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  • Brett Minchington

Building a stand out employer brand in the digital age

English version of article published in French at Focus RH click here for French version>

Today, we live in an increasingly borderless world. The penetration of high-speed internet has provided access to new information, networks and opportunities for tens of millions of people in developing nations. The barriers of time, distance and even language are eroding and creating an environment where people are able to share and exchange ideas. This has also led to a great boom in digital recruitment in all areas, including candidate management and response handling, generalist and specialist job boards, SEO and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, social media and online employer branding.

The digital age has arrived at a time when candidates demand a better online job search experience. In a 2013 global study by Employer Brand International, 76% of candidates (84% in Europe) said a positive online experience is important to them in their job search and application. The same study found three of the top four recruiting channels are online, including social media (24%), career websites (20%) and job boards (11%) – see table 1.

Technology is also changing the nature of work. With cloud, mobile, social media and big data advances all happening at once and at increasing speed, employers are focused on finding new ways to make the workplace more digitally engaged. This new digital atmosphere in business is allowing employers to get closer to candidates, employees and customers, enabling more targeted and highly customized experiences. With the evolution of near-field communications (NFC) technology, job apps, responsive websites, geo-tagging and the possibility for augmented reality job search, the impact of technology on your employer brand is becoming more significant! The personalization of the candidate experience is set to become a differentiator between brands that deliver on their promises and those that just talk about it.

5 key focus areas for building a stand out employer brand in the digital age

1. Define your starting point

Your starting point is to define the talent needed to make your company a success, and structure the acquisition process accordingly including job assessment and profiling, choosing targeted media and activating digital platforms to reach within and beyond the current online job seekers and professional candidate management. It’s essential to get the candidate journey right, and it all begins with your employer brand strategy. There’s no one thing that will help you attract the right people. It’s a mix of strategy, experience and planning. Companies that get the mix right will experience a real impact on their brand awareness, reach and quality of hire. Microsoft is getting about 160-175,000 visits monthly to its mobile careers site. As a result, it decided it needed to simplify the application process. In the first month after launching their new application process about 10,000 people started applying and about half of those finished. Microsoft expects about 50,000 applications over 12 months on mobile so it pays to develop a strategy that aligns with your recruiting objectives and where the applicants are.

2. Candidate experience

Candidate behaviour has radically changed and as a result the employer brand is critical in differentiating organisations and communicating their vision and values to candidates. It’s important to understand user experience as well. Following consumer research Microsoft found that candidates don’t always want to share jobs with their friends; many prefer to keep if for themself so social job sharing is not a priority feature for them at the moment. They also found candidates don’t hit hundreds of job boards anymore. Instead they’re going to job aggregators. They prefer optimized sites rather than a hundred different employer apps on their phone.

3. Integration

Microsoft made the new ‘apply’ process work seamlessly with the company’s applicant tracking system. Leaders wanted everything to be a fully integrated experience. They also understand some candidates don’t want others to know they job searching. If candidates sign in through Facebook, they get a message that says: ‘Don’t worry! We won’t tell any of your friends or followers that you were here.’ Candidates can apply for a Microsoft job using a LinkedIn profile, by emailing a resume, or through a ‘cloud’ website like Dropbox. Or, they can use a resume already on file with Microsoft, if they have one. The hardest thing leaders had to come with grasp with was making really hard decisions about user experience. How complex do we want to make it? We want to make it simple.”

4. Socialise your employer brand

Social media has quickly become a dominant force for companies to find and hire quality talent. As it allows employers to tap extended networks for candidates that would not be found otherwise, social recruiting offers tremendous value to companies of all sizes. It has become an essential avenue for recruiters to successfully compete in the digital age of recruitment. Employer Brand International research found 69% of companies now provide unrestricted access to social media sites during work hours (70% in Europe). Russia is the exception with 50% of employers still banning access. Right now, many companies want to launch into social media but it only works if a company is engaging with their audience correctly and in a way that’s aligned with their existing brand values.There are a number of benefits to investing in social media as part of your employer brand strategy. However, be aware that there are no easy wins.

A 2012 study by Employer Brand International found the average engagement across 100 employer brand career pages on Facebook was only 0.85 percent. Sodexo USA recently launched an internal social sharing system to enable employees to share information with their personal networks about the company and what it is like to work there. The system also provides training modules for staff that may not be familiar with how to leverage the power of social media. The Sodexo social system uses gamification to reward staff for sharing and provides metrics to measure impact, such as hire referrals and source of hire. Companies should take a long-term view on social recruiting and avoid a short term campaign approach. Value is created over time, and it requires a clearly defined strategy with the human and financial resources to match.

5. Measurement

The key to measuring the return on investment of your employer brand strategy is to align the metrics with your business objectives. There is little value in measuring the number of applicants if you are recruiting for highly specialized roles, like deep sea drillers where supply is limited. Your employer brand metrics should be reliable and predictive. If you can identify the drivers of employer brand value and focus your investments on these activities, you are more likely to receive the ongoing support of executive leadership to invest in employer branding. It is also important to ensure the strategy is aligned and measured against business objectives. Globally, companies are measuring return on investment of employer branding initiatives by their retention rates (38%), employee engagement (33%), quality of hire (29%), cost per hire (27%) and number of applicants (26%).

Some final thoughts

There is no looking back. The digital age of recruitment has well and truly arrived! Progressive companies who look at the bigger picture and align their employer branding and e-recruitment strategy taking full advantage of the new tools and digital channels will be best placed to recruit talent in what is to become one of the most challenging decades ahead for recruiters.

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