The complete guide to employer branding in 2023

This employer branding playbook is your go-to guide to finding out how you can build a strong employer brand that helps attract and retain top talent. Follow the actionable tips and steps below to build a brand that not only engages and delights candidates and employees, but turns your business into a great place to work.

Made with love by the JOIN team.

Intro to employer branding

A powerful employer brand engages, attracts, and retains employees. It’s the secret ingredient that differentiates your business from all the others out there, helping you stand out from the crowd. In today’s competitive market, you need to show off what makes you unique and why candidates should choose you over the rest.

Is it your inclusive, diverse, and open company culture? Is it a commitment to learning and development that allows employees to thrive and grow? Or is it the carefully curated mix of fun and meaningful benefits that contribute to a healthy work-life balance for your team members?

Whatever it is, employer branding is a powerful recruitment and HR tool.

When left untouched, it can downplay your efforts in other areas, as a massive 75% of job seekers take your brand into consideration when applying for a job.

50% lower cost per hire1-2x faster time to hire28% reduction in turnover

Employer Brand Statistics, LinkedIn

What is employer branding?

Employer branding is a broad term that includes a wide array of activities and initiatives that all work to allow outside stakeholders to understand your company, mission, and values. There’s a strong focus on branding which will attract potential applicants, candidates, and eventually hires to your organisation.

In a nutshell, this is how employer branding would be summarised:

“Employer branding is the practice of managing and influencing your employer brand to attract, recruit and retain employees.”

Read more in our employer branding glossary.

Why is employer branding important?

If you’ve never put a focus on improving your employer branding before, you might be thinking, “Things are fine! Why do I have to work on this?” And there are several answers to this. We’ve listed some of the biggest benefits to excellent employer branding below:

How to (re-)build your employer branding

Below, you’ll learn how to build your business’s employer branding. But before you can do so, you need to audit your current brand and understand the status quo. What is your employer brand?

First understand your current brand

To change and improve your employer branding, you first need to understand your current employer image. This allows you to identify areas you wish to change, as well as plan how to get there.

Note: While you may have never worked on your employer branding before, chances are there are still certain aspects that are associated with you as an employer. Identifying these initial images and perceptions is still important!

So, how do you identify your existing employer image?

There are a few steps involved in figuring out the status quo of your brand’s image. For example, you need to speak to those who know your business best. Also, take a look at the messages and media that you’re putting out, and assess how this could be perceived by external stakeholders.

The following are a few helpful steps you can take to help identify your current employer image.

Internal interviews

Internal interviews

No one will know your current branding as an employer quite as well as those who already work with you! Internal interviews are, therefore, one of the best ways to assess your existing employer image.

Before diving in, be sure to prepare questions that allow you to understand the full scale of your brand’s image. These questions should include, among other things:

  • What the employee enjoys about working for your business
  • What the employee thinks could be done better
  • What they believe you offer as an employer that your competitors don’t
  • How they see themselves progressing at your company
  • How they think your culture could be described
Survey customers

Survey customers

While customers will have a less detailed understanding of your employer image, they may still be able to offer some insight into how external stakeholders perceive you. Depending on your business, these questions will differ, but some starting points you can quiz your customers on are:

  • What they believe your values are
  • Whether you fulfil your business mission
  • How sustainable they believe your business is
  • How they found your business
Use your social media following

Use your social media following

This tip is especially useful when using social media tailored to employer branding, such as LinkedIn. Here, you can run any number of polls and assess what potential candidates, applicants, and hires understand about your business.

Audit your owned media – website, blog, social channels, etc

Audit your owned media – website, blog, social channels, etc.

This is especially important for businesses that have been around for a longer time. Reviewing your older blog posts, web pages, and posts on social media will help you to understand the messaging you’re giving to external viewers.

It will also help you to understand how consistent your messaging has been over time.

Review existing brand guidelines, company values, etc. (if any) and whether they’re implemented/followed

Review existing brand guidelines, company values, etc. (if any) and whether they’re implemented/followed

In line with your external messaging, it is a good idea to review any guidelines or values you currently have to understand how you’re communicating about your brand internally. Try running through any briefs, guidelines, and other messages you’ve shared with your internal team, with the following in mind:

  • Are your guidelines still relevant to your business?
  • Are you remaining consistent with your guidelines?
  • Are your company values in line with your business goals?
  • Did your current team have input on the business values?

Building your brand-new employer brand
(a 10-step plan)

By now, you should have a better understanding of your employer branding. The next step is to create a plan to improve it. So, how can you turn your current brand into the top talent magnet you want it to be?

Step 1

Define who is in charge

Employer branding should be a collaborative, cross-functional project that ideally involves people from across your organisation. But, as with most projects, it’s advisable to have one person take ownership. So, before outlining the strategy, first determine who is in charge of employer branding in your organisation.

Who this person will be will depend on a number of factors, such as the size of your business and your budget. For instance, if you run a larger organisation, you can hire a dedicated employer branding specialist whose main responsibility is to improve your branding.

For small and medium-sized businesses, it might make more sense to have an existing employee take the lead on your employer branding efforts. Rather than hiring a dedicated branding specialist, employer branding will be just one of an employee’s responsibilities.

In most cases, this will be someone within the HR department (or the HR team as a whole). However, due to the many touchpoints between branding and marketing, it may also make sense for a marketing employee to take charge.

For example, here at JOIN, our Junior Content Marketing Manager, Mia Worts, is, together with Talent Acquisition Specialist Lidia Mascio, driving our employer branding forward through social media (and much more)! Read the short interview we did with Mia on what employer branding at JOIN means to her.

Eventually, the goal is for every single employee in your business to become an active promoter of your employer brand, whether it’s through word-of-mouth, sharing your company’s LinkedIn posts with their network, or leaving you a positive review on sites like Glassdoor or Kununu.

Your employees are the best brand ambassadors you can have!

Interview with Mia Worts

  • JOIN

    Why do you find working on employer branding so important?

  • Mia

    It’s simple: In times of tough challenges, such as international conflict, skills shortages, and quiet quitting (to name a few), companies need to offer a unique and healthy company culture to retain and attract top talent. A great employer brand is the solution to communicate company culture more effectively and for employers to set themselves apart from other companies!

  • JOIN

    What are the main challenges you encounter?

  • Mia

    When you have different target groups, it can be challenging to please all individuals’ needs. But for retention, it’s super important to focus on your employees’ needs and fixing what they dislike. Transparency and collaboration are key!

  • JOIN

    How are you using social media to improve JOIN’s brand?

  • Mia

    Our social media channels give us a perfect platform to directly communicate on what’s happening at JOIN, what employees love when working at JOIN, and to visualise our company culture for potential candidates. Come see for yourself and give us a follow on Instagram @joinhr!

Who is responsible for the employer brand?

A Universum study referenced by Harvard Business Review found that 60% of CEOs feel they themselves are responsible for the employer brand, while only 32% of CEOs see HR as the most responsible party. However, 58% of HR executives see themselves as the most responsible.

And then there’s the marketing department, which is generally seen as less responsible. Yet the skill set of marketers makes them invaluable assets when it comes to promoting the employer brand.

That’s why it’s advisable to have a clear hierarchy of responsibilities when it comes to employer branding. Here’s what that can look like:

End responsibility: CEO
Employer branding lead: Brand Specialist
Main stakeholders: HR team & Marketing Department

Step 2

Set your goals

Next up is setting your goals. It’s important to set your key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs) so you keep track of whether your efforts are actually paying off. But with employer branding, setting those targets isn’t always clear-cut.

After all, practically all facets of your organisation have an effect on your employer branding. Nevertheless, there are ways to track whether (parts of) your employer branding efforts are working.

Step 3

Create (or revisit) your mission, vision, and values

These are the guiding principles of your brand. They define why your brand exists, what you aim for in the future, and which philosophy drives you and your team throughout your way to achieve your goals.

Establishing these may seem easy at first. But bear in mind that each of these should reflect the core foundation of your organisation. What makes you and your team tick? In a nutshell, what drives you and your colleagues to get up in the morning and give your all to make this business thrive?

Your mission, vision, and values are at the heart of your employer branding. They are the force that drives all your company stands for. So make them count.

To truly reflect the essence of your company, ensure you involve team members from all hierarchical levels, from C-suite leaders to junior employees.

Step 4

Define brand tone and voice

An important part of employer branding is defining a consistent brand tone and voice. This part is all about the way you communicate as a brand, both internally and externally. The more consistent your communication, the more employees and customers alike will recognise your brand and be able to relate to your company.

Always ensure your tone and voice align with your company mission, vision, and values.

Tone and voice are often blended together into one and labelled tone of voice. But the two are actually slightly different. In short: Someone’s voice can’t change, but their tone can.

And it works like that in writing as well. The voice is the part of the writing that won’t be adapted, no matter where your communication is published or who it addresses. Your voice always remains the same.

Your tone, however, may slightly change depending on the medium you use or the specific topic you’re writing about. You will have your preferences, but you can adapt them if needed. Because sometimes, you might just need to tone it down a bit.

Someone’s voice can’t change, but their tone can.

For example, at JOIN we want our tone to be informal, friendly, and conversational. At the same time, our voice centres around three core points: Clarity, inclusivity, and factuality.

Your brand’s tone and voice will be unique to your brand. The purpose is not only to ensure consistency in communication, but also that people will easily recognise your brand through the way you communicate.

Many companies outline their tone and voice, alongside other writing rules, in a writing style guide, like this example from email marketing service provider Mailchimp.

Step 5

Choose brand imagery

Similar to your written voice, you need to define a visual identity for your brand. And this is where many (newer) businesses struggle to stay consistent.

The use of different fonts, different colour schemes, or even different versions of your company logo can all result in a disconnect between different parts of your brand. If the logo and colours used in an email differ from those used on your website, your brand may come across as incoherent, unprofessional, and even sloppy.

Similarly, it’s also important to ensure your visual branding (and the same goes for your written branding) actually fits your brand. For example, if your business sells children’s toys, black and grey branding might not be the right fit.

You can outline your imagery in design and branding guidelines, just like the writing style guide mentioned above. You can check out TikTok’s beautifully designed brand book for inspiration.

Step 6

Optimise the candidate experience (with help from your EVP)

By now, you have the main aspects of your branding in place. But branding and appearance are only part of building an employer brand.

We mentioned your employer value proposition (EVP) before – now is the time to create it. Your employer value proposition outlines what sets you apart from your competitors, and what value you offer to employees. What will you give to employees in return for skills, abilities, and experience?

How to develop your employer value proposition (EVP)

Recommended Reading

How to develop your employer value proposition (EVP)

With your EVP in place, it’s time to use it for your talent acquisition efforts and, while working on this, improve the full candidate experience. Throughout the candidate journey, you should highlight your EVP and show what value you offer to (future) employees. This is one of the most important steps when it comes to improving your brand reputation to attract future hires (and ensure they’re the right hires).

You want to give candidates a positive impression of your company throughout the recruitment process. Even if a candidate doesn’t make it through your hiring process, you still want them to leave thinking positively about your brand.

And that’s not all. Optimising your candidate experience also improves the chances of both you and your candidate gaining a clear understanding of each other and whether both parties are a good fit for each other.

Learn more about how to improve the candidate experience

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Step 7

Become a great place to work

This step could technically be seen as part of the previous step, but due to its importance, this one deserves a separate mention.

You may have optimised your job ads and perfected your interview process to find the perfect talent, but this won’t mean anything if they leave again within a month. A large part of employer branding is therefore building a company culture and a workplace environment that helps your people thrive, and promotes employee retention.

On the JOIN resources section, you can find dozens of articles and helpful resources that teach you exactly how to turn your organisation into a great place to work.

Step 8

Own your reputation

We live in a review society. To protect your brand reputation, you need to ensure you monitor all touchpoints where employees, customers, clients, and candidates may talk about your brand or leave reviews.

Ideally, your brand will respond to all types of reviews and feedback, whether positive or negative. It shows your brand is committed to providing a great service, customer journey, or candidate experience.

Common places to monitor include:

  • Social Media
  • Glassdoor
  • Google Maps
  • Kununu
  • Capterra
  • Trustpilot

Step 9

Create a communications calendar

We mentioned how marketing tends to play a big part in promoting your employer brand. And seeing the importance of consistent writing and design, that’s no surprise.

Marketers are the ones who write your company pages, your blog, your email newsletters, and your social media posts. Often, they’ll be responsible for creating visual assets to brighten up their content as well.

And this all contributes to your external employer branding. To maximise the impact of your employer branding through all these channels, we recommend creating a communications calendar.

This can be a calendar in your project management tool of choice, or it can be a simple spreadsheet. Use it to plan ahead when, where, and how you will communicate externally.

Note that you can use such a calendar for every communication, not just employer branding-focussed messaging. For example, you can plan your LinkedIn posts for a week something like:

Monday

Promote a blog post

Thursday

Highlight one of the benefits you offer

Wednesday

Start a poll regarding an industry-related question

Friday

Share a customer success story (like we did in this post!)

Step 10

Maximise brand exposure

You now have everything in place when it comes to building your employer brand. Now, it’s time to give your beautiful brand the exposure it deserves.

In the previous step, we touched on social media, but true brand exposure goes further than just online posts.

For example, you could run a hackathon at your company to promote your brand and attract qualified talent. In particular, try to identify industry conferences or events to attend. Where are your (prospective) customers, clients, and candidates? Identify those places and ensure your business is present to boost brand awareness.

What comes next

You should now have a solid plan and playbook in place to (re-)build your employer brand. Once that’s all set, it’s time to evaluate, monitor, and keep optimising.

Evaluate your efforts

Remember Step 2: Set your goals? Now it’s time to go back to the goals and KPIs you originally outlined and see if you’re on track to meeting them.

As employer branding is such a large-scale, company-wide effort, chances are you won’t see instant results. Instead of trying to monitor progress on a monthly basis, you might want to focus more on a quarterly or even yearly basis instead.

Keeping your employer branding up to date

Bear in mind that employer branding is an ongoing project. Although the steps outlined in this guide give you the tools and guidance to build your brand and create an employer branding strategy, it doesn’t stop there.

To future-proof your branding, ensure you constantly review what is working, and what’s not. Remember, this too should always be a company-wide effort. Hold regular surveys and feedback sessions, both internally and externally, to constantly be on top of the status of your brand’s image.

And keep regularly auditing each of the steps mentioned in this guide, coming up with ways to improve each touchpoint and strengthen your brand. Need help and inspiration?

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