Should a company pay attention to its employer brand? Only if it wants to attract the highest-caliber workforce, strengthen employee engagement, reduce workforce turnover, and maintain a sterling reputation among its critical stakeholders.

Effective outplacement services may not seem like the starting point for building a better employer brand, but think about it. Staff reductions are inevitable in today’s economy. In their search for a new job, newly laid-off workers talk a great deal to people about their most recent employer.

When people hear that a company cares enough about former employees to help them make a successful career transition, it speaks positive volumes about how that business most likely treats current workers. Word gets around; you have turned a negative into a positive while making progress on your employer brand.

The power of an employer brand

Boiled down, an employer brand consists of the experiences your employees go through while they are on the job at your company. No company can enjoy a positive employer brand if the experiences of some employees are good but for others they are not.

And if word on the street does not positively depict a business company as a great place to work, that business may not even receive resumes from the kind of employees its wants to hire or be able to retain those it wants to keep.

A poor employer brand, as just one example, may have cost top executives at a major airline the chance to turn around the company in bankruptcy without losing their jobs to a corporate merger they did not want but was actively supported by unhappy rank-and-file employees. That is what is at stake in an employer brand.

Mean what you say, and say what you mean

Too many companies try to put lipstick on a pig. They assign HR to work with a marketing firm to create a fluff campaign about a mythical great workplace. Employees know better; they live their job experience every day. If there is too big a gap between what the PR effort tries to say about a business and what employees actually experience, the company alienates its current workforce even more, and its employer brand will suffer more than if it had done nothing.

Building a positive employer brand requires participation and input from every level in the company. It also needs top management absolutely committed to being truthful and candid about what works and does not work in the workplace, and to allowing everyone a role in changing the experience for the better.

In brand-building efforts, never forget or ignore the frontline workers. Based on their experiences, they know just as much (if not more) about how to make the workplace a great place than senior managers or consultants. When employees see they have a role in change and that top managers hear and act on their suggestions, they become much more committed to the company and enthusiastic about telling others what a great employer they have.

Ultimately, an employer brand is a promise, just like a product or service brand. Do you know what your company promises current and potential employees? If you don’t, it’s past time to find out.

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