Brand management and engagement go hand-in-hand in the modern company’s marketing strategy. Social media, websites and emails have all been anointed as game-changers. But there’s an area of branding that every company deals with on a daily basis, but not all have realised the importance of: employer branding.
Companies interact with talent on a daily basis, turning them into either brand advocates or critics; future customers or latent prospects.
Closing the loop with unsuccessful candidates is a recruitment function that is often considered as too time-consuming and resource intensive, yet in the eyes of the applicant, it is considered a crucial factor towards a positive candidate experience. And it’s one of the most critical processes to get right if you want to grow your employer brand.
Why is candidate experience so crucial?
If a successful candidate is invited to walk through the doors, unsuccessful candidates are still peering through the windows and attributing what they see in their brief, limited glimpses of a company’s inner workings to the overall brand.
Frank Sedmak, General Manager, People and Culture at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, says: “With the significant changes brought about by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), there is never a more important time for Cerebral Palsy Alliance to be known as an employer of choice.
“An applicant’s experience forms the basis of whether they have good or bad things to say. Every applicant is a potential advocate for our organisation.”
Andrew Dixon, Head of Talent Acquisition at Bankwest (part of the Commonwealth Bank Group), agrees.
“We hire for 10,000 roles a year. We calculated quite a large percentage of those candidates are in some way customers of Commonwealth Bank Group. So how they feel in the hiring process will reflect in whether they continue to be a customer.”
Jessica Hill, Head of People & Culture at CHOICE, notes the change in the balance of power between recruiters, candidates and brands.
“We live in an age where everyone is an author and has a voice; social media has empowered people to share their experiences.
“Online platforms like SEEK are changing the balance towards candidates being able to rate their experience with an organisation.”
Given that a candidate’s experience may well be shared over the Internet, it’s more critical than ever to get it right and have them singing your organisation’s praises.
What does a positive candidate experience look like?
The most effective processes involve frequent communication and reciprocal value.
“People are an organisation’s greatest asset, so it’s important at CHOICE that the candidate experience mirrors the internal experience our staff receive,” explains Hill.
Sedmak agrees. “We know that many applicants are likely to know others in their field, so ensuring a positive experience is a responsibility we have to every applicant if we want brand advocacy.
“And in the volunteer space, Cerebral Palsy Alliance has a dedicated volunteers’ team that manages most applications. They make every person enquiring about volunteer opportunities here feel valued.”
Dixon describes Bankwest’s commitment to frequent contact, where candidates are given a weekly update in person or by email, phone and — recently — video.
“One of the commitments in our customer charter is 'We won't leave you hanging', we make a commitment for every candidate to get contact from us every seven days. Even if there's no news, we'll tell you.”
Managing high-volume feedback
If every candidate is a potential brand advocate, follow-up is crucial — even in high-volume roles.
“They’ve made the effort to apply, we need to respect that effort and time and ensure that their experience is very positive,” explains Sedmak.
Hill agrees. “Applicant tracking tools can be an effective way to manage candidates with high-volume recruitment. For anyone that has taken the time to meet with the CHOICE team, we follow up through phone conversations.”
Dixon ensures candidates get constructive, actionable feedback.
“Because their experience doesn't meet what we require, we'll provide advice on what a potential entry could look like. As much as the recruiter can, they’ll provide feedback for them to then go off and build that capability and come in at a future date.”
Creating a pipeline
While a candidate might not be right for the role on offer, they might be an excellent fit for another, so keeping them engaged with your brand through a positive experience can be strategic.
“Talent pools are important in enabling us to quickly access potential candidates who are already predisposed to the organisation’s culture and values,” explains Sedmak.
“It’s been important to establish talent pools to minimise the time to fill,” says Hill.
Dixon agrees. “Unsuccessful candidates may be successful for the next job, so we look at them as both customers of the group or as potential future hires of the group. We’ll communicate with them. They may receive market information or specific job information while they're waiting for the next opportunity to come through.”
Is there a way to measure your current performance?
Employer branding doesn’t begin and end with new talent either — some of the best advocates of your employer brand are sitting in your office now. Would they recommend your company as an employer?
CHOICE have seen a significant increase in employee satisfaction since they started measuring nearly a decade ago, feeding into their talent attraction strategy.
“We survey employee engagement on an annual basis, utilising the Aon Hewitt model. We’ve had considerable improvement in our employee engagement levels since we first started measuring this in 2010,” says Hill.
How to improve your employer brand
Creating a robust employer brand is all about having empathy for the applicant or employee and monitoring their engagement throughout their experience with your organisation.
Frequent communication, constructive advice and measuring satisfaction will create a relationship, giving candidates a sense of support throughout the process while enabling them to take something beneficial away from the process.
And we all know how valuable word-of-mouth is in the digital age.