Big Picture

How to Use Employer Branding to Protect Against a Mass Exodus of Talent

Employer branding occurs regardless of whether you’re strategically crafting and shaping it. So it’s crucial to invest time and energy into your employer brand strategy to avoid ending up watching as talented folks walk away. These suggestions can help you get started on your journey to build a strong employer brand.

Companies everywhere are grappling with a mass exodus of talented people. This includes plenty of decent, good companies — not just organizations that have mistreated or undervalued people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This June, approximately 3.9 million employees quit their jobs. The phenomenon has been coined the “Great Resignation.” After a year of upheaval and soul-searching, people are reevaluating their lives. They’ve recalibrated to find their own “new normal,” and their current employers sometimes don’t align with that vision.

Some are heading for other companies, others are launching startups, and a few are leaving the rat race altogether. After withstanding the intensity of the past year, people have realized that they no longer want to work for their existing employers. Perhaps it should be called the “Great Epiphany.”

How can employers best respond to this paradigm shift? As the CEO of employer brand agency Ph.Creative, I’ve worked on employer branding, employee value propositions, and talent engagement strategy with companies like Apple, American Airlines, Virgin Media, and Magellan Health. The best move for companies to make right now is to start building a strong employer brand.

What Is an Employer Brand?

An employer brand is best described as the reputation you have as an employer. This includes the expectations you set and the experience you provide for both candidates and employees. It’s the sum of the employee experience you offer and what the public thinks when it hears your company name. It’s everything that makes you different today as well as what your company aspires to be tomorrow.

People crave authenticity and transparency from their employers. They want their employee experience to mean something. By refocusing on your mission, vision, and employee value proposition and then communicating it with employees, you can differentiate your organization, reengage the talent you have, control expectations around your business in general, and reinforce the reputation you want to cultivate.

When we began working with Virgin Media, the company faced a significant challenge: It had lost 7,500 customers due to candidate rejection or poor candidate experience — a number that translated to more than $5 million in lost revenue. So, we focused on the heart of the matter: people.

Through workshops and persona and experience mapping, we worked to understand more about Virgin Media’s recruitment process and candidate experience, which allowed us to uncover the company’s value proposition. Why? Because people are at the heart of any value proposition. We then created a site designed to guide candidates through the hiring journey in a way that communicated Virgin Media’s value proposition and offered a targeted, improved candidate experience.

Employer branding occurs regardless of whether you’re working to strategically craft and shape it. That said, it’s crucial to invest time and energy into your employer brand strategy to avoid ending up watching as talented folks walk away — and the most promising replacements join your competitors.

Launching an Employer Brand to Mitigate Talent Migration

Building your strategy and shaping your employer brand isn’t possible without clarity, conviction, and intention. The following suggestions can help you get started:

1. Concentrate on precision when considering your preferred reputation

An employer brand is made up of several components, including your business reputation as an employer. Although you can’t predict or control everything said about your company, you can actively influence the conversation. The trick is picking specific attributes you’d like your business to be known for and then purposely reflecting those attributes in your employer brand.

Don’t say something vague like, “We want to be the best in our field.” Why do you want that? And a phrase like “the best” isn’t tangible. Instead, think about what you specifically would like people to think about when your brand comes up. Do you want to be known as the tough employer who ultimately makes hard work worth the investment with growth opportunities? Or the employer that might have less upward trajectory but can offer incredible people and passion? Consider what would serve your overall business strategy best, focusing on those attributes rather than any generic alternatives.

2. Be bold in your employer branding premise and promise

You don’t want to have a brand so lukewarm that anyone and everyone applies to join your organization — volume alone is not your friend. Your employer branding should have a “repel-compel” effect. By design, it should repel the wrong people from applying to be part of your team and compel those who will align with your vision. The challenge some people relish should be the barrier others avoid.

Could you potentially lose some applicants if your employer brand seems overpowering or too distinct? Possibly. But if your employer brand is basic and indistinct, you lose the opportunity to build a strong, tangible culture that people are proud to embrace and eager to discuss on your behalf.

3. Choose and use digital tools purposefully

How you use tech tools (e.g., AI) matters. Think of it this way: Our company is headquartered in Liverpool, England, which happens to be the birthplace of The Beatles. The Beatles relied on a set of drums, two guitars, and a bass. But instruments alone didn’t turn four local kids into global phenomena — how they used those instruments did.

As you’re developing your employer brand, remember that tools are only tools. You can’t buy your way out of employee-employer brand issues or avoid employer branding altogether just because you use the hottest technology. You have to communicate the heart, rhythm, and essence of your brand by using your tools strategically.

For instance, you might want to use digital surveys to take your team’s collective pulse. If you do nothing but analyze your results and sit on them until the next survey, even the most powerful tech tools won’t make an impact. Instead, find insights from employee responses to help you unearth purpose-told stories that align with the themes of your employer brand. Remind people of the impact their contributions make and the value they add to those around them.

4. Measure the employer branding results that make sense for your company

Keeping your ear to the ground is vital to strengthening and refining your employer brand. Choose metrics to track along the way, and make sure they’re measurements that matter. These could include anything from current employee retention rates to new employee turnover statistics, but they must be specific and aligned to the existing priorities of the organization.

Case in point, it’s difficult for recruiters to hire people efficiently if they’re being flooded with applications from mostly unqualified candidates. In this situation, the percentage of valued applicants is far more useful to know than the total volume of applicants.

You might also want to shorten the amount of time it takes to get from posting a job to making a hire. This can be possible by reducing your target number for applications and revising your job descriptions to set the bar higher. Measure only what you need to know and what serves your interests.

The public already has an impression of your company. So do your employees, many of whom are ready for a change after a tumultuous year. But is it the impression you want them to have?

Regain control and truly listen to your team. Remind them why they’re important to your organization while improving their employee experience, and you’ll reignite their loyalty with a strong and strategic employer brand.


Written by Bryan Adams.

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Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a global employer branding agency. Ph.Creative has built world-class employer brands and talent engagement strategies for companies like Apple, Entain, and American Airlines.


Bryan Adams is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.