Since entering the Recruitment Marketing space, I’ve always used the analogy of a great band or restaurant to remind me of the importance of employer branding. An unknown band could create a generation-defining album, or a restaurant a Michelin-star-worthy meal, but if there’s no marketing to let people know these things exist, and are worth consuming, no one will have the chance to experience either of them.
The same can be said for employers. Aside from the Apples and Coca Colas of the world who can rely on their decades of existence and cultural dominance to attract candidates, most brands aren’t on this level; they have to work hard to convince and excite people to apply, coach and sell them on joining and nurture them to stick around for the long haul. Sound familiar? That’s precisely the same tenants of how you treat prospects turned customers, which is how I’ve always viewed the relationship between employer brand building (noun), and advertising/Recruitment Marketing (verb). The pair must be synchronized through marketing and sales tactics. And that coordination doesn’t end at the onboarding of talent- it should carry on from hire to retire.
As the VP of Employer Brand & Recruitment Marketing and Social Media & Influencer Marketing at Freedom Mortgage, I can tell you that the approach that’s worked for us has been strategically-placed storytelling. In hearing our approach below, hopefully you can gain an idea of how to uncover your own employer brand, overcome common challenges that arise during the process and successfully activate your employer brand along the candidate to employee journey.
Realizing the employee story and candidate touchpoint gap
Growing up, I spent a lot of time making music, movies and being around creative people. I even interned in Hollywood after studying communications, thinking I was on the path to screenwriting. It may seem like a big leap from Hollywood to Brand Marketing, but I found so many similarities because I’ve always been drawn to the art and science of moving and inspiring audiences, and that’s core to what Marketing is all about.
My first foray into this world was when I started my career recruiting the Environmental Services (janitorial) staff of a large healthcare network. This is where I realized the space was ripe with all kinds of cultural stories to tell. These folks were some of the unsung heroes who kept much of the day to day operations moving, and truly impacting the patient experiences as well as the bottom line. But there was a problem: a lack of actual branding and marketing where candidates and employees could see it, feel it and benefit from it.
After noticing the same issue in my next role as an ATS admin and college campus recruitment lead, constantly taking candidate questions that could easily be scaled by employer brand marketing, I knew I could use my creative and technical skills in a strategic way. I’ve since had the opportunity to build employer brands and attract talent who are better informed and more excited by an enhanced articulation of opportunities, challenges and company mission plus vision.
Building our employer brand from the ground up
When I joined Freedom Mortgage in October 2019, I had the opportunity to build our employer brand for the very first time. And at an established organization like Freedom, with 30 years of rich history and business success, it was like unlocking Pandora’s box of stories.
The challenge was chiseling down and creating the right value prop as well as supporting pillars which accurately portrayed our employees’ experiences and aspirations. We started by doing our research, interviewing employees to better understand our main EVP pillars and what made our culture unique but also real. Then it was more of an activity in synthesizing and imagining a campaign.
This analysis and curation process took place just before and all throughout the first wave of the pandemic, during which we collaborated with HR and Internal Communications to ensure the brand was systematic and vetted across departments.
But as I stated previously, the noun (the brand) without the outbound and inbound marketing (brand advertising) is like throwing a party and neglecting to send invitations. It was time then for the next major step — spreading that employer brand across vital employee and candidate touchpoints.
Infusing our employer brand across employee and candidate touchpoints
With the help of an outside agency, we first took on overhauling our career site. In conjunction we revamped job boards (Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn), job ads, virtual career fairs, info sessions and other hiring events to align with our new employer brand.
We also expanded our touchpoints by creating a careers blog to tell employee stories, as well as launching a social media ambassadorship program for recruiters and creating pre-approved content for them to share on their own channels. With the foundation laid, the plan is to “go micro” so that each department has content specific to their experience and work to share.
An example of organic Freedom Mortgage social media content
Top 3 places to incorporate employer brand into your employee experience
Once in the door, new hires and tenured employees should feel like they are experiencing what they excitedly signed up for. Put another way, you’re trying to de-risk the bait and switch of being sold something that wasn’t real or at least close to what your marketing as well as recruiter(s) described. At best, employees should advocate on behalf of your employer brand to their networks and refer others, as they trust the brand and experience.
To keep this machine working properly, there are a few key places to update with your employer branding – interview guides, onboarding and performance management.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the importance of each:
- Interview guides. An interview guide can go external in which it says to candidates “this is who we are, these are our expectations and because of these two things, this is how to do well in your interview.” A guide can also be an internal piece for hiring managers which blends the elements, words, phrases and behavioral questions that correlate to your brand pillars.
- Onboarding. A professor once told me that “culture is how you feel on your first day.” To crystalize trust, you want candidates to feel like they’ve stepped into something completely aligned with what they were told and sold at previous stages in their journey. Keep in mind also that candidates are most impressionable and vulnerable to jumping ship during this period, which points to the importance of making them feel like they’ve made the right choice.
- Performance management. This is perhaps the most complex rollout out of the three, but I’ve found performance management to be a crucial way to show people how to live your employer values and be held accountable to honoring the culture in which they support. Articulate your competencies and/or ratings with the same words, phrases, and tone of your employer brand. If the phraseology seems mismatched with the performance culture, it means as an organization you may need to revisit how to effectively communicate them to resonate with employees throughout the entire year, not just right before and during performance time.
The final area which acts as the glue that binds these 3 together, is our everyday internal communications. Reiterating your employer brand values, look/feel/tone, etc. at every town hall, through company-wide email, during meetings, etc. can be a sure-fire way to get people humming your company theme song and listing off your values by memory.
The role of employer brand in retention
While many of the processes above should be put in place first to attract new talent, the consistent employer brand values weaved throughout the long-term employee experiences create a net result of retaining talent as well. Why? Simply put, it comes down to trust. Trust that what was marketed and sold, is lived and realized – whether that is the smooth parts and/or the rough parts of an opportunity and organization.
By looking inward at the stories that exist in your company, you can arm recruiters with authentic and valuable information. This ensures that candidates have as many insights as they need to make an accurate decision about joining your company.
With the same, consistent information at every step of their journey, they’re far less likely to feel like they’re not getting what they signed up for 3 months into their employment.
Want an interesting way to create a feedback loop with employees? Try pulling out their original interview notes during check-ins and/or performance meetings to gauge how employees are feeling now compared to when they first interviewed and started. You can remind them what they were running from or running to, how they described their passions and skills, why they took the role they have now and ask how their experiences so far have lived up to their expectations. Are they still as excited as they were when they joined? If not, why was the spark lost and what can be done to fix it? Are they still as hungry and energized as they were when they were seeking out a new adventure or are they craving something more/different?
I’m happy to report that in the 2 years since building Freedom Mortgage’s employer brand, my team and I have helped improve the company’s Glassdoor score, contributed to winning multiple consecutive Top Workplace Awards as well as an award for our EVP, and expanded our paid and organic recruitment channels.
It all comes back to storytelling and trust as the two important tenants. Hopefully, through my insights, you can glean some ideas for how to build or improve upon your own employer brand for better hiring and retention.
To learn more, be sure to check out our 5 Employer Brand Launch Lessons from Rally Award Winners!