Now more than ever, a strong online employer brand is a must. Shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 have changed the way we approach work, including how companies hire.
A clear, consistent online persona communicates your company’s mission, vision, and values via digital media. It establishes your company’s specific presence and personality. As the Internet has become indispensable for connection during social distancing, a company’s online persona allows it to stay engaged with professionals in its industry and in related fields.
Improving a company’s online brand is a relatively simple task that can be achieved remotely. Companies can begin from any of the different starting points below.
Decide What Traits Your Brand Will Highlight
Typically, an employer’s brand or persona is targeted specifically to appeal to an identified audience of job candidates. A company identifies key traits shared by its ideal employees and shapes its brand to attract candidates who share those traits.
To align your company’s online persona to such an objective, start by understanding the key traits and characteristics of the organization and its top performers. Tools like artificial intelligence can help you analyze the profiles of your best team members to spot patterns that can then be used to create a profile of your ideal applicant.
No matter which way you analyze your company’s best traits and values, “lead with your values and company culture in a transparent way,” says Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Vocations.
Don’t hesitate to ask employees for help building an online employer brand, recommends Joanne Chu at CareerArc. Survey employees to determine what keeps them enthused about their work with your organization. Consider asking employees to contribute to online branding by participating in online discussions, videos, or other forms of media that help communicate and shape your company’s online persona.
Align Your Messaging
Trust has become the most important thing a company can build between itself and others, including potential candidates and customers, says Epi Ludvik Nekaj, founder and CEO of Crowdsourcing Week. Trust is a necessary foundation for many day-to-day interactions and tasks, including the work candidates undertake when they research companies looking for the right place to apply.
A consistent online employer brand that aligns with other sources of company information, from annual reports to customer reviews, helps to build trust because it demonstrates integrity. This shows the company adheres to the same set of values and behaviors no matter the circumstances.
Consistency in employment branding has consequences beyond building trust. It also helps ensure that eventual new hires step into the job they expected. When someone takes a new job, only to find that its core duties or the company’s values weren’t as advertised, that person is more likely to leave the job early. In the end, that needlessly costs the company time, money, and effort.
Consistency in an employee value proposition (EVP) is especially valuable when it comes to hiring. “A well thought-through and executed EVP can improve the commitment of new hires by up to 29 percent, reduce new hire premiums by up to 50 percent, and increase the likelihood of employees acting as advocates from an average of 24 percent to 47 percent,” says veteran communications professional Dominic Wylie.
Use Your Brand to Find Candidates
The process of building a clear, consistent online persona isn’t about faking your company’s core values or strengths. Rather, it’s about becoming more committed to those values and strengths by clearing out online messaging and behaviors that don’t accurately reflect what lies at the heart of your organization.
Once you’ve found those core values and shaped an online brand around them, it’s time to incorporate those values into the entire employee search process. Start by mapping out the candidate experience, looking at where candidates might experience the company’s values or strengths in action.
In traditional hiring systems, this first happened during in-person interviews, which offered an ideal way for companies to demonstrate their values and strengths in real time. Candidates could experience firsthand how staff responded to one another, what topics they emphasized in the interview, and how the workspace was run.
Social distancing has dampened companies’ abilities to provide this in-person experience, which means a strong online persona is now more important than ever. Job seekers have to rely on your online brand to provide a hint of life on the job itself. Illustrate your company’s values and strengths through concrete examples of key tasks, shared personality traits, or day-to-day challenges your employees face.
“If a job seeker asks an employee at your company, ‘What’s it like to work there?’, the employee isn’t going to say, ‘We’ve built some awesome merchandise,’” says Caroline Forsey at HubSpot. “Instead, he’s going to lay into the day-to-day of people management, company values, and workplace culture.”
Incorporate these details into job postings and the application process to help candidates envision themselves in the job.
Engage on Social Media
Social media offers myriad new ways for companies to interact with potential candidates. These platforms can help companies build relationships with candidates, boosting impressions of a company via interaction, say researchers Patrick Kissel and Marion Büttgen.
Social media is especially valuable during social distancing, as it supports the communication and relationship-building that previously occurred in person. Candidates rely on social media even more than before as a source of information about both personal and professional concerns.
Job seekers may be online more than in the past, but their expectations haven’t changed. “While salary and PTO will always be factors in attraction, engagement, and retention, the intangible benefits and day-to-day experiences at work have risen in importance,” says Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America.
Candidates who don’t experience a company’s values and strengths aligning with theirs via online interactions aren’t likely to wait for an in-person interview.
Social media can help build a bridge between company values and candidate expectations. Not all social media contact powers healthy relationship-building, however, Kissel and Büttgen write. For example, negative reviews can influence how people approach a company and its brand on social media, or whether those people choose to engage at all.
As many social platforms preserve comment threads and other interactions, candidates can also develop an impression of a company by reading old comment threads, even if they never actually interact with the company online. Monitoring such conversations is a must for maintaining a healthy, consistent brand image.
Choose, Track, and Analyze Metrics
Information and data gathering should occur at least twice in the online employer brand improvement cycle: At the beginning, while identifying traits to emphasize in branding, and when new persona or brand plans are implemented.
To track how well your online persona changes are reaching your stated goals, choose specific KPIs to track. Common choices include retention rate, application rate, source of hire, and employee satisfaction, as Bailey Reiners at BuiltIn writes.
Tracking online reviews is a must, not only to see how others are responding to your updated online brand persona, but also to see how people are responding to your company as a whole.
According to a 2018 TalentNow study, 55 percent of candidates will abandon the hiring process after reading negative online reviews about a company. Yet fewer than half (45 percent) of companies even monitor their online reviews. Fifty percent of candidates say they’d decline to work with a company that has a bad online reputation, even if the job came with a pay increase.
By building a strong online persona, companies can stay engaged socially even when the people who work within them are physically separated. They strengthen their relationships with employees and candidates, thereby strengthening their position now and in the future.
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