What Is Employer Branding? 5 Ways it Gives You ROI

What does it take to create a strong, healthy brand that lasts? More products? More customers? More efficient processes? Nope. The true potential of your brand doesn’t lie in your product innovation or your production chain; it’s in your people, specifically your employees. They’re the ones who lend their time, energy, bodies, and minds to your brand, and they will ultimately help you build it or abandon it. But in a market where competition is fierce, it’s harder to attract the right employees—and keep them united around a shared vision. But there’s one thing that can make it a lot easier: employer branding. 

What Is Employer Branding?

Employer branding is the practice of sharing your story with job seekers, showing them who you are, what you believe in, and what you can offer them. By shining a light on what makes you unique through your culture and content, employer branding helps you turn your brand into a beacon. People who believe in your brand’s purpose (and want to contribute to it) will come to you, instead of you chasing after them.  

This starts a transformative process. The better your hires, the stronger your community becomes. When people are happier, engaged, and aligned, they are more committed to your brand’s vision, which feeds into every aspect of your organization.

BETTER EMPLOYEES = A STRONGER BRAND

From product design, to customer service, to marketing, the more clear and confident your brand is about the work you do, the stronger your work and brand becomes, and the more people will want to work with you, for you, and buy from you. 

Why Does Employer Branding Matter? 

The job hunt has changed drastically over the last decade. Now, brands have more competition and employees have higher expectations than ever before. Brands that want to find and keep the best and brightest need to be aware of these trends—and strategize around them. 

1) Jobs are easier to find—and leave. Social media has given job seekers more access to jobs than ever. Through sites like LinkedIn, Monster, or Twitter, people have larger networks and can interact more easily with potential employers.

Tech has also made it easier to work remotely, removing geographic barriers that used to keep people’s options limited. That means brands aren’t just competing with local businesses for talent; they may be competing on a national or even global scale.

2) Employees want more than money. According to Glassdoor, more than 77% of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and 56% say company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.

Today, people want to align themselves with brands they believe in and do meaningful work that’s worth their time and commitment. Beyond the standard benefits, things like culture, community, purpose, personal development, and growth are all deciding factors. If your brand hasn’t invested in these areas, you’ll find it much harder to entice people to work for you. 

3) How you treat your employees matters—to everyone. Whereas a brand’s “audience” was once just its customers, social media has increased transparency all around. Now a brand is communicating with a larger ecosystem, including employees, potential employees, customers, vendors, and industry. Bad behavior in any of those spheres will affect a brand’s reputation in all of them.

Now that sites like Glassdoor or Reddit empower employees to speak out, there is even more accountability. You may have a 5-star customer service rating, but if you notoriously mistreat your employees, people won’t want to support you. (For the record, the way brands have treated their employees during this pandemic will follow them long after it’s over.)

Employer branding employer brand-employer-branding

Ultimately, these trends have forced us into a more sophisticated era of recruiting. If you want a strong brand, you need to invest in your people. Nurture your employees, create a place where people are proud to work, and they will help you create the brand you want. Luckily, focusing on employer branding is the most effective way to do this.

The ROI of Employer Branding

Truthfully, many brands haven’t realized the full power of employer branding yet, which is why now is the best time to invest in it. This undervalued and overlooked tool can have tremendous pay-off in all aspects of your business, both internally and externally. 

1) Recruiting. Finding job candidates requires an investment time, energy, and resources. Hiring the wrong person is even more expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bad hire can cost up to 30% of the employee’s first-year salary.

Employer branding can make the hunt easier and much less costly. When you can tell your story effectively, show people why you’re different, showcase your culture, and give people an honest and authentic sense of who you are, you will entice the right kind of people to apply, saving you valuable time, money, and effort.  

2) Retention. It’s much more economical to keep your good employees than to go out and find new ones. According to the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report, turnover costs as much as 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace. (Worse, if they leave to lend their talents to a competitor, you may lose your market share too.)

A strong employer brand is a safeguard. The better your reputation, the less turnover you’ll have. 

3) Engagement. The more you invest in creating a strong, healthy culture, the happier your employees will be. Employer branding provides people with a sense of purpose, a supportive community, and a value system they can align themselves with. This makes people more engaged, more invested, and more productive, which translates to your bottom line.

A 2019 Oxford University study found that happy employees are 13% more productive, and 2018 Gallup data found that companies with higher engagement are 21% more profitable.  

4) Referrals. A strong employer brand also helps you maximize your investment in your current employees because when and if they leave, they are more likely to refer quality candidates.

According to CareerBuilder, 82% of employers rate employee referrals above all other sources for generating the best return on investment. Happy alumni are also more likely to speak well of your brand wherever they go, which is invaluable for your reputation. 

5) Brand experience. If you want to make an impression with the people who buy your products or services, you need to create a positive, cohesive, and consistent brand experience. And who provides that? Your employees.

A strong employer brand keeps people active and engaged, which gives them the energy and enthusiasm to give your customers their best.

“The shortest distance to customer love is through employees who are receiving the same thing from you.” 

—Bill Schley, The UnStoppables: Tapping Your Entrepreneurial Power

How to Strengthen Your Employer Brand

Employer branding isn’t a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing practice that evolves with your brand. If you’re looking for ways to elevate your brand and tell your story more effectively, try these simple tips. 

  1. Know your Brand Heart. The core of strong employer branding is knowing who you are. Use our free workbook to articulate your brand’s purpose, vision, mission, and values. This clarity helps ensure your storytelling is authentic and aligned to your core principles. You can also learn about the 7 traits you need to cultivate to create a strong employer brand. 
  2. Do a Brand Audit. How do you know what people really think about your employer brand? Conduct a comprehensive audit to find out what prospective candidates, current employees, and alumni can tell you about their experience working with you.
  3. Create an Employee Value Proposition. Good branding relies on clear messaging. What are you really offering potential employees? What can you guarantee they’ll get if they work for you? Find out how to write a strong EVP, and look for ways to reinforce it in your communication. 
  4. Create content around your culture. Your culture is your most powerful differentiator. Showcase it as often as you can. Whether you’re spotlighting your employees or sharing a new initiative around one of your core values, there are all sorts of ways to create interesting, meaningful content. For more ideas, see our guide to culture marketing

Of course, we’re well aware that much of this is deep work that doesn’t happen overnight. If you need more perspective, insight, or guidance, we’re happy to help you reframe the way you think about your brand. Just holler at us.