This sponsored post is produced in association with Justworks.

Whether your business is a mature, decades-old enterprise or a three-person startup that just got its first round of private financing, it’s going to need new talent both now and in the future. Not just any new talent, mind you. Hiring the wrong person for the job can be an expensive mistake regardless of the size of the company (though it could be downright disastrous in a small one). You need to attract candidates that possess the right skills, experience, attitude and — perhaps most important of all — a set of values that is consistent with those of your company.

But what if your employer brand isn’t attracting those ideal candidates? Or worse — it could be saying, “stay away!”

Say what?

If you’re an employer — whether you know it or not — you already have an employer brand and now is a good time to see if it’s saying what you need it to say about your company.

What is an employer brand?

Simply put, an employer brand is the set of attributes that tells all stakeholders what it’s like to work for a company. It speaks to those who are considering applying for a job, but it’s also the foundation for building an EVP (Employee Value Proposition) — a critical component when it comes to retaining and engaging existing employees (more on this later).

Employer brand attributes can often be intangible, thus hard to describe in a job posting. Business leaders will often (incorrectly) place an emphasis on things like salary or benefits or even total compensation, because these are easily quantified. After all, everyone likes to know they’ll be well paid, right? Maybe not.

It’s more than just dollars

According to a recent survey performed by Canadian job site, job seekers are intent on finding an employer that can offer them the right working conditions. “We asked Canadians if knowing about employer brand attributes such as a great working environment, work/life balance, opportunities for advancement, on-the-job-training, and learning opportunities beforehand, would influence their decision to apply for and accept a job,” says editor-in-chief, Peter Harris. “A whopping 95 percent of respondents said ‘yes.’” In fact, the same survey revealed that 36 percent of Canadians would take a 5-10 percent pay cut for a job with a more positive working environment.

It generates real results

Justworks — a company that helps growing businesses take care of their teams — points out that happy employees work harder. That’s because happy employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees demonstrate much higher levels of performance and loyalty.

How much higher? Warren Mearns, a brand strategist at New Zealand’s Marque, says that when engagement is up, staff turnover can be reduced by up to 87 percent and performance can be improved up to 20 percent. When you consider that the cost of employee turnover has been estimated at 100-150 percent of base salary, the savings are just as real as the gains. Mearns notes that this cost-benefit equation is heavily influenced by a company’s employer brand: “A strong employer brand will help reduce recruitment and retention costs,” he says.

How can you build a great employer brand?

Employer brands start from the inside. They’re based on the core values that have the greatest influence on life within the workplace. Joel Capparella, a Pennsylvania-based strategic marketing & leadership consultant says that the process of building an employer brand must include having that core values discussion at every level of the organization. “This can be an intimidating task,” he acknowledges, and requires some genuine soul-searching. “We may find out that we are not the employer that we want to be.”

As difficult as this process can be, it’s worth the time and effort. Making the mistake of thinking superficially about your employer brand won’t achieve your talent acquisition goals.

“An employer brand isn’t developed simply through a certain ‘look’ for employment ads or postings, or a section of the web site,” notes Linda Pophal, CEO of Wisconsin based Strategic Communications. Logos, slogans, type-faces and t-shirts — these do not describe your company as an employer. Your employer brand won’t go very far by using stereotypical imagery of happy employees either — “It involves much more than posting pictures of smiling employees playing foosball to the corporate website,” quips Carmi Levy, VP of marketing at London ON’s

Your “in” must match your “out”

Giulia Iannucci, a strategic brand and marketing consultant based in Singapore advises that a company should begin by taking a hard look at itself internally to see if its outward-facing brand resonates with employees.

If an organization tells a story of respect and trust to its customers, but fails to live up to those values with its employees, the disconnect will result in reduced employee engagement. “If your company doesn’t embrace those same values, how can employees really believe in them?” asks Iannucci.

Great Employee Value Propositions are built on strong employer brands

Iannucci defines the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) as an articulation of “expectations and rewards, complementing and enhancing the company’s values to help drive behaviors,” but the bottom line is this: An EVP should promote workplace happiness. We’ve already discussed how a happy workplace is also a productive workplace, but there’s another benefit too: happy employees are your most important ambassadors for your employer brand.

Making sure your internal and external brands are aligned is just the first step toward creating an EVP. To really succeed, you need to arrive at an understanding of your core values.

Lisa Silcox, a senior communication consultant at Eckler Ltd., says that this process starts with interviewing a company’s leadership team, however big or small it is. They need to answer some fundamental questions: What is it like to work here? What defines and differentiates your company from others? What makes you special? What do you aspire to be as a culture?

The next step is to talk with employees and see if they feel the same way. From these conversations, a clearer picture will emerge of what your EVP should be. “It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t have to cost the world, but it does require some time and open-minded thinking. It’s about being honest and asking the right questions,” Silcox points out.

Your EVP must be a highly accurate reflection of your present workplace reality, but it can also contain just enough forward-thinking or aspirational language to act as a road map to where you want to be.

While it’s true that small companies often lack the expensive bells and whistles like free, catered gourmet lunches or a top-of-the-line built-in fitness studio, an effective EVP can still be crafted and executed (after all, some of the best things can be free). The key is that your EVP needs to align with your actual workplace rewards and resonate with your employees. They need to really understand all that the company offers them in exchange for their time, efforts, and results.

“When employees have a view that goes far beyond just pay and benefits, then engagement and resilience to change is strengthened,” says Silcox.

So, what are you waiting for? Gather your team, get honest about your core values, develop and implement a strong EVP, and then shout your employer brand from all corners of the web. Your next hiring decision depends on it.

Look for the next in Justworks’ series which will explore what benefits smaller companies can offer to stay competitive. Or visit Justworks for more info.

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