Want to be known as an employer of choice? Start by treating your people well and giving them reasons to engage.

There it is again. Nestling smugly at the top of the job ad, between "competitive remuneration" and "make a difference". "We’re an employer of choice." Ugh.

Yes, my HR and C-suite friends, this noble title we have coveted for so long has deserted us, selling out in return for a corner office at Cliché Enterprises. It’s popping up everywhere, greedily appropriated and spread across the Internet by anyone with a job to sell.

So once again, we’re left with that classic recruitment marketing challenge: beat the platitude. We’re desperate to cut through the noise and say something real... to connect meaningfully with our ideal people. In a recruitment market full of SHOUTY JOB ADS!!!!, lazy mistruths and hollow hype, here’s my advice on being, and showing that you really are, a great Australian employer.

1. Forget trying to win 'Best Employer in Australia'. Focus on being a great place to work for the right people, with the right motivations.

I get it. Winning employer awards is wonderful, particularly when the recognition is deserved. But many of the best companies to work for have never even competed. They're sort of too busy... er... being a great employer. Meanwhile, we've all seen the other side - those ‘We won best employer’ announcements which trigger raised eyebrows and wry smiles from the company’s own employees on the ground.

Every workplace is different. The connection between fantastic, imperfect people and the fantastic, imperfect employers they choose to work for is personal and unique. It’s about the intersect between what matters most to your people and what you offer as an employer. So focus on understanding the talent you’re trying to engage - their behaviours, preferences and expectations - and map this against your own talent offer. If you fall short on an element that really matters to your people, either improve your business or look at how much the things you do offer compensate for the absence. Because recruiting people with the right motivations, and being open with each other from the start, is half the battle of employee engagement.

2. Treat your people decently, pay them appropriately and recognise their contribution

Office ping pong, free alcohol and ‘crazy office fun’ (may) all have a place but too many companies use perks like these to mask the absence of other, much more fundamental things. Worse still, some candidates still get sucked in by the shiny stuff! They soon realise the truth though, and either leave for a better job, or stay a while to window-gaze or whinge. For goodness sake, start with the basics of appropriate pay, fairness and positive recognition. According to Lifeworks, nearly 80% of workers will look for another job if they don’t feel they’re valued where they are.

3. Be clear on your purpose and connect your people to it

People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek

You’ll do ok when you get the basics right but consistent, exceptional performance happens when employees truly connect with your purpose. Understand it, bring it to life consistently, and make sure that every employee understands how their role and their behaviours contribute to it. And when you recruit, share this with candidates and check the fit.

4. Listen to your people and hear them. Then act on their advice.

If listening to your employees means a clunky engagement survey every year or two, you’re not listening enough, and you certainly won’t hear. Put your employees’ perceptions and experiences at the heart of your highest or most fundamental strategy, and embed the tools and processes to consistently engage them in open conversation. Remember that effective employee engagement isn’t done to make people feel listened to. It’s done to learn and improve. Employees will applaud you when, and only when, they experience the changes.

5. When it comes to employer branding, show don’t tell… and give your people a platform

Employer branding rule #4382 isn't rocket science: Talk. Is. Cheap. We’re now being sold to 24/7. (Does anyone else struggle to notice much difference between Channel 7’s adverts, reality TV shows and news programs?). That means two things:

  1. We don’t fully believe most of what is said.
  2. We skim past clichés and platitudes.

So you need to show why you’re a great choice across all forms of content and campaigns. Use examples, illustrations and (authentic) storytelling wherever you can. And let your people speak for themselves, in their own words. There is nothing more powerful to a prospective candidate than hearing someone they can identify with, talking openly and honestly about the role or the company they’re exploring.

6. Use video!

Video is by far and away the best medium to cut through the noise and show your difference. You’ll get more views, more comments and more shares. Much more importantly, if you do it well, you can quickly and effectively create emotion and connection which drives ongoing engagement. Beware though - a poorly designed or poorly executed video will haunt you long after its release.

7. Respond to Glassdoor and Seek reviews, especially the negative ones

The Trip Advisor culture (particularly the ‘share my bad experience’ bit) has well and truly arrived in the world of job / employer research. Glassdoor and SEEK’s anonymous company reviews give a solid platform to your advocates, your detractors and everyone in between. Candidates are pretty effective at identifying and disregarding the obvious trolls but they will listen to reasoned criticism and to consistently-expressed views. My strong advice is to respond to reviews and to be up front about your offer and your challenges. Prospective candidates will respect you for it and will readily accept that no employer is perfect.

Oh and if an issue keeps coming up, it’s probably real. Make a change or lose good candidates.

8. Keep it going. Conversations mean something.

Brand appreciation comes from repeated, two-way engagement. Even if you are a great place to work, it can take a while to make people aware of the fact and even longer to get them to believe it. Map out your conversation with prospective and current applicants and employees. Then invest in building your social presence and audiences, and build a content plan for ongoing engagement. One facebook post about a great employee initiative won’t significantly enhance your recruitment and retention results. Ongoing, consistent content and messaging usually will.

Mark Puncher

About the Author

Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 22 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.

About Employer Branding Australia

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