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Top employer brands attract better candidates, says study

Top employer brands attract better candidates, says study 

Hudson RPO, a recruitment process outsourcing firm, recently published a study about how businesses can create a welcoming culture that will attract and retain quality candidates. Tony Martin, EVP, recruitment process outsourcing and talent management for the Americas, Hudson RPO, shared some of the study’s significant findings.

The study, entitled “How to Launch a Successful Employer Brand: Building on the Practices of Top Employer Brands,” was carried out by Hudson RPO and HRO Magazine in February 2014. The two organizations interviewed 324 executives at major corporations that had been ranked as “the best places to work” and had received positive reviews. The study showed that employers need to launch a powerful employer brand. Hudson RPO and HRO Magazine define “employer brand” as a company’s reputation.

Creating a powerful employer brand requires C-level buy-in. Whose role is it to create the employer brand in the first place? “The Human Resources department may be the logical choice to drive and own an employer branding initiative, but HR cannot create a successful employer brand in a vacuum,” Martin responded. “For the brand to be credible and resonate throughout the organization, other internal departments and groups need to be involved, especially senior management. In fact, our study shows that top employer brands are significantly more likely to have the CEO or President as the most senior sponsor of employer branding activity (44.5%) compared to “other” employer brand companies (25.1%).”

The second phase of creating a powerful employer brand is determining stakeholders and their roles. Hudson RPO and HRO Magazine believe that external partners can be very useful. Martin defined these partners as workforce consulting, media and talent acquisition firms. “The use of external partners is fairly common in the employer branding process, especially among top employer brands,” he added. “The type of external partner brought in to assist in the employer branding effort depends on an organization’s needs. For example, our research shows that top brands are more likely than other brands to use partners for strategy.”

Martin explained the importance of having an external partner in the employer branding process. “An external partner also brings a fresh set of eyes to the initiative and can identify and help overcome any internal barriers to success that may exist,” he said. “It can facilitate collaboration among disparate groups, define shared interests, develop common goals and outline responsibilities. An external partner also can serve to educate internal groups about why employer branding is important. Lastly, an external partner can assist in selecting the most effective internal and external media to promote the employer brand.”

The third step in the process of creating a powerful employer brand is defining strategy and investing in it. Who should define the plan of action? “HR or some department within HR such as Talent Acquisition or Recruitment should have the accountability for developing and owning the strategy,” Martin replied. He warned that the task should be assigned to someone who has handled similar duties in the past. “In our experience, one of the main reasons that an employer branding program fails is because it is delegated to a junior person who cannot drive programs through the business or bring teams together effectively,” Martin remarked. If the organization does not have a senior employee to effectively fill this role, he recommended outsourcing it. “It is advisable to engage someone from the outside who can bring these messages to fruition,” he commented.

Hudson RPO and HRO Magazine urged organizations to create an employee value proposition (EVP) next. They defined an EVP as the rewards and benefits employees receive in exchange for their performance. Everyone at the firm needs to support the EVP in order to attract and retain the right people for the job. How can companies ensure all of the staff buys in to the EVP? “Involving employees at all levels is key since they are the ones who live and breathe it every day,” Martin answered. “For example, when helping clients develop their EVPs, Hudson RPO leads internal focus groups consisting of employees across departments, geographies as well as seniority levels to validate employee survey results and ensure that key EVP messages are authentic, reflecting the reality of the employee experience. If employees feel that they have a voice in developing the EVP – and in essence the employer brand – they will be more likely to own it and become brand ambassadors among their peers both inside and outside the organization.”

In addition to these steps, Hudson RPO and HRO Magazine advised businesses to communicate through channels that will reach the right candidates, select brand ambassadors and measure ROI. For some organizations, this advice is easier given than followed. Martin acknowledged the barriers to implementation, although he asserted that they can be overcome with effort. “Having a defined employer brand strategy appears to be a clear differentiator between top brands and other brands,” he noted. “The top brand companies are significantly more likely to have the CEO or President as the most senior sponsor of employer branding activity. As we advise in our study, those struggling to get buy-in can talk about the positive effect having a strong employer brand can have on the bottom line. Given the difficulty hiring top IT talent, this should be an easy conversation at most technology companies.”

Martin also believes that money plays an important role in creating a powerful employer brand. “Related to getting buy-in is budget – top brands have an average budget of 52.1% more than other brands to support their employer brand initiatives – but if you can show how an employer brand can save the money over the long term, time and financial resources may be a little easier to secure,” he commented. Measuring ROI is deeply connected to budgetary constraints. “If you can’t show that having an employer brand program is helping the company’s bottom line, you may be hard pressed to get the same or additional resources to promote it,” Martin pointed out.

What should employers be looking for? “Good measures of employer branding project success are increased rates of completed job applications and survey results showing that people are more aware of the EVP,” Martin remarked. “Other measurements that are valuable to the business are higher retention rates and the ease of securing top talent.” Ultimately, what companies choose to measure is somewhat less important than the act of measuring itself. “Whatever you choose to measure, the important thing is that you measure – and make course corrections as indicated along the way,” he concluded. “You’ll be ahead of the game if you do, and be well on your way to gaining competitive advantage as a top employer brand.”

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