When Employer Branding Is One Big Waste of Time

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Mar 14, 2022
This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Spring 2022.

Employer brand is relatively new considering how old some of the archaic recruiting tactics we use really are. For anyone just recently discovering the concept, employer brand is marketing for the employee experience. It’s a series of pillars, values, and experiences that captures an employer’s reputation as a place to work, as opposed to the more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers.

Honestly, I’m not sure where or when employer brand was born or the environment it thrived in before, but I watch many companies turn to it as an answer for talent issues during challenging markets. Ten years ago, I’d never even heard of employer brand, but challenging talent markets create opportunity. And now? It’s the hot answer for talent pipeline issues: Stand out! Be known! Become a preferred employer. 

You can find thousands of articles that will tell you to create an EVP and develop a strong employer brand as if you can set that as the agenda item on Monday and by Friday have some kind of result that might help with jobs you need filled right now. As if determining what makes you special and applying that to a series of campaigns is easy to do. 

News flash: It’s not. 

Sea of Sameness

The other challenge? Everyone assumes that having an employer brand will inherently make you stand out, but in reality, every organization sounds the same. In one too many cases, it’s because the branding actually is the same. 

Case in point: Just a few years ago, I had interns go to the Fortune 100 websites and pull down the phrasing of the values and EVP pages. For a bunch of employers that say they’re standing out, they sure did sound the same. 

Over half of the companies we reviewed actually used the exact same vocabulary and phrases. Worse, some even used the same stock photography. 

Imagine if you were shopping and comparing two different shoes (or pick your item), and you go to two sites to see them described the exact same way. Models even wearing the same thing, with the exception of swapping out the shoes. You don’t have to be a genius to understand this isn’t a highly differentiated choice. 

Consumers of work are thinking the same thing: There’s nothing different about this organization. All while these enormous companies with even bigger budgets think they’re standing out and building candidate preferences for their workplaces.

Giant Waste of Time

Then, companies take their highly differentiated (note sarcasm) employer brand and try to create an employer value proposition (EVP) to succinctly communicate their value. 

That seems like a giant waste of time. 

There’s no way that one paragraph is worth the effort when we often don’t know what makes our organizations special — or worse, we know there’s nothing very special to communicate at all. I have spent literally six hours in a room talking about one word in an EVP in a past job. 

My bigger problem? We pretend to apply effort to these as if they are so important when they don’t produce the outcome we say we want, which is motivated people and preference in hiring.

From Story to Strategy

That’s why I suggest having values and recruiting voice analysis. You don’t just need to know the key values; you need to know the scenario in which people apply — then apply that to the candidate experience for your population. I call it a recruiting persona. 

At ERE Digital, April 6-7, during my session, “From Story to Strategy: Creating Messaging That Connects With Candidates,” I’ll be sharing data on EVPs and how to translate your story and values into a strategy that actually works. And it’s a strategy that won’t take you months and years to create when you barely have time to use the bathroom between filling reqs.

When you take the time to learn what matters most to your company and invest in candidates that believe in those same values, hiring becomes your own instead of something copied and pasted. You start to actually stand out from the rest. And candidates — before and after they’re hired — will notice. 

This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Spring 2022.
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