Spring Cleaning Your Employer Brand

Spring has sprung. There are flowers in the air, a new crop of graduates preparing to enter the workforce, and spring cleaning everywhere. At home and at work, people are tidying up their places and spaces. So why not add your employer branding to the list of things to make sure are at their finest?

Most of what we do in spring cleaning is assessment, purging, and re-organization. Do we really need six shirts in the same shade of blue? How many back copies of Wired can sit on the coffee table before “hip” becomes “hoarder?” When was the last time those windows were cleaned and do we really need 20 branded wine-openers given to us as conference swag?

The same concepts apply with our employer branding and recruitment marketing. Assess, purge, re-organize.

Step 1: Assessment Phase

Before you know what you need to change, you first have to really know what you’re dealing with, in it’s current state. So start with an audit. Review:

  • Mission, Purpose, Company Values. When you created your employer brand and recruitment marketing strategy, you probably made sure you knew the mission, purpose, and stated company values. While these things probably won’t undergo a 180-degree change from year-to-year, they can shift in weight and focus; so ensure you are up-to-date on the business missions and weighted values. Knowing the strategic positioning of an organization will help you in your talent attraction strategy and content marketing. So interview your executive team to make sure you’re all working from the same blueprint.
  • Company Culture & Individual Values. It’s easy to make the mistake that company values, culture values, and individual worker values are synonymous. But the truth is that they’re typically not … at least not when you factor in weighting. “Weighting” is the level (or weight) of importance, which will change by subject: company, customer, employee, candidate. In employer branding, part of your reputation management is understanding the different values and weighting of those values held between company, employee, and candidate. It’s very useful in creating hook- and counter-hook messages and in ensuring continuity between interview promises and employment reality, which when not consistent can negatively impact your employer brand reputation. It’s common to see company recruitment marketing and employer brand materials only address the values they care about, working on the misguided belief those are the ones that matter for “fit.” The reality is that all 16 value factors are present within an organization as they’re all present within each individual. So your recruitment marketing and employer branding should address all values, either as hooks to help candidates opt-in through similarity or counter-hooks to help them self-select out. Work with a consultant, agency, or your marketing department on how to shape these messages if you’re unfamiliar with culture marketing, as behavioral and consumer/candidate psychology comes into play in crafting these messages.
  • Current Year Business Goals. Knowing the goals the business has for the year will help in ensuring your talent acquisition and subsequent attraction plans are aligned with the workforce plan needed to achieve business goals. While you should really know these in Q4 prior to spring, if you don’t, there’s still time to fix it, and if you did, it’s a good time to make sure goals haven’t shifted due to market conditions.
  • Online Presence. This is a good time to run a search engine optimization audit on your career site, search engine marketing plans, company career site, any microsites or landing pages you have, and third-party use of your name/brand (job boards, agencies, etc).  Remember, make your messaging consistent across channels. A common source of online employer brand bifurcation is from messages and postings put out by third-party agencies and search firms. They’re tasked with filling requisitions, but frequently their contracts don’t require they follow the same employer brand messaging and guidelines. Part of your spring cleaning should be to ensure those messages aren’t too far off the reservation. If they are, invite them to a recruitment marketing training session. Making friends with your agencies and supplying them with on-brand collateral they can use only helps you. Some of the more progressive players in the employer branding space have brand guidelines built into their agency agreements … something to consider in your spring cleaning.
  • Social Media Presence. Look at your social media sites, use of LinkedIn, Glassdoor, blogs, etc. If you have contractual relationships with LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and advertising accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and the like, set up a Q2 review. Look at performance against contractual goals as well as talk to them about usage trends they’re seeing with the customers. It’s tempting to stick to your specific industry, but my word of advice to you is don’t. Give them free reign to talk to you about what’s cool, what’s innovative, and what’s driving results. Even if it’s in a different industry, you might be able to adapt and adopt to yours or glean new ideas from what you’ve heard. Use this as an education experience if your contract performance is on track and a way to get back on course if you didn’t hit Q1 milestones or performance isn’t charting as it should. On your social channels, check for dead links, and audit content performance by type, time, and audience. This is the time to take what you’ve learned about the year-to-date and make any adjustments to broadcast times. Maybe your Monday morning career site traffic shows Sunday afternoons are when you need to start your social media posting week so you can capitalize on those dreading going back to work. Perhaps you see the most engagement on LinkedIn is actually during Monday meeting marathons, but Wednesday evening is when Facebook is hopping. You don’t have to post the same thing at the same time to all channels; in fact, best practices dictate you shouldn’t. Spruce up your content marketing schedules.
  • Candidate Experience. Working through your candidate experience actually back-ends you into a review of your recruitment processes, providing opportunity for recruitment process optimization. Take the candidate journey exactly as your candidates do, by applying yourself (best-practice) and/or by “planting” exempt and non-exempt test candidates to go through the process. Chances are, even if you don’t have a developed “test pool” to draw from, you probably know people who would be happy to help within your friends and family, or that of your teams. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and feedback.  We’ve found most people we have approached appreciate the opportunity to make this a little less grueling for someone else. Another way to accomplish this at a much larger, more accurate scale is to take part in the Candidate Experience Awards. The name itself is something of a misnomer, in my opinion, as it offers two tracks: submissions into the actual awards program, as well as a benchmarking program. Participate in the awards program, but if you don’t feel like your organization is ready yet, you can pay $250 for what amounts to a candidate experience audit. The data you get back is amazing and specific to your organization based on the feedback of not only who you hired, but those you didn’t. The process begins in the spring, so sign up now and the reports come out in the fall. Finally, reviewing feedback from sites such as Glassdoor along with feedback shared on social sites can help guide you on adjustments you might need to make to both your recruitment processes and messaging.  While it’s tempting to ignore or minimize negative reviews, don’t fall into that trap. This isn’t about your ego. It’s about your efficacy.  When it comes to an audit, take it all seriously and consider how you can use each piece of feedback to improve.
  • Employee Experience (Current and Exited). Exit interviews are an amazing gift to employer branding programs. They offer qualitative and hopefully quantitative evidence as to the strength of your employer brand, consistency of messaging between candidate promises and employment reality, efficacy of culture marketing, and much more. If you’ve not been reviewing exit interviews and you’re responsible for/work on employer branding and recruitment marketing: start now. Go through the last 6-12 months of data and use it to adjust your program, messaging, and processes as needed.
  • Employee Recognition & Advocacy. Take a look at how employees are highlighted and how they (and their work) are recognized inside and outside of the company. Everyone likes to have their contributions recognized and their worth to a company noticed. 84 percent of businesses participate in non-cash incentives, and it’s a $90 billion dollar annual line-item in our industry spending, according to the 2016 Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study. It begs the question: how connected are your employer branding and advocacy programs to your employee recognition?

If the answer is “it isn’t,” then fix it. There’s a reason Globoforce and other employee recognition platforms have added social components. Add “get to know” employee segments, share meaning of work from individual employee perspectives, and personalize your recruitment marketing as much as you can by using employees as the heroes in your brand storytelling. Then get your employees involved in your employer brand program through creating a strong employee advocacy program.

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  • Reputation/External Perception. Reality is filtered through perception and biases, as is your reputation. What is associated with your company? What makes up your reputation outside of the walls of your organization? Tools like BrandWatch, Mention, and others can help you make sense of your online sentiment, and Crimson Hexagon can also help you gauge yourself against your top competitors.  But your analysis will only be as good as the questions you ask and the keywords you monitor, so be thorough, and upon reviewing results, be open to the idea that change may be needed to get the reputation (and talent) you want in the market.
  • Comparative State. When gauging competitors, put them through as much of the above process as you took your organization through.  Money matters, so in this exercise include compensation. How does their compensation packages compare to yours, to the industry?  Do their tangible and intangible benefits offered align to candidate expectation? Do yours?

This isn’t a comprehensive audit list, but it is a good start. If you want to go “all in,” be sure to look at the performance of employer branding and recruitment marketing collateral, check for consistency in message and visual identity, and performance across all channels. Is it attracting qualified or unqualified candidates? Speaking of channels, are they all performing? Is there positive return on the investment you’re making in terms of financial and man-hour resources?  Take a hard look and make changes where needed.

Step 2: Time to Purge

  • Career Site. Your candidate experience reports should tell you where you need to make changes, but this is a great time to ditch superfluous content, create more direct pathways to apply, reduce scrolls and clicks, check for dead links, update third-party candidate resources, etc.
  • Social Media. Dead links, dead links, dead links. All too often, we have job- or time-specific links associated with the images and rich media we post on our social channels.  Weeks, months, or sometimes years later, those links are no longer functional. Clean them out and/or update them through editing where available so when candidates scroll through your images and videos, they are still driven to something useful to them … and you.
  • Email Marketing. Spring cleaning is a great time to update your drip email marketing campaigns and consider more personalized marketing by interest and job type. Notice the use of the word and — in order to set up information by interest, that means you need to be asking about candidate interests. What else do they care about in addition to jobs that fit their skill set: social opportunities, charity initiatives, company happenings, news, employee highlights, etc? Find out and use that to create more tailored, compelling, email marketing experiences for your prospective candidates.
  • Audience. Update your candidate personas, and analyze the audiences you’re actually attracting to each of your social channels. Do you need to attract all the people to all the channels? Probably not. Use this as an opportunity to focus in on certain populations by social media channel. This isn’t something you just randomly assign: Pew Research does a good job of breaking down demographics, and you can conduct internal surveys to see to what degree each social media channels are used by job type. Pro tip: include questions about music and video streaming channels in your survey, as they have advertising opportunities as well. 

Step 3: Reorganize and Reinvent

Now that you know who you are, where you’re going, and who you want to bring with you from an employer brand perspective, “spruce up” and put those changes into action. You might also want to give your cover photos a new look — in fact, why not go the extra mile and plan to make covers by season or every 8-13 weeks to keep your pages looking fresh or to align them with campaign launches. If you’re dialing in your channels to suit specific audiences, communicate where other audiences can go to find content relevant to them  Communication is key to successful reinvention.

Crystal Miller Lay is the CEO of Branded Strategies, building employment branding and recruitment marketing strategies for some of the world’s biggest brands. She has worked with start-ups to Fortune 15 companies to at the intersection of HR & marketing; creating campaigns and strategies that solve business problems, tell compelling corporate stories and share the meaning of work in engaging ways that drive results.

She has been a reliable expert source on the topics of talent attraction, talent acquisition, talent management, and digital strategy for multiple media outlets including CBS, Hanley-Wood, Mashable, and ABC. As an industry leader, she writes for outlets such as ERE and Recruiting daily, is recognized for expertise in employer branding, recruitment strategy & marketing, social media, community building, digital strategic solutions and speaks globally on the same.

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