Illustration: Lara Borovcic-Kurir

If you believe that positive perceptions of your company as a credible and responsible employer can be beneficial for attracting new talent, you’re not the only one.

The Global Recruiting Trends survey conducted by LinkedIn in 2016 suggests that 72% of recruiting leaders around the world believe that employer branding has a major impact on hiring.

Moreover, 55% of them suggested that they already have a proactive employer brand strategy, while 59% have started to invest more in their employer branding initiatives.    

But how effective is employer branding, really?

To answer this question, we have to start with the very definition of employer branding - and ways we should approach it.

Employer branding goes beyond counting the number of applications received

Brett Minchington, a famous employer brand strategist, educator and advisor, defines employer brand as "the image of your organization as a 'great place to work' in the mind of current employees and key stakeholders in the external market”.

According to him, “the art and science” of employer branding has to do with “the attraction, engagement and retention initiatives targeted at enhancing your company's employer brand."

In other words, employer branding concerns every stage of the talent lifecycle.

In practice, however, employer branding more often than not ends with talent attraction, and never really involves people management and retention.

Thus, it operates with a single goal in mind: How can we raise awareness of our company being a “good employer”, so that we can ultimately attract more applicants?

As such, employer branding becomes a numbers game, counting how many candidates will apply to your new job openings and tracking what percentages of these individuals will eventually translate into new hires.

You might argue that, from a ROI point of view, this makes perfect sense. The number of applications received outperforms the amount of resources invested in portraying your organization as the most innovative/diverse/engaged/happy/family-friendly/flexible (you name it!) workplace.  

But the problem here is the general misconception in recruitment: the bigger the candidate funnel, the better. Is it, though?

Let’s say you’re looking for a new Customer Support Manager to join your growing CX team.

If done well, your employer branding initiatives will indeed help bring a large number of candidates for that particular position. But given that you’re only open to a single new hire, this also means an insane number of candidates that you will ultimately need to be rejected.

Now, you don’t need years of experience working in HR (like some of us do) to know that it’s no fun to reject people - yet alone being rejected!

We’ve all been there. And it’s especially hurtful (for both parties), when you feel like the organizational culture is ‘just the perfect match’ for the personal values that either you or the candidate adheres to.

And here’s comes another problem: you’ve increased your chances that your new hire will leave the company very soon.

Let us explain.

Rarely does employer branding capture the genuine, honest version of the organizational representation as experienced and viewed by current employees.

A skewed image of the company culture and what it looks like to be working in such an environment can attract the ‘wrong’ candidates - people whose values are completely misaligned with what you actually believe in and how you operate as an organization.

And sooner or later, these individuals may switch to another employer.

Research shows that 46% of new hires leave their employer n within 18 month, with 89% of those due to misalignment with the company culture in one way or another.

For anyone working in HR and recruitment, what this data suggests is concerning: Clearly, people are not working in the cultural environments that they’ve ‘signed up’ for.

They’ve joined their organization based on wrong expectations and false promises made through employer branding, lacking true insights into what the company culture really stands for and looks like.

This is not to say that there is something wrong with branding your company as a great employer. The problem is how employer branding is actually being done.

It’s not about employer branding itself, it’s how we approach it

To overcome these challenges, we first need to treat employer branding by looking at the full talent lifecycle, incorporating what your employees think of you as an employer and what makes them stay with your organization.

Put differently, employer branding strategies and initiatives should be built around the actual values and culture of the organization that current employees practice and adhere to, and not who or how you want to be perceived as by others outside your organization.    

Second, we need to learn to accept the fact that less is more when it comes to hiring.

It is better to have fewer candidates who can align or add to your company culture than having to choose among a large number of applicants who can’t.

At the end of the day, employer branding is about values you put forward as a responsible and credible employer.

Written by
Nico Blier-Silvestri
People and Culture Specialist

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