What the Candidate Experience Says about Your Employer Brand

If you are a job seeker in 2015, chances are you’ve applied to countless job postings without having had an actual live conversation with an employer about an opportunity – technology dominates the candidate experience.

Automation of the job application process has plenty of upside when it comes to your employer brand. Modern candidates are digital creatures and they want to be able to learn about organizations and apply online. Job seekers are doing their research and making use of social media and career review sites such as Glassdoor in order to gain insight and objectivity on prospective employers.

Employers are responding with branded career sites and social media accounts to attract top talent. But what happens next? The experience that follows is what really matters if you want your investment in the preliminary candidate attraction strategy to count.

Nothing is more disheartening than sending off your resume into a black hole of technology, never to be acknowledged by the prospect organization.  A form email response isn’t a vast improvement. So what do job seekers want from the candidate experience? A recent Careerbuilder survey reports the following aspects of the candidate experience as being meaningful to job seekers:

Is anyone in there?
~ Hello? Anybody in there? ~
  • Employers respond quickly throughout the process (61%)
  • I’m notified if I am not the correct fit (61%)
  • I’m updated on where I am in the process (56%)
  • The application submission process is quick (54%)
  • Employers respond with phone calls (48%)

How many of these points does your candidate experience deliver on? Test the process for yourself to see what gaps you can uncover. Is the candidate experience representing your employer brand well? Do candidates feel valued?

The candidate experience speaks loudly about your employer brand. Candidates will draw conclusions about what it’s like to work for your organization based on the process. Ensure they are getting the real story, every step of the way.

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In Search of Brand Advocates? They May Be Found in Some Unlikely Places

Identifying your brand advocates may seem like a pretty straightforward process – look for the most enthusiastic and positive employees who enjoy talking about your company culture and mission. Highly engaged employees are, of course, great candidates for your brand ambassador program, but don’t stop with the obvious choices. Building a well-rounded and impactful program will require a diverse collection of viewpoints to ensure an authentic and credible message, so it’s important to take a strategic approach to identifying your brand ambassadors. Your most passionate advocates can be found in some unlikely places.

man-390339_1280Employees who feel strongly about your organization are bound to have intense opinions, and passion can sometimes be masked by an adversarial mindset.  Take a look at high performers who boisterously express their opinions, even if those opinions are sometimes in contrast with your current agenda. Their motivations may be sincere – are they operating as brand protectors with the goal to safeguard the employment experience they hold dear? Or otherwise motivated to keep leadership thinking about what’s best for the organization? Dig deeper to learn more about these individuals. They make powerful advocates when their voice is aligned with your employer value proposition and can be real game changers in amplifying your employer brand.

It may seem counter intuitive to consider employees who have left your organization for your brand ambassador program, but in many cases former employees can make influential advocates. People move on for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love your organization and what you do. An alumni constituent can provide significant credibility to your Brand Ambassador program since their opinions offer an unbiased view of life within your organization. There is no perceived incentive to embellish on their experience with your organization, which can sometimes be an assumption made of current staff acting as brand ambassadors. Former employees who believe in your employer brand will speak with a candid voice and lend genuine believability to your ambassador program.

photo-634069_1280Great brand ambassadors don’t always reveal themselves to you in a straightforward manner. Oftentimes, it’s the low profile employees that can have the most impact. Do you know who among your employees has a strong social media presence?  Are there people on your team who blog about their line of work or other interests? You might be surprised what you discover when you ask the right questions. Social media savvy employees will be more likely to mention you online, engage with you on social media channels and share your content. Find out who those individuals are within your organization.

Developing a brand ambassador program can be a big investment of time and energy, so start small. Set yourself up for success by clearly defining what effective brand ambassadors look like within your organization and strategically seeking out those individuals who are truly passionate about your employer brand from their unique perspective. Cast a wide net to ensure you don’t overlook someone who could be your most enthusiastic advocate – they’re not always easy to spot.

Telling Your Employer Brand Story

Employer branding Have you ever worked for an entrepreneur? Someone who started a business from scratch with nothing but two nickels, a pair of worn out shoes and a huge measure of passion? Entrepreneurs know how to tell their employer brand story. They tell the story so well because of the intense emotional connection they have to the organization.

Storytelling is the best way to connect with candidates and employees today. No one is interested in another slick marketing campaign – they want to know what it’s really like to work for your organization!

When crafting your employer brand story or strategizing about your narrative, visualize yourself as an entrepreneur.  In order to make a meaningful connection with your audience, you’ve got to have the same kind of fervour and depth of emotion that the original founder would express.

“When you begin to talk in stories, your black-and-white words turn into color.”

Annette Simmons, author & business consultant

Genuine communication with real personality stands out. Find your voice and reflect your unique workplace culture in communications with candidates and employees. Take the time to develop a strategy to consistently share your employer brand story in distinctive and interesting ways to support your efforts to develop relationships with people, both inside and outside of the organization. Don’t forget to include where and when you will share your brand story – and don’t stop with social media and your careers website. How are your employees and candidates spending their time, both at work and outside the office? Meet them there.

Storytelling is about connecting with people. When you get storytelling right with your employer brand, it breathes life into your communications and leaves us wanting more. Start with your employee value proposition – it’s the hub of your employer brand story. Stay focused on your team, considering all the key touchpoints in the employee lifecycle. Uncover the defining moments that showcase the best of your people and organization in alignment with the EVP. These are the compelling stories your audience will want to hear.

Employer branding isn’t a campaign, it’s who you are.  Draw employees and candidates closer through authentic employer brand storytelling. You’ll develop relationships, differentiate against competitors and optimize organizational fit with candidates.

Adidas is Making Greatness Happen With Their Employer Brand

Adidas has been getting quite a bit of attention with their global employer brand strategy. One reason why? They are doing an amazing job telling their story through video. A visit to their YouTube channel provides plenty of content, but I personally love the series of super short videos highlighting individual contributors from the global organization in alignment with their employee value proposition.

In just 15 seconds and one line of dialogue, adidas creates an emotional connection, provides a taste of what adidas is all about and leaves us wanting more. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely sold on the adidas group employer brand. Check it out.

#TrueCraftsmanship

#TribalMembership

#SportsLifestyle

#Originality

Cultural Integration During Mergers & Acquisitions

employer brandingOne of the most taxing periods in the lifecycle of an organization is the process of merging with another company. Bringing two organizations together can be exciting and result in increased opportunities for employees; however uncertainty experienced during the transition process can create stress, fear and frustration.

The impact of the employee experience during an M&A transaction cannot be underestimated. Research shows that negative employee reactions are pervasive in unsuccessful mergers and cultural incompatibility is the number one factor contributing to failures.

Navigating a cultural integration is no simple task. Leaders must instill a strong sense of stability and confidence while building organizational readiness for change. It is a fine balance that can be elusive, even with the most detailed approaches. What can you do to find the sweet spot?

  • Reduce uncertainty through a well-managed communications strategy. Uncertainty about the future is the leading cause of unanticipated turnover during mergers and top talent is often the first to leave. Ensure your employees aren’t left to speculate during this critical time.
  • Actively manage your reputation. Company reputation is one of the largest and most influential engagement drivers. With over 1 billion Facebook users, more than 250 million LinkedIn and Twitter users and 18 million Glassdoor users, your biggest influencers are your people. Give them the tools to act as brand ambassadors and support your evolving reputation.
  • Define Your New EVP – Your employee value proposition must be redefined within the context of the new organization. The employee experience has changed and you need to understand what your employees value in order to foster high levels of engagement and support long term cultural integration.
  • Become More Than the Sum of Your Parts – A merger is an amazing opportunity to position the organization as a recognized top employer. Integrating the best features of two companies enables you to create leading people practices and develop significant competitive advantage within your industry. Organizations recognized as Best Workplaces perform three times better than the general market, making top employer status a clear investment in your bottom line.

There will inevitably be a few stumbling blocks in the midst of any merger or acquisition. Keeping the employee experience top of mind and staying focused on the new employer brand will create a strong foundation for cultural and financial success.

Keeping It Real with Your EVP

If employer brand is all about what people associate with working for your organization, the hub of your employer brand strategy is your organizational EVP – the employee value proposition. The “give and get” exchange between employees and employers sets YOUR BRAND IS WHAT PEOPLE SAY IT IS (4)the tone and provides you with a starting point as you begin to craft your employer brand strategy.

Your employee value proposition is the unique set of values and benefits that provide employees and prospective talent the impetus to work for you.  Your EVP encapsulates your identity as an employer – who you really are, as experienced by the people who make up the organization.

A strong EVP has four essential qualities:

True – First and foremost, your EVP must be based on the genuine employment experience. Make no assumptions here! Ask the tough questions and uncover current perceptions and associations of your organization within internal and external segments.

Distinct – If your EVP mirrors the employment offering at the competitor down the street, talent has no compelling reason to choose you. Differentiate and give them a reason! What is unique about your organization?

Credible – It’s critical to seek out proof points to validate your EVP. There can be some aspirational components to your EVP, as long as you are honest about where you are striving versus where the EVP truly lives today. Provide evidence!

Consistent – Your employer brand story and EVP need to be reflected at each touchpoint in the employee lifecycle.  The temperature and level of engagement within your organization may fluctuate in the short term, but your EVP remains consistent over time. While it is important to reassess the EVP during times of organizational change, the core EVP as experienced by employees should be consistent.

Work to develop and articulate the employee value proposition needs to center on uncovering information – as opposed to developing marketing materials. The EVP provides the foundational material that will feed employer brand messaging. Creative is developed AFTER the EVP is finalized. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Developing your EVP really is the heavy lifting of employer brand strategy. Take a long view, stay true to who you are and reflect your unique organizational personality. An authentic EVP, validated by employees and well-positioned to external talent will drive employer brand results.

Getting to Why

A truly authentic and successful employer brand is based on more than return on investment. It’s clear that you need to have a strong business case for employer branding to gain support and buy-in from senior leadership and other key stakeholders, but that’s not enough. Your employer brand strategy needs to be rooted in your […]