At the beginning of 2019, the unemployment rate was the lowest it has been in 10 years, at 5.3%. This is good news, but it also means that Irish SMEs are struggling to attract and retain top talent. There is no denying that a high salary has a reliably magnetic effect, but it is far from the only reason why people choose to work where they do and how long they stay with a company.
FDI companies are enjoying a large slice of the talent pie with 229,057 people currently employed in the sector, making competition fierce for smaller indigenous businesses. For Irish SMEs wanting to attract the right people with the right skills, it is vital to tap into these other draws and having a strong employer brand is a powerful enticement for job seekers.
What is an employer brand?
Having an employer brand is how you market your company to job seekers. Just like with the marketing of products and services, the promises you make to jobseekers should be fulfilled at all stages of the recruitment process and followed up on in the work environment. For example, if you market your company as “daring, innovative and fun” but then the job candidate quickly finds out that the office space is a cardboard cut out of every other office they’ve seen and their interviewer comes across as stern and a sticker for the rules, the expectations that brought them to your door in the first place have been shattered. This is why is it important that your employer brand is a clearly defined personality for your company which is holistically incorporated into every aspect of the organisation.
How do you create an employer brand?
Considering that the average person spends a third of their waking life at work and that people are more aware than ever before of the importance of a healthy work/life balance, where someone chooses to work is a serious consideration for them. Therefore, if you have the ability to offer benefits and perks that people with the skills you desire would appreciate, then it makes sense to construct an employer brand that acts as a platform for these advantages. But what does this look like in practice?
Case study: Lush
A great example of employer branding done right is the cosmetics retailer, Lush. When Lush holds their open call recruitment events, they truly are an event! Hopeful job seekers are known to queue for hours to be in with a chance of working as a sales assistant at Lush. But why? For anyone not in the know, Lush on the surface would appear to be your typical high-street retailer that pays their employees an average wage without commission. The hype all comes down to their employer branding, which they’ve perfected.
Lush’s employer brand is all about injecting positivity, fun and a heavy dose of quirkiness into life while also being steadfastly ethical and environmentally conscious. Lush defines itself as being a challenger of the status quo, a champion of individuality and relentlessly passionate about everything they do. Vibrant colours, bold images and a generous amount of sparkle dominate their image and they employ a complementary informal brand voice. Their typical customer identifies intimately with the brand and many fans, or “Lushies” as they call themselves, even help Lush spread the word about new products with their organic user-generated content. It makes sense that more often than not Lush’s employees are also their customers.
In keeping with their branding, you won’t hear humdrum questions such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” during a job interview, but rather they’ll ask “Which fictional character do you think is most like you and why?” Staff frequently have opportunities to exercise their creativity by submitting and implementing concept and design ideas for seasonal campaigns. When an employee’s birthday comes around, they will get to have the day off and employees are regularly invited to participate in Lush industry events. With passion being a key Lush trait, employees get to try new products for free and enjoy 50% off all products so that they are truly invested in what they are selling.
More than a job
What Lush has managed to do is create an employer brand that is also a lifestyle choice. People want to work there because they feel that Lush represents them in more ways than simply a job title. In this scenario, employees feel valued for who they are as individuals and not just for the skills they provide. When you show your employees that you value them, they become ambassadors of your brand and when that happens attracting and retaining staff is no longer a problem. The key to a successful employer brand is the crafting of a story that people want to be a part of and proving the truth of that story throughout the employee experience.
If colour and sparkle don’t feel like the right style brand for you, remember that Virgin, The Boring Company, Google and The Walt Disney Company all are examples of successful employers brands with very diverse company personalities and employee benefits. Your employer brand is only limited by your imagination!
About the author
Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]