Research shows the cost of not having an attractive employer brand can be over £4 million a year, but it’s not enough to simply claim it, you also have to live it. And then tell the world.

I had an interesting (if slightly inebriated) conversation over the weekend. Following a fabulous roast dinner, my friend – a very recent graduate – remarked on how he was seconded to a job at the Facebook office in London the week before and was impressively stunned at the lunch selection there. It was worldly, freshly made and exciting to the baying crowd (or bay leaf crowd). He also noticed that the space that was offered employees was quite obviously conducive to collaboration. The whole building is designed like a connected rabbit run specially for the purpose of pushing people together, to make them meet, talk and share ideas in the hallways, and to ensure happenstance, well, happens.

At this point the two bottles of wine we’d consumed kicked in and we proceeded to put the world to rights, getting rather vocal about so many other companies’ antiquated approach to employee engagement. At least that’s the eloquent way of putting it. Our version went something along the lines of:

“And it’s like…all these old companies are surprised when they’re losing all these ruddy graduates to the Googles and the Facebooks and the Snippychats. Like…that’s what people, like…want. People don’t want to be in rubbish stuffy offices, they want…I don’t know…frozen margarita machines.”

I’ll concede it wasn’t keynote speech territory, but I think we managed to hit on a good point about the value of the employer brand. Or rather the answer to the question: Why would I want to work here?

Talented people don’t want stuffy offices. They don’t want marginalised sections, schoolyard cliques, whispers in the corridor or departments that don’t speak with each other. Perhaps the margarita machine isn’t a clincher as such, but fundamentally people want a working environment that blends quite naturally with their non-working environment. After all, they spend most of their lives there.

And they’ll speak with their CVs and show it with their application forms. Our CEO Shelley Hoppe said something the other day on here that I think more or less sums it up:

“Don’t say you’re a great place to work. Be a great place to work.”

Too true. So what constitutes a great place to work, somewhere that you can be proud of? What do people want?

The qualities of the brand

According to LinkedIn’s research “Winning Talent”, published in the Harvard Business Review recently and which we touched upon yesterday, the most important qualities to an employer brand are:

  • Job security
  • More opportunities for professional development
  • An opportunity to work on a better team
  • An organisation that shares your same personal values
  • An organisation that is talked about positively by present or past employees

And what’s the cost of not having that? Apparently over £4 million per year in the UK, or over £3,000 per hire for a company of 10,000 employees. Or to put it another way, LinkedIn’s report estimates that bad employer branding adds 10% to the cost of hiring, which is what it’ll cost you in additional wages to compensate for a poor reputation (bear in mind that doesn’t even account for added extras like diminished morale and further subsequent attrition).

Bad employer branding adds 10% to the cost of hiring

And therein lies the problem. There are many companies saying they have a great employer brand, but only showing it in an inflated wage packet and nowhere else. Which is a false economy. Interestingly as we reported yesterday, the benefits of a strong employer brand – one that hits all of the top five requirements – doesn’t need to boast an inflated wage packet to potential talented recruits:


Conversely, over half of UK professionals would absolutely rule out applying to an employer that exhibits the three of the top negative employer brand values (which are effectively the polar opposite factors to those five positives listed above), no matter how good the pay packet.

The main problem with employer branding

A fundamental issue with employer branding is that companies weren’t necessarily expecting to have to address it. And now, in a highly competitive recruitment market, they have ended up having to chase their tails.

In the post-recession haze many brands moved out of survival mode and began trying to grow and diversify. They’re ever-so-slightly-different companies now to how they started out. They suddenly face the challenge and considerable pressure to have to concoct recruitment campaigns targeted at people they never expected to hire. According to research by recruitment advisory expert CEB, while roughly eight out of ten organisations have engaged in an employer branding drive, less than a third of the candidates they attract are of the desired quality.

Well-intentioned, but misdirected

So this all tells us that a lot of money is being wasted on well-intentioned, yet badly targeted recruitment marketing. It really is a case of show and tell, and you can’t do one without the other.

Meanwhile, a recruitment campaign needs to be directed at specific candidate personas – it’s marketing, but your customers are your potential new workforce, and they better be right. Targeting your recruitment content is absolutely key to ensuring that your efforts – and, crucially, budget – aren’t wasted. And as we point out in our latest research report Recruitment Marketing Insights 2016, the role of recruitment is now highly creative. It has to be, to stand out. This means leveraging the power of a creative marketing team. All the more reason, then, to actually nurture and support a collaborative, open working environment – it’s not just nice to have, it’s the difference between attracting the top people, versus second best.

And all the while, say that you promise a canteen that serves continental lunch every morning, and provides a comfortable space for collaborative chats. Say then that what you actually deliver is a grey walled expanse full of people eating microwaved lasagne that can’t get out of there quick enough. You’ll lose talent more rapidly than you can find it.

The fact is you want to hire and retain the best people, and the only way to ensure you’re addressing their very specific needs is firstly to invest in a collaborative infrastructure, building a company culture that people want to share and talk about, and secondly to map out a highly targeted recruitment content marketing campaign. Or, you can compensate for what’s lacking. Your call.