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Attract the right talent: Build a compelling employer brand


Let’s play a game. When I say the words ‘employer branding’, what do you think of? Google-esque offices with inspirational quotes plastered all over the walls? Employees with MacBooks, lounging on oversized primary-coloured beanbags? On-site, on-tap Starbucks coffee? Whatever springs to mind, there’s no denying that the recent emphasis on employer branding has turned it into something of a cliché, even a parody. In fact, there are a number of businesses in my industry (unfortunately, recruiters can be particularly guilty of it) whereby the owners believe that a state-of-the-art, quirky office is enough, and before the fresh paint smell has faded from the air, they relax, safe in the knowledge that they’ve achieved the perfect employer brand.

As with most things in business, developing an employer brand is a lot more complicated than that. Establishing your business as the place to be in the face of multi-industry talent shortages is proving to be a challenge for even those who have graced the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list. Glassdoor carried out a survey recently that found 84% of participants would consider leaving their current company if another employer with a better reputation offered them a job. Also, 69% of those surveyed said they’d decline a job offer from an employer with a bad reputation even if they were unemployed. So, before you make way for an office foosball table, let’s look at the bigger picture of employer branding.

What actually is employer branding?

Officially speaking, your employer brand refers to the perception that key stakeholders and both your current and potential future employees have of your business. To have any influence on this perception you need to be able to effectively communicate the values of your business, as well as your personality and culture. What you need to be aware of is that a successful employer brand is affected by every single touch point you have with your employees, from the recruitment of new starters right through to an employee’s exit from the company, and everything in between such as benefits, career pathways and support networks.

Some companies focus too much on the recruitment side and I think we all have experience of those shiny, happy people who sing the praises of the business during an interview only to turn sour-faced and bitter once you’re a week into the job. It’s pointless promoting a culture of innovation and ambition to potential employees if the reality doesn’t reflect this. People talk and remember that social media channels are just a click away. Trust me, if your staff are unhappy, potential employees will soon get to hear about it. The very best employer brands are able to focus on the positives while remaining realistic about what’s actually on offer.

So, what can you offer?

More than you think. You’d be surprised by what job seekers are looking for from a potential employer. It’s not always about money and a fancy working environment. High numbers of people, at all ages and levels, are increasingly attracted by aspects such as the chance to works towards a formal qualification within the role and, more commonly, flexible working hours. Providing employees with flexibility doesn’t mean granting permission for a home office, but perhaps adjusting working hours slightly to suit them could make you stand out from a competitor. You might have an interesting pro-bono client, offer staff free yoga classes or even just go out for Friday night drinks with the team – all are worth shouting about and go a long way in communicating the real culture of your business.

Don’t get culture confused

As previously mentioned, businesses can mistake a cool working environment for culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Henry Nicholas office and aesthetics were important to me when designing it due to the fact that we spend a lot of time here. However, city centre location and designer graffiti-adorned walls aside, our culture is cultivated by deliberately employing professionals from a wide range of backgrounds rather than just recruitment. I never wanted Henry Nicholas to be known as a team of aggressive recruiters focused on target-smashing, the aim was instead to breed a culture of strong-minded and ambitious individuals who can learn from one another and concentrate on building meaningful relationships with clients and candidates. 

Remember the old adage that people buy from people. Investing in your current employees and telling the world all of the things that make you great will instantly make your business relatable, approachable and, you guessed it, an attractive place to work. If you really want to develop a meaningful employer brand and beat your competition to the punch when it comes to winning the best talent, you need to invest time and effort looking at your current culture and putting in the effort to change it, or if it’s already great, making sure you shout about it. No matter how long it takes though, trust me when I say that it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make in the lifetime of your business.

What are your thoughts on employer branding? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below or contact me directly to continue the conversation. Alternatively, if you’re a job seeker or a company looking for the best talent and like the sound of Henry Nicholas, our team would love to have a chat so get in touch today.