Employer Branding in a Job Seeker’s Market

This week in HR, we turn to a less ubiquitous topic, Employer Branding and the role it plays in Talent Acquisition.  Ours is a tale of two markets.  For some, there has never been a better time to be what they are professionally and for others, all their bets were placed on the wrong horse.  Which employers are finding it difficult to acquire talent?

  • Nurses, obviously – at all levels, from tech to Nurse Practitioner.
  • Ancillary medical service providers, like administration or case managers.
  • Upskill experts – we’ll talk about this in another blog, but the need for trainers, who can take your workforce from today to the next generation in terms of technical skills and competencies are in high demand.  The trainers are demonstrably technically competent before they get the training jobs.
  • Construction laborers – Construction has been “essential” all along from the beginning of the pandemic.  Skilled labor in building commercial and residential, as ever is majorly under-supplied as the demand for construction persists.  Think new cabinets or framing.
  • Application software developers – particularly as life trends virtually (God, help us!).
  • Information security experts – these are the guardians of life in some ways, as we continue to see a clash of electronic good and evil, we need these more than ever to protect whatever it is we are building toward… #singularity?

The list goes on a bit, but two trends I see on every report on some of the most difficult to fill roles are the preclusion of remote work optionality and the technicality of the skills.  The first thing I ask, as a person with an English Literature undergraduate degree, is “Can we train the necessary skills?”  The answer for small employers is usually NO.  It’s costly to train employees.  So we keep expecting universities to do all the work, to crank out software engineers and doctors in super specialized fields, when what businesses really need is a more phased approach to deploy-readiness and aptitude training from colleges.  In other words, we need to rethink the idea of apprenticeships and internships, where we drive with value and commitment from all stakeholders – a more downstream track. If we commit to give interns and apprentices value back for their time and if we intend to get real value from them, we are building a system that should pay off in the future for all.

After we have asked the other basic questions…

  1. Are we able to pay to compete?
  2. Are our recruiters doing their jobs well enough? —Like that’s a training initiative in itself that isn’t God-given to all.
  3. Are we operating in the right markets?  Location, location, location; talent, talent, talent.
  4. Is our culture remotely worth joining?

…I get to my second question: “What role does the employer brand play in this phase of the employee life cycle?”  I used to say, when my sales team would sell large staffed litigation teams for pennies on the dollar, that we were leaving money on the table by not telling our law firm clients about how our product was strides ahead of the competition because we offered more subsidized benefits then the competition, our managers were better trained and more ingratiated among the labor pool, and our offices were nicer and our coffee tastier, and we treated our employees really fairly and well, demonstrating our respect for their work, etc. ad nauseum.  If you know the value of treating employees well and making that part of your product marketing, part of how you BRAND your business, you can charge the big bucks. And you get the shared value of happier employees / clients.

In my current industry, it's almost inconceivable that the employees of the big payroll companies are happy.  Their managers can barely remember their names, if this is the going employer brand, how on earth is the product from those employees going to be great?

What I’m trying to say is your employer brand is how you package what you think about your employees, how you describe your culture.  I don’t like buying from companies like Walmart, because I know that the high cost of low prices always has a real impact on real people.  Walmart has never pretended that a happy employee is its focus.  Given the financial agency and the choice, I would prefer to shop at a local distributor, who is out loud and proud of its employer brand and makes it a part of its product.  They're not leaving money on the table, they’re leveraging their customers’ buying power driven in part by a great employer brand.

Employer branding is a cornerstone of a winning recruitment strategy.  When you do it (employ well) and when you talk about it (excitedly), you build value.  It’s almost like building value for free.  A great ER brand, doesn’t mean the employer is paying more or offering better benefits, it just means the employer has found a way to articulate its favor and gratitude for its employees.  What a wonderful opportunity! Think Best Places to Work and what that does for those who make it on the list.

After all, what is a brand without its employees?  Hone a vision for your workforce – how do you want your employees to feel?  How do you help them feel what you want them to feel about their work and careers at your company?  Once you figure this out, you’ve got the essence of a value driver for free, you’ll find yourself gushing during interviews about how excited you are to see your employees achieve, and you’ll find your employees cultivating a spirit of whatever that brand is in their work… You see how valuable this can be?  Exciting stuff…

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