What is Employer Branding? 26+ Business Leaders & Branding Experts Share Their Own Definition

A concept of  ‘employer branding’ first came about as far back as 1996 by Simon Barrow, chairman of People in Business (PiB), and Tim Ambler, Senior Fellow of London Business School, in the school’s Journal of Brand Management (Amber & Barrow, 1996).

Additionally, an employer brand is: “the way in which organizations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people. A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent and establish credibility. It should connect with an organization’s values and must run consistently through its approach to people management.”

Now that you have the historical context, we wanted to explore what employer branding is now, nearly three decades later; especially now that the job market is totally different and HR is becoming more and more tech-driven. More specifically, we sought out the answer to this question:

The description they gave, which continues to resonate today, is that the employer band is “the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with the employing company.”

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What is the definition of employer branding TODAY?

modern employee branding

To get that answer (actually, many different answers!) I gathered insights from a group of over 25 people, from CEO’s, HR execs, business leaders and branding experts. What I discovered is that Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler’s original definition of employer branding still lives on today, but there are also other interesting ways that company leaders like to describe it…and it all manages to make a lot of sense.

To see for yourself, here are 25+ different definitions for employer branding:

An employer brand is the reputation a company has in the marketplace as a place to work. It’s how both current and future employees perceive a company.

This employer reputation is often created from numerous sources-your company culture, comments and ratings on employer rating sites, what you say about your employee value proposition on your website, what your company chooses to post on their social media sites, what current employees say about the company, and more. Having a strong employer brand is critical in recruiting top talent; just as having a strong consumer brand is critical in attracting customers to your product.

-Melanie Lundberg, Assistant Vice President of Talent Management and Corporate Communications at Combined Insurance in Chicago

Employer brand is the collective voice of your company and it’s people. A successful employer brand starts with a strong mission and vision and is amplified by the voices and stories of all employees, regardless of role or department.

Employer Branding is your future PR Fiasco, when your promise doesn’t match the reality inside your business.

In the age of connectivity and social media, the modern job seeker has become incredibly perceptive to corporate branding. A single-channel hiring and communication strategy may yield qualified candidates who are actively seeking employment, but it misses out on the vast majority of talented, potential candidates who are passively seeking opportunities.

An effective employer brand reaches those passive candidates through their own social networks. By creating a culture of employee advocacy, you have the ability to reach a more diverse group of people in a sustainable way.

While there isn’t a single recipe for creating a strong employer brand, the most important ingredient in my experience is purpose. A well-defined vision statement and strong company core values unite employees and create a sense of shared purpose and pride that is contagious.

-Daniel Kasper, General Manager of  Wishlist Rewards: Experiential Employee Rewards

It only takes one interested and upset employee.

It is for this reason I recommend that you carefully consider your internal culture first before you even begin to think about your Employer Brand.

When the employment experience is a good one, the Employer Brand may even take care of itself.

What Employer Branding can be, is your most powerful marketing tool ever constructed.

-Jessica Higgins is Chief Operating Officer of Gapingvoid Culture Design Group

Employer brand is the stigma, vibe and culture associated with your company. It’s how prospective employees will vet you, or reject you.

Employer branding is increasingly important as we see average job tenure for millennial employees shrink to <3 years, declining unemployment rates, and an influx of boomerang employees. Guess what? It’s no longer a recruiter’s market, it’s the employee’s.

-Morgan Chaney, Head of Marketing for Blueboard

Employer branding is how candidates think about your company as a place to work and is closely related to your employee value proposition (the answer to the question of “why should I want to work at your company?”).

The advantages of building a strong brand are that your cost per hire and time to fill an open position can decrease drastically, while retention increases.  For some companies, this is a savings of hundreds of millions, and for all companies it’s a savings worth striving for.

The best practices around employer branding are now focused on authentic content from your employees, especially with the rise of the discerning millennial professional.  Youtube aesthetic videos, stories about what it’s like to work at your company direct from employees, etc are generally seen as great ways to show the world what it’s like to work at your company and why it’s a unique place to build a career.

-Phil Strazzulla, Founder at www.NextWaveHire.com (as posted on Quora)

I believe employer branding can be simply a company’s brand from the point of view of job-applicants and current employees.

Sometimes it seems people think employer branding is only something that is defined relative to prospective employees. However, I think that’s a mistake since your best employer brand advocates are your current employees. Therefore, as an employer you have to make sure that they realize what you stand for, because you’re also fighting and working hard to retain them every day.

-Georgene Huang, CEO & Cofounder of Fairygodboss 

As traditional career trajectory and priorities shift and more and more workers opt out of traditional employment relationships, a strong employer brand serves as a flag—a signal to the likeminded.

It can make a material difference in enlisting talent committed to the mission of your business, or having essential roles unfilled as talent self-selects to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Your employer brand is the building block of your word-of-mouth reputation. It happens in the everyday, but to be effective, it must be anything but routine.

Employer brand is an extension of company culture and a representation of mutual beliefs and a common pursuit. It is your employees’ stake in the company, as a true employer brand emerges from your people and their shared ideologies, rather than being imposed by fiat from on high. The employee voice forms the foundation of the creation, continuation and evolution of the employer brand. Ultimately, your people are the champions who will carry the brand forward. Shared Purpose is the singular idea that unites your company and your people. A clear Shared Purpose gives employees a reason to believe and customers a reason to buy. We believe that your company’s Shared Purpose forms the foundation of your employer brand, and that your employer brand, in turn, supports and advances your Shared Purpose.

Despite having “employer” in the name, employer brands are not the exclusive purview of existing employees. The employer brand must also address and align recruits, alumni, retirees, industry professionals, competitors, influencers, as well as friends and family to help all of these diverse audiences understand what your organization exists to do, how it does it, and why it matters.

-Eric Pinckert, Managing Director of LA branding agency, BrandCulture 

Employer Branding starts on the inside.

The best source of information about what kind of place the company is are your employees. Want to attract candidates? You need motivated and engaged employees. Employees who feel valued, who believe in what they do. Who are praised for what they do and how they do it. They are your best brand ambassadors. Lose the morale of the staff and you will never gain new talent.

What lies at the core of employer branding is whether you respect your employees, and, by extension, your candidates. Whether you have the time to hear them out. Whether your feedback is constructive and whether you are good at receiving feedback, too.

The bottom line is that employer branding is all about individual humans.

-Pete Sosnowski, Co-founder & VP of Uptowork.com

Employer branding is simply what candidates and employees think about your company.

Long gone are the days when the company gets to dictate what they want customers and workers to see and hear. Today it’s almost like the job candidates have x-ray vision and they get to see right through the company’s artificial messaging. Employer branding is not something marketing can create but it’s the aggregate of management’s vision, managers’ attitudes, and the company culture.

-Ira S Wolfe, President of Success Performance Solutions, TEDX Speaker and Author of “Recruiting in the Age of Googlization and Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization” 

Employer brands are deeply personal. The perception of an employer’s brand will vary from one person to another. A brand is the sum total of an individual’s experience with an organisation.

To build a strong employer brand the experience of an employee and job applicant needs to be in line with the values of the wider organisation.

Strong employer brands are built through consistency of message and action.

If your organisation’s brand is about being innovative, treating people well and giving back to society it’s no good simply having this as a mission statement. It should be reflected in the job application process, how candidates are treated (whether successful or not), the onboarding process, the tools available to employees to perform their role, the benefits they receive and whether the organisation actively supports good causes.

A different organisation might have an employer brand that’s all about working hard, cutting costs and making as much money as possible. In this instance, you might expect the recruitment process to be brutal. As an employee you might not receive as many intangible benefits, you certainly wouldn’t expect a policy of unlimited holidays. Instead you would imagine salaries and performance related pay to be generous.

The second type of employer brand isn’t necessarily any better or worse than the previous example, but it is certainly different. It won’t appeal to everyone but, for those that do find it appealing they are likely to thrive in such an environment.

And this is one of the main benefits of building a strong employer brand. They play a crucial role in finding, attracting and retaining talent that’s a great fit for the organisation. They help to reduce employee turnover, increase employee engagement, and benefits both the employee and employer alike.

-David Richter, Head of Marketing at CIPHR 

An organization’s employer brand captures how its employees (and those who aspire to become employees) respond to its culture.

An effective employer brand makes the case for why certain types of work styles or personalities will thrive as employees, while signaling to those who wouldn’t to look elsewhere.

-Lynda Spiegel, a 14 year HR professional, and Founder of Rising Star Resumes, a job search and resume service. She also consults with companies to write job postings that reflect their employer brand.​ 

Employer branding is not just a trending term, but really add value for a business that has an impact in monetary form. It`s not enough just make money; society expects more from business nowadays – attention to people, to the environment, active position in creating sustainable future. You should have the “Big Idea” behind your business.

Employer branding is how companies say “we are different”.

A strong employer brand attracts talents. It is a kind of interrelations between an employer, existing employees, potential employees, and alumni expressed in their communication and opinion, associations and suggestions, keeping into each other. EB also includes corporate culture, values company conveys corporate communication, brand book, corporate social responsibility, etc. The most important in employer brand creation is to make a match between company inner and outer images and to be honest in your promises and actions.

-Liuka Lobarieva, Brand Manager at Sigma Software 

An employment brand is a coordinated set of messages that deliver the sense of what it’s like to work at the organization.

It is the sum of company’s reputation in universe of people who have, do and might work there (+ families and networks).

Brand is a conversation with a market. Employment brands are no different. Market is the people you need to reach to fill the jobs.

-John Sumser, Principal Analyst for HRExaminer

Employer branding is what makes your business memorable and distinguishable from your competition; it’s your business’ character.

Good ways to show off your business’ brand and character are through job postings and your website.

People tend to gravitate towards fun personalities, so if your company has one, articulate it in your job postings. Also, if you mention there’s room for advancement in your company and list the benefits you offer, more people will associate good characteristics with your brand. People will then have a general idea if they would be a good fit in your company early on in their application process.

When your possible employees or customers visit your website, make sure you flaunt your personality on your pages. The more people can understand about your company’s approach to business from the outside, the better.

For example, we’re a fun and engaging company at Quality Logo Products, and we make it known! When we re-launched our website earlier this year, our goal was to make all of our pages entertaining, yet informative.

To showcase our good-natured approach to business, we made our About Us page with a Willy Wonka theme in mind, complete with our mascot wearing a top hat and featuring the signature assembly belt, designed to fit into the promotional products world. All of our characters from our signature Promo University(r) also appear throughout the page to maintain our fun atmosphere! Who wouldn’t read a section about our top clients when you have a cartoon character wielding a wrench, getting down to business?

When it comes to your own business’ brand, don’t be afraid to think out of the box and play up your characteristics in your job postings and your website!

-Bret Bonnet, Co-Owner and Founder of Quality Logo Products, a $40M distributor of promotional products located in Chicago, IL. 

Employer branding is the reputation your company has as an employer.

Is the management team helpful? How is the onboarding process? Are your employees treated fairly? What do your current employees think about the company? These are questions you need to ask yourself to understand what your brand is as an employer.

It’s important to remember that your employees are the ones that control your employer branding. It’s them who share what it’s like working for you with their friends, family, or even the internet in some cases. If you want your employer branding to improve, you need to start at improving your employees’ work life. Have them fill out an employee survey that can help identify key areas your organization needs to improve on to be a better employer for your employees.

-Sean Fitzpatrick, President of TalentMap

To us, employer branding is a valuable piece of the employee value proposition. It’s how we communicate our identity to prospective job candidates.

We take our company culture and team member engagement extremely seriously around here and have lots of programs and efforts toward maintaining a high level of satisfaction based on recurring internal surveys. One of the things we’ve done is created a full time position called Director of Happiness. The primary responsibility is team member engagement and morale. We’ve also made sure that clear goals are set for each team member which are measurable and broken down annually and quarterly. As a result, every team member knows what winning looks like. Another idea we implemented was providing transparent and open recognition which is given by fellow team members and then projected onto a 10 foot high screen on the front wall of our office. Each recognition is also tied to one of our core values. Additionally, we give personalized birthday celebrations, free music festival tickets as rewards, and a team member of the month award worth $500. Lastly, we do a monthly town hall meeting recognizing the major wins of each department followed by free lunch and games.

-Brandon Chopp, Human Resources Manager at iHeartRaves

Employer branding is any activity undertaken specifically to make an organization more appealing as an employer. In some cases, employer branding is identical with regular branding. The same perceptions that make a consumer brand appealing (eg, being perceived as fair, fun, and forward-thinking) drive job seekers to apply there.

In most cases – often when an employer is not consumer-facing – employer branding means educating job seekers on the benefits of working there. This means *the recruitment function takes on a more proactive marketing role*: engaging potential applicants on social media, creating videos that show off the workplace, curating employee-written blogs about aspects of the organization, nurturing old candidates via email, etc.

-Jon-Mark Sabel, Content Strategist at HireVue

Employer branding is what makes your company a great place to work. It’s what makes people want to come work for you.

To do that, you need to create a friendly, welcoming culture with a variety of amenities such as sit-to-stand desks and comfortable, ergonomic chairs. It’s also important to offer unique perks or benefits such as working from home opportunities, flexible schedules, free food and childcare.

In the end, if the focus is on your employees and not the bottom line, everything will fall into place.

-Vladimir Gendleman, Founder and CEO of Printwand

Employer branding is what your employees say about you behind your back. It is the perception that your employees have of your organization.

This means that your company leaders may not know what the employer brand is, but there are a few simple ways you can find out.

* Check your social media pages, include employee-focused sites like kununu.com What are current and former employees saying about your organization?
* Next, ask your employees what they think about working for you. Depending on your company culture, it may be difficult to get clear answers from employees, but you won’t know anything until you ask.
* Start conducting stay interviews and exit interviews to gather as much information as possible about your employer brand.

If you aren’t happy with the perception employee have of you as an employer, start taking steps to change it. Ask your employees for suggestions on how to improve the workplace. Get them involved. A positive employer brand will help you attract and retain the best employee talent.

-Samantha Reynolds, Communications Coordinator for A Plus Benefits

Employer branding is the process in which you create the internal and external face of the company.

As with any type of branding, it targets a specific group. In this case, it’s the placement of your company in the eyes of prospective employees. The modern day candidate does their own research of the company.

Transparency has become important for organizations, and the internet isn’t helping either. Online platforms (like kununu) offer a wealth of information for candidates. Your employees social media activity and other sources of information are all public. And they can all make or break your image towards potential applicants. You want to have a employer brand that attracts the right talent, and for the right reasons.

-Mark de Leeuw, Community Manager at Recruitee (as posted on Quora)

For 9 years we have been working in employer branding. We have tried many strategies, some with successes and others with mistakes.

For us, employer branding is the basis of our company.

Because we are convinced that if our employees are the best, our customers will have a better service and if our customers are happy, our profit will be higher!

That is why we define employer branding as all actions that aim to improve our organization so that current employees are more comfortable (engaged) working with us and this leads to new quality employees who want to start working with us.

What is *NOT* employer branding? The worst thing you can do if you are thinking about attracting the best talent is to inauthentically market how good your company is with its employees by, for example, paying to be “he best 10 companies to work in 2017” type articles. This is much more common than you can imagine – once a month we get proposals from different media companies to do this.

-Cristian Rennella, HR Director & CoFounder of MejorTrato.com.mx 

Employer branding is the collective personality of your business.

It’s how your employees and customers feel when they enter or leave your building.

-Brad Owens, Host of the Small Business Hiring Podcast and hiring and retention expert at www.hrcoaching.com 

Companies have managed their marketing brands for years, doing research about how their external customers evolve over time, and then the organization typically adjusts their products and services into new models to match the expectations of their customers’ shifting needs. They have to do this if they want to gain and retain external customers. If they don’t, the competitor will win.

Your employer brand works the same way, but it focuses on your internal customers — your current and future employees.

Your employer brand is your reputation on the street in regards to what it’s like to work for your company.

Has your organization kept up with the evolving expectations of today’s new workforce and made the necessary changes to attract and retain talent? Do you know what workers want from an employer today? Now more than ever, it’s critical to tweak your culture and management approach regularly to stay in alignment with the needs of your internal customers — the talent you need to attract and retain. And if your employer brand is considered behind the times, watch for talent to go elsewhere.

Cara Silletto, MBA, President & Chief Retention Officer of Crescendo Strategies 

The definition of branding in a general sense is how a person feels about a company or entity. Feeling being the operative word as brands invoke emotion, whether it leads to an action or thought. From a consumer perspective, organisations that have powerful brands can increase sales and achieve market leadership far quicker than others.

Where does Employer Branding fit into this?

Employer branding refers to how a person or group feels about an organisation when it comes to working or potentially working for them. It is used to differentiate one company from another, even in business to business relationships.

Employer branding has many instances. One, how people that currently work for the organisation feel about the organisation and how they are treated at work. Current employees can be the best ambassadors or the biggest detractors when it comes to employer brand and essentially workplace culture. Poor culture correlates to a likelihood that the Employer Brand will not be good. In theory, a company’s values and the organisation’s promise to their employees, should be represented in employer brand discussions. Some of the best and most innovative companies in the world can attest to this.

Another instance is how potential candidates feel about the organisation. Is it a desirable place to work or engage with? Organisations desire to attract the best talent, but if the employer brand isn’t considered high in the marketplace, then they will struggle to get highly talented professionals to even apply for work. Organisations with the strong employer brand have little issues in attracting staff when it comes to job vacancies. Some organisations such as Google attract hundreds of thousands of applications per year.

There are studies currently being done that is looking at how Employer Brand correlates with company performance. From a HR perspective, the brand influences metrics such as source of hire, quality of hire, time to hire and interview to hire ratios. Brand can also impact non acceptance rates and also the number of candidates that leave the business within 6 months of starting.

You will see more Chief HR Officers become Chief Employee Experience Officers and or Culture Officers and hire Brand Strategist to work in their team to improve and elevate employer brand in the marketplace.

-Ken Kwan, Managing Director of Career Prophets, a global talent management consultancy. 

Employer branding is what makes a workplace a unique; it is how employers differentiate themselves from the rest of the CEOs looking to hire the best professionals out there. This branding gives an employer the opportunity to express their core brand values with their current workforce, as well as when advertising new roles.

Employer branding should correlate with what the employer wants their company to stand for and represent. These values should then trickle down into how the business functions, particularly in the realms of employee management and engagement.

With social media playing an ever-increasingly important part in how people apply for and get jobs, it is imperative that businesses are also a brand. They need flair, personality and USPs that set them aside from the competition. You aren’t just competing for the best clients/sales, you’re also competing for the best workers to come and join your company. The best of the best will be able to pick and choose where they go to work, and they are far more likely to go to a company that has high levels of employee engagement through their branding.

Employer branding helps an employee to feel they are a part of a company that is interested in helping them to progress and develop.

-Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for giffgaff 

Employer branding is the manner in which companies differentiate themselves in the labor market that allows them to attract the employees they want to hire the most.

With so many firms out there competing for the same top talent, it’s critical that companies who want the best employees have a value proposition that extends beyond simply a competitive compensation package. In this day and age, the internet and social media allow companies to promote the values they cherish the most and capture the attention of job seekers who resonate with those values. They also allow businesses to be more transparent about their workplace and culture to attract employees who would fit well in such an environment.

-Peter Yang, Co-founder of ResumeGo, a company that offers professional CV and resume writing services.

Employer branding stretches further than value propositions to employees and customers. While most employers spend millions of dollars marketing their brand to attract customers, most are ignoring what’s happening at the front end – the attraction of people into their business.

-Mark Pearce, writer at the Strategic Recruitment Blog 

Poorly written job ads and the affixed lack of feedback to applications damages employer brand. Most employers are oblivious to this. It’s a bit like handing the keys from a Ferrari to a blindfolded driver and expecting it returned without a scratch.

Looking for work is an uncomfortable situation. Being ignored when you’re looking for work is disheartening.

Employers need to work on improving the hiring experience for applicants. If applicants are treated well and offered feedback throughout the hiring process it reflects positively on an employer’s brand. Applicants are more likely to share the experience with colleagues and friends, positively impacting an employer’s hiring process – and saving them on future advertising costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is employer branding?

Answer: Employer branding refers to the reputation of a company as an employer, and the efforts that a company takes to communicate its employee value proposition and culture to attract top talent.

Question: Why is employer branding important?

Answer: Employer branding is important because it can help a company attract top talent, retain current employees, and improve overall employee engagement and satisfaction. It can also help a company stand out in a competitive job market and improve its public image.

Question: How can a company improve its employer branding?

Answer: A company can improve its employer branding by clearly communicating its employee value proposition, offering competitive benefits and perks, promoting a positive company culture, and being transparent about its values and policies.

Question: How does employer branding impact employee recruitment and retention?

Answer: A strong employer brand can make a company more attractive to job candidates, leading to a higher number of qualified applicants and a stronger pool of potential hires. It can also help a company retain current employees by promoting a positive work environment and a strong company culture.

Question: How can a company measure the effectiveness of its employer branding efforts?

Answer: A company can measure the effectiveness of its employer branding efforts by tracking employee engagement and satisfaction, measuring employee retention rates, and analyzing job candidate feedback and hiring data. Additionally, a company can conduct surveys or focus groups to gather more direct feedback on its employer branding efforts.