Whether three stripes, a bitten apple, or an arrow from a to z: Brands shape the appearance of companies. What manufacturers and retailers have been perfecting for decades also plays a role in recruiting: branding. In classic marketing, a brand creates more demand, simplifies sales, and allows you to push through higher prices. A brand isn’t something fancy or the glitter on the surface. Investing in branding brings tangible business benefits. The same applies to activities in the personnel market, often summarized under the heading of “ employer branding ”. This has a direct impact on target achievement and key figures. Typical activities are developing a positioning as an employer, establishing brand communication, and implementing measures.
Companies that succeed in making a “good name” for themselves benefit from the personnel market. Reaching interesting employees is easier, recruiting costs are lower, and closing is more likely. These are all advantages that can determine the future success or failure of a company in times of a shortage of skilled workers. Across all industries, this deficiency is considered one of the obstacles to growth. This applies in particular to the IT market. Talents with qualifications in sought-after areas such as artificial intelligence, but also experienced workers in basic technologies, are few and far between here. And local, medium-sized companies compete with Silicon Valley heavyweights for the same specialists. The employer brand is one of the factors
More growth means more staffing needs
Dealing with the topic has changed over the course of the company’s history. Initially, the entire workforce fits into one larger meeting room. Under these conditions, it is easy for companies to develop an employer brand and to communicate consistently across all channels – internally and externally. A few new employees are added every month. The team ensures that the “newcomers” quickly understand and live the cornerstones of the employer brand. The requirements are different if the company is spread over numerous locations. Or when new employees come on board on a large scale every month and have to find their role.
A challenging situation for everyone involved. More growth entails a greater need for personnel. The new employees ensure more growth, which means more staff is needed. Properly orchestrated, a flywheel is created that puts and keeps the company on course for growth. But: In such a dynamic environment, there is a great danger that culture will fray or messages will be watered down. With all the negative effects that would have on recruiting. Therefore, in phases of rapid growth, those responsible for employer branding must attach particular importance to certain aspects.
You have to pay attention to this when it comes to employer branding
Compared to classic marketing, companies have an invaluable advantage with employer branding: Good employers bring dozens, hundreds or thousands of brand ambassadors with them. Activating this is one of the most important tools for HR managers. The existing team has a decisive influence on the perception of one’s own company on the personnel market. That is why the employer brand plays just as important a role internally as it does externally.
Employer branding rests on a foundation and four pillars. If those responsible pay attention to these aspects, individual measures develop their full impact. Even if growth curves point steeply upwards.
The foundation: economic success
The financial data must be correct so that potential employees perceive a company as an attractive employer. If these framework conditions are not right, efforts to build and maintain an employer brand will come to nothing. At the same time, healthy companies have exciting project opportunities and the scope for investments: from the development of technologically interesting products and platforms to further training opportunities.
Pillar 1: be responsible
A brand is not created by listing values in a PowerPoint presentation or by postings in the canteen. A brand is manifested in the behavior of the people in an organization. Each and every individual contributes their part to building a brand. This applies even more to employer branding. All employees are role models. The company should therefore also involve everyone in the process of branding.
In the case of new employees, the decision for this employer is only a few weeks or months old. They in particular are convincing ambassadors for the company. The onboarding process is of particular importance. Now those responsible have to meet the expectations that they built up in the recruiting process. In this phase, they create the conditions for the newcomers to the team to understand the values and adopt the culture. Whether welcome days or programs, mentor systems, or regular feedback rounds: all of this helps to create understanding and maintain enthusiasm.
Pillar 2: be transparent
Companies must formulate values and rules clearly. All employees at all levels must support them with conviction. The more concretely those responsible breaks down central cultural components to everyday work – make them tangible – the higher the acceptance. This can be as easy to implement as saying hello in the hallway or stairwell. This can be as complex as the priority of corporate interests over individual target agreements. Working with examples or referencing real projects or discussion situations helps. This illustration of desired or undesired behavior conveys what is difficult to grasp. A story about an executive who has their office door extended says a lot about a company’s leadership culture.
Events where conveying cultural elements is as important as getting together also ensure transparency. Joint breakfasts or after-work events are just as useful as question and answer sessions with management.
Pillar 3: be vigilant
As described at the beginning: Quickly integrating a large number of new employees is both a blessing and a curse for the employer brand. Despite all the careful selection processes, those responsible cannot rule out the possibility that a promising new hire will not meet expectations. This does not only apply to technical skills. The cultural fit is just as important. Because new colleagues whose values and behavior do not match the corporate culture can pose a threat to the employer’s brand. This is especially true for executives. With their behavior and role model function, they significantly shape the atmosphere and working methods in their teams.
An environment that recognizes such dangers at an early stage is crucial for the continued existence of the employer brand. It’s not about lurking for mistakes or creating an atmosphere of surveillance. The opposite is the case: openness and vigilance are required, not spying on and denouncing. The aim must be to identify misconduct, address problems, and manage situations effectively. One factor here: is the “swarm intelligence” of the employees. If the majority of employees identify with the culture and live by values, deviations will be noticed early and almost inevitably. Those responsible have a phased plan in place for this eventuality. This includes talks, training programs, and, ultimately, ending the collaboration.
Pillar 4: be imaginative and energetic
As with classic branding, the following applies to employer branding: what was fresh and surprising yesterday is standard today and old hat tomorrow. Being happy with status is the beginning of the end of an employer brand. A company that is growing dynamically needs a dynamic brand. This is not just a task for the HR department, but for all employees. Everyone can ensure that new ideas are created in their own environment – and above all, that they are implemented.
The company as a whole is also challenged. It’s not about distributing gimmicks to people on a weekly basis. The aim is to set up activities along the employee journey – understood as all points of contact that employees have with the company – and in line with the employer brand. This includes top equipment for mobile working as well as modern branches with leisure activities or the offer of food trucks during breaks or after work. Or larger activities such as setting up a foundation to help employees in need in an uncomplicated way. Coordinated measures ensure that the radiance of the brand is increased. If companies succeed in continually astounding employees, they have already gained a lot when it comes to employer branding.
The explanations show that building an employer brand is a key task, especially in a tense personnel market. Building an employer brand helps maintain competitiveness. As paradoxical as it may seem, a fast-growing company, in particular, is faced with challenges. If those responsible are aware of the situation and possible effects, they can counteract their activities at an early stage. It is important to retain the momentum and innovative strength of the early days – and at the same time to think and operate on a larger scale.