Should Your Employer Brand Be Authentic or Aspirational?

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”  ― Langston Hughes

For organizations, achieving strategy is all about vision. Where do you want to go and how do you want to get there? And a big component of that is talent. To get where you want to go, you need to have the right people along for the ride.

Therein lies the conundrum: how do you attract and retain talent based on your organization’s vision when current state doesn’t match desired future state?

According to a Hays Recruiting survey, almost half (43%) of employees surveyed were looking for a new job, and corporate culture was the key reason. Why take a job if the culture isn’t a fit? It’s hard to assess the reality. And organizations don’t make it easy. According to Work Institute, 40% of employees quit after 12 months on the job and half of those left in the first three months.

C-Suite leaders aren’t ignoring the effect that the workplace has on the bottom line. And they want to make changes. But they also increasingly want to advertise the future and not the now. Maybe diversity statistics are low, but the company’s working on a plan to change that--leaders would rather showcase a diverse workforce as the ‘now’ instead of the goal state. Understandable? Sure. Effective? Not at all.

Company careers sites and recruitment advertising is full of hopes and aspirations. Images and content that shows an almost perfect opportunity--from career growth to diversity to colleagues. But when employees get there and the promise isn’t reality, they’re left deflated and disappointed. That turns into a high percentage of quits and an incredible amount of wasted dollars inside an organization.

Solving for this and avoiding wasted cost isn’t difficult or complicated. It takes guts to be honest about the reality of the employment experience. And that has to come with building the employer brand.

Let’s be clear--there are some occupational realities that are hard to be honest about. From high-risk careers in the military to surprisingly dangerous jobs in sanitation, for some careers it goes well beyond authenticity. But for the average organization, shifting the approach to building and activating the employer brand in an honest, authentic way is the answer. Here’s how:

Use research to get a read on aspiration.

Many companies have goals and plans in place to address issues, challenges, or massive change happening in an organization. But are employees aware of these plans? Do they believe them? You can post all the jobs online you want, but exaqueo data shows time and time again that relationships and referrals are the greatest source of influence on both active and passive candidates. Knowing how your employees feel about the change, whether they believe in the aspirations leaders have set out, and how they’re communicating about them to others can help you better prepare to develop an employer brand and marketing strategy that will work.

Employer brands are not just a recruitment activity--they should be designed to market the employment experience at every touchpoint throughout an employee’s lifecycle with the company. Research can help you determine where negative perceptions or confusion exists and how that may be impacting recruitment and retention.

Frame the aspiration as a journey.

Technology company Microstrategy has experienced a great deal of change since it was founded in 1989. This longevity means there are a variety of perceptions about the firm as a business and a place to work. Currently, the company is undergoing significant change and growth--and that means the workforce has to be prepared to deliver.

In partnering with the company to build their new employer brand, here at exaqueo, we encouraged them to be honest and clear about what’s happening in the organization. If they weren’t, other, external sources would fill that void for them.

Their new employer brand, Accept the Challenge, masters this perfectly. Bold headline questions like ‘Can You Keep Pace?’ make clear that the organization is moving at a fast clip. And the ‘Accept the Challenge’ brandline allows the company to set-up conversations with candidates in an authentic way, communicating the change that’s happening but the aspiration and confidence the company has to reach their goals.

Bottom line:

You can be aspirational with your employer brand, you just have to be honest about where you are in the journey to reach that aspiration. From front-line to executive office, don’t underestimate the savvy or intelligence of candidates to see through dishonest or dream-like brand and marketing efforts. Be clear, be hopeful, be confident, and above all, be honest.

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