Employer Branding explained – Definition and Dimensions of Employer Branding

What is employer branding, and why is it so important?

What is Employer Branding and what are the different aspects of it. The article explains all the important points to get a first overview of the topic, to understand which alignments there are and which elements are important in employer branding.

Almost continuously I encounter the question: What actually is employer branding? Over the years, I have noticed that employer branding is still an unknown term for many people. Although employer branding is considered to be a strategic measure and is thus gaining more and more weight in corporate activities, the concept is not yet widespread worldwide. Since employees in particular and their recruitment are becoming a strategic competitive advantage, this article provides a simple and practical introduction to this important topic:

Employer Branding – A Survival Measure in the War for Talents

A few years ago, the term employer branding seemed to be undiscovered. In the discourse of the literature at that time, mainly the terms “personnel marketing” & “recruiting” appeared. Employer branding actually established itself in the European area only at the beginning of the 2000s, especially due to the ongoing shortage of skilled workers (war for talents), triggered among other things by demographic change. Companies were additionally confronted with higher complexity and dynamics of processes and increasingly need qualified personnel for the more knowledge-intensive activities (PWC 2013). To counter the shortage of personnel, many companies were prepared to invest holistically. The foundation for the expansion of employer branding in the EU had been laid.

What is “Employer Branding?

Today, we understand employer branding as long-term (employer) marketing with the focus on increasing employer attractiveness among employees and (potential) applicants. The primary goal here is to inspire (potential) specialists and executives with enthusiasm for a company as an “employer of choice” and thus to stand out as an “employer of choice”. The aim is to create an employer brand that is positively associated by the target group. Similar to customer marketing, a kind of emotional connection to the “brand” is to be established. I like to use the large VW corporation as a brief example here: Does VW actually build better cars than its market competitors? We don’t know for sure – but our minds have created a positive link to the brand. Our target group in employer branding is the employee who works in the advertising company or is supposed to work there in the future. In technical jargon, this group of people is called the “candidate persona”. In the broadest sense, employer branding is about marketing the company as an employer to this candidate persona.

Advantages of Employer Branding

Targeted employer branding brings several benefits, such as:

  • Simplified recruitment of qualified employees
  • Increased employee retention and loyalty
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduction of recruitment costs
  • Encouragement of innovation and creativity
  • Stronger competitive position in the labor market
  • Attractiveness for top talents and specialists
  • Improved image and reputation as an employer
  • Reduced staff turnover and training costs
  • Increased employee satisfaction and commitment
  • Positive impact on business performance
  • Long-term competitive advantage and sustained growth

Dimensions of employer branding

To better understand employer branding and the target groups, it is helpful to look at two dimensions. A look at the chart shows that a distinction is made between internal and external employer branding measures. Both measures help to (positively) influence the employer brand.

Internal Employer Branding

Internal activities impact the company’s vision, culture and values. For example, the factor of equality can be actively driven within the company through education & seminars, such as lectures on diversity. You can find some more examples of factors that can be driven, e.g. through improvements in the attached figure.

External Employer Branding

External employer branding is generally used to publicize internal measures externally. Unlike internal employer branding, the target group here is potential and not existing employees.

Structure and content of employer branding - internal employer branding and external employer branding
Structure and content of employer branding – internal employer branding and external employer branding – Source: Johanna Ehses

From theory to practice

The theoretical part can be easily understood with an example. It is important that the example is only about one measure that has a positive effect on the employer brand, it is important that several measures must be linked together.

Example “Internal employer branding” measure

The mood at a large business institute has been sour for some time. As a first measure, an internal analysis in the form of an employee survey can provide new insights into the current mood among employees. The results of the survey show, among other things, that the employees do not feel sufficiently supported. In simple terms, the solution could be to develop a standardized training program worth 3,000 euros per person. After successful implementation of the program, the relevance of employee development can be permanently established as part of the corporate culture.

Example “External Employer Branding Measure”

This success can finally be marketed externally to reach not only current employees, but also potential applicants. The information about the possibilities of further education can be marketed on social media, the career page & on image advertisements, job advertisements, etc. after researching whether this type of further education is interesting for the respective external target group. Continuing education offers are usually more interesting for the younger generation, for example, than for the target group of professionals.

For all those who think that this should be it with employer branding, we have to contradict them. Employer Branding consists of a permanent analysis of the actual situation of the company and the target group, as well as the subsequent development of coordinated measures. Employer branding is always in motion and in the process of reinventing itself.

Building an employer brand in a targeted manner

An employer brand is not a temporary phenomenon that is only activated when needed. Rather, it is fundamentally present, even if it is not actively and consciously influenced by the decision-makers. An employer brand is automatically anchored in daily actions and in the corporate culture and radiates both internally and externally. The brand is reflected in the way employees are treated, in the working conditions and in the way the company lives its values. Actively influencing, improving and publicizing the employer brand is the key to “successful employer branding.”

An article on employer branding can be found here: Set up employer branding strategy correctly in 6 steps.

Employer branding campaigns

Employer branding campaigns are widely used to effectively strengthen the employer brand and deliver targeted messages. These campaigns are strategic and time-limited initiatives that aim to highlight desired aspects of the employer brand and target specific audiences. They can use a variety of channels, including social media, career fairs, blogs and more, to get the word out. Employer branding campaigns skcan help increase the company’s visibility as an attractive employer.

Connections with recruiting, retention and HR marketing.

Employer branding is closely linked to the fields of action recruiting, retention and personnel marketing. A strong corporate brand attracts talented specialists and executives (recruiting), as it is perceived as the “employer of choice”. At the same time, it contributes to the loyalty of existing employees (retention), as they identify with the values and culture of the respective company. In addition, a strong employer brand facilitates personnel marketing, as potential applicants can be specifically addressed and convinced.

Combining these areas creates a holistic approach to developing and managing an employer brand. Employer branding is therefore not an isolated process, but an integral part of human resources management that can create a sustainable competitive edge in the labor market.

Measuring employer branding success

Measuring the success of employer branding is crucial to assessing the effectiveness of implemented measures and making improvements. There are several key data and indicators that can be used to evaluate the success of employer branding. These include, for example:

  1. Application numbers: The amount of applications per vacancy can give an indication of how attractive the company is to candidates.
  2. Staff turnover rate: A lower turnover rate indicates that employees have a strong bond with the company, which in turn can be an indication of a successful corporate brand.
  3. Employee satisfaction: Employee satisfaction surveys can provide insight into how satisfied current employees are with their jobs.
  4. Time to fill vacancies: Shorter time to fill vacancies can indicate higher employer attractiveness.

For more on this topic, see the article data-driven employer branding.

More appearance than reality – First internally, then externally.

Have you ever been persuaded by an employer and sobered to discover that it was all just good marketing? In fact, employer branding is employer marketing. In the best case, the external measures match the internal activities. Especially for employer branding, authenticity is a magic word. Nevertheless, the external message can deviate from the actual company culture.

A hotly debated topic in this context is “pinkwashing.” For example, at the beginning of Pride Month (an annual event of the LGBTQI+ community), many companies start coloring their logo in rainbow color on social media. People like to talk about the tolerance and diversity of the company’s culture as a supplement. If no internal action is taken to strengthen the LGQBTI+ community or if employees are not picked up in a timely manner, it can lead to an unfavorable situation for the advertising company, with employees calling for marketing to be set right. An example of how employer branding should not be implemented. Therefore, the golden rule always applies: First implement internal measures and inform the employees:inside, then market externally.

I hope that I was able to simplify the concept of employer branding for you. In my next articles, I will give you the answer to what advantages companies achieve through employer branding and why you in particular are also a part of employer branding.

I am Johanna Ehses, I am an expert in employer branding. My focus is on supporting SMEs in attracting and retaining talent and strengthening the corporate culture. With my clients, mainly from IT and consulting, I work both internally on the development of the corporate culture and EVP - and externally on aspects such as the career site and social media. My approach is strategic and data-driven in order to use resources effectively and optimally. As I am passionate about Employer Branding, I also want to share my knowledge and promote the topic in Europe and beyond.

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