We’re in the midst of a job seeker’s market and candidates are in the driver’s seat. 

With millions of open jobs spanning virtually every sector, organizations are being pushed to compete for top talent, coming to the table with higher wages, enhanced flexibility, hiring incentives, and quicker hiring decisions, just to gain an edge.

Positive Hiring Plans

Thirty-two percent of U.S. employers are actively increasing staff, with key industries driving the trend. 

  • 41% Leisure and hospitality
  • 29% Wholesale and retail trade
  • 27% Education and health services
  • 26% Transportation and utilities
  • 21% Professional and business services

Source: SHRM, Job Seekers are Gaining Control over Hiring, June 2021.

Salary boosts and added perks, though, are just one piece of recruitment and retention in the post-pandemic landscape. Career resources like Glassdoor and Indeed Company Pages have radically opened up insights into the inner workings of companies via employee reviews and ratings—and, often, if a candidate doesn’t like what they see, it’s unlikely added wages or offering a day from home will make the difference. 

This direct, immediate access has heightened the importance of employer branding and, at the same time, empowered firms to take more control over it. So, what, specifically, should you be doing to understand, refine, and enhance your employer branding? Consult with an expert—but before that, take some time to understand where your organization stands right now with an eye on what’s working and what could be holding you back from attracting and retaining top talent.

Consider this...

50% of candidates won’t work for a company with a bad reputation vs. 92% who say they’d change jobs to go to a company with an “excellent” reputation. 

Source: Glassdoor for Employers, 40+ Stats for Companies to Keep in Mind for 2021. 

Defining employer branding

Employer branding is a key differentiator in today’s increasingly competitive candidate market. Your employer branding, ultimately, is the story your organization tells about itself plus its reputation. That reputation comes from many sources, from the attributes and values you’re actively messaging to what your current and former employees are sharing via social media, reviews, and word of mouth. 

Often, enterprises believe they’ve solved for employer branding—that their business is well-known and well-regarded in the space. A passive approach, though, can lead to recruiting and retention hurdles. As markets evolve and candidate wants and needs shift, a powerful promise—the core of an employer brand—may not be as compelling. Or, in some cases, employee sentiment—online reviews, social media posts, word of mouth—directly contradicts your long-standing employer branding. If that’s the case, it’s important to step back and reassess. 

Creating—and maintaining—a positive employer brand

For the majority of job seekers, employer branding centers on employee experience—that employee feedback and reviews are the most accurate representation of an employer brand. This, then, tends to drive the search process: 86% of job seekers say they research reviews and ratings before applying for a job and half say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even if they were offered a pay increase. Compare that to the 92% of people who say they’d leave their current job to go to a company with an “excellent” reputation and it’s clear employer branding matters—especially now. 

Identifying and overcoming employer branding hurdles

Despite the importance of a strong employer brand, two in five U.S. companies don’t have an employer branding strategy, while others don’t have the framework in place to effectively monitor and respond to much-needed shifts in their existing messaging. Others, still, aren’t clear on the direct impact employer branding has on their business, or the warning signs to look for that indicate theirs could be suffering.

So how do you know if your employer branding needs work? While there are a host of tell-tale signs, one of the most common is a dip in qualified applicants—or constantly losing engaged applicants to the competition. If that’s happening, there’s a good chance there’s a deep disconnect between the story you’re telling and employees’ authentic experiences within your organization. Here’s how to tell if yours is falling short—and what to do next.

First, listen—and act—on employee insights 

While it’s essential to have a well-crafted employer brand, employee experience is even more critical: employee voice is considered three times more credible than a CEO’s messaging.

Cultivating employee influence is an essential step in not just creating a strong employer brand but ensuring it’s properly disseminated—and trusted—in the marketplace. Too often, though, companies market what they wish was true or, even, what used to be true or what they believe to be true: according to a KRC Research study, just 19% of 2,000 global employees surveyed felt strongly their experience syncs with their employer’s public-facing employer brand. 

Understandably, this lack of authenticity whether intentional or not can have a significant impact on candidate engagement and consideration. With people per job opening at new lows, employers who fail to deliver on employer promises are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to attracting and activating talent, and may see job post traffic and engagement dip over time. 

To identify and overcome these disconnects, tap into your greatest resource: your employees. Interview across departments and ranks, and understand if you’re truly laddering up to your brand promise, at least from an employee perspective. 

As you’re kicking off these conversations, be sure to use direct, data-driven prompts. For example, instead of, “why do you think people are posting negative reviews about our benefits packages?” frame questions in what you know to be the truth. “We’re being told employees feel our benefits are lagging behind competitive companies. What are some benefits you’d like to see added?”

Likewise for more broad-based cultural questions. Employees aren’t likely to respond to questions like, “What are some leadership challenges?” while a question like, “Some of your colleagues have expressed frustration over a lack of growth opportunities. What do you think we could do to improve?” will likely spark thoughtful feedback.

Armed with a clearer view of what is and isn’t resonating and what matters to your staff right now—you’ll be better positioned to articulate your present-day employer brand. This, then, will ensure employee reviews and branding are more authentic and better aligned—and that will help candidates self-select more effectively. They’ll understand what your business represents and, from an employee perspective, how you stand apart from the competition.

Next, activate employee influencers

During your employee interviews, you’ll also want to identify employee advocates who can help organically and authentically share their experiences in the marketplace. Then, with a better-aligned employer brand in place, use those influencers to spread the word.

With a better-aligned employer brand, you should also dig into your job seeker-facing platforms. Refresh company profiles, respond to reviews, update Glassdoor and Indeed Company Pages, and share employee insights and behind-the-scenes content on your social media platforms. Ideally, get employees to post and share directly to your company profiles—and theirs. The more candidates and job seekers can understand your unique culture and employee experience, the more likely they are to engage—and accept your offer. 

Finally, promote your brand to job seekers and employees

Once your employer brand is more shored up—and your employee advocates are at the ready—promote your employer brand via social, employee reviews, and curated experiences on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed Company Pages. In doing this, you’ll get added exposure and give current and recent employees a chance to chime in and share their experiences with your business. 

Together, these elements will help paint a picture of why people want to join—and stay at—your organization. This not only drives more traffic—and talent—to your job posts, but keeps them engaged and moving forward with you over the competition.