Becoming an Employer of Choice… By Choice

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Among all the feedback employers receive from its employees, one that particularly interests me is employee perception that a company cultivates and attends to the relationship it has with its customers more so than the one it has with its employees. How many of you feel that your external brand or web site is dynamic, sexy and interactive while the internal one for employees looks like it was created in 1998? We create products and services to attract customers, but why does it seem that we lapse in putting the same effort in attracting and retaining employees?

Few companies are as rigorous or precise at branding themselves as employers as they are at branding their products and services. What these organizations either fail to realize or underestimate is that they have an employer brand whether they know it or not.

While the concept of product and trademark brands have been around for quite some time, the concept of employer brand is relatively new.  An employer brand is the essence of an organization. It encompasses a company’s culture, ethics, reputation, products and services, and the way it values its employees. An effective employer branding not only communicates an organization’s commitment as a way to retain current employees but portrays itself as an employer of choice to prospective hires.

The New “Dating” Game

In today’s world attracting and retaining talent is a dating courtship. 58% of potential employees follow a company’s social media presence because they want to become an employee. And considering that more than 61% of job seekers want answers to specific questions they might have about employment, it’s clear that active and passive job seekers are interested in getting to know potential employers before they make a career move.

Your employment brand is defined by one key job seeker question: “Why should I work for this company?” The answer is based on the combined perception of candidates, applicants, and employees; a perception that is increasingly expressed in social networks. How you interact externally impacts opinion on how you might interact internally.

Retaining Employees is a Big Challenge

To understand how or where you stumble in becoming an employer of choice, a company must first understand the strength or weakness of its employer brand drivers. According to a MarketTools study, only one-third of employees are “very satisfied” with their jobs. Nearly 50 percent of employees surveyed have considered leaving their current jobs, and 21 percent have applied for another job in the past six months. According to the study, salary was by far the leading cause of employee dissatisfaction, cited by 47 percent of the study participants. Other leading causes of dissatisfaction cited include workload (24 percent), lack of opportunities for advancement (21 percent), and the employee’s manager or supervisor (21 percent).

It might surprise you (as it did me) that this study found that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of surveyed employees’ companies do not have a formal program to regularly solicit employee feedback, or the study participants weren’t aware of such a company program. Of those companies that do solicit feedback from employees, more than 60 percent solicit feedback only quarterly or less often.

A regularly distributed employee opinion survey is not only essential to understanding employee sentiment, but it’s necessary to establish an internal benchmark. What you really want to measure is the reality of what it’s like to work in your organization and then compare from that baseline where you need to be.

“A strong correlation exists between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, a company’s revenue and profitability,” said Justin Schuster, vice president of enterprise products at MarketTools, Inc.

Examples of How Companies Measure “Employer of Choice” Brand Efforts

At Qualtrics Labs, Sean Otto looks at the number of hits the career portion of his company’s Web sites gets; how employees discuss the company in weblogs and other media; and the way employees talk about company culture. He also monitors how the culture changes over discrete periods.

Emerson Electric Co. According to Sandip Mallik, Emerson looks at three broad indicators. The first is the impact on employee satisfaction, especially parameters like pride in working for Emerson, would they recommend Emerson to their friends and relatives, etc. The second is the attrition (turnover) statistics, especially reasons given by employees [who leave] with high value to the company. Third is the company’s ability to hire the best from engineering and business schools, and laterals from the market. The attractiveness of the company in all three counts needs to go beyond the pay.

Starbucks’ Paul Rogers uses “tactical measurements” to get feedback that helps the company reposition its Web site message to attract qualified candidates. One method is an in-home interview of candidates who have applied; another is a satisfaction survey of candidates who accepted or declined a job offer. Such methods help Rogers refine the branding message to increase the number of candidates referred by current employees.

The Allusive Measurement Factor

Can employer brand efforts be measured? In all likelihood, this specific metric is too new for your company to really pinpoint numbers and financial gain. There is no simple black and white; it’s not a string with a beginning and an end. Rather, it’s a constant process. It would only be a process we could give one answer to if everyone took the same approach and made the same dollar investments. And investment is personal to the company … Companies can’t and shouldn’t invest in its employer brand the same way. The drivers of engagement differ from company to company, department to department, and employee to employee.

I like what Paul Rogers says: “It’s really hard for me to put a timeframe on it,” says Rogers. He sees branding as an “ongoing platform you keep extending to meet the needs of the organization.” In this view of a dynamic, adaptable brand, what’s effective is “what works every day.”

JWT INSIDE urges a focus on a company’s internal alignment of human capital management, business model, and strategy, and measures a branding effort by the impact it has on all three components. A brand is not about what you say but about what you do. What you’d like people to believe about you is irrelevant unless backed up with action. Rather than try to look at the effectiveness of branding strategy as a whole, the company suggests a yearly examination of specific components (what Rogers calls “tactical measurements”) for example, time to hire, cost of hire, acceptance level, etc. Since one of the main goals in defining your employer brand is to be able to attract the most appropriate talent and get it on board, this is a good place to measure.

Developing “Employer of Choice” Mentality

Becoming an “Employer of Choice” means that you must also adapt to the ways current and potential employees interact. In fact, 42% of job seekers agree that the absence of company interaction degrades their opinion of the brand. They added that restricting fans’ ability to comment on an employer’s social recruiting page creates a perception the company doesn’t care to listen – sentiment that can hinder employment brand. [TalentMinded].

That’s why I really like the information that I found on H Engage, a company that provides a new way for HR to make programs more fun and relevant. While H Engage focuses mainly on interaction through gamification, their overall mentality really supports employer brand efforts:

Analytics. Metrics that occur in a siloed experience are hard to put context around. Metrics that integrate with your current vendor and HRIS systems give better line of sight to your efforts as a whole. You can communicate with employees over time, measure the impact of your efforts, and quantify the ROI as a whole picture.

Communication. Deliver the right message in the right medium for each employee — understand how employees like to be reached – web, mobile and beyond. 88% of adults in the U.S. now own a cell phone, 46% of them smartphones. Employees are smart. It’s time for employers to be smarter too.

Engagement. Interact with employees throughout the employee experience. Increased engagement means greater satisfaction. But engagement isn’t just about interaction. It’s also about relevancy. Companies must interact with employees in a way that is relevant to how employees get through their day to day. Start with the employee lifecycle. There are a multitude of opportunities to interact with employees throughout their lifecycle experience and, in doing so, you will strengthen your employer brand.

In a nutshell, your employer brand should be a very natural extension of your company’s brand. And if you choose to not cultivate this employer brand, then you are making it easy for employees to not choose you as an employer. Just remember, it’s never too late to become an Employer of Choice… by CHOICE.

 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a strategic communications leader with nearly 20 years’ experience in both internal and external communications. She is a trailblazer who believes traditional lines between internal and external communications are becoming a thing of the past, and thought leader in advancing organizational objectives and achieving business goals by developing multi-channel communication strategies that support corporate marketing initiatives, increase employee engagement, strengthen corporate culture, and drive company profitability. She is a passionate advocate for developing communications that foster a stronger relationship between the organization and its employees.

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