Employer Branding: Illustrate Your Story With Authenticity

Life lessons roll in at an interesting pace. Sometimes they are slow and steady. Other times, they fly at us with momentum and fervor. Let’s just say that COVID has made a difference in how we’ve been learning and adapting these last few years. Some decision-making was simply made for survival; some decisions gave us an opportunity to shake up the status quo. In the world of HR, I just want you to know: WE SEE YOU. And now, more than ever, there is pressure to retain employees and appeal to future team members in a challenging market. Here’s a tip: Employer Branding Matters! Build an authentic brand by taking visible, measurable action. 

What IS Employer Branding?

According to SHRM: 

“An employer brand is an important part of the employee value proposition and is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality. A positive employer brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place to work. Employer brand affects recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement of current employees, and the overall perception of the organization in the market.”

Employer branding isn’t new, but the way we look at it has evolved. People have always wanted to work for companies that treat people well, compensate fairly, and provide something positive to the community or society. And younger generations are quick to point out the importance of the latter. They deeply desire an alignment with an organization that walks the talk. The time is ripe to look critically at employer brands – how they essentially sell themselves to current and potential employees – and ensure there is alignment with the truth. 

Why does Employer Branding Matter?

The company Blu Ivy defines themselves as, “employer branding, talent recruitment and culture architects.” Their website hosts a robust section on employer branding – with broad and specific whys and how.  An article that resonates with me is, “Why Strong Employer Brands Are Ahead of The Competition.” It points out that an employer brand may take some time to construct, so start now. And the top three reasons include:

  1. You can stand out from the crowd. (KEY for today’s recruiting challenges!)
  2. You can walk the walk. (Note: let’s not wait to be “called out” on discrepancies.)
  3. You can share real results and stories. (This is where branding, storytelling and marketing play a role in telling the story of YOUR employee experience.)

The article states, “Winning employer brands…know that the best way to attract candidates to their organization is to show, not tell. For example, rather than having the same-old stock photography showing happy people in cubicles, they’re creating day-in-the-life videos that illustrate what working at their company is actually like.” 

Think Creatively About Employer Branding

Illustrating your employer branding requires creativity and fresh approaches. It isn’t as difficult as it used to be to provide a glimpse into daily life. Consider videos, interviews, true snapshots of your workplace culture… Anyone on social media has grown to expect visuals that give insight into what it’s like to live, vacation, play and even work somewhere. Use visual and storytelling tools across a variety of platforms to offer real insight. 

So what are you doing to illustrate a “day in the life?” Stock photography and some group pictures from the holiday party aren’t enough (or even accurate). While industry may dictate what is more or less appealing on camera (climbing a wind turbine vs. coding), take the time to think about how to depict the positive aspects of your employment. How can it be captured? What is our culture and how do people feel as they accomplish their work?

Employer Branding Should Be Authentic

But the most important point here is to be authentic. If you aren’t all happy hours and foosball and golfing, don’t sell that. Frankly, those arcade-like workplaces have already had their heyday. I would argue that you SHOULD have some enjoyable activities, team bonding, family friendly, pet-loving, character-building activities that you can showcase. But don’t promise anything but the truth. False advertising creates a long and expensive path to unsatisfied employees and turnover. Do employees volunteer? Exercise together? Have reading clubs? What is special about how your leaders and employees interact, grow, learn and succeed?

In a fantastic article on BenefitsPro, “2022: Human resources and recruiting predictions”, “Employer branding will make or break companies in 2022.”

It continues:

“Employer branding has risen to a top, dire priority for companies to attract and retain talent – and it will continue to be top of mind next year. Companies need to effectively communicate their company benefits, perks, values, vision, and most importantly culture, leaning into their unique value proposition and conveying what makes them different. We saw that candidate preferences have changed dramatically this year and companies will need to ensure they adjust their value proposition and policies accordingly to stay competitive.

“HR teams will implement more employer brand-focused initiatives, such as hosting and attending industry and recruiting events, updating their career pages and Glassdoor, applying for company awards, and even hiring a Head of Employer Brand to ensure all communications are aligned and consistent across various channels.”

Go Straight to The Source

In an article on Stories Inc., they underscore this point: you need good content from the right sources. It states:

“The past two years have seen unprecedented challenges, and a heavy burden of proof on your employer brand to show how it supports its people. Candidates are keenly interested in how you’ve cared for your team members in the pandemic and in the demands for increased inclusion, diversity and belonging.

They’re interested in how your culture has held up or changed.

They’re interested in what it looks like to work at your company right now.

And, they’re only going to believe it when they hear it from your employees.”

Ask the Right Questions

So what do you do? Start talking to employees and asking the right questions. Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

  • Why do you work here? 
  • What makes our team or organization unique?
  • What do you wish you had known when you were learning about us? 
  • How do you describe your workplace environment to your friends and family?
  • What would make your daily job better? 
  • How can we better align our ideals with our actions?

This is a content goldmine, as well as an opportunity to make some changes. Think about how you’re going to ask and capture answers (survey, videos, conversations and notes?) Then, ask yourself: What is worth sharing with the world? What improvements can make us more competitive for future talent? Where are we misaligned with how we present ourselves with the daily experience we provide to employees? 

Employer Branding is Worth the Effort

Employer branding is not a simple undertaking, but almost inevitable. And doing it right requires some hard conversations and auditing about the truth of the brand. Bottom line: In the battle for recruitment and retention, it is critical to KNOW your employer brand, ILLUSTRATE it well, and be AUTHENTIC in how to showcase the business. 

How does your organization ensure that the employer brand matches reality? Email me at to share your tips and successes!

#WorkTrends: How to Give Your People Story a Heart

Quick — tell me your organization’s story.

If you can’t do that then you’ve got a problem, says Tiffany Sauder, founder and president of marketing agency Element Three. In today’s candidate-driven employment market, employer branding is more important than ever, and businesses that can’t tell their story in an authentic, meaningful way run the risk of losing out on great candidates. Sauder joined us to talk all things employer branding, including do’s and don’ts to consider when crafting your employer brand.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Trends in Employer Branding

As every HR professional knows, we’re in an unusual time for labor. There are more jobs available than there are workers, and this has had a ripple effect on employer brands. The focus is no longer just on attracting external candidates, Sauder says. Clients are focusing on building their internal branding so they can better engage their employees.

However, Sauder says this trend goes beyond the current labor market, because it also comes from generational change in the workplace. “The millennial generation is asking different things of us as companies,” she says. This means organizations need to think harder about expressing their values and culture. “HR teams, talent teams and culture teams are beginning to say ‘We have to take what has been historically very intuitive about who we are as a company and turn that into something that we can say very explicitly,’ ” she says.

How to Begin Thinking About Your Employer Brand

So it’s time to build your own employer brand. Where should you start?

Sauder says HR needs to start by acting like a sales team. Just as a sales team thinks about the sales life cycle from start to finish, HR must consider the employee life cycle in the same way. “Think through the funnel of talent, all the way from ‘they’re just aware of my brand’ to ‘they’re leaving,’ and I’m thinking about alumni relations,” she says.

Once you’ve audited your employee life cycle, consider where the most pain points are. Perhaps you need to improve onboarding, or do a better job with employee development. But remember that there are no quick fixes. Sauder estimates that it takes about three years to craft the components of an effective employer brand, but says the payoff is worth it. “If you do it well, each one of those will be institutional to the whole experience.”

Some Don’ts of Employer Branding

With employer branding becoming more important, an obvious question looms: What are the potholes you need to steer clear of when creating your employer brand?

Sauder’s biggest tip boils down to one factor: authenticity. Don’t just try to imitate other brands you like. Take ownership of what makes you great and unique, and be honest with yourself about your organization’s weaknesses. This is particularly important as organizations become increasingly transparent and social media brings a global spotlight. “All of us as businesses live in glass houses, especially because of the different review sites and the social connectedness of our employee population now,” she says.

So embrace what makes your organization unique, even if it’s something a bit off the beaten path. “I think those brave enough to really embrace the quirkiness of their leadership team, the quirkiness of their culture, and sort of be super-authentic are going to be the ones that win the race,” Sauder says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode