When most people hear the word branding, they typically think about iconic brands like Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Nike. As consumers, we are exposed to branding all day, every day. However, most of the brand exposure we encounter is speaking to us as consumers. There’s a whole other side of branding: employer branding. Employer branding is the practice of using traditional marketing strategies and tactics to attract, retain, and motivate employees (Moroko & Uncles, 2009). Employer branding officially kicks into gear with employee recruitment and talent acquisition. Once hired, its internal communication and culture role keeps employees engaged and satisfied in their jobs. This prevents employees from wanting to leave the organization and land in the hands of competitors. Like most branding, employer branding depends on strong and positive reputations to promote an organization as an employer of choice. As someone who has worked in the world of employer branding since 2005, I’ve seen the practice grow, adapt, and evolve through several major forces in the workplace, including two economic recessions, mass Baby Boom retirements, and the rise of social media as our primary communications channels.
Employer branding first emerged as a business practice in the 1990s – largely in Europe. By the end of the decade, as the United States economy was booming and competition for qualified and talented employees reached an all-time high, the practice began to show up in American human resources offices. (Barrow & Mosley, 2005). Initially, American businesses used employer branding as an enhanced way to advertise job openings. However, as social media became more prominent and companies’ reputations as places to work became shared more and more, employer branding became a proactive technique to make the most of talent acquisition efforts and minimize high costs associated with employee turnover.
Today, individuals are empowered with more information than ever. This not only holds true for consumer purchases — where online product reviews play a key role in the buying process – but also in searching for new employment opportunities. With the rise of professional social networking sites like LinkedIn, it’s never been easier to explore an organization’s reputation as an employer. In fact, social media site Glassdoor exists with a mission of bringing transparency to the employment side of companies – something that prior generations never had access to prior to applying to or interviewing for job opportunities (Glassdoor, 2020) Organizations that understand employer branding, understand the need to be proactive in putting their employment reputations out there. The truth is, every employer has an employer brand. The difference is that some employers actively develop and manager their employer brands while some companies let others set the employer brand reputation for them – often times, spreading less than positive characteristics on the company’s behalf.
Like consumer branding, there are certain ethical boundaries that must be maintained when effectively communicating an employer’s reputation as a place to work. For example, it’s important not to “oversell” the experience an employer can offer an employee the same way it’s important not to conduct “bait and switch” practices when selling a consumer product. Additionally, it’s important that organizations align their consumer branding and employer branding to share common themes (Barrow & Mosley, 2005). Illustrating this below is an example from Temple University Hospital. First, here’s a sample of how the hospital positions itself to consumers (patients):
Notice how Temple University Hospital positions itself as “the best” to its future and current patients. The’s a core part of its brand and one of the ways that the organization “lives up to” that brand promise is by developing a similar reputation as an employer. Here, in a slightly longer format, is how the hospital tells its employer story:
As you can see from both of the above videos, there is a strong match between Temple University Hospital’s consumer and employer brands. By doing this, the organization helps to ensure that it can live up to what it is selling — on both the patient end and the employer end — as these both support each other.
Barrow, Simon & Mosley, Richard (2005). The Employer Brand: Bringing The Best of Brand Management to People at Work. Wiley.
Glassdoor (2020). Glassdoor Myth Busters: Setting the Record Straight. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/glassdoor-myth-busters/
Moroko, L., & Uncles, M. D. (2009). Employer branding and market segmentation. Journal of Brand Management, 17(3). https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1057/bm.2009.10
Temple University Hospital (2012). US News Best Regional Hospitals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1tW3Rf6JME
Temple University Hospital (2012). Bring Your Best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kdWURsKJw0&feature=emb_title