Employer Branding

The Importance of Combatting a Negative Employer Brand

If pressed, most of us would probably say that we have a pretty good idea of what kind of thing goes into making a company an attractive or unattractive place to work. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that cultivating a good employer brand – creating positive impressions among your current employees and potential hires – has substantial benefits. Or, on the flipside, that being perceived as an unpleasant place to work isn’t conducive to attracting top talent. It’s pretty basic common sense.

What isn’t so easy is knowing exactly what you should be prioritising in your employer branding efforts. Harder still is quantifying the impact of a good or bad employer brand in any meaningful way.

At LinkedIn, we recently conducted some research into the preferences of UK professionals, with the aim of coming up with some answers to those teasers. The results were pretty illuminating.

Top factors that attract employees to a company:

When it came to the most likely things to attract someone to a company or to deter them from taking a job there, there was an interesting split. The top five factors contributing to a positive employer brand – that encourage people to accept a job with a particular company or organisation – tended to be factors that are developed closer to home. These internal elements of the employer brand are more easily influenced by employers themselves:

  • Increased job security
  • Increased professional development opportunities
  • The opportunity to work with a better team
  • A company sharing their own personal values
  • Positive impressions of the company from past and present employees

Top factors that put employees off a company:

In contrast, the five factors most likely to put professionals off taking a job with a company tended to be more external and further out of the sphere of direct influence. These factors more often relate to perceptions about the company amongst other people:

  • Concerns about job security
  • Dysfunctional teams
  • Poor leadership
  • Negative impressions of the company from past and present employees
  • A company having a poor reputation among its industry peers.

Should employers focus on combatting  a negative employer brand?

This underlines that organisations need to go beyond their own doorstep to reap all the benefits of an attractive employer brand, and influence groups of people further from home. This is likely to be a harder and more expensive process.

Is this extra investment worth it? It was when we came to quantifying the impact of a positive or negative employer brand, though, that things got really interesting. It turns out that more than half of UK professionals would entirely rule out taking a job with a company that exhibited the top three negative employer brand factors, no matter what pay rise they were offered. Even a pay rise of 10 per cent would only tempt a quarter of us to sign on the dotted line.

That got us thinking. What if we could attribute an actual cost to the impact on UK companies of a poor employer brand? Using a combination of our research results, some publicly available data about salaries, and anecdotal evidence from friendly HR professionals about businesses’ employee turnover rates, we crunched the numbers. And the answer was pretty eye-watering.

Based on the average UK salary being £27,200 (according to ONS), assumed annual employee turnover of 15 per cent, and the requirement of a minimum 10 per cent pay rise, the cost of a bad reputation for a company with 10,000 employees could be as much as £4,080,000 per year.

And bear in mind that this is just the impact on the wage bill – it doesn’t account for costs in other areas, such as employee attrition, morale, or having a smaller talent pool to choose from.

What can companies do to avoid being hit with this extra expenditure?

A positive employer brand has been made more attainable than ever thanks to the rise of social media. Here are my three top tips for boosting your company reputation online:

  1. Involve everyone: Your current employees are your best ambassadors and advocates. They are in the best position to give those on the outside an authentic idea of what it is like to work for your company. Involve them in developing your ‘story’, and encourage them to share it – and their activity and achievements – through their personal and professionals social media channels. This is why we recently launched a product called Elevate, to help companies empower their employees to share relevant content from within the business.
  2. Seize the social opportunity: It is important not to be just a passive observer on social media. By playing an active part in discussion groups and threads about issues relevant to your business you can build not only brand awareness but also the kind of two-way conversations with potential employees that creates goodwill and trust.
  3. Show, don’t tell: It is all very saying that you have a great company culture, or that you are concerned with reducing your environmental impact, but in a competitive talent market you need to back up what you say. Blogs, photos, graphics, and videos can provide a valuable insight into your company, and spark conversations. They don’t necessarily have to be slick, but they do have to be real – authenticity is key and can act as a big differentiator in instances where many prospective employers claim to have a great culture.

How does your company approach its talent brand? Have you seen any particularly smart examples in your industry? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

By Chris Brown

Chris Brown, Director of UK Talent Solutions at LinkedIn.