Could your employer brand be stopping you from recruiting the top candidates? Here’s how to improve it

Struggling to get the number or quality of applications for your latest jobs? Have you considered whether your “employer brand” – the sum-total of how potential employees see your organisation – could be the problem?

Mark Puncher, founder and CEO of Employer Branding Australia works with organisations to present themselves to candidates in the most authentic way, and says it’s critical to approach candidates with a different message than one you might present to the public, to donors or to clients.

Hear Mark Puncher’s top ideas for shaping, promoting and living your employer brand at the 2018 Not-For-Profit People Conference.

Avoid smoke and mirrors

While organisations need to attract people who are passionate about their purpose, they often don’t help themselves by disguising the difficult and arduous parts of the work.

This, Puncher says, means organisations end up hiring people who think they’re walking into a normal job situation and end up burning out, or become dispassionate about their work.

The disconnect can start at the interview process, he says.

“Classic example: organisations take candidates to the nicest room in the building, instead of where people actually work every day,” he says.

“I ask organisations: why are you wearing suits for an interview if you’re just going to change and put runners on?”

Puncher advises organisations to present an honest view of the organisation to candidates from the get-go.

“If I’m about to offer a job, I always tell [the candidate] the reasons they shouldn’t take it,” he says. “Employer branding isn’t about impressing people. It’s about educating them about the reality of the work.”

By being open and honest from day one, you will attract the right type of candidates to execute your organisation’s mission.

Don’t make your job ads all about you

Puncher says it’s good to have clear values and emphasise them, but organisations can put off potentially valuable candidates before they even apply by focusing too much on their own values.

“Values matter in terms of showing who you are, but be careful not to go too hard,” Puncher advises.

“Until you have them interested what they care about is: what’s your organisation like, what do I get, and what’s expected of me?”

Most organisations talk about their purpose and values now, Puncher says, so NFPs can’t necessarily stand out purely by mentioning their own.

Beyond purpose, your job ads should be clear about what will expected of the successful candidate. “You need to be clear about your challenges,” he says.

What are the key challenges of the role? What will they get from the work, day-to-day?

1. Be specific when writing job ads

Puncher says organisations need to be as specific as possible when it comes to positioning their brand to potential candidates.

In job ads, instead of saying you offer a “fun culture”, or “competitive remuneration”, Puncher advises organisations to be specific. Don’t be afraid to talk about overall take home pay, and give specific examples of why you’re a good place to work – like job flexibility, team activities or health and wellbeing programs.

“Instead of saying you have an ‘engaged team’, talk about how you consistently get 90 per cent engagement scores,” he says.

Anyone can say they have a great team, but if you have data to back that up it will really increase your proposition to employees.

2. Make sure your culture is genuine

Don’t mistake a branding campaign for an actual strong culture, Puncher advises. Many ‘best place to work’ awards are made up by marketing committees.

“If your people are laughing at the [workplace culture] strategy behind your back, because it’s a lie, then you’ve got a problem,” he says.

Work hard on creating a good company culture that filters through every level of the organisation. US-based culture thinktak Culture Labx says there are six key pillars you need to get right to enable a good workplace culture:

  1. Purpose – make sure your staff understand why you do what you do, and remind them about it regularly.
  2. Values – ensure your existing culture aligns with the broad beliefs and preferences about what’s important in your organisation, and engage staff in defining these.
  3. Behaviours – define the behaviours you’d like to see in your organisation, and ensure that they reflect your values.
  4. Recognition – regularly recognise when staff or volunteers do great work!
  5. Rituals – invest time in creating regular shared activities for your staff (eg regular team lunches, volunteering together etc). This will help firm up your workplace’s sense of community.
  6. Cues – design your working space to remind people of your company’s purpose, values and culture. Define what you want to be known for, and make sure that intent is evident throughout your workplace.

3. Embrace your challenges

Puncher says employers need to be open about their struggles and challenges. While you may not want to describe those challenges specifically on a job ad, he says it’s worth listing them out in interviews so people truly understand what it’s like to work there.

“You might say that you’ve been through a difficult period and you’re just coming out of it, and these are the challenges you’ve had along the way,” he says.

“It’s so important to step back and say, here’s the journey we’ve been on, and be honest about those challenges.”

This, Puncher, intimates, will help separate the wheat from the chaff. You want to hire people who are happy to tackle a challenge, rather than those who will leave an organisation when things get tough.

4. Make sure your overall brand and your employer brand are aligned

Finally, Puncher says, NFPs need to do an audit of their overall brand and their employer brand.

Look at the brands separately and consider:

  • What values does the brand stand for?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What does success look like?
  • What is the tone of your communications?
  • What are the brand’s weaknesses?

If there’s a difference between your overall brand and employer brand, you need to start being honest with candidates about that difference.

For example, if you work in the area of mental health , but your culture isn’t facilitating mental wellness then that’s a real disconnect.

All employer brands are constantly evolving, but by thinking clearly about yours and taking some concrete steps to improve yours, you’re sure to attract more of the staff that your organisation really needs.

Want to know more? Hear more about creating a winning employer brand at the 2018 Not-For-Profit People Conference.

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