Employer branding touches a lot more business functions than most recruiting projects. But in order for your initiatives to succeed, those functions need to understand what you’re asking of them and what they’ll get in return. Otherwise, it’s very likely that someone on the list will object at the worst possible time, sending things back to square one.

Getting talent acquisition onboard

The value of employer branding for talent acquisition (TA) is simple: A strong employer brand makes every recruiter and recruiting tactic more effective by aligning all communications around a core, validated idea of why someone should want to work there. And it does so without having to add to or change the existing tech stack.

The recruiter, for example, needs to have an open mind and be willing to consider new ways of doing outreach. In exchange, you offer them centralized support in the form of better job postings, better career sites, better recruiting content, and a feed of regular social posts that make their work easier.

As a leader, employer branding allows you to move from an expensive transactional recruiting model to one where your team’s personal brands online lead to pipelines of talent significantly faster.

The metrics that TA should be pointing to are: higher quality candidates, less ad and agency spend, and more people accepting offers.

Getting marketing onboard

The value of employer branding to the marketing department is more complex. A strong employer brand is the distillation of why people do great work at your company, which is a set of messages that good marketers can use to make their consumer products and services more attractive. It’s like giving the marketing team a whole new set of paints to work with.

The stumbling block is that marketers spend a lot of time and money nailing down a consumer brand, and they don’t want someone coming in and mucking up the works. The argument needs to be made that the employer brand will enhance their work if they choose to use it. If they don’t, the employer brand will simply elevate recruiting messages (which marketers think are boring to make anyway) without taking away anything from what marketing is doing.

Getting communications teams onboard

Communications teams are possibly the most complex to onboard because their remits, structures, and expectations vary dramatically from company to company. The first step is to understand what your comms team is expected to do (Focus on executive comms? Focus on internal communications? Focus on corporate communications to investors and the press? Focus on social media?) and tailor your message to them appropriately.

For teams focused on executive and internal comms, the employer brand is a set of ideas that ensures “their inside looks like their outside”. They don’t need to drive the brand forward necessarily, but they should understand how connecting to it more closely creates a longitudinal alignment. Launching new initiatives can feel like a hodge-podge (or worse, “idea of the month”) if they’re not connected to the brand’s through-line to feel more like organic growth.

To social media-focused comms teams, you need to have “the conversation” about LinkedIn before you jump into employer branding. LinkedIn remains the #1 social channel for professionals, so recruiting (and employer branding) must have access to it to inform and engage prospects. Employer branding is the map that helps the social media understand what kind of content TA wants to put out and have a productive conversation.

To the investor-focused comms team, employer branding delivers the “why” of people who join, which can be used to tell institution investors the kinds of people who are joining and why they stay–a key component to any company’s investor relations strategy.

Getting human resources onboard

Human resources (HR) tends to allow recruiting to own the attracting and acquisition of new talent, reserving for itself the responsibility of growing and keeping that talent. For them, the employer brand sets proper expectations for what working there is really like, all wrapped around a core reason why people select the company over others. That message elevates retention because fewer new hires look around and think, “This isn’t what I was promised” and immediately start looking for the exit.

But HR needs to understand that employer branding isn’t a parade of pretty pictures and platitudes. It is a more comprehensive understanding of the good and bad of what the company offers to properly set expectations. Otherwise, the brand becomes yet another pep rally that doesn’t actually make a demonstrable difference.

Getting leadership onboard

This is both the hardest and simplest audience to sway your way. Leaders are most interested in making money, saving money, creating customers, limiting risk, and (if you’re cynical like I am) getting their ego stroked. What you have to do is show how your brand project will change one or more of those five things.

Simple! And yet… It remains one of the hardest things an employer brander can do.

Step one? Stop thinking in terms of what the brand means to you or recruiting. Recruiting has a tendency to think in terms of its own internal metrics (e.g., time to fill, applications per requisition, outreach conversion rate), which have little bearing on how your leadership sees the world. Instead, you need to convert the anticipated outcomes of your project to those five business motivators mentioned above.

While there are many ways to do that, here’s an example for the objective of saving money:

Saving money through clarity and effectiveness of message

A strong employer brand makes each ad more effective, so you can spend less to create the same impact. Not to mention a strong brand appeals to “passive candidates”, as well, meaning talent not currently looking for work. They don’t care that you’re hiring, but they might care that you invest a lot in developing your people. This expands your talent pipeline, making you less dependent on recruiting agencies–all of which leads to significant budget savings.

Saving money by converting more great candidates

With a strong brand activated throughout the entire candidate journey, you know which messages attracted an application. You then feed further proof of those claims to the candidate in a multi-channel campaign. The brand idea is finally cemented in the interview process. And when you extend an offer, more candidates will accept because they see more credible value beyond the starting salary.

For companies with an offer acceptance rate of 70% and 80% (a common rate), having more people say yes saves the company from having to start again or worse, let an agency find the next hire. Depending on the size of the company, this could yield six-figure savings per year.

Saving money by increasing productivity

With a robust talent pipeline being fed credible and validatable messages, a percentage of roles may never get pushed to a job board (and its 45-day “let’s wait and see who applies” timeline). They come from people who are already bought in on what the company does and are excited when the recruiter reaches out to talk about the new position. Empty seats are filled far faster, allowing the company to create value. Again, depending on company size, number of open requisitions and the current time-to-fill rate, a strong employer brand can yield significant productivity value to the company every year.

There are other methods of defining the value. For example, companies that have a strong overlap between employees and consumers will find that a strong employer brand elevates consumer marketing and limits the number of potential consumers irritated when they don’t get a job. But that is specific to the company and their context.

Once leadership sees this value in terms it appreciates, they are often excited to support the cause.

As you can see, the distinct impact it can make to various parts of the company means an employer brand can get lots of people excited. But because it has such wide-ranging outcomes, it requires a lot more work on the front end to get those differing audiences to understand what a strong employer brand ultimately means to them.

Cover image: Lustre