14 min

How to Develop an Employer Branding Strategy That Works

November 20, 2022

What you'll learn

What you'll need

If you’re struggling to attract top talent or losing candidates to your competitors, developing a solid employer branding strategy can help.

This guide will go over steps to build an employer branding strategy, starting with a brand audit, defining your goals, building your team, and creating a strong employer branding strategy.

Your employer's brand can make or break your entire hiring process.

72% of recruiting leaders worldwide agree that their employer brand substantially influences attracting top talent.

Your employer brand is the perception of your company held by current and potential employees. It's what they think about you as a place to work, and it can affect everything from recruitment to retention.

This makes employer branding a top priority for every hiring manager or recruiter if they are serious about building a formidable workforce.

This in-depth guide will teach you how to formulate an effective employer branding strategy that will make your organization a talent magnet.

Let’s start learning about creating a strong employer brand that improves company culture and talent acquisition.

13 steps to develop an employer branding strategy

We have a series of steps you can follow to build your employer brand strategy. Let’s dive into each individually to show how they can help current employees and potential job candidates.

1. Start with an employer brand audit

An employer brand audit is a process of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your current employer brand. 

It's a way to see where you stand in comparison to your competitors and what needs to be improved to become a better employer.

The first step in creating an effective employer branding strategy is conducting an employer brand audit to determine what challenges need to be addressed.

For example, as a company, if you already have a decent image as an employer, it is valuable to gain this insight first so that you can adapt your communication towards being outstanding.

Here are some helpful tips and best practices for conducting a comprehensive employer brand audit.

Conduct an internal employee survey

Start by asking your current employees how they feel about working at your company. 

If you are a company of 1,000+ employees, a survey will be the most efficient way to get feedback from everyone. If your company is smaller, focus on having one-on-one conversations with employees to gain insight into their experiences at your company.

Check out employee review sites 

Review sites like Glassdoor are a great source of employee experience data. They're easy to use and full of first-hand employee reviews that can help you identify problems with your employer brand. 

The key is to use these sites as a data source, not a definitive answer. Keep in mind that these sites are largely anonymous and subject to trolling. For this reason, it's best to look at the overall trends and take them with a grain of salt. 

If you find a trend in the reviews, such as employees expressing concerns over their compensation or benefits package, it's time to take action.

Analyze your own hiring data 

Your hiring data can tell a lot about your current reputation as an employer. 

For example, if the ratio of the number of applicants to the number of open roles is high, it implies you are an attractive company for people to work.

Similarly, if many of your offers go unaccepted even after competitive compensation, it may indicate a weak employer brand.

Finally, summarize your research and prepare an employer audit report to inform your next steps.

2. Define your employer branding goals

Now that you have a clearer understanding of your employer brand image, it is time to define your key goals and KPIs (key performance indicators).

All your future actions will be derived from the goals you want to achieve, so it is critical to define what you want to accomplish with this strategic companywide initiative.

You can start with an overarching company goal like increasing headcount by 50% yearly and then drill down into more specific KPIs.

Common employer branding goal examples to consider driving your action plan

  • Reduce cost per hire.
  • Reduce time per hire.
  • Increase interview satisfaction score.
  • Increase the number of applicants per position.
  • Improve job offer acceptance ratio.
  • Increase headcount of highly experienced employees.
  • Boost successful employee referrals.
  • Increase ratings on review sites like Glassdoor.
  • Reduce interview no-shows.
  • Increase employee NPS (Net Promoter Score).

It is recommended to keep all your goals measurable to make your performance analysis as objective as possible.

3. Get company leadership and C-suite buy-in

Employee branding is essential to any business strategy that thrives on human talent.

But, if you're not careful, your employee brand can quickly become ineffective or even detrimental if you don't get the buy-in of key stakeholders.

Here are four reasons why you should get executive buy-in for a successful employee branding program.

Consensus on what to expect from the program 

As a hiring manager, the goals you defined in your previous step should be clear to the leadership. This way, they know what to expect from you and your team and how the performance will be evaluated. 

After their review, you can freeze your goals and start working on the action plan more confidently.

Alignment between the HR team and leadership on brand communication 

It creates alignment between HR (human resources) and the rest of the organization around what the brand means, how it should be communicated, and how to use it to attract top talent. 

It also helps create a shared understanding of what the brand communicates about your company's values and culture.

Leverage the influence of the C-suite in brand marketing 

It makes it easier to convince the CEO, CFO, or other senior leaders to participate in employer branding activities like making personal appearances at events that show off your brand. 

They can also share their thoughts about the work culture with potential employees on social media. 

This helps build trust among potential candidates who might be considering multiple offers from competing companies.

Get funding to scale your efforts

Employer branding is a new field and doesn't have the same budgeting history as other HR functions, like recruiting and onboarding. Even if you have a solid case for why your employer brand program will pay off in the long run, it is vital that you take the time to convince upper management.

4. Build your team

For faster results, it is critical to have a solid team working on your employer branding efforts.

The team should include human resources representatives, marketing and communications, recruiting and hiring managers, and someone with experience overseeing the entire process.

It's also a good idea to ensure everyone on your team can access the same information about the employer brand from your mission statement to the specifics of each job opening. This way, they can make decisions based on what they know about how things work at your company, rather than just going off their own instincts or personal preferences.

Be clear about what is expected from each team member so that they can add maximum value to the program.

Check out this interesting example on how Philips built a global employer branding unit.

5. Learn from your competitors

Every company has competitors, some more than others.

The battle for talent is on, and companies need to understand how they can attract the best people by creating a great employer brand.

The more competitive your industry is, the more important it becomes to understand what your competitors are doing and why they're successful at attracting and retaining top talent.

You'll learn what's working and what isn't and can create better content based on their mistakes (and successes).

Tips to gain insights from analyzing competitor employer branding strategies

  • Look at their mission statements and values statements to get a good idea of what they value as an organization and how they want to be perceived by others.
  • Look at their social media profiles to understand how they handle negative comments
  • Check out their careers and culture page content.
  • Read through job descriptions posted on job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn to determine how much emphasis is placed on culture and values when hiring new employees.
  • Check out employee feedback on sites like Glassdoor.

Document all your competitor analysis findings so that everyone in your team can access them.

6. Identify your ideal employee personas

Example of a fictional employee persona representation. Source

An employee persona is a fictional representation of an ideal employee created to help businesses make better hiring decisions.

One of the most underrated aspects of this process is defining your ideal employee personas.

It may seem simple, but it's essential for executing a successful employer branding strategy.

This is because it helps you identify what kind of candidates you should be targeting and how to handle them during the hiring process.

It also allows you to create content that appeals to these individuals and helps them connect with your brand.

Questions you can try to answer to define your ideal employee personas

  • What makes your top employees great?
  • What common personality traits do you want everyone in your company to have?
  • What are your candidate goals?
  • What do they care about?

Once you have all the relevant data, you can create fictional representations of the primary personas for your team to use.

7. Define your employee value proposition (EVP)

Example of an employee value proposition statement. Source

An employee value proposition (EVP) is a company's promise to its employees.

It lays out a set of benefits, rewards, and incentives that help potential employees better understand what your company can uniquely offer to them over other recruiters.

An EVP helps companies attract talent by showing prospective employees what they can expect in return for joining the organization. It also helps retain employees by reinforcing the value of their work and providing them with opportunities for growth and development.

As businesses compete for talent in today's economy, offering a compelling employer value proposition will make your company more attractive to job seekers.

Here are some helpful tips to craft your employee value proposition.

Keep your employee value proposition simple and clear 

A good EVP should be easy for potential candidates to understand and remember.

Tune it to your ideal employee persona 

Rather than generic value statements, focus on personalizing them to your ideal candidates. This will significantly increase your EVP's chances of resonating with their motivations.

Make sure it aligns with your mission and vision statement 

Derive your EVP from your mission and vision statements. This will keep it authentic and easy to fulfill.

8. Encourage employee advocacy

Example of employee advocacy. Source

Employee advocacy is an employee's recommendation of your company to their network. It's a way to spread the word about what it's like to work at your company and get more people interested in your open positions.

When you have employees who are passionate about your company, they can be a great asset to your employer brand.

It builds trust between candidates and recruiters. Suppose someone hears about an open position from an employee. In that case, they'll be more likely to trust that person's opinion than if they hear about it through traditional marketing channels like job boards or social media ads.

Tips for leveraging employee advocacy to boost your employer reputation

  • Create and promote your employee advocacy program internally.
  • Educate employees on how to share their experiences online.
  • Give them some message and design templates to make post creation easier.
  • Include some form of rewards to encourage participation.

9. Design a seamless candidate application and interview experience

A dedicated resources section for candidates created on DigitalOcean website. Source

When hiring for your company, you want to ensure that every step of the process is as seamless as possible.

You want your applicants to feel like there are no barriers or hurdles between them and the job they're applying for. This means having an intuitive and easy-to-use application form, making sure your hiring managers are available when needed, and ensuring that the entire process runs smoothly from start to finish.

In addition to being a good hiring practice (and the right thing to do), a seamless candidate experience also helps your employer brand and reputation.

When candidates have a positive experience, they're more likely to recommend your company to others, which means you'll get more qualified candidates applying for positions at your company.

So don't just focus on making your application process efficient; make sure it's also an enjoyable experience for applicants.

10. Define your communication channels and candidate touch points

Example of video communication via YouTube for employer branding strategy. Source

Understanding your key communication channels will help you decide what and how to engage with your target candidates for the best results.

You should ideally have a dedicated content strategy for each channel.

Channels to share employer brand messaging

  • LinkedIn
  • Other social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • YouTube
  • Email newsletters
  • Career sites
  • Job boards
  • Job fairs and campus recruiting events
  • Employee referral programs
  • Your office campus

11. Create and deploy a candidate-focused content calendar

Employer branding can be a challenging task for recruiters and HR professionals. It's easy to get distracted and lose focus on what you're trying to achieve.

To ensure that your employer branding activities are successful, you need to plan them out in advance.

A content calendar is a great tool to help you do that. It will help your employer branding team focus on the things that matter most and avoid wasting time on irrelevant tasks.

It can also be a great way to manage multiple stakeholders in your organization, ensuring everyone is working towards a common goal.

You can either create a master content calendar or create one for each of your chosen channels. Then fill it out with content based on your strategy for that channel.

Pro Tip: Add AI technology to your workflow to supercharge your candidate-focused content creation.

12. Leverage paid targeting options

Example of a LinkedIn ad to showcase employee experience. Source

B2B companies often use paid channels for lead generation and sales.

You can also use the powerful targeting capabilities of paid advertising to promote your employer brand.

For example, if you're trying to attract job applicants from outside your local area, using paid channels like LinkedIn Ads could help you target those people with an ad that makes them more likely to click on it and apply for a job at your company.

Similarly, you can boost social posts highlighting your team's notable achievements to potential candidates. This can help improve your employer credibility over time.

13. Measure and optimize your efforts

Finally, measuring your key performance indicators is essential because they can tell you how well your employer branding strategy is working against your defined goals.

KPIs are measurable goals that help you evaluate the effectiveness of your employer brand. They can be anything from the number of applications your job openings receive to the average cost per hire.

It's important to remember that employer branding is not a one-time activity. It's an ongoing process that requires constant attention and evaluation. If you don't measure your KPIs against your goals, you won't know what you could achieve and what should be improved.

Maintaining a visual dashboard with all your KPIs in one place is an excellent way for employer branding teams to periodically communicate the progress with other stakeholders.

Final thoughts on employer branding strategy

Employer branding, when done right, can do wonders for your business.

If you study the hiring strategies of some of the most successful companies in the world, you will observe their intense focus on building and maintaining a strong employer reputation.

Such companies are much less likely to worry about filling open positions and high attrition rates.

Becoming a top employer brand in your industry is a tremendous competitive advantage you can gain with a thoughtful and well-executed strategy. You will increase your employee retention and attract top talent while improving your workplace culture.

We hope this guide provides you with actionable points to work towards building an employer brand that becomes a powerful talent magnet for long-term growth.

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