What is employer branding?

First, let’s define employer brand: it is a company’s reputation as a place to work. In other words, employer brand is how people perceive the company’s values and work environment. Therefore, employer branding is everything a company is doing – whether intentionally or not – to promote its unique identity as an employer among current and potential employees.

It’s important here to make the distinction between intentionally and unintentionally. While companies might strategically promote their workplaces, their reputation could also be affected by things that are not directly under their control. For example:

  • Candidates who didn’t get a response after their interview with the company could leave negative reviews online.
  • Employees who are excited about the benefits they get at their company could share their positive experience with their friends and families.

Who’s responsible for employer branding?

Usually, HR is the first one that comes to mind when we think about employer branding strategies. And this is correct if we refer to the official actions a company is taking to build and promote its employer brand. But, employer brand is not something you choose – it is what you are. And your identity as a company is shaped by various stakeholders:

  • The founders or business owners, the CEO and all C-suite executives who have a strategic vision for the company and set the values they want to reinforce
  • The line managers who lead, evaluate and train their team members
  • The HR team that manages employee relations and establishes company policies
  • The marketing team that communicates company news externally (e.g. via social media, events, etc.)

All of these stakeholders can play a part in how their company is perceived among job seekers, but, to build a strong employer brand, they need to work together. For example, the marketing team can’t promote how happy their colleagues are enjoying benefits such as bonuses and flexible working hours unless the senior management approves those benefits and HR implements them.

Employer brand vs. Company brand

Another distinction we need to make is between employer brand and company brand. Those two terms should not be confused: the former indicates your reputation as an employer for job candidates whereas the latter indicates your reputation as a company in general.

In this employer branding definition, when we talk about “brand” we refer solely to a company’s reputation as an employer.

Although they’re different, one can impact the other. A company with a strong brand is usually an attractive place to work. On the other hand, a company that has a negative employer brand might discourage people (or other companies) from becoming customers.

The benefits of having a strong employer brand

It’s easier to understand the importance of employer branding if we think of employers with a good reputation. Companies with a strong employer brand:

  • Get job applications without having to spend too much, since employees proactively apply to companies they know they have a nice work environment.
  • Reduce time to hire, as candidates are more likely to accept a job offer from a company with a positive reputation.
  • Improve retention, because employees value healthy workplaces and stay at companies where they can thrive.
  • Attract top talent, as people who’re evaluating different job offers, will consider all criteria – including your reputation as an employer – before making their final decision.

Check out all HR definitions in our complete HR terms library.

How to build your employer branding strategy

The first step is to be a good employer and the second step is to promote what you’re doing as an employer externally. To become a good employer, you need to think about how you treat those who interact with your company, whether you’ve hired them or not. For example:

  • Design an inclusive hiring process, where all job seekers have equal opportunities to get hired regardless of protected characteristics or background.
  • Respect candidates’ time by evaluating their candidacy objectively and replying to them promptly.
  • Craft fair company policies to ensure all employees feel safe, comfortable and valued at work.
  • Provide compensation and benefits that motivate employees and help them balance their work with their personal life.
  • Build career development plans, so that employees can grow their skills and develop professionally within your company.

While working on creating a healthy work environment, you can also design employer branding campaigns to promote your company. Here are a few ideas:

  • Share pictures of your workspaces and group gatherings on social media.
  • Build engaging careers pages where candidates can learn more about your work life.
  • Give voice to your employees (through videos, testimonials, blog posts, etc.) so they can share their unique experiences while working with you.
  • Host career days at your offices where job seekers can see first-hand what it’s like working at your company.

Want to get more ideas on how to boost your employer brand online and offline? Take a look at these ways to improve your employer brand strategy.

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