What is employer branding?

Every company has an employer brand, whether they spend time developing and building it or not. An employer brand is a company’s identity as an employer - it’s a combination of how their employees perceive what it’s like to work for them, how the company promotes itself as an employer of choice, and how candidates perceive what it would be like to work for them.

When surveyed, 80% of talent and HR managers agreed that a strong employer brand is critical for attracting top talent, but only 50% said their company had a “proactive” employer branding strategy. Additionally, 50% of recruiters surveyed by the Corporate Leadership Council admitted that they didn’t understand their own companies’ employer brands. Without a clearly defined employer brand, it becomes difficult to demonstrate to candidates why they should work for your organisation over others.

“A credible employer brand revolves around a compelling narrative that is authentic, recognizable and brings to life the actual experience employees have working at an organization, whether it is the culture, leadership, training, opportunities or communications.” Kate Bullinger, Executive Vice President and Global Lead, Employee Engagement & Change Management, Weber Shandwick


Why does employer branding matter?

Put simply, without a strong employer brand, it’s almost impossible to differentiate what your company offers employees from what every other company can offer. It’s no longer enough to break down benefits and perks when most companies offer very similar packages. To truly differentiate, particularly if your organisation operates in a sector with a negative reputation or perception issues (e.g. banking, manufacturing), a defined, authentic employer brand is key.

In concrete terms:

The Boston Consulting Group says, “Millennials increasingly require a holistic and authentic experience across all the ways they interact with a company.”  However, “if a company does not have confidence that it can present itself authentically, it should not use them until the advantages outweigh any potential damage”.


Use storytelling to build an authentic employer brand and attract top talent

Storytelling works. It's a powerful tool to help persuade, drive empathy, and lead people into action - and we've seen it work in a number of different industries. It’s so effective that a quick search for “storytelling for brands agencies” returns thousands of businesses whose main service is developing stories that drive sales, subscriptions, and donations. Stories work for a number of reasons:

  • Stories get our attention by engaging our empathy
  • They’re better remembered than facts alone
  • Affinity toward characters in a story is carried through to the brand
  • Narrative arcs trigger emotions, which drive decisions
  • A story allows the reader to arrive at the conclusion themselves, which is more persuasive than giving it to them.

With the help of Immersion Neuroscience, neuroeconomist and leading figure in storytelling, Paul J. Zak, and multinational banking organisation, Citi, we conducted the first ever research to show that storytelling works in employer branding and to attract talent. Here are some of the key findings:

Storytelling works for talent attraction: The science behind the theory

Immersion is a leading indicator of positive outcomes (desired action taken) from an experience. It’s measured second-by-second using an intuitive 0-10 scale called the “Immersion Quotient”.

Key Algorithm: Attention + Emotional Resonance = Immersion

Attention increases activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which causes an increase in heart rate. Emotional Resonance is associated with the brain’s synthesis of the neurochemical oxytocin, which increases activity of the vagus nerve. A high Immersion Quotient predicts that the person is likely to take the desired action.

For this study, we measured candidates’ immersion levels while they were browsing the Citi corporate careers site, while they were browsing the Citi careers discussion platform (featuring employee stories), and while participating in a real-time exchange with Citi employees. You can read more about how the study was conducted in our ebook.

Key Findings:

  • Corporate careers sites are not immersive, but employee stories are.
  • Employee stories are 20% more likely to convert than a corporate careers site.
  • Real-time engagement with employees is the most immersive approach.


Produce great stories to bridge the content gap AND the persuasion gap

Not all stories are persuasive - think, for example, about the generic “talking heads” style employee testimonial videos that companies publish. They tend to cover the same handful of broad topics, and some might be useful, but what evidence do we have that these convince candidates to apply? There is a better approach.

  1. There are five key factors to a persuasive story: narrative, authenticity, attention to detail, a meaningful challenge, and practical tips for the reader. In order to create the kinds of stories that candidates will be persuaded by, it’s important to ensure that you hit all the right notes.
  2. Cover a sufficient range of topics: candidates are interested in more than what your office looks like and what the benefits are - and corporate sites often lack sufficient information to answer their questions. Employee stories are a great way to add a more personal, individual approach to covering the topics that candidates care about.
  3. Employees are the most trusted people in your organisation to tell stories, and they’re best-placed to talk about the topics your candidates will be most interested in. Furthermore, the most immersive approach was direct, real-time engagement between employees and candidates.

Read more about the science of storytelling and how it works for talent attraction in our ebook.

Tackle a negative sector reputation by differentiating with storytelling

56% of executives in industrial manufacturing sector said that finding and retaining the best talent to make innovation happen was their number one challenge. The sector is ranked only 9th in sector attractiveness, and came in toward the bottom of the happiest industries to work for, placing 11th out of 13.

How can organisations differentiate and stand out in a sector with a negative reputation? Tackling these perceptions head-on with an employer branding strategy based on storytelling will help to reach candidates who might otherwise not consider the sector.

Some ways that Airbus, the 8th most attractive company to work for in Europe, approaches this:

  1. Authentic employee stories to improve transparency and close the credibility gap
  2. Show more than testimonials - highlight the company’s culture and heritage, too
  3. Get innovative: student challenges and infographic video content drive engagement

Learn more about how to use storytelling to stand out in a lagging sector in our blog.


Use employee stories to build an authentic Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Having a strong EVP is one element of an outstanding employer brand and candidate experience, but it’s not enough on its own. It won’t bridge the content gap between what a corporate careers site covers and what candidates want to know, nor will it tackle sector-wide issues that might prevent companies from hiring the best talent. Storytelling, however, can address both the content and credibility gaps by offering candidates authenticity and transparency on the subjects they care most about.

  1. Employee stories will bring your EVP and the realities of working for your organisation into alignment. Disconnect between these two things leads to poor employee retention and increased dissatisfaction. And alignment will increase your Net Promoter Score by about 20%.
  2. Stories will help bring the key messages of your EVP to life. Employee stories will illustrate your company’s values, mission, and culture in a more detailed, credible way than simply listing them on your company’s website. Hearing about the impact of the work being done in a public sector organisation first-hand from the Lead Design Manager is far more persuasive than reading a static mission statement.

Read more about building an authentic employer brand and delivering an aligned EVP in our blog.

Authentic Employer Branding: How to Make it Work with Storytelling

In this guide, we take a detailed look at how storytelling works for HR to improve employer branding and authenticity, including practical advice for talent attraction teams and the results of a first-of-its-kind study providing the evidence to back up what HR already knew - storytelling works.