Blog Post

4 Steps to Building an Irresistible 'Employer Brand'

Cornerstone Editors

We always hear about the importance of building a brand to attract customers. But what we don't hear a lot about is the value of brand-building when it comes to recruiting. At a time when competition for top talent is fierce even in a sputtering economy, employers need to do a lot more than just dangle higher salaries, more flexible hours and referral bonuses to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Kim Cassady, director of global talent at Cornerstone OnDemand, says companies should put as much emphasis on their "employer brand" as they do on the public face they present to customers and the world. But building that brand means more than just throwing money and perks at potential recruits, she says. Cassady suggests four core strategies for developing a reputation as a great company to work for.

Create a Culture by Design

Recruiting today needs to be proactive, and that includes creating a mission statement and culture that's vibrant and attractive to job seekers. After all, in today's uber-connected society, corporate cultures get defined by default unless companies take an active role upfront, says Cornerstone OnDemand CEO Adam Miller. Key to this take-charge process is employee input: put workers -- not managers -- at the center and allow them to identify and describe a company's personality, purpose and rewards.

Tap the Company's Best Asset

A company's most effective brand advocates are its current employees. Just as they help define a company's culture, they should be intricately involved in the recruiting process, says Cassady. Employees can blog on the company's site or for other industry sites. They can talk up the company at networking events. They can even apply on the company's behalf for recognition as a "great place to work." And when there are openings to fill, remember that current staff members are the best resource: companies are 10 times more likely to hire a referred candidate than other applicants.

Keep up Appearances

A company's "employer brand" matters a lot, but not to the exclusion of its overall brand, Cassady notes. To that end, leadership throughout the company is critical. From marketing to human resources to finance to sales, department heads throughout a company should live up to the company's culture and values -- and communicate them effectively to key stakeholders, prospective recruits, customers, and current employees. A good way, explains Cassady, to maintain a strong brand is to set up a LinkedIn company profile, keep the company website up-to-date and make the most of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a way to engage and inform the outside world. Statistics show that 98 percent of recruiters and hiring managers use social media so when it comes to building a public-facing brand, social media is a big avenue for success.

Differentiate Yourself, and Keep Doing It

Companies that look too much like their competitors have a harder time recruiting top talent based on factors other than compensation, says Cassady. It's critical, she says, that companies strive to set themselves apart from their rivals -- and to think constantly about new ways to do that. Zappos -- which has nap rooms for employees -- Google -- which offers employees free rental cars to run errands, free gyms and, in some cases, free on-site daycare -- and Airbnb -- where workers get $2,000 a year to spend as they wish on travel -- are all good examples of companies who have set themselves apart from the competition.

The perks don't have to be as costly as Google's or as wacky as Zappos', but companies would do well to remember that even small gestures can add up in the eyes of current -- and future -- employees.

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Why Recruiters Are Your Company's Best Brand Representatives

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Why Recruiters Are Your Company's Best Brand Representatives

When you think about who communicates with people outside of your company the most, you probably think of sales reps, but you should be looking at your recruiters. In fact, they spend almost all their time talking with or about people who aren't employees. Glassdoor says each corporate position receives an average of 250 applicants. Of course, that number is going to vary wildly depending on the position, but recruiters can potentially interact with thousands of people every year. Even though they aren't public relations specialists or marketing pros by title, a big part of their job is not only to attract and select the right candidates for the right roles, but also to present your organization in the best possible light to individuals and organizations—such as universities or talent agencies. Because of the sheer number of people they interact with on a regular basis, recruiters play a crucial role in generating a positive impression of your company. Here's how recruiters can serve as marketing agents, brand ambassadors or even PR agents, outside the scope of hiring new employees. Job Candidates Are Consumers, Too No matter what your company does, it's quite possible that your job candidates are also your customers. You want every one of those candidates to continue to do business with you even if they don't get the job. That requires treating all candidates with respect and ensuring they know you value their time. Candidates fill other roles—they're consumers, they work for other firms and they conduct business with your competitors. They have a voice. It used to be that PR reps could control a company's image—now, anyone with a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Glassdoor account can build a following and change the perception of a company. The Recruiter's Guide to Brand Representation Knowing that every customer recruiters interact with can have an impact on your brand perception, it's important for recruiters to be truly good brand representatives. To do that, they need to do a better job with regard to candidate experience. Today, almost 60 percent of job candidates say they've had a negative candidate experience, and 72 percent of those have shared their bad experience online. Here's how recruiters can change their ways, and keep candidates postive about the company: Keep candidates updated and informed. No ghosting! Send rejection emails as well as offer emails. People want to know when they should move on. Reward people for applying. When Hard Rock Cafe opened a restaurant in a new city, they gave a free drink coupon to everyone who applied, and everyone who interviewed got a free meal coupon as well. I interviewed the company about the promotion, and they told me that applicants not only redeemed these offers, but also brought their friends. Treat candidate's time as precious. They have jobs (often), homes and families, so use their time judiciously. Limit the number of times they need to come in for face-to-face interviews. If you want to see sample work, work with hiring managers to create a manageable assignment that will take less than an hour. Doing these things gives people positive feelings about your company, regardless of whether or not they get the job, and that's good for your company's brand. When your company has a great reputation, not only will people want to do business with your company, they'll also want to work for it. Photo: Creative Commons

ICYMI: Why HR Could Benefit From a Rebrand

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ICYMI: Why HR Could Benefit From a Rebrand

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How to Transform Your Employees Into Powerful Brand Advocates

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How to Transform Your Employees Into Powerful Brand Advocates

A version of this article was originally published on the SmashFly blog. It's no longer enough to be a great company—your company must be known as a great place to work. That's bigger than your own Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and what you say on your career site and what your leadership thinks about your culture. It's a blend of perception, reality, reputation and delivering on promises. So how do you become known as a top place to work and stand out to the people you seek to hire? The answer is sitting in front of you every day. No, not coffee (though caffeine can spark some ideas). It's your employees. I know what you're thinking: Do employee advocacy programs really work? How do I get my team to take part on top of everything else I have to do? At the Transform Virtual Conference this year hosted by my company SmashFly, a marketing automation software for recruiters, I explained how you can unleash your employees as powerful brand advocates. And I know it's possible because I've done it at different companies throughout my career. Why Employee Advocacy Matters Employee advocacy is a marketing strategy based on your workforce's enthusiasm for the company. If your organization solely relies on corporate messaging and official, branded social media accounts to drive awareness and connect with people, you'll never build an effective employer brand reputation. Sure, your messages, tweets and posts are important; they're just not trustworthy. Survey after survey shows people trust other people, not brands: 83 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know 60 percent of people trust peers more than a CEO If your company creates the right brand, compelling content, an intriguing purpose, useful resources, your employees will share it. Fueling Your Employees With Content "OK Carrie, so how do we find or create that content?" Well, I can tell you they don't want to blast out your sales pitch or your employer brand mantra or a formal paragraph from your About Us. They do want to share content that is personally relevant to their values, purpose and career goals, and helps establish them as thought leaders. Here are some types of content that I've found to work: Employee-generated content: People will share what they create, so involve employees in the content creation process, whether videos, blog posts, interview tips or their personal route to your company. Inspiring human-interest stories: I'm sure plenty of your employees or managers have inspiring stories both in and outside of work. Your team will share great things their co-workers are doing! Educational content: People like to be educated and teach, and this type of useful content really showcases your employees and brand as helpful. Ideas to Get You Started There are plenty of things you can do to drive employee advocacy, and most of them don't require a lot of money or effort. When I worked at AT&T, we saw tremendous results by simply tapping into existing employee networks. Start some (friendly) competition: For example, we shared a list of jobs we had difficulty filling with employees, so they could share it with their networks. To amp up some friendly competition, we created a competition and offered incentives for the people who could drive the most qualified applicants. Find your tribe: We created a "Twitter tribe" by identifying employees who were already tweeting about our brand, then invited them to share curated content we'd send every week. We fueled their feeds and made it easy, while they helped share our message. We had 1,200 employees participate the first year, and they sent over 10,000 tweets. Look to other advocates: We had an extensive talent network at AT&T, and we surveyed the members to learn what type of content they wanted. Most wanted to hear about company news, so we shared that content, and many ended up sharing it with their networks. These programs can work regardless of the size of your company because they don't require a ton of resources, just a little creativity. More often than not, your happiest and most effective employees are willing and eager to jump in, they're just waiting on the encouragement and support to get going. Photo: Creative Commons

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