hit traffic and was five minutes late for work. As soon as she came in the owner pulled her aside and screamed at her for 30 minutes straight – no one is ever late at his company! – and then fired her after the screamfest.

    The story must have made the rounds online or via social media somehow, applications dropped off. Every recruiter in the area is aware of what a hell hole the place is. And all the while this HR guy was trying to ‘brand’ all the good aspects of working there, of which there are literally none. They had middling to low pay, benefits that were costly and crappy, near zero off time, few if any holidays, and employees were abused and berated on a near constant basis. I interviewed there a while ago, before this new guy came in. They offered 2 sick/personal days, no vacation for a year, and one week after one year. I never called them back.

    You know what that company needs? Branding. It’ll solve all their problems.

    Really, if they just took their brand seriously, they’d get all the candidates they want.

  4. Thanks, Richard. Once again, you’ve described “recruiting in the real world”.

    Here’s something I came up with:

    The more a new (recruiting) topic is discussed, the more likely money can be made from discussing it, and the less likely it will actually be useful to people doing work in the real world.


  5. I think branding in the real world would be an honest assessment of what perceived positives and negatives there are to working for a particular company, and then using that when recruiting to find people who are less responsive to the negatives and more responsive to the positives. Basic recruitment alignment, in other words. The problem of course is, to get to that approach one must first be willing to admit that there are negatives.

    Most businesses are small to medium sized privately owned companies where the owners and upper management think everything they do is the very definition of perfection. In the rare instances where they’re open to criticism and improvement, usually they get the focus wrong, and usually thanks to rhetoric and sales pitches for ‘advanced’ methods etc. from ‘thought leaders’ that they read here or there, or have directly pitched to them.

    Meanwhile their problems are usually much simpler, like not having assessed their salaries in over ten years, and it turns out they’re paying less than McDonald’s. Or, not having benefits despite having hundreds of employees. Or, having little or no time off. Or, more often than not, horrendous, unethical, immoral, and borderline illegal treatment from managers and owners. There’s no ‘branding’ required to deal with such issues.

    It’s interesting to see how easily people buy such a strategy, and how they fasten on single issues as solutions to their problems – “We need more PASSIVE RECRUITING…!” – when in fact most of their problems can be solved by simply not treating their employees like &$^#. Not even treating them well. Just stop actively trying to make them miserable, and most companies would solve well over 90% of their employee relations and retention problems.

  6. Thanks for your support Jody! To clarify, this isn’t simply aspirational, future speak. This is the reality of what employer brand is solving for today. It’s what we are delivering to our clients. Our customers. Our business partners. We’ve done it for organizations large and small. Although it may seem daunting, it’s completely scalable and customizable to each organization. Size is no obstacle to success.

  7. Keith and Richard, that’s the trouble with the “employer brand” nomenclature. So many just think of this as a campaign. Advertising. That needs to be debunked. This is equally about transforming your culture and aligning your workforce to deliver, as it is about recruiting future talent. I’m sure you would agree that this keeps the messaging and platform honest as your workforce would most certainly reject an inaccurate reflection of itself. The organization you reference seems to need the employer brand to drive the right internal behaviors first, before it can take it’s story outside.

  8. Michael,

    That’s the case with most companies I’ve seen. In my experience, which is just that and potentially not representative of the world at large, the majority of companies will tell you their culture is A, when it’s really Z. The disconnect is often massive and blatant and obvious to anyone whose income doesn’t depend on keeping the line of BS going. And they interview to A, sell A as the standard, and then people get hired and hammered with Z. The follow through you speak of requires investment, and for people in charge to accept that current practices are wrong and counter productive. As long as there’s a perceived labor surplus and no one has to make any real effort to get acceptable employees, no one will make that effort. As long as they continue to more or less succeed, there will be minimal attempts to determine the practices that lead to success, and which they succeeded in spite of.

  9. the most important question that i have for any company when talking with the decision maker hiring manager at the client site is this;

    please define for me in detail the ‘business pains’ that you are having which spawned the need for seeking out a new hire.

    what does this do?

    it shows to the client that i am thinking with my brain, and not strictly following the job description as to what they really need. in many cases, this does not tell the whole story. Then, I see the client’s wheels spinning and we really get onto the same page.

    as far as company brand, this is just the public facade that is presented. it may or may not be what they are interviewing me for.

    as a side note, when i saw ‘company brand’ the first thing i thought of was the viewpoint from the perspective of applicants. this is very public and lives online in many places. an example is ‘glassdoor’. applicants share their work, interview experiences at the clients. Being armed with this information provides to me whether it is even worth going forward with a particular client, or specific problems that the company has.

    my two cents


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