Measuring Your Employment Brand: Part 1: Walk Before You Run

In a recent LinkedIn study, 83% of global recruiting leaders agreed that employer branding is a critical driver of their ability to hire top talent. 51% said they had increased their investment during the past year. And yet, only one-third said they regularly measure their employer brand in a quantifiable way.

What does this tell us? First, employer branding has caught on fast. A lot of people are doing it—but most haven’t been doing it very long. Second, most organizations will need more time before they really learn how to measure, assess and optimize their employment branding efforts.

Usually, the first impulse is to jump in with both feet, poring over metrics from each new tactic in an effort to gauge impact. Don’t make this mistake. Before you can measure the effectiveness of your employment brand (which I discuss in Part 2), you must first understand and identify what already exists. What do I mean by this?

It’s a reflection of the power of social media. Today, the message coming out of your Marketing or HR department is only one part of the conversation. Your employees and recruiters are talking about you—to each other and to the world outside. Job seekers are talking with each other. Former employees are adding their two cents as well. And outside of company assets like your careers website, you can’t control what is being said; you can only influence it.

So how do you measure what you already have before you can start building what you want? There are three things to consider:

1. Awareness.

This is the most basic question: Does the job market know about you? Are you being talked about? We often help clients get a feel for this by conducting a social media audit. List all the social media accounts your company has—Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. Do you have separate career pages? How much traffic are these sources driving? Look at the traffic on your career website. You can also search to see how often your name is being discussed across the web.

Before long, you can begin to segment awareness—by market, by areas of your business and by segments of the audience. It’s important to know whether the job market knows who you are, but it’s more actionable to know, for instance, that hourly wage candidates in rural areas are much less aware of your opportunities than those in metro markets. And don’t forget, as the most elementary measure of your brand strength, awareness is also the one you can most easily improve through your own efforts. When you’ve got the right message, keep putting it out there.

2. External Perception.

When you listen to job seekers and candidates on social media, do they have a positive, negative or neutral opinion of your company as a place to work? Is the perception changing? Can you identify a trend? And is there anything you can do to move it? These are the questions you will consider in trying to gauge external perception. This is also where the next great leap in employment branding analytics will take place—Sentiment Analysis. This means applying Big Data analytic tools, such as IBM Watson, to the places where conversations take place online. By doing so, we will learn not just whether people are talking about you, but what they think.

Sentiment Analysis is still relatively new, and won’t be in wide use for a while yet. Until then, the key to assessing external perception is this: use social media not to talk, but to listen. Think of social media as an ongoing series of different focus groups where you can hear real feedback anytime you want. What you learn will be qualitative and, to a degree, anecdotal, but it can teach you a lot.

3. Internal Perception.

In this case, you are listening to what’s being said by yet another group—your current employees as well as any recruiters working on your behalf. Are they interacting with job seekers online? And if so, what are they saying about you? This audience is interesting because they are a kind of hybrid between the external audience and your own corporate marketing messages. After all, they will have plenty of thoughts about your company and they can share those freely. But they are also much more amenable to receiving guidance from you about what to say. If you have not provided a clear, consistent narrative to this group, they will be ill-informed ambassadors. If you have given them a strong message to internalize, respond to and repeat, they will be your greatest source of referrals and positive perceptions.

At this stage of the game, there is another important thing to consider—how well do you understand your corporate culture? We always strongly recommend that clients go through a formal cultural analysis. This will help you understand where your culture is today, identify where you want it to be and understand how near or far these two things are from one another. It is also the key to developing a message that shows what great looks like at your organization and to identifying what kind of candidates will fit your culture best.

Finally, remember that by increasing your effort, you can generally increase awareness. Changing perception requires more strategy and consistency over time. But the greatest challenge of all is changing what you provide (to employees and customers alike) so that it matches their perception. This is the ultimate branding goal. And taking time now to figure out where you stand is the first step to getting there.

Continue on to Part 2, to find out how to measure outcomes once your employment branding program is up and running.