Recruiting top talent is difficult, but it may be the most important thing your business does. No matter how great your product is or how vital the service you provide, you won’t get anywhere without sharp minds and hard workers. So how do you set yourself apart from the pack? One way is through smart and attractive employer branding. Let’s talk about what exactly that means, and how it can affect your organization.

What Is Employer Branding?

A company’s general brand can have a major influence on its relationship with customers. It may also have a brand tailored specifically to investors. But a company’s employer brand is what it presents to prospective employees.

So, what’s a brand, in general?

It’s the impression created by your organization’s consistent actions that affect others—the service and related behaviors that people can count on your organization to do. So then, an employer brand is the habits or character of a company that job seekers can expect to experience. They know if they go to Company X, they’ll always be treated a certain way, find certain kinds of people, get a particular kind of experience, and so on.

An employer brand describes a company’s value proposition to prospective and current employees. So, your employer brand paints a picture of what a prospective employee can expect once he or she accepts a position at your company. And it doesn’t stop having an effect when that person is hired.

Why Is Employer Branding Important?

Employer branding is a strategy that can help companies recruit new employees. Employees who have had a consistently positive experience working at your company are more likely to encourage their friends and family to apply to open positions there. Even with traditional job postings, companies with great employer brands get more job applicants than do companies that have negative employer brands.

In today’s connected world, your reputation is clearly one of the most important recruiting tools you have. Many prospective employees will research your company online and find out whether your employer brand is generally negative or positive. Many job seekers will also look at what your current employees are saying, and they’ll trust those voices more than they trust your advertisements.

Employees typically don’t want to work for an employer with a negative brand, even if they are offered a larger salary. Some employees clearly still will work for a company with a bad reputation, but those companies tend to pay about 10% more for their employees. Imagine how large of an expense that can be when you have to repeat it for hire after hire after hire.

Companies With Positive Employer Branding

Some companies—hearing that employer branding is important—implement employer branding strategies just to try to attract candidates during the recruiting process. But those efforts don’t improve the larger culture or performance of the company, according to author Brett Minchington. Employer branding must be more than just a fleeting HR project.

In contrast, Starbucks has a mission, a vision, and values that are well defined and that spill over into employer branding, rather than being stuck in HR alone. This is Starbucks’ mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Their core values include statements such as “being present, connecting with transparency, dignity, and respect.”

Those ideas may not match your employees or your organization, but they work for Starbucks. The point is that they didn’t just put together some appealing phrases to try to recruit people. These are strong and personalized statements. Starbucks employees try to live these values and this mission consistently, which gives prospective employees something they can count on and get excited about.

Minchington states that some companies, such as P&G, Mars, Chevron, and Google, focus on the concept of community in order to build their employer brand, which he calls “employer branding 3.0.” Their strategy considers all stages of the employee lifecycle, from the moment that employees first hear about a company to the day they retire or move on. The strategy also encompasses employees, customers, the employer, and any other stakeholder, truly considering the entire community—rather than just the recruiting function of HR. It places employer branding at the center of an overall strategy that touches all job functions.

Don’t Rush, But Don’t Get Left Behind

If your company is new to employer branding, take it one step at a time. Minchington explained that after a company starts trying out employer branding, leaders need two to three years to build experience and skill in it. Eventually, your organization will naturally make it part of a more central and holistic strategy, rather than just an HR project. As companies work harder to hire employees, many more will move toward this approach as they see the value and necessity of it. Don’t get left behind.

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Eric Serdar

Eric Serdar is an SEO Strategist at BambooHR. He loves creating impactful content that can be seen by everyone. When he’s not in the office you can often find him in the mountains with his fishing pole.