Sweep Top Talent Off Their Feet: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Employer Brand

Is your organization in shape to win over the industry’s most in-demand talent?

The talent shortage is real, and it’s only getting tougher. In 2013, 50% of HR professionals reported having difficulty finding the right people to fill their available roles; in 2016, that number is at 68%. And companies in the digital marketing space, who rely on specialized and constantly evolving skill sets, are feeling the pain acutely.

Long gone are the days of sitting back and waiting for amazing candidates to roll in. The more in-demand the professional, the more offers they’ll be getting; so to beat out the competition, you’ll have to fight hard for the industry’s best talent. Your greatest weapon? A strong, well-executed employer brand.

What’s an employer brand, anyway — and why do I need one?

You already have an established corporate brand (I hope!), but this is a different beast. Your employer brand, and the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that comes with it, is all about your existing and potential employees: what they care about, what makes them happy, and what makes working for you different than working for your competitors. It’s your reputation as a workplace, and the promise you make to each and every hire.

Optimizing your employer brand gives you access to a broader and better talent pool: companies with attractive employer brands and EVPs receive up to twice as many applications — and notably, a 29% increase in passive candidates, who are typically the highest-qualified. They also decrease cost per hire by 43% and dramatically increase their employees’ levels of engagement and brand advocacy. Still, over half of CEOs say their companies’ employer branding efforts are falling short.

Don’t fall behind in this critical area, or your competitors will keep scooping up the people you want. Whether you’re having hiring troubles or simply want to bolster your long-term talent acquisition strategy, these 5 tactics will help you get the ball rolling.

1. Build it from the bottom up.

When employer branding works, it’s a beautiful, self-perpetuating cycle: your team, both consciously and unconsciously, creates a distinctive culture — which attracts more like-minded talent — who in turn reinforce and add to that culture. Set in motion, the wheel will keep on moving your hiring strategy forward… but only if there’s an authentic and compelling EVP at its center.

Optimizing your EVP starts with taking an honest look at your existing work environment. Think about all the pieces that make up your employees’ work lives, such as pay, benefits, perks, flexibility, growth opportunities, and challenging, meaningful work. Which elements are successfully motivating, engaging, and retaining your team? Which aren’t?

If you’re not sure about the answers (and if you’re not closely involved with your workers’ day-to-day experiences, odds are you’re not), there’s only one way to find out: talk to your employees, all the way up and down the chain. Just be prepared to hear information that challenges your assumptions, and to respond to the problems you discover.

The bottom line? Your employer brand is an empty promise if it’s handed down from an ivory tower. If you aren’t in tune with your team’s real values and experiences, you’re missing the point.

2. Speak your ideal hires’ language.

Tailor your EVP to the specific type of workers you want to draw in. You know you want to build your team with talented people who share your core values — but what other qualities are you looking for? Think like a designer and create personas for your ideal hires. What are they seeking in their careers? What are their lives like outside of work? What sparks their passion?

The more you can empathize with your target audience, the more your EVP will resonate with them. For instance, if you want to make your workplace inviting for parents, consider adding daycare options or a nursing mothers’ room. And if you already offer these kinds of resources, make sure you’re letting prospective hires know about them.

3. Create a united front.

For your employer brand to work, everyone at your company — from the C-Suite to entry-level employees and everywhere in between — needs to be singing the same tune… and most importantly, meaning it. If the message doesn’t resonate with your workers in a personal, authentic way, it won’t stick; your potential hires will see right through an employer brand that seems inconsistent, forced, or phony.

Every member of your company has an important role to play in getting the message out. Again, simply handing down a script won’t work; your employees should be able to talk about what’s great about your company in their own words, and with their own firsthand examples. After all, people are far more likely to trust a company based on what its employees have to say than on its recruitment advertising.

4. Leverage social platforms.

The rise of social media has given companies new ways to express and advertise their employer brands, and job seekers are watching: 69% percent of them research corporate social media profiles. Done right, your online presence will reinforce what you offer your employees — not just in what you say, but how you say it.

In addition to the types of content you share, pay close attention to tone, style, and visual elements — all of which should align with the traits and values that make your workplace unique. 91% of job seekers find a poorly managed or designed online presence damaging to an employer brand, so make sure everyone involved in creating and posting your content is adhering to the same guidelines.

5. Deliver, deliver, deliver.

The most important piece of all? Walk the walk.

If your employer brand focuses on collaboration, make sure you support that with the right tools and environment; if you say you value innovation, reward people for taking risks. Delivering on your EVP is the only way to show new hires that they’ve made the right decision in joining your team, to hold onto your best employees, and to make your team want to be brand ambassadors.