Employer branding: Success through strategy | SEI - Swiss Engineering Institute
Employer branding: Success through strategy
September 03, 2018
By SEI Redaktion


Employer branding: Success through strategy

The background: Gradually, market power on the labour market is shifting, and demographic change means that the cards are being re-dealt. This processis most noticeable in sought-after industries, and in its wake, Generation Y and Z are undergoing a radical change. Whilst Generation Y was worried about finding a suitable job, Generation Z is entering the labour market with a more relaxed attitude. Demographic change is playing into its hands, because the laws of supply and demand also apply to the labour market. Generation Z is thus better placed to implement its ideas of working life within companies. In contrast to Generation Y, it prefers fixed working hours and clear structures at the workplace. Members of preceding generations are more flexible, with the separation between work and leisure time being less important to them. Thus their willingness to work at home is greater, while Generation Z prefers a traditional office workplace.

How to react

What measuresare companies taking in response to these new conditions in the labour market? What might the right strategybe for successfully managing this process? The answer: employer branding! 

The existence of Generations Y and Z mean that conventional paths need to be abandoned and new methods used, such as competitions for preselecting candidates. Jaguar Land Rover" launched a global campaign to recruit future electrical engineers and software developers. In order to get into the first selection round, interested parties had to solve a puzzle that could be found in the mixed reality app of the band "Gorillaz". By the end of 2017, more than 50 candidates had made it to the interview round, and 13 applicants were offered a job. 

The example of Jaguar Land Rover shows that a unique selling proposition (USP) is now also necessary in the labour market. Whoever builds up a strategy around their USP can acquire customers more easily. Customers? Yes, because applicants are now "customers"! Generations Y and Z want to be wooed, and do not see themselves as supplicants who will find it difficult to find a job. A clever employer branding strategy addresses this new psychological situation, from which Generations Y and Z draw their strength.

Values of the company

The idea of a USP idea in turn leads to another concept – the employer value proposition (EVP). It is the basis for all forms of employer branding. The EVP answers the following questions: What are the company's unique characteristics that clearly set it apart from the competition? Why should Generations Y and Z, who are willing to change jobs, stick with this employer for a long period of time? What values does the company represent? Do they fit the normative ideas that are deeply rooted in Generation Y and Z candidates?

Hurdles on the road to success

The hurdles on the way to an attractive EVP are high if it is to become an effective part of the employer branding.

Hurdle 1: A company has to be carefully checked for strengths and weaknesses, with employees' perspective always the decisive factor. In this way, an intensive internal dialogue takes place. This dialogue has to be honest, authentic and open-ended – in line with the old PR rule "internal before external". Many questions arise: How do the decision-making processes work? How independent are the employees? What sense of purpose do they experience at work? Is there a correct balance between work and leisure time? 

No tired clichés

Other factors include compensation, career opportunities, the working atmosphere and training. It is important that the descriptions do not become mired in the clichés that characterise many job advertisements ("exciting tasks", "promotion opportunities" or "performance-related remuneration"), otherwise the strategy will fail.

Anyone who examines their organisation in this way is laying the foundation for participative structures, which in turn can become a valuable factor in the EVP. Employer branding takes people who have been with a company for years and their experiences seriously. The company's focus in its corporate behaviour must be on the person. The strategy will then succeed in focusing on strengths that have a positive effect both internally and externally. In order to strengthen the perception of a company as an attractive employer, these strengths need to be clearly communicated to Generations Y and Z. Communication as equals is required, because self-confident applicants are conscious of their market power and make deliberate use of it.

Anchoring the brand

Hurdle 2: The analysis of the current situation becomes the basis for successful employer brandingif it reveals an employer brand that is anchored in the "lived identity of the employer".1

Without this "lived identity", the employer branding fizzles out, because Generation Y and Z will not take an EVP seriously that is simply a website slogan. Conversely, with such an identity, enthusiastic employees become ambassadors for the company. Their authenticity wins over others during face-to-face conversations in the social environment as well as in university marketing and at job fairs and other events. Career networks and social media platforms also offer many possibilities for integrating employees into the process. Employer brandingis successful when HR managers know the wishes, ideas and desires that are alive in Generations Y and Z. 

Equally important for the strategyis the question of what competitors offer in terms of a lived corporate culture. This can be learned from former employees.

Self-confident demands

Those who know the preferences of their target group and can authentically communicate the strengths of their own company will establish a successful employer brand. It forms the basis for the perception of the company and makes it possible for it to present itself confidently as an attractive employer and to be perceived as such.  At the same time, a total rethink is needed: Generations Y and Z are self-confident in their demands and no longer slip into the role of employees who depend on the mercy of their employers. This initially is difficult to deal with, but it is also a clear step forward that makes it possible to reposition one's own company in the job market and to stand out from the crowd.

1Federal Association for Employer Branding, Personnel Marketing and Recruiting, Queb (2018): "Employer Branding", in: https://www.queb.org/activity-lounge/definitionen-employer-branding/dated 13.07.2018

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