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Why do employer brands deserve your attention?

Written by: Matt Johnson is executive creative director at Penna
Published on: 20 Jun 2024

Many different pieces of terminology are batted about in the world of employer communications. You’ll hear talk of employer brands, employer value propositions and employee value propositions; pillars and values; ambitions and visions; messaging structures and manifestos.


But really your employer brand boils down to a single, simple question: Why should the person you’re looking for want to join your organisation, in this role?


If you can answer that, you’re already a long way towards hiring success. The more convincingly you express your answer, the more attractive you make it to the people you want to hire, the more you make it stand out against your competitors’ messages, the more you get it in front of the right audience and the right time, and the more you bring it to life – the better.


So, imagine your ideal candidate turned up at your door, right now, and asked: ‘Why should I work where you work?’ What would you say?


A few answers will naturally spring to mind. Traditionally, public sector employers have marketed themselves around a few perennial themes: the difference you can make to your local community, the sense of purpose you feel, job stability and, of course, good pension and the greater work-life balance you can achieve.


Until now, these have been genuine points of difference for the public sector. Things, however, change. Post-pandemic, work-life balance through flexible working is available nearly everywhere. The public sector nine to five is now a myth, and long-term career stability is less and less important to the labour market. Instead, there’s a shift towards career growth, ongoing learning, and transferable skills.


Perhaps more concerningly, other organisations are muscling in on messages traditionally associated with the public sector. In a study Penna compiled for World Employer Branding Day in 2023, the two most common themes used by the world’s top 200 employers in their employer marketing were ‘impact’ and ‘purpose’.


The theme of ‘purpose’ is popular for good reason. According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, more than 60% of candidates choose a place of work based on their beliefs and values, while a massive 90% would give up a percentage of their earnings for a career with greater meaning. The challenge is, employers have taken notice and ‘purpose’ has firmly entrenched itself in employer branding messaging. We see talk of ‘changing the world’, ‘doing what matters’ and being ‘a force for good’. 


Similarly, underneath the theme of ‘impact’ we see messages like ‘bring the future’; ‘change tomorrow’, ‘create a better tomorrow’ and, of course, ‘Make a difference’. All recur, often with very little variation. Organisations have woken up to the fact people want not only purpose, but a sense of achievement.


That’s not to say the idea of following a calling or making an impact are irrelevant to candidates, it’s just that you won’t be the only one using those messages.


All of which means that standing out is harder than ever – which is why many organisations are turning their focus to evolving their employer brand. That might involve fine-tuning, surveying the competitive landscape and working out whether your answer to ‘why should I work here?’ is still as compelling and targeted as it can be.


Equally, it might involve tailoring your message more for specific audiences: researching the views and needs of a particular demographic or skillset and adapting the brand to meet them. All so that the next time you find a candidate standing in front of you, you’ll know exactly what will capture their attention – and get you the hire, and the future talent, you need. n