© auremar -

7. November 2016

Without a strong employer brand, companies have no future


The most attractive employer brands first and foremost show why they exist. Employer branding is not about superficial communication, but about three essential elements: • The company culture – How do our employees, managers and executives act? • The existing peak performances – Which of them are relevant to the applicant and differentiate the company from the competition? • The tangible brand – It must be made real at all touchpoints along the applicant journey – from first contact to the 1st day of work or the end of the probationary period. Attractive salaries, employee training, work-life-balance, by contrast, do not create loyalty among applicants and staff. Rather, such promises increase the pressure on the organization because they leave everyone constantly wanting more.

How do I find the right employees to master the challenges of Industry 4.0? A clearly defined employer brand is essential.

Industry 4.0 is changing the production and work environment. Because it determines industrial companies' ability to prevail in the future, their decision makers are focusing mostly on the technical implementation: Digitization, connectivity, and automation.

In the process, particularly German mid-sized enterprises often neglect an essential question: How do we attract and retain the right employees to master the transformation? And how do we stand apart from star corporations like Google?

The challenges are enormous: By 2025, the number of employed persons in Germany will drop by two million. Also, due to Industry 4.0, the requirement profile is changing substantially. There is already a shortage of skilled professionals – a vacant position remains unfilled for around 110 days. And even when a company manages to attract talent, more than 65 percent of them start looking for a different job in the first three months.

The name: Last remaining orientation for applicants

Qualified applicants have choices, their demands of potential employers are increasing. At the same time, common promises – such as an attractive salary – are becoming less relevant to them. Companies can hardly hope to stand out with such benefits or to retain their employees, and yet personnel managers are still advertising them. The result: more and more often, the company name is the only difference. Furthermore, less than half of candidates know what a company really stands for as an employer.

So, the risk increases that positions remain unfilled for extended periods, that new employees terminate early or experienced staff change companies due to a bad value fit, which reduces performance and drives up costs.

A strong employer brand that imparts specific values, creates differentiation and relevance, will minimize that risk. This is why half of all companies are currently working on the positioning of their employer brand. The battle for talent is on. But how can a company systematically increase the attractiveness of its employer brand and create a difference to what seems to be the only orientation factor "company name"?

Failing in style with superficial personnel marketing

A strong employer brand is not created by prettying up your career website or job advertisements. Emotional images don't begin to affect attractiveness and differentiation until they show the applicant the specific identity and uniqueness of the employer brand.
This is why employer branding is not about superficial communication, but about three essential elements:

  1. The company culture: How do employees, managers, and executives act and communicate? Companies must become aware of this factor, express it in specific values, and make sure that managers exemplify the brand and employees live by it.
  2. Existing peak performances: Which of them are relevant to the applicant and set the company apart from the competition? These should be condensed into a clear No. 1 position.
  3. The tangible brand: It must be made real at all touchpoints along the applicant journey – from the first contact (perhaps at university or through an acquaintance) throughout the application process with interviews to the confirmation or rejection, the wait for the 1st day of work, or the end of the probationary period.

Step 1: Only zeros have no edges

People like the Dalai Lama and Steve Jobs, but also brands like Harley Davidson and Apple, attract people through their value systems. These positive preconceptions do not arise over night from a creative process, but grow from peak performances delivered at a constant level of quality for years and settled into values. The combination of specific values makes up a unique identity. Values are therefore expressions of a living culture that attracts and retains the right employees.

It follows that a specific and most of all living value system not only increases attractiveness and differentiation, but minimizes the risk of losing new employees over the short or medium term because of a bad value fit.

Step 2: Ordinariness is the enemy of any brand

Attractive salary, systematic staff development, good work-life balance – such manipulation techniques are effective. But they do not create attractiveness and real loyalty among applicants and employees. Rather, such omnipresent promises just increase the pressure on the organization because they constantly leave everyone wanting more.

The most attractive employer brands, by contrast, demonstrate first and foremost why they exist – like Tesla with "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable transport". They inspire by showing what contribution everyone makes. This sets Tesla clearly apart from all the other auto makers, appeals not only to car-lovers but everyone with a specific conviction, and creates attractiveness or loyalty in the right people.
A clear brand positioning, sharpened for the labor market, increases not only the attractiveness and differentiation of a company. It also fosters employee pride and reduces the pressure to stand out through interchangeable messages.

Step 3: Strong brands grow from the inside out

The brand perception and with it the applicant's decision for or against a company does not result from individual touchpoints, like the confirmation or rejection, but is shaped along the entire applicant journey.

Only when the brand becomes tangible to the applicant at all touchpoints along that journey, the recommendation by an acquaintance, how they are welcomed at reception, the conduct of the interviewer, or the actual signing of the contract, will the company stand out distinctly and attract the right employees. It is not enough to superficially optimize the brand touch points like the career page to clearly express the values and positioning of the employer brand. Managers and employees as well must believe in the brand and live by it consistently.

This is why investing in a strong employer brand pays off:

  1. Lower personnel costs – due to lower fluctuation, less pressure to stand out, and higher effectiveness in personnel marketing.
  2. More added value – with higher productivity and thrilling customer experiences because of heightened employee pride.
  3. Improved competitiveness – due to more employee loyalty and higher attractiveness to the right talent and experts.

To stress the point: Only what glows on the inside can shine on the outside!

Selbst-Test: Are you already securing your company's future or are you still conducting superficial personnel marketing? To find out, you should ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are there specific values for the employer brand that credibly demonstrate the active culture and the uniqueness of the company to applicants and employees?
  2. Is the applicant presented with a clear sense of the uniqueness of the employer brand through a credible, attractive, and differentiating performance promise?
  3. Can the employer brand be experienced consistently through its values and positioning at all touchpoints along the complete applicant journey?

Only when you can answer these questions with a resounding "YES" from the applicant's perspective can you be sure that the employer brand is contributing to your company's ability to attract and differentiate.


Benedikt Streb


Top Unternehmensberatung 2023: BrandTrust

Hattrick: We are also in the FOCUS Top Management Consultants ranking in 2023

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