Without a positive brand as an employer, you'll be hard-pressed to attract and retain the quality talent your business needs to stay competitive. To build a positive employer brand, you must shift your thinking to focus on your single greatest asset -- your employees -- and improve employee engagement.
Emily He, CMO at Saba Software, has seen a major shift in the way companies approach their own branding as they work to build a culture and image that will appeal to elite talent. "Without a positive employer brand, you're not going to attract good talent. We see a tremendous focus on employer branding; a major shift in the conversation to focus on how culture and employee engagement can positively impact a company's brand," says He.
Engaged Employees Polish Your Brand
Social media has been a major driver of this shift, as companies realize employees will use platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Glassdoor and Indeed to detail their experience in the workplace -- whether positive or negative. To avoid the potential of getting a bad reputation businesses are beginning to stress employee engagement as a way to help ensure a positive brand perception, according to He.
"Social media gives employees a voice and a powerful reach, so if they don't feel good about their employer, they'll take it out to social media and tarnish the brand. You have to make sure your employees are happy, have a positive experience, are engaged and are aligning with your brand and mission," says He.
Engaged Employees Encourage Quality Referrals
Happier, more engaged employees are more productive, and more likely to refer qualified candidates to your organization, according to Dan Finnigan, CEO of career networking site Jobvite. And Jobvite's 2014 Social Recruiting Survey revealed that, of the 1,588 recruiters and hiring managers surveyed, 60 percent say the best talent comes from referrals.
"The concept behind Jobvite when we started in 2008 was to help people share job opportunities among their networks. We saw that talent referred by employees was of higher quality, they were more productive, and they stayed longer. They also cost less; the average 'cold' hire in the U.S. costs $4,000 to $5,000 once you account for training, onboarding and the like, but the average referral hire costs $1,000," Finnigan says.
"One of the best ways to attract talent is through referrals. When people see that their friends, their family and their social network connections are happy and fulfilled at work, they want to work at that company, too. When your workforce is engaged and invested, there's a sense of pride about working at the company, and that shines through in face-to-face meetings, on the phone, over email and especially through social media," says Michelle Roccia, executive vice president of employee engagement at IT recruiting and staffing firm Winter Wyman.
Engaged Employees Promote a Positive Brand to Next-Gen Talent
An employee engagement strategy can also help build a pipeline of up-and-coming talent. Candidates in Generation Y and Generation Z have changed the relationship between employer and employee and are clamoring for a sense of mission, purposeful work and an alignment of values with their workplace, according to He. "Gen-Y and Gen-Z are really pushing for that sense of mission, sense of purpose in the workplace. They want to believe in what their company's doing and further their personal values through their work," says He.
To attract and retain the best and brightest, companies must be explicit about their culture and work to engage employees and foster a positive brand image. "The younger generation is looking for more than just a job, they're looking for a mission and a purpose to their work. For the next generation, it's less about compensation-based standards of living and more about their personal values: globalization and fair pay, inequality, the environment, and making sure they're doing what they can to make the world a better place. Your business has to align with those values to attract and retain the best talent before they go elsewhere," says Finnigan.
Employee Engagement is The Right Thing to Do
Of course, business reasons aside, fostering a culture of engagement and ensuring your employees are happy is simply the right thing to do, says Winter Wyman's Roccia.
"No one is successful without employees - that is why engagement is so critical to the branding of the company. If you're a software company, you can't build software without people. If you're a database company, you can't have a database without people. At the very core, every business' most valuable asset is people and the skills and knowledge they bring with them. So, you need to focus there, and do the right thing for your people. In the short term, it may not seem like the most profitable business decision, but in the long term, it's always the right decision," says Roccia.