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Believe in Your Employer Brand

By Universum on 14/08/2019

We’ve all seen the countless studies (summed up excellently here) that keep reminding us talent is pretty scarce right now. There just aren’t enough suitable people with the right skills to fill the positions that employers collectively want to hire for. And in case that wasn’t depressing enough, the predictions are that it’ll keep getting worse. Even if automation can eventually save us, what are we supposed to do in the meantime?

For a lot of employers, this talent shortage is really starting to make itself felt. Even strong employers are suffering from anything from burgeoning recruitment costs to exponentially increasing competition. The resulting slowdowns in recruitment are now hampering growth, transformation and innovation. In extreme cases, even throwing up questions around survival. It’s serious (and expensive) stuff.

Nowadays, every employer I speak to seems to have a unique plethora of challenges attracting the talent they need, none are immune. However, some are far better geared up for meeting these challenges than others. Sometimes that seems fair, the employment experience they offer is pretty fantastic and warrants its reputation. Other times the reasons for their tenacity and adaptability seem less instantly obvious… until you look deeper.

I’m fortunate enough to have met literally hundreds of employers over the past five years, many at the start of their journey into employer branding, many who are presiding over revered brands, and many who are somewhere in-between. During this privileged time, I’ve noticed one very clear difference between the winners and losers in the talent attraction race.  No, it’s not budgets or resources, it’s not even experience, the number one factor is undoubtedly belief!

The employers I meet who truly (and I mean truly truly) believe that influencing their future workforce in the right way is a strategic imperative, they’re the ones who are consistently increasing their brand equity, improving their talent attraction metrics the most (such as cost per hire, time to hire, quality of hire), and are outperforming their industry peers.

Belief is, of course, not an easy commodity to cultivate in places where it doesn’t yet exist. Even if you’re already a die-hard convert yourself, that will only take you so far because talent attraction is never a one person effort. For the rest of the non-believers who play a part in your mission, be they management or other stakeholders, scepticism can be difficult to shift.

So, if you’re struggling to attract the talent you need, and that’s because they work with your employer brand keeps stalling (or never gets going at all), here are some of my top tips for making converts of the people you need on your team…

Data is the bible you should be preaching from

Talking about your struggles to attract the right talent is one thing, demonstrating it is another. Brand health checks, or assessment surveys, play a very useful role in quantifying just how your much your target talent are interested in a career with you, or not. A good dataset will also show the gap between you and all of your main talent competitors, which is usually another eye widener.  Not necessarily because you’re behind the competition, but certainly in terms of just how much competition there is out there.

“At Universum, we’ve seen the number of employers top talent would ‘consider’ working for more than double in the past decade”

Brand association is another great way to get your colleagues to sit up and take note. It’s always interesting to see how your external target talent perceives the employment experience you offer. If your brand isn’t very strong or hasn’t been communicated well over key channels, the perception is likely to be some distance from reality. Showing this disparity to your colleagues will really help to highlight the need for action and for the more strategic management of your employer brand.

Therefore, tip one is to get hold of statistically relevant data that makes the challenges and opportunities clear and quantifiable.  Once you have it, share it with your team in a way that’s simple to understand and layered with insights and potential actions.

Seeing is believing

If the data wasn’t enough, or you can’t get hold of it, pilots are a great way to help cultivate belief. Short tactical campaigns that span a manageable time period (1-3 months) and are tied to easily measured results are a great way to prove that communicating your employment experience over key channels is effective and important.

Of course, timing will be key. My recommendation is to look towards your next recruitment initiatives, such as a grad program or internship. Then look to break the mould by running the application generation campaign like you would your employer branding, that is, take an employee-led approach and use always-on digital channels, such as your social media accounts.

Set yourself some objectives that will highlight the strengths of the approach, such as a healthy increase in application volume, landing better quality talent, increasing retention, or improvements in the offer rate at the end of the program.

If you get it right, this proof of concept will help you to create a strong case for a more strategic and long-term view to communicating with talent.

Keep it simple and palatable

I often find that employer branding sceptics have the impression that it’s overly complicated, fussy, difficult and expensive. Which, since customer brand marketing departments are often all these things, stands to reason. Why would employer branding be any different?

The reality is that employer branding can function extremely effectively without all the complication, fuss and expense. I’m yet to see any top employer with an employer branding department, or budget, close to that of their marketing teams (but I’m sure it’s coming). But I see these same companies executing compelling and best practice employer branding consistently and effectively.

“The main factor to their success is the belief that fuels their (relatively) small engine”

Breaking misconceptions about the insurmountable challenges of employer branding isn’t necessarily easy, but it is important and can help kick start your own employer brand. I recommend gathering a selection of case studies and using them to prove that modest resources combined with a straight forward approach and strong belief can have a giant impact.  I’ve seen several impressive case studies online (like this one or this one), that can help you on this mission.

Using these proof points to reinforce your own business case that outlines your objectives, what’s needed, your approach, and the reasons to believe could win you more of that critical support you need.

Advisory 2019

Do you need to refresh your EVP or are you interested in Employer Brand Consulting?

Given the ever-increasing pace of change in the talent market, leading employers are now reviewing and refreshing their Employer Value Propositions on a more frequent basis. If this is something you’re considering, find out how we can help you create a more compelling and differentiated EVP.

About Universum

Universum, part of the StepStone Group, is a global thought leader in Employer Branding. With over 30 years of valuable experience in the field of employer branding, we have established ourselves in 60 markets globally, and our diverse workforce is physically present in 20 countries. We are uniquely positioned through our talent surveys to deliver key insights to recruiters about what future talent is looking for in a company. Our data-led, human and meaningful output has attracted more than 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports. Find out more at