Business Transformation

How to Know Your Employer Brand Isn’t Doing Its Job (and How to Fix It)

You can’t tell people what they should think about your business, but you can influence their perception by updating and living out the employer brand you want to be known for. When you do, you’ll begin to reap the benefits that come with branding-perception alignment.

If you are not actively managing your company’s reputation as part of your employer brand strategy, you are taking a risk. Although you can’t completely control the perception of your business, you can shepherd its shape. And that is a critical power to hold when about one-fifth of global workers say they’re poised to resign in 2022, according to PwC.

No employer can afford to lose 20% of its talent due to a lackluster reputation. Now is the time to update your employer branding and meet modern employee expectations. After all, even if you believe the messaging that you are sending outward to be authentic, your internal and external audiences might disagree.

Why and how does this kind of employer-employee disconnect happen? Often, the culprit is an employee value proposition that sounds good but doesn’t fit the company’s overall reputation. For instance, say you are an industrial manufacturer. You have been known for decades for making items by hand. Thing is, you want to shift gears and incorporate more advanced tech into your business. You just can’t get applicants to apply for tech jobs, though.

Here’s what’s happened: Your employer brand perception remained the same despite your changes. As a result, you aren’t attracting top tech talent because you’re not seen from the outside as a tech-focused company. So you have to figure out a way to influence your employer brand so that it better matches your current vision, mission, values, and purpose.

How to Know That Brand Perception and Reality Are Misaligned

How can you be sure that your employer brand reality and perception aren’t meshing? Foremost, if you’ve gone hybrid or remote, your employer brand probably isn’t as precise as it could be. If you have started losing talented performers or have numerous vacant open roles, you definitely have a misalignment.

The second indication of a potential employer branding hitch would be if you’ve gone through a merger or another major priority shift but can’t get recruitment traction. Obviously, you’re not wooing people—and it’s probably not because of your hiring efforts. It’s because your reputation is broken.

Finally, if a big brand with a strong, positive reputation recently entered your industry or market, you need to double down on your employer branding. Your employee value proposition has to hit the mark, or you could wind up losing serious traction to your newest competitor.

How to Build an Employer Brand That’s Genuine

Let’s say you’ve seen some red flags and you’re eager to begin implementing change. Just remember that transforming hearts, minds, and on-the-ground sentiment through employer branding requires that you understand what you’re up against. Therefore, get ready to conduct a “flaws check” to understand and figure out the gaps in your employer brand.

For example, is a public relations crisis that happened 20 years ago still haunting your reputation? Or is your reputation tanking after a social media fiasco from last month? Maybe your reputation is suffering because you haven’t been as transparent as you intended. Whatever your gaps, note them somewhere and be prepared to focus on change.

When you have a list of your perception-versus-reality “clash points,” begin working through them to correct them. Case in point: Perhaps you want to be a best-in-class service provider. As such, you need to form several tangible action steps that would show your vision of great service. Then, you could make the changes necessary to bring your vision to life.

As you put those service elements into place, you need to embark on a tactic of not just storytelling but story-doing. The Airbnb COVID-19 staff reduction process was a wonderful example of an organization utilizing the power of story-doing to solidify its employer brand. Airbnb was gracious and generous to the people the company needed to let go. In a very difficult moment, they acted with kindness to better uphold the employer brand and employee value proposition they had grown for years.

You can’t tell people what they should think about your business. Fortunately, you can influence their perception by updating and living the employer brand you want to be. When you do, you’ll begin to reap the widespread benefits that come with branding-perception alignment.


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. He is a prominent employer brand thought leader as well as an author, podcaster, and speaker.


Bryan Adams is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.