Employer Branding – What is it all About?

During the last 18 years I have partnered a very broad cross-section of clients to deliver consultancy projects involving all areas of talent management, primarily focused on headhunting the highest calibre individuals to drive their business ambitions. Our client portfolio is exciting and one we are very proud of, ranging from start-ups all the way through to $multi-billion global corporations that you would know and identify with. During our journey, our goal has not been to partner clients of any particular size or with any particular profile in the marketplace, but instead we look for companies who are passionate about their people, operate with a true moral compass and want to develop a partnership and benefit from Collingwood’s expertise and reputation as a trusted advisor in talent management and headhunting. We are all too often approached by companies looking for a “CV recycling” service or, in other words, to fill a vacancy they have as quickly as possible. So many do not invest time to consider what role they need for their business to succeed, the behaviours and competencies required or even how they can possibly attract high calibre individuals.

I met a client last week who suffered a year-on-year 50% attrition rate in their sales team but did not review or change their recruitment process or candidate attraction strategy for over 5 years. When they eventually sat down to consider their problem they developed a robust recruitment process that has not only reduced their attrition to 15%, but by attracting the highest calibre individuals to their team, they are currently performing at over 20% of the budget in an incredibly competitive and price sensitive industry. In addition to considering their recruitment process, this client is one of very few to really understand what employer branding is and have got it right.

All too often companies can appear arrogant when they are looking to appointing someone into their business. They presume that they alone are in the driving seat when it comes to making a decision about the appointment. This problem has become even worse through the recession as the number of people available for work has outstripped the number of vacancies to be filled. Not many companies truly know where they sit as an employer within their industry versus their competitors. They might well have a fantastic brand that everyone knows but employer branding is a different subject altogether.

What is Employer Branding and why should you, as an employer, invest any time getting it right?

For me, employer branding is all about the environment in which employees work. I would consider opportunities for career growth, work-life balance, team orientation, training and development, employee engagement and the management/leadership style they can expect to be key elements. So far I have missed out remuneration and whilst it is important, enticing individuals based on paying more is a dangerous game that usually attracts the wrong type of people and generates attrition.

The world of employment has changed and employees are increasingly considering these elements in their hierarchy of needs. Having a fantastic workplace does not mean you have a fantastic employer brand. Just as investment has to be made to grow product brands, the same is true for employer brands. There is no point getting it right internally without shouting about it and raising awareness amongst your target audience. It is easy to communicate an employer brand during a headhunting process as we sit face-to-face with candidates and can communicate directly with them. If you are using database recycling agencies, recruitment advertising or mediums such as LinkedIn then employer brand perception needs effort. In these cases what candidates see and read about you will form their understanding of your employer brand. Social media is huge, very accessible and trusted by candidates. What does your website say about you, what has been written about your company on the web, how easy is it to interact with you, have you prepared any media specific to what it is like to work for you, does it include testimonials from existing employees? By putting these in place will only get you off first base and the next consideration is your recruitment process. Just as you will be looking for candidates to make a good first impression, they will be expecting the same from you. Not asking the right questions or having the right answers will be detrimental. Making a job offer after one interview can also cause worry and lead to disengagement. Recruitment is a complicated business with so many considerations if you want to employ but also retain the best.

A couple of years ago we consulted with a $multi-billion global business on their employer branding strategy. Clearly, of a significant size, they had no profile in their industry among potential candidates. Collingwood was tasked with appointing a €180,000 level Sales Director role and the client wanted to entice candidates from a high potential programme run by the likes of GE, Siemens, Honeywell, Mitsubishi. Now, these really are global employer brands so the task was tough. Our client couldn’t afford to meet the salary levels these companies offered and so it was critical that their employer brand was established to give candidates good reasons to consider them. From the material we wrote and presented to the speed of the recruitment process and the seniority of the people involved at our client’s end, we got it right and the attracted a top 10 high potential from a market leader. Who would have thought it?

Key considerations to establish your Employer Brand:

  1. What can potential candidates read about you on the web? Do you have a website dedicated to the employee journey filled with evidence of what it is like to work for you?
  2. If your work environment is a strong attraction for potential candidates, do they know about it or do you want to keep it a secret?
  3. What will your recruitment process say about you? Will it ensure the decision to recruit is right for both you and the candidate?
  4. Once appointed what effect will your onboarding process have on your employer brand?
  5. Beyond this will their journey be consistent or will they be 1 in 5 who will move on in under 45 days? (1 in 5 hires leaves with 45 days)


Employer branding is a huge topic and if you would like to discuss it further please call me, Doug Mackay, on 00 44 1829 732374 or email me doug.mackay@collingwoodsearch.co.uk