Employer Branding: Successful implementation in B2B Firms

Employer Branding: Successful implementation in B2B Firms
Employer branding is the new catchphrase in HR marketing. Given the current and the future situation on the labor market, this field of communication is worth every effort: Already today, the demographic development and the so-called “war of talents” lead to bottlenecks in the recruitment of qualified workforce. As a consequence it becomes increasingly important for companies to be perceived as a positive and attractive employer brand by current and potential employees.
Employer branding strategies and measures target three central goals:

(1) to attract qualified new employees to the company,

(2) to retain existing employees in the long term, and

(3) to increase existing employees’ skills and productivity.

B2B companies have the disadvantage of barely being known to the general public due to their products and business relationships.
In a qualitative study, Schlegel and Partners asked HR, marketing, and communication professionals from eight globally operating B2B companies which successfully run employer branding about their experiences and best practices.

As a first step, the core message of the employer brand must be defined and agreed upon. This is done in most companies through employee surveys and image studies where participants are asked about their perception of the company and possible room for improvement. The results of these analyses provide crucial input for phrasing an authentic core message of the company in its role as employer.

Most companies develop an own employer branding claim which often is not identical to the company’s corporate claim. However the two claims usually share the same direction of impact. The employer branding claim typically communicates a more emotional and motivational message. A further important tool to stimulate a positive perception of a company is an EVP (Employer Value Proposition). EVPs are core aspects similar to USPs which distinguish a company as an employer from other employers and define its unique position and image.

It is especially important for B2B companies to pro-actively inform prospective employees about the training opportunities and employee benefits they offer.

The analyzed companies communicate a broad spectrum of training opportunities and international career possibilities. A wide range of additional benefits is offered: from flexible work schedules to child care services, health care management, and cultural events to incentive payments and work-life balance measures.

Most companies address all relevant target groups of employer branding: from school leavers, students, and graduates to professionals, and of course also their current employees.

All studied companies choose a broad communication approach that uses all important channels and contact possibilities. The central starting point is the career website as the most important information source for job applicants and often the first point of contact. Also, Social Media such as Facebook, YouTube, XING, and Twitter play an increasingly important role. However, they are not primarily used as an information source, but more to draw attention to the company and to lead potential job applicants to the career website. Business networks like LinkedIn and XING are especially useful for addressing professionals with an engineering or natural sciences background.

Despite the growing importance of online recruiting, co-operation with universities and presence at career fairs remain essential to get in contact with students and graduates. Co-operation with universities can be established and maintained by means of research projects or lectures, or by offering thesis work and internships. Especially for companies that are not active in the consumer sector, this provides valuable opportunities to get in contact with young high potentials.

Looking at the best practices of the analyzed companies, the following optimal process of implementing a successful employer branding can be identified:

(1) Mission, vision, and brand essence of the firm must be defined because they are the basis of the employer brand.

(2) Internal and external perception of company in its role as employer and possible room for improvement in this role are analyzed.

(3) Core messages and EVPs are defined and fundamental strategic decisions taken concerning the degree of international uniformity of the employer brand and the involvement of various business groups.

(4) The strategy is transformed into concrete measures which can be modified in various areas in order to take account of cultural differences.

(5) The implementation and integration of measures is executed both on the corporate level and on the business group level and is centrally coordinated.

(6) The measures are monitored on a regular basis in order to adjust the company’s employer branding if needed to new developments and to changing demands of the different target groups.

In summary, employer branding is all about making one’s employee benefits and one’s employer image visible. For B2B firms, it is about tackling this communication task.