Employer Branding from E to B

Mihaela Turner and Milka Negrović 25 January 2019 • 15 min

Although unemployment is one of the most critical problems in the region, it becomes ever harder to find excellent and qualified candidates.
The world and already our country too, are facing the so-called “the war for talents”. The first step is to attract the quality personnel, while the second one, often more difficult, is to retain the actual employees. Therefore, the strategic approach to Employer Branding is of key importance.

What is, in fact, Employer Branding?

Whether employers are familiar with this term or not, it is important to know that each employer has already been branded, they already have their employer brands. Those are employer’s reputation and certain qualities that are ascribed to the employer: work conditions, work atmosphere, possibilities for development, advancement and all other topics that are of significance for prospect candidates.

If an organization has made sure to work on its employer branding in a strategic and a well-planned manner, than it is highly probable that it has a relevant employer’s image. If not, some serious work waits ahead.

Employer Branding zero point

The first step that an employer should take is to assess its current state, i.e., how it is perceived by the actual workforce. This is very important since employer branding cannot be fully controlled process. Employees (and former employees) will have its say about the employer. They will speak about their environment, leave comments and impressions on specialized portals and forums, and thus they will become separate independent media. Media that are beyond employer’s control that may become valuable ambassadors or a serious threat to employer branding. In order to obtain realistic picture, the survey regarding employee satisfaction should be completely anonymous and carried out by an external independent body.

Internal survey is, practically, most important, since the reputation of an employer is the reflection of (mainly) internal factors. After learning about its reputation among the actual employees, it is necessary to deal with external surveys. How an employer is perceived by public, and before all, by prospect employees.

Only when the picture is complete and the initial state defined, it is possible to move on towards the development of employer branding strategy.

Whether we are employees or the employer, it is equally important to bear in mind all the time that employer branding is always present, and that it neither has its beginning nor ending. Our emotions, words and actions continuously affect the strength of our brand as an employer, or if we are employees, our current or prospect employer.

Ivan Marković
Ivan Marković
Menadžer za razvoj brenda poslodavca, NIS

The most frequent situation we may find in practice is that employer branding remains in the gaps among different company’s sectors. Marketing and PR have the knowledge and tools necessary to communicate its messages to external (and also internal) public, but what they miss are the information and material owned by HR Sector. This situation is resolved by the engagement of external agencies or by establishing close cooperation between the sectors. Both solutions are spot-on, but with caution, procuring that the entire team that works on employer branding has the knowledge regarding this subject, that it follow the trends and can recognize and implement effective and quality campaigns and activities.

If we think in broader terms, we conclude that the responsibility for employer branding reaches far beyond the mentioned sectors and that all the employees should be involved. With whom they work, with whom they spend at least one third of each day, share efforts and successes, laugh, discuss, travel… is of utmost importance for all individuals.

Transparency without exception

Communication has evolved. We have mentioned that each person has become a medium per se. The medium that communicates messages via social networks, fora, portals – in public, but also anonymously, by evaluating the employer, as well as privately – through different chat platforms for sending private messages. This fantastic communication evolution provides the huge area for employer branding. In order to achieve the effect that we want and that will result in success, not in failure, it is important to be sincere and transparent. Completely. If there is a problem or a flaw that threatens the reputation of the employer, it is unnecessary to waste time on covering it up.  The focus should be shifted to the improvement of what is wrong. Good marketing has the power to emphasize and to conceal. Nevertheless, is it really necessary? The truth will find its way sooner or later. Even if an employer attracts certain employees, invest time and budget for recruitment, selection, onboarding, training and the like, and if the picture such employees have had about the employer is very different from the reality, if their expectations are not fulfilled by the employer, such persons will not be satisfied, and thus neither motivated, nor productive. They will use the first opportunity to leave, which means that all those previously listed activities were in vain.

Good employer formula

It would be far easier if there were formulas that lead to the goal of being a good employer. Unfortunately (or fortunately), such formula does not exist.

However, what does exist is the strategy that is not only industry-specific, but also specific for each individual employer. Employees differ, as well as employers. Each employer has its own values, atmosphere, and corporate culture. Pursuant to them, it selects its employees. The same workplace may be a ‘dream come true’ for one person, while for another person, it may represent a hard toil. This brings us back to the importance of transparency and sincerity. There is no need for employers to strive to be what they are not. It is enough to show what they really are, and to emphasize the values they want to share with their teams. In this manner, they will not attract people who do not fit in teams and whose expectations are different from what an employer may offer.

It, surely, does not mean that employers should not work on the improvement of work conditions and benefits for their employees, on the contrary. It is necessary to define the employer branding strategy, determine the direction and the activities and move persistently towards the set goals.

I can accept branding only when my vision, mission and values are in line with the vision, mission and values of the employer. Then it becomes easy, and my engagement, pride and loyalty to the employer are created from the synergy. I think it cannot be done in any other way.

Dragan Petrovic
Dragan Petrović
Operations manager / COO, Mokra Gora School of Management

Listening is the half of success

Attracting quality and qualified personnel calls for a serious and continual work. Successful companies recognize this fact and invest considerable resources in different projects, campaigns, programs etc. However, how much are we aware of the fact that the day when an employee has signed its labor contract is not the day of process closing, but rather of its beginning? How much are we aware of the importance to keep the employees, which is harder than ever in this time of struggle for quality personnel? Industries that have deficit of experts (IT sector being the best example), recognize that keeping their employees is of key importance for their business. We are witnesses of the period when certain employers compete in providing very good work conditions and benefits, in order to keep experts and experienced professionals within their teams.

The only logical next step is the question: What do employees want? What are the good conditions on today’s market that will connect them with an employer?

The answer is very simple – they should be asked. Ask the employees what is important to them. Responses received are valuable, but also individual. It is important to some people to have sufficient free time, to some other – to work on challenging projects. Some of them appreciate flexible working hours and remote work, while others want to have everything handy at their workplaces and they are happy with lunch and gym at their workplaces. Some people want possibilities to grow and advance, and others are fine with the middle ground and only want to keep stability.

Employees’ responses will reveal the secret map to their satisfaction.

By defining employer branding as an organization’s development strategy, we need to be aware that it has much broader implications than the growing interest of more suitable candidates to work for the company. It has a strong impact on the entire company – both for the well-being that employees will feel – through improving processes and systems, communication, engagement, satisfaction, and consequently on the results and market success of the company.

Sonja Cetkovic
Sonja Ćetković
CEO, „Poslovi Infostud“

What has changed on the labor market?

People have changed. The way in which information are consumed has also changed. If we start from the simple logic that by the year 2020, 75% of the employees will be so-called millennials, it is clear that we have to modify the way in which we have done the employer branding so far.  We are talking about “digital native” generations, and therefore it is clear that channels through which we convey the message showing us as a good employment and career development option, has to be (yes, must be) digital ones. The manner in which we communicate messages to them has to be (yes, must be) harmonized with their interests. The focus of the content that we send is carried over to prospect candidates; what we offer to them, in which way we may fulfill their expectations follow their ambitions. Forms of the contents should be in line with the target audience. This target group will not be interested in CEO’s presentation of the annual business report at the meeting of group leaders, but they will be interested in CEO’s story; from which position has he started his career, how he has advanced, what are his advices and recommendations.

Most dangerous thing that may happen is to continue to work in the same way. Although certain activities have fruited results, it does not mean that they will do so in future. Courage for changes, research, trend following but also trend setting are the real path of organizations toward becoming desirable employers.

Sonja Ćetković, Director of “Poslovi Infostud”