It's not optional. As the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) points out in Employer branding: A no-nonsense approach: 'The first point to realise is that you already have one. That doesn't mean someone in HR went out and developed it. It simply means that your organisation has a reputation as a place to work.'
What is it? Definitions centre on what employees expect of you. Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler, authors of Employer Brand, published by the Journal of Brand Management, came up with: 'The package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with the employing company.' Aussie employer branding guru Brett Minchington prefers 'the image of your organisation as a "great place to work"'.
Get the facts. Before articulating your brand, you should research three groups, says Richard Bull, client services director of employer communications consultancy Stafford Long. 'Talk to leaders about their vision and what the firm stands for as an employer; then talk to employees. Then ask potential employees about their perceptions.'
Seek distinction. Focus on the values and cultural factors that make you stand out, rather than functional benefits. 'Different environments appeal to some individuals more than others,' says Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at CIPD. Google has quite different values from a public service employer, she points out. 'Our research shows that where people have a common shared purpose in an organisation, you get higher performance.'
It's more than recruitment. Employer branding covers the whole package of attraction, hiring, engagement and retention. 'The way you communicate internally should reflect your external communication,' says Bull. Paying attention to your employer brand will make people feel more valued.
Appoint ambassadors. 'Employees are the embodiment of the brand,' says Bull. 'Bring your proposition to life through their stories and experiences.'
Listen carefully. Social media will instantly expose the gaps between what you say about working in your organisation and the reality, so you need to know what people are saying. 'Social media means transparency at speed,' says Robinson. Listen to what's being said and put things right quickly.
Employer brands are for life. Not just for the boom times. 'You still need to keep the best people in a downturn,' says Robinson. And when the market picks up, you'll be ready to attract the best.
Do say: 'Staff are encouraged to join online conversations about working here.'
Don't say: 'Superman required. Competitive pay and Luncheon vouchers.'