Employer Branding

          A Process for Attracting and Retaining the Best Employees

Bulletin Partenaires, Caisse de Dépôt et Placement, summer 2008 / vol. 5, no. 1

Attracting high-quality hires and earning their loyalty are crucial issues for many companies. And the talent shortage, which will grow worse in the coming years, will make the challenges even tougher. It is therefore essential to act now and implement solutions designed to ease recruitment, inspire commitment and motivation, and improve employee retention. One of the methods for achieving that objective is employer branding, which helps strengthen the company’s image and attractiveness. Thanks to Annie Veilleux and Natalie-Ann Shorteno of Lafond Gestion for their valuable contributions to this article. 
Projecting a strong image, attracting the best employees, inspiring commitment: these are some of the effects of employer branding that are sure to be of interest. All the more so because in today’s world, talent is a major concern. Not only is it in short supply and high demand, but multiculturalism and the divergent needs of different generations make recruitment and retention even more challenging. 
What is employer branding? It is a process designed to create a strong, attractive image for the company, with the aim of facilitating recruitment and inspiring loyalty among high-quality employees. The process, which takes several months, yields a definition of the company’s identity and needs, and identifies employees’ perceptions and expectations. To do this properly, it is important to involve experts in the field. 
“Employer branding is a relatively new concept in Quebec,” says Annie Veilleux, managing director of Lafond Gestion. “The process entails measuring the level of coherence among the organization’s different divisions and messages, with the aim of projecting a strong image and encouraging positive viral marketing.1” 
Measuring coherence on four levels 
There are four objectives in building an employer brand: harmonizing and maximizing the company’s strengths, attracting and retaining talent, creating a climate open to dialogue and innovation, and ensuring the company’s long-term success. One of the major steps in the process is an employee satisfaction survey, measuring their attitude toward key aspects of their work and the company in general. Among other things, this tool makes it possible to identify changes needed in the core area of human resources management. “HR is a major component of the employer brand, because employees are the primary vector for the company’s viral marketing,” says Natalie-Ann Shorteno, a consultant with Lafond Gestion and an expert in employer branding. “The more they love their job, the more likely they are to talk to people about it and get them interested in joining the team. The net result is a boost to the company’s reputation. So the employee satisfaction survey is an effective tool that ultimately allows you to get positive information out to potential employees.” 
Three other issues are studied as part of an employer branding exercise. First is whether the same message and image, consistent with the company’s values, are being projected to suppliers, clients, shareholders and employees. It is also necessary to ensure that the organizational structure and operating environment properly reflect the company’s identity. For example, if openness is considered a core value, the office layout, along with business processes and structures, should foster teamwork and facilitate communication. Lastly, the question of the company’s image is an essential one, and must be considered in all communications and marketing, including career postings. 
Achieving a perfect fit between employer and employee 
With an ongoing talent shortage, the primary goal is to ensure a good fit between employees (their needs, expectations, experience, training, personality) and the employer (its needs, nature of the work, area of activity, values, culture, identity), in order to build an optimal relationship between them. 
To achieve this, psychometric tests are done on employees, in order to identify team members’ personalities and check whether they are suited to the type of work to be done. This exercise often reveals training needs and, sometimes, the need to reassign certain individuals. 
On the company side, the employer brand is the main vehicle for defining the organization’s personality. This exercise has repercussions for all human resources activities, as well as the management of relationships and employee expectations, organizational communications and leadership. “Organizational communication is often the cornerstone of the employer brand, because it is the vehicle for all of the company’s messages,” says Ms. Veilleux. “And if the image the company projects internally is not positive, or is not on-message, outside communications will inevitably suffer.” 
Ensuring a successful branding process 
Above all, it is important to understand that a crisis situation is not an appropriate context for undertaking an employer branding exercise. Whether the crisis is financial, a conflict between partners, or a recent merger that has put teams in a state of shock, it is essential to manage the crisis and wait for the situation to stabilize before tackling the brand. 
Since this is a human resources management issue, a successful employer brand needs to fulfill a number of essential conditions, including unwavering commitment from senior management from start to finish – from audit to feedback. Patience, trust, openness, rigour, humility and transparency must also be part of the process.
“Throughout the process, we conduct field interviews at every level of the hierarchy,” says Ms. Veilleux. “That part of the process can generate some insecurity among employees, as well as creating new expectations. It is therefore essential to ramp up communications during the process, in order to keep employees informed of its progress. The company also needs to be ready to make necessary changes. If it isn’t, all that effort will go to waste.” It should also be noted that since the complete process can take several months, excellent results can be achieved by dividing it into phases.
To summarize, employer branding is a process that allows a company to be recognized, both internally and externally, for its values, the quality of its work environment, and its management practices. By distinguishing itself in this way, it can increase its attractiveness to potential employees, and increase the motivation, commitment and loyalty of existing ones. In a context where talent is in short supply, it is an excellent way to make progress, and produce positive impacts on productivity and profitability. 

1 Marketing technique relying largely on word-of-mouth. 
   In this case, information about the company is passed on by its own employees


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