Recruiting Practices and Employer Branding
November 4 2022 - Recruiting practices need to be consistent with branding strategies or organizations risk missing out on top talent and potential revenue. According to Alan Price Human Resource Management, 4th edition:
"The basis of employer branding is the application of the same marketing and branding practices to a company's human resource activities (specifically, recruitment and retention) as it uses for consumer-targeted marketing and branding efforts. In other words, the business markets its brand image to its staff. And just as customers will cease buying a company's products or services when a promise is unfulfilled, its employees will also leave if the company fails to live up to its employer brand promises."
Some businesses use separate, dedicated employer branding efforts aimed at aligning employees with their organizations' vision and values whereas others pursue this goal as one element of broader corporate branding strategies.
A survey by Employer Branding specialists Universum of more than 185,000 students in business, engineering, and IT from 9 of the world's largest economies between September 2021 and May 2022 asked the students:
- which employer characteristics were most influential as they considered future employment, and
- which employer brands they most admired
The 2022 World's Most Attractive Employers (WMAE) study highlighted an increasing gap between students' job expectations and what employers can offer as economies cool. "Competitive salary" and "high future earnings" are now two of the top-three priorities for business, engineering, and IT university students — and are among the fastest-growing priorities. "Over the last 18 months, employers offered generous contracts and working conditions to attract young talent because demand exceeded supply in many regions," says Mats Röjdmark, Chief Executive Officer, Universum. "Now that hiring is slowing, we expect more realistic employment deals in 2023." Google drops to #2 among business students. It was edged out by Apple, which rose two places this year to #1. (Google still ranks #1 for engineering and IT students.) Quality of life is still a growing priority. From a list of 40 attributes, "work-life balance" rose 6 places to rank as #8 most important in 2022, and "flexible working conditions" rose 7 places to #10. Evidence of "quiet quitting?" Asked to rank their top priorities in a future employer, young people were significantly less likely to choose "challenging work" in 2022 — the largest one-year drop of any priority in 2022. Universum Global Account Director Richard Mosley says the 2022 study offers critical data points for employers' 2023 budgets: "Companies are still hungry for young talent in tech, business, and engineering, but budget tightening will likely force difficult decisions. Now more than ever, organizations must take a data-driven approach to employer branding, messaging and channel strategy."
A global study by Alexander Mann Solutions in 2011 surveyed 546 consumers in the USA, UK and China and found that 52% of respondents said that negative experiences at recruitment interviews would affect their future purchasing decisions. 47% of Chinese respondents said that they would reconsider buying from an organization after a bad interview experience compared to 50% of American respondents and 58% in the United Kingdom. There has always been a risk of people rejected by the recruitment process spreading negative opinions but social media such as Facebook and Twitter can now provide them with a means of influencing hundreds or thousands of people. Three quarters of American respondents said they would be likely to share their negative interview experience with friends and contacts.
Lisa Chartier, head of U.S. resourcing communications for Alexander Mann Solutions said:
"There’s a crucial 'sliding door' moment for interviewing candidates. Not only are they potential customers, but during the interviewing process, they also have the potential to become part of the brand. Companies that don’t consider the implications of this very emotional process are - at best - letting a potential customer go. At worst, these companies are damaging their brands on a much larger scale."
The significant investments businesses make in building their brands can be damaged by unthinking human resource actions that result in negative actions from disgruntled job candidates and former employees. Organizations should have safeguards in place to avoid unsatisfactory human resources experience. The report recommends that branding strategies should apply throughout the complete employment lifecycle - 'from interviewing candidates to transitioning employees to alumni.' The report states that organizations often overlook the final stage of the employee lifecycle, but ex-employees continue their relationship with brands as:
- potential customers
- product advocates
- possible future recruits
According to Lisa Chartier:
"There are three primary phases within the full employment lifecycle - the candidate touch point, the employee touch point, and the alumni touch point - each with several touch point opportunities for engagement within them. Each of these touch points is vital in ensuring that an employee, or potential employee, has a positive brand experience that they are likely to carry forward with them."
Perhaps surprisingly, 88% of American respondents seemed not to mind if prospective employers checked their profiles on social media (including Facebook and Twitter) as part of a recruitment process. Job applicants are often told to keep their social media pages hidden from potential employers, but apparently most Americans expect their online lives to add weight to hiring decisions. Just over a half (50.3%) felt that it would not make a difference to their view of an organization if their social media profiles were looked at during the recruitment process and 29.7% said that it would have a positive impact on the their view of that company.
Lisa Chartier said:
"The tide has turned on the way job candidates use social media. In today’s world, consumers are regularly engaging with brands on Facebook and Twitter, so it’s natural for this interaction to extend into the job application sphere. While some brands have been slow to use these channels to support their employer brands and talent management strategies, these findings should open the door for them to confidently move in this direction. In general, taking a more thoughtful and strategic approach to the entire interview process will lead to a longer, more rewarding relationship between the candidate and the employer - no matter the outcome of the interviewing process."
The effects and implications of 'employer branding' have interested both HR theorists and corporate branding experts for some time.
In Taking Brand Initiative: How Companies Can Align Strategy, Culture, and Identity Through Corporate Branding, Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz (p.33) state:
"... BMW, Apple and Google have all created brands that make it easier for these companies to recruit talented workers and to motivate their employees. These effects get into territory that is highly subjective, such as the emotional attractions of a workplace or a brand's motivational implications. This territory lies beyond the reach of ordinary economic analysis."
Corporate branding and employer branding
Hatch and Schulz (p. 142) argue that employment relationships should not be regarded as a standalone brand. Rather, 'HR should focus on customizing its practices to align them with the corporate brand.' The advocate a seamless relationship between employer and corporate branding with all branding efforts doing a 'double duty (that is, serving employees and building a strong brand).'
When employees have accepted the sincerity and accuracy of the employer brand they will carry it forward, actively promoting the brand to colleagues and customers. But note those words: sincerity and accuracy. Employer branding that is inherently untruthful will not work and is likely to be counter-productive.