Why Employee Experience is the cornerstone of effective employer branding

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If there are two words that are being extensively talked about in the context of hiring and retaining best talent in the post-pandemic world, that is Employee Experience and employer branding.

Organizations are hard at work building out innovative and compelling employer brands and employee experiences. 

But are they both the same? Or, if different, are they mutually exclusive? 

Let’s find out.

What is Employer Branding?

Employer brand is the perception in the talent market about how it is to work with your organization.

These days, with the war for talent getting fiercer, organizations are trying hard to achieve a competitive advantage through innovative employer brands.

And with good reason! A report by Glassdoor shows that  69% of active job seekers are likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand. Plus, the report also goes on to say that organizations that prioritize employer brand are 250% more likely to rate their overall talent acquisition efforts as "highly effective".

So, in short, the purpose of your employer brand building effort is to inspire and encourage the best talent in the market to apply for jobs at your organization - an area that is also being actively referred to as candidate marketing today.

When we think of successful employer branding, Zappos comes to our minds first. Zappos has always been a people-first organization with a great workplace culture. And they’ve managed to share with the world what’s really happening at Zappos by getting their employees to share photos and videos. Their Instagram and Twitter handles, @insidezappos and @zapposculture are an authentic commentary of who they are. 

Same with Hubspot. An organization that is not only inclusive, supportive and autonomous but isn’t shy to let the world know who they are inside out. Interestingly, employees becoming brand ambassadors is the true success of an employer branding effort which Hubspot employees are proudly doing.

What is Employee Experience?

Unlike employer branding, employee experience is how an existing employee perceives the various experiences they have with your organization, from their pre-onboarding to even post exit.

Often though, when we talk about employee experience, we are referring to employee onboarding experience. Were you able to creatively keep in touch with the new hire until their joining day? Did you equip them with a laptop before or as soon as they joined? Were they given enough access to knowledge and training about the processes within the organization? These are all questions that validate a great employee onboarding experience but when it comes to employee experience, that’s not all there is. Employee experience brings in its fold every interaction an employee has with the organization throughout the employee journey…and that goes beyond onboarding too.

Did an employee returning from maternity leave find it easy to get back to the work rhythm?

Did an employee that got transferred from one office location to another find it easy to settle in?

Did an employee who was promoted to a managerial position receive enough training and guidance for the role?

Did an employee whose family was infected by the coronavirus know what assistance they can get from the organization?

All of this and more constitute employee experience too.

So, how are employer branding and employee experience linked?

Let’s understand this with an example.

You are in need of a nice, compact bedside table.

You go on to Amazon where a number of players are selling bedside tables.

You scroll through the list, go through the product descriptions and offers, read reviews and choose the one that most stands out to you.

What made you choose that one table from among all the others is what employer branding can do for you in the talent market.

Employer branding helps you stand out from the rest of your competitors.

But then, what are you talking about in your employer branding that makes you stand out?

Your unique employee experience — what employees can expect when they join the organization and how this experience is different from that of the others.

In simple terms, employee experience is your product and employer branding is the advertising you do around it.

Therefore, it is important that your employer brand is carefully built off your employee experience. Else, a new employee could walk right through the door of your company and feel, “wow! this was not what I signed up for!”. 

And what can such disparity in experience and branding mean to an organization?

In all probability, higher levels of voluntary turnover and/or a large number of disengaged employees at work.

Interestingly, any disconnect between your employer brand and your employee experience might not seem like a big problem at first, especially if you're focused on hitting your hiring targets. Everything you promise in your employer branding might be driving up the resumes you receive and that feels awesome. But imagine if the table you bought off Amazon breaks within two months of usage? You are going to be disappointed, right? 

Same with employees. 

Over time, the mismatch between what you are branding yourself to be versus what experience employees actually have within your organization can turn your greatest asset - your employer brand - into a source of frustration, disengagement, and reason for turnover among your employees.

The truth is, your employer brand isn’t something that you can fake. 

Imagine what you would do with the disappointment you faced with your table. You would immediately go on Amazon and leave a negative review which will influence the purchase decision of future buyers. In this day and age of social media, job aspirants have access to employee reviews and peer feedback more than ever before. It won’t take long for employees to share their negative experiences online and for candidates’ decisions to be influenced by it.

In addition, employer branding isn’t just about getting more people to want to work for your organization. It is also a way to keep folks out who might not thrive in your company. That way, any form of branding which does not align with the actual employee experience can be detrimental to the organization.

Final Thoughts

Unlike what a lot of people may believe, employer branding isn’t exactly about being perceived as a ‘cool’ organization with bean bags, chic offices and SWAG leadership. It goes so much beyond that and must be consistent with your workplace culture and employee experience.

We strongly believe that employee experience and employer branding of an organization should go hand in hand. They are, in a way, two sides of the same coin.

However, a lot of organizations have very different teams working on the two, often without consulting each other.

It is imperative for organizations to bring both teams to the same table and work collaboratively to build a unified view about what kind of an employer your firm is.

In simple, no-fluff terms, work inside out. Build a great employee experience and brand it through employer branding for the talent market to consume effectively. 

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