employer branding

Employer branding, personnel marketing, and recruiting are among the major challenges facing B2B companies. But what is it really? As an industrial company, how do you manage to master the shortage of skilled workers?

How do you build a successful B2B employer brand and which HR marketing measures are suitable for filling vacancies? You can find out in our guide on B2B employer branding.

What is employer branding?

The demand for talent is increasing, the supply is getting smaller every day and companies from various industries have to withstand this new talent competition for skilled workers. The main task is to focus on presenting yourself as a good employer and making yourself known. Employer branding approaches this task by using branding methods to strengthen the employer brand. Employer branding describes the development of a strong employer brand.

This creates fundamental competitive advantages and positive effects on employee retention, corporate culture, motivation, and corporate image. Developing your own employer brand, positioning yourself as an attractive employer, retaining existing employees, and recruiting new employees are the tasks of every HR manager. Employer branding and personnel marketing measures are the decisive success factors.

Definition of employer branding

Employer branding includes all strategies used to communicate the employer brand. Employer branding thus describes the development of a strong employer brand (employer brand) that is intended to convince potential employees of the company and retain existing employees.

By creating a likable employer brand, the company should be made more attractive to potential applicants. Consequently, these efforts aim to increase the number of applicants. It’s not just about increasing the number of potential employees, but also about aligning the more efficient design of recruiting and the inner values ​​of the company with the desired external image.

This is extremely important for building an employer brand. This is the only way that the expectations that have been raised can be met even after a successful application process and employees can be bound to the company in the long term.

Definition of personnel marketing

Personnel marketing is explicitly about the measures that a company uses to recruit potential, suitable employees. According to the Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, the primary goal is to ensure a high proportion of qualified potential employees in each group of applicants. Methods such as job advertisements, personnel consulting, headhunters, and other communication channels are used in particular.

In simplified terms, the difference between HR marketing and employer branding can be defined as follows: Employer branding includes all tasks that contribute to internal and external employer branding and thus have a more indirect effect on filling open vacancies. Personnel marketing is ultimately all measures taken to fill vacancies and thus have an active effect.

Why is employer branding so important?

According to the “EMPLOYER BRANDING” study by the Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg and the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg on behalf of Monster Worldwide Deutschland GmbH, the top 1000 companies (German companies with annual sales of more than EUR 150 million ) to fill around 138 vacancies.

In IT companies, this number was even higher, with an average of 158 vacancies. The study also found that 13.4% of the employees at these companies will retire in the next few years. This means that the number of positions to be filled and thus also the fight for skilled workers will increase in the coming months.

In addition, as early as 2020, around 50% of employees will be millennials – i.e. born between (1980 and 1995) and this target group of applicants has increased demands on their future employers and is reached through other, newer channels. You can find out more about this target group here: Social Media Employer Branding: Here are the digital natives.

Furthermore, the study also revealed: On average, 4 out of 10 vacancies are very difficult to fill and every tenth vacancy remains completely vacant.

Companies reported that in 2018, 8.3% of job postings were “impossible to fill” and 39.6% were “difficult to fill.” This is the highest value since 2014. In IT companies, this number is even more drastic: According to the study, 15.5% of the open positions are “impossible to fill” and 52.9% are at least “difficult to fill”.

This means that even for large companies, the struggle for qualified workers is enormous. What about medium-sized and small companies? In terms of salary, location or modern work structures, these often have even more disadvantages for the urgently needed specialists.

And that becomes clear when it comes to potential applicants: According to the same study, around 74% of applicants place higher demands on the employer than before. These results make it clear how important it is to deal intensively with the topic of employer branding now. Because even if short-term personnel marketing campaigns can lead to success and urgently needed positions can be filled, this is only a drop in the ocean in the long term.

Unless you make sure that all short-term personnel marketing and recruiting measures contribute to a strong employer brand in the long term. Especially in the case of relatively unknown B2B companies and also hidden champions, in the long run this can lead to more qualified applicants and thus to falling personnel costs at the same time.

Employer branding is not only important for filling vacancies, but also for your own company brand and the sale of your products. Because an applicant can always be a potential customer. The study also found that the rating of a product or service is also directly related to the company’s employer brand. More than half of the employees surveyed state that the employer brand can have both a positive and a negative impact on the company’s product attractiveness.

Who is responsible for employer branding?

Employer branding requires four main players to clearly position your own employer brand:

  • Human Resources/HR: Human resources is closely linked to candidate search, hiring, employee engagement, and retention.
  • CEO/Management: As busy as CEOs are, they are also responsible for the success of the corporate culture and employer brand. Since employer branding is a strategic corporate measure, management should also be included in the discussion.
  • Marketing: Employer branding also needs the support of marketing, as they can bring additional resources into the process.
  • Brand ambassadors/brand management: If there are already brand ambassadors in your company, then you should of course involve them in the process. This can be a great way to amplify recruitment and work culture messages to attract more top talent.

Employer branding in B2B companies

Employer branding is often even more difficult for B2B companies than for companies that sell their products and services directly to consumers. Because the brand awareness of B2C companies is usually much higher by reaching a broad mass.

B2B employer branding is therefore a mammoth task, but it can bring advantages in both directions: Successful B2B employer branding can work wonders both in finding qualified workers and in raising awareness of your own company, its brand, and its products.

But before B2B and industrial companies simply start taking any employer branding or personnel marketing measures, it is worth considering the following: A strategy is needed to make B2B employer branding successful in the long term and to create a strong employer brand. In order to develop suitable strategies, the current status must first be analyzed and the exact goal to be achieved through employer branding must be determined.

  • What makes us special?
  • What does our current employer’s image look like?
  • Are we attractive to our employees and why?
  • Why should our employees stay with us?
  • Are we also attractive to the talent we would like to attract?
  • What does this target group find attractive?
  • Where and how do we reach our target group?
  • How do we become more attractive?
  • How can we define and position our company more clearly?

Employer branding goals

If the battle for talent is mainly about simple marketing, employer branding sharpens the company profile, especially for B2B companies, and at the same time supports systematic and strategic improvement. This results in two main goals and target groups of employer branding, which are equally important for long-term success for companies:

  • Employee acquisition / recruiting (target group: talents, applicants)
  • Employee retention/loyalty (target group: employees)

For this reason, the HR department and the management of the company should attach great importance to the measures and strategies of their own employer branding. Their importance is often underestimated and the possibility that the best talent, most dedicated employees, and best applicants will decide against their own company and possibly for the competition is growing.

Many industrial and B2B companies are also exposed to this danger. After all, qualified specialists are in short supply, especially in the technical and manual areas. Building a strong employer brand is not a goal that can be implemented in the short term. On the contrary, it is an ongoing process that, like brand building, never ends.

However, you have the opportunity to achieve your short-term goals – such as filling a specific position – through targeted recruiting campaigns or personnel marketing measures. At the same time, these personnel marketing campaigns can also contribute to your employer’s brand. The prerequisite for this is that you have previously considered a long-term strategy and that the short-term measures are based on it.

B2B companies can achieve this with employer branding and personnel marketing

Employer branding is not a new trend and every company already has its own form of employer branding. Every interaction with your employees, from the application phase until they leave the company, leads to a certain branding effect, through moods and experiences with your brand.

But due to the shortage of skilled workers, this topic has become more present. Because small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) from the B2B sector are now struggling with even greater hurdles, such as adequate remuneration for employees, which can at least catch up with the big players, unattractive locations and new work models. Good, targeted employer branding can at least partially overcome these hurdles. Because with a strong employer brand, you as a B2B company create the following advantages:

  • You Attract Potential Employees and Retain Existing Professionals:
    A solid employer brand will make your existing employees proud to be part of your company. Being part of a company with a great work culture is very important for today’s job seeker. Most of them will look at your company’s social media profiles and website before applying. So use social media to project an employee-centric culture and get the best of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for your employer branding.
  • Reduces Recruitment Costs:
    When you have a solid employer brand, you don’t have to spend time identifying, attracting, and engaging candidates; in the best-case scenario, the candidates will come to you. In fact, according to Randstad’s 2019 Employer Brand Research study, 50% of applicants would not work for a company with a bad reputation, even if they make more money there. This has a particularly positive effect on smaller companies because you can compensate for a lower salary with attractive additional benefits or opportunities that you offer your employees.

How to convince employees with the employer brand

Because other factors of your employer are important to the younger generation, the millennials in particular. The advantage: You can also meet these factors as a medium-sized B2B company. For example, Generations Y and Z want:

  • A good work-life balance:
    For example, offer overtime reduction and flexible working hours and/or home office (especially during the pandemic). Or give long-time employees the option to take a sabbatical or extended, unpaid leave. Part-time models or reduced hours can also be decisive arguments.
  • Equal opportunities as well as funding and development opportunities:
    As a B2B company, you cannot expect that you will hire a suitable person for a specific position and they will then do nothing else for the next few years. Give your employees the opportunity to develop professionally and promote their skills and strengths. Even if not everyone can become a manager, it is often important for the next generation of employees to continue their professional development and to face new challenges. They should also pay attention to balanced equality. Not only for women – which can pay off, by the way, especially in IT companies – but also in terms of diversity. It is very important that your company has a good reputation in this field.
  • Sustainability and social commitment:
    Anyone who has not yet noticed that young people and young adults are particularly environmentally conscious and value sustainability and social commitment very highly should definitely look into it. This is what the next generation expects from potential employers. If your company is involved in social areas or works particularly sustainably, this not only pays off for your company brand, but also for your employer brand. However, such measures should not only be used for appearances but should actually be firmly anchored in the corporate culture. How to ensure authenticity.

How do you start?

The same applies to B2B employer branding as it does to B2B marketing: It is essential to know your target group. Only if you know who you are looking for and who you want to hire will you be able to take the right measures and decisions.

Therefore, deal in detail with your ideal applicants and tailor your employer branding to their wishes and needs. For example, collect information about the perspectives of your young professionals on the following topics:

  • development prospects
  • identity of the company
  • corporate culture
  • Values
  • Location
  • challenges
  • incentive systems
  • Independent work
  • responsibility
  • salary
  • stock options
  • home office
  • working time models
  • career programs

Employer branding is not the same as personnel marketing

Employer branding does a lot for the success of the company. Starting with cost reduction through increased customer satisfaction to competitive advantages. However, it is all too often misunderstood as pure personnel marketing and the terms employer branding and personnel marketing are often mentioned in the same breath. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s not entirely right either. The terms overlap but also differ from each other. Personnel marketing focuses on positioning your company on the job market with special internal and external measures.

The external measures are aimed at recruiting new employees for the company. By creating its own recruiting website, but also by using various social media channels, a company can provide insights through its online presence and thus attract new talent. In contrast, internal HR marketing focuses on retaining existing employees. These measures include, for example, special benefits or further training opportunities for employees.

In both cases, however, it is important to know which HR marketing options are available in order to derive the perfect employer branding process and strategically communicate this to the outside world. All too often, however, companies assume that their personnel marketing already covers all measures for recruiting new employees and they are surprised at the moderate success. Even if the actions mentioned are already being carried out in the company, the overarching strategy is often missing: employer branding.

In order for recruiting offensives and HR campaigns to really succeed, the company must create a solid, authentic and credible employer brand, that is the employer branding strategy. Employer branding thus describes the overarching framework for the operational measures that are implemented in personnel marketing.

In short, employer branding has the function of an overarching strategy that all departments that communicate internally and externally must follow, while personnel marketing provides the operational measures. These must always fit the employer branding strategy.

Examples of building an employer brand

Strategies and catalogs of measures sound far removed from practice. Many of the actions that make up employer branding are completely natural and are already part of everyday work in many companies. In times of digitization, the most important thing is the effective communication of one’s own employer brand via the company’s online presence.

HR departments and management are required to deal with new digital formats and tools for their employer branding. Medium-sized companies in particular continue to rely on classic measures such as trade fair appearances or the sponsoring of events. But these channels are no longer enough and a true online strategy should not be put off. Because if you don’t have a convincing and meaningful online presence these days, you will lose young talent in particular to competitors with a modern appearance. Your own homepage should not be underestimated.

While social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram can be used to provide personal insights into one’s own company, the website must offer the complete package: it must represent the company authentically and attractively, convey the right amount of specialist information – and be good appearance. Digital natives in particular attach great importance to attractive digital products. A cross-channel strategy is also indispensable – which can also mean using fewer social media channels, but addressing your target group with high-quality content. However, employer branding on social media can also be very effective, especially with the young target group.

Especially if you are already well-positioned online, it makes sense to place your content where your target group is active and not to play as much content as possible on as many channels as possible using the watering can principle. In addition, your content must fit the company, because your own identity and authenticity are particularly important here and should not be forgotten between an unnecessarily large number of actions.

Examples of building an employer brand

In general, effective employer branding requires patience. Positioning yourself successfully as an employer is a long-term process that cannot be implemented overnight. In the end, the effort pays off, because long-term employer branding strengthens the competitiveness of your company.

In order to achieve the first quick wins, however, personnel marketing measures are also suitable. After all, your positions cannot remain vacant until your employer brand is built. Such campaigns can be, for example, the search engine optimization of your career page. Or a targeted personnel marketing campaign using a landing page and suitable advertising measures for a very specific job advertisement.

You can also use social networks such as LinkedIn, XING, and Facebook Jobs as well as new offers in addition to the classic recruiting platforms such as Google Jobs to increase the reach of your job advertisements. However, you should always make sure that all of these personnel marketing and recruiting measures are in line with your employer branding strategy and contribute to it in the long term.


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