5 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Own Employment Brand

Many articles and posts have been written about how to establish or build an effective employment brand. This article, however, is quite different. It is intended to get companies to stop taking steps to ruin—or at least dilute—their current employment brand. Remember, an employment brand is meant to be more than just a few simple, tangible reasons why your company is a better place to work than that of your competitors. It should offer a compelling case as to why someone will be more successful, content and even happy working for you—regardless of what others may provide.

Too many organizations today have an old-school ambivalence to the true investment that is an employment brand. This attitude often leads to actions that can actually cause more harm than if companies did nothing, but let social media take over and organically grow their perceptions as an employer.

So without further delay, here are the five things that can undermine your own employment brand:

1. Relying on a small committee of executives to tell people what it’s like to work there.

This one is listed first because I see it most often. Many times, out of a ‘leadership retreat,’ or workshop comes the corporate drivel that adorn the hallowed halls of many corporations, both large and small. Leaders are convinced that they know what attracts and keeps good employees. They also believe they know the message that will inspire and engage existing employees.

To be fair, some leaders know their employees well enough to speak to, for and about them. These are a rare breed and most executives should temper their efforts with real data from real employees and the market that builds them up. Run surveys, look at market data, talk to employees. You may be shocked at how this influences your perception of what attracts and keeps your best employees.

2. Using corporate buzzwords or consultant speak to convey a human message.

This is where I can get a bit controversial. Please don’t use the word ‘integrity’ in your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). You might as well say ‘We don’t steal here.’ An EVP is too valuable of space on such an obvious proposition. How about: ‘We take care of one another?’

Another overused word is ‘innovation.’ Yes, this is important. Some would say the most important aspect of a corporate strategy. It is merely a matter of how we say it. ‘We come up with innovative strategies to serve our clients’ is certainly less inspiring than ‘We embrace the absurd.’ These both get us to innovation—just using different paths. Think about how you really innovate in your organization.

3. Focusing on the tangible benefits someone gets from working at your company instead of the intangibles that come from being part of a team, family or community.

At its core, an EVP defines what you get for your efforts. I suppose there was a day in the not too distant past that allowed us to list salary, benefits and a few other tangibles that got us candidates to build a company around. Those days are gone. Now we know from survey data and anecdotal evidence that candidates want more than money and benefits to sway them. Who will they work with and how? Dress code? Flexible schedules? Manager attitudes? If a family member gets sick, will you support me? Can I make a difference? Now? These are the questions potential employees want answered, and many more before they are even interviewed.

4. Mixing messages and themes with communication channels when recruiting to different audiences.

This one is subtler. Even the most unsophisticated marketing professional will know you need to tailor your message to the appropriate target market. With an employment brand, it gets tricky because the audiences are wide and varied, and the messages can rarely be walled off from each other. Avoid at all costs the scenario where existing employees look at your shiny new employment messaging and simply roll their eyes. Similarly, on-campus employees will read employee accounts and recruitment ads for mid-career hires. Find a theme and stick to it. Vary your focus, but don’t lose your overall theme—or you will dilute all your markets.

5. Forgetting that current employees hear your recruitment messaging and are your most important ambassadors.

Your current employees are eavesdropping on every message you are blasting out to potential candidates. For many organizations, they are your most important recruiters. Why not arm them with materials and messaging, just like your recruiters? It helps if your crowd feels pride, but that’s another blog. Give people an ‘elevator speech’—and if it is the right mix of authentic and aspirational, they will use it as a powerful recruiting tool.

Don’t settle for business as usual

Many of these mistakes are common sense, but too many have become business as usual and are part of my daily battlefield around ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ It doesn’t have to be this way and these changes might just be the catalyst you need for the larger changes you’re looking for in talent acquisition, employment branding of even culture change.