How to Discover Your Most Effective Employer Brand Message

An effective employer brand communicates the core value proposition and the attractiveness of the organization as a place to work and thrive for it’s employees.

Every organization has an “employer brand”. Different from the customer-facing brand, the employer brand is the perceived reputation of the organization, the perceptions of everyone around the organization, the culture inside, and the way the organization seems to care about its people. It’s the sum of how everyone connected to the organization thinks about the organization, sees the organization, and feels about the organization. It involves every candidate, employee, partner, customer, vendor – and anyone who interacts with the brand from anywhere around the globe.

Think of your employer brand as an “authentic inside-out” view for everyone to see. It’s the whole hog. The bacon and the snout.

Doing employer branding work means you are engaged in the promotion of an organization, as the employer of choice, to a select group of people. And to promote your employer brand you need a message to share.

Decide that understanding truth matters.

The employer brand message you ultimately decide on will be used to improve your ability to attract people to the organization, filter candidates in-and-out, resonate and connect with others in your target audiences. The message is used to inform and appeal – to show and tell people why they should join the organization and why they will remain satisfied. The most effective employer brand messages have the discipline to focus in and the character to remain honest. They go narrow and deep in truth not wide in deception.

Also see: How to Create an Effective Employee Value Proposition

Your employer brand message is a “promise” to prospective candidates. And it’s usually positioned as an answer to “here’s what our true self looks like” or “here’s who we are” and “here’s what you’re going to be a part of when you join” or “here’s what you are really getting into”.

Collect and translate data to build useful insights.

Consider the approach your marketing team uses to discover and build up their consumer-facing brand messages. Chances are they don’t make good things up. Instead, they most likely begin by looking at truth(s) in their data. First, they collect raw data (structured and unstructured; qualitative and quantitative) from internal and external factors – the organization, existing customers, potential prospects, strategic and channel partners, vendors. After they collect the data, they analyze and translate their findings into useful insights. They do all of this before they begin to architect the brand identity, brand essence, and value proposition for the company or product. Why? Because they know if they don’t clearly understand the truth, the wrong message gets positioned to the wrong audiences, nobody buys, and the company loses money.

Also see: Employer Branding 101 – A Few Definitions

If you don’t take the time to understand your truths before building up your employer brand message, you’ll end up creating one that doesn’t resonate or connect with the people your organization wants to hire most. By relying on actual data, you’ll be more likely to “bake” authenticity into the process and deliver a true employer brand and related brand messages.

How do you uncover our authentic self and learn all you can about the people connected to the organization and the work that is done inside? By collecting data to help you better understand the levels of awareness and acceptance of your employer brand. By uncovering what is true about the perceived quality of your brand – as well as imaginary (and real) associations to the brand, strength of brand loyalty, and so forth. Draft an employer attractiveness survey document to get you started. Having a well organized design approach and survey will help to set a true and important cornerstone – an authentic employer brand, marketing messages and value proposition.

Also see: How to Conduct an Employer Brand Study

After you’ve finished collecting the raw data, and translating it into insights you can use, you’ll be in a much better position to understand who might be best-fit inside your organization and match the right message to share out in the world to connect and resonate with others. Remember, more data is not better data. Take the time to learn all your truths and have the discipline to focus in on the right data. It’s the only path that will lead you to success.

Define the core problems and important goals.

Let’s imagine we run an organization with a few thousand employees. Over time, we start to notice some of our best employees beginning to leave the organization. We are told new hires lack the right skills when they join. And it seems to be getting harder attract and engage enough of the right people to fill open jobs.

One of the first things we might do (in this case) is to focus our efforts around three broad goals:

  • improve employee satisfaction
  • hire more “best-fit” people
  • improve attraction and retention

Before we even think about communicating and promoting a brand message, sharing through social channels, or sourcing qualified candidates, we need to define what is working and what is not. By measuring our current reality, and then comparing our reality against an ideal baseline, we’ll be able to see and solve the gaps we care most about. Using the case above, our objectives are to improve employee satisfaction, hire more “best-fit” people, and improve our ability to attract and retain more people.

This is a big issue for many organizations, but fortunately, there is a step-wise approach to solving this problem.

Consider how we would climb a mountain. We wouldn’t take one huge step to the top. Instead, we would size up the challenge, chart a clear path forward, and make sure we have all the right resources around us for our journey. Only then would we begin our journey. Step by step we would reach the top.

Use a survey to get to the heart and soul of people.

Why an employer attractiveness survey? Because it will help us get to the heart of why people like to work – and stay working – at our organization. Because it will help us to better understand employee satisfaction, issues with attracting people, engagement, retention, and more. And, because we’ll be able to use our new insights to help us find and keep more people that match our value proposition – people who can deliver on our brand promise. Because without locking into “truth”, we can’t solve the real underlying problem.

A survey helps us to collect the true preferences, opinions, attitudes and interests of our employees.

Think about it this way: the real problem is our inability to connect to and engage with the heart and souls of the people we want to hire most. Our objective is to learn about our people – who they are, why they work, why they stay – and then use those new insights to improve our ability to target, connect with, and move others in and around the organization.

Our survey will help us understand and analyze what attracts people to our organization – and also what will help to retain them over the long term. We’ll deploy a two-part, blended survey approach – and combine a structured process (email, web-based surveys, phone or one-on-one interviews, focus groups) with an unstructured process (employee reviews, comments on third-party sites and across social media) to collect, analyze, and then act on the preferences of our best employees.

After both parts of our research effort are completed, we need to make sure to analyze the data to draw out useful, actionable insights to improve our ability to get more of the right people to want to join and stay committed to the organization. With our new insights, we’ll also be able to develop a forward-looking roadmap and best-practice playbook to improve processes and structures related to attraction, engagement, recruitment, hiring, on-boarding and retention.

A bit about timelines and ownership.

Most employer branding efforts take somewhere between three to six months to complete, and nine to 18 months to figure out if the effort was effective. (Note: There are a number of reliable ways to short-cut the above process and still get the information you need).

There are competing theories on who should the process to get to the employer brand message. Some believe the effort should be initiated by “Talent” (re: HR) and the operations/business unit. Others believe “Marketing” should own everything.

Often what happens is “marketing” is concerned with communication and messaging across the entire website – and this extends over to the career site/page. HR is often most concerned with the career site/page and open jobs, and focused on getting more of the right people to join and stay. Consider the common middle ground and build your team effort with that in mind.

The above survey work is most often going to found in HR but getting to the right brand message (marketing and culture) might require also working with Marketing. We believe the best scenario is for HR to lead the effort and to work closely with Marketing. If you don’t have the support you need from Marketing, TalentSum can help.

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A word about measuring and KPIs

How do we measure our success? Let’s go back to our original three goals: Employee Satisfaction, People Attraction, and People/Skill Fit. Cost per hire, acceptance levels, time to hire are all fine, but we need to make sure we are capturing and monitoring other KPIs as well, including: number of hits to our career website, the tone people use when discussing our organization, and how people talk about our organization and it’s culture out on social media, blogs, comments and so on.

Here’s a list of KPIs worth some consideration:

  • number of hits to the career site
  • number of applicants (now vs before)
  • conversion rates of our applicants/interviews
  • acceptance rates of qualified candidates
  • cost to hire and time to hire
  • length of tenure/service (retention/attrition)
  • rate of employee turnover
  • rate/level of new employee referrals
  • proof that org is becoming a best place to work
  • reduction in absenteeism (by month, quarter and year)
  • proof that safety records are moving in the right direction


Christopher Mengel is the founder of TalentSum LLC, a strategic talent acquisition consultancy and best practices implementation firm. Some of the world’s most notable companies partner with TalentSum to activate a strong employer brand, attract more people who fit, improve engagement and experiences, and deliver high-performing cultures.

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