Employer Branding

Study Finds Widespread Employer Brand Credibility Gap

Think you’ve got employer branding figured out? You may want to rethink that certainty, in light of findings from a new study conducted by global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick.

The study finds only 19 percent of employees globally perceive a strong match between how their company represents itself and what they experience. This match – or lack therefore – highlights a credibility gap that exposes employers to reputation risk.

Importance of Authenticity

Closing the gap, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for employers to more successfully drive recruitment, employee engagement, and retention. As employers have learned, sometimes the hard way, an authentic employer brand is particularly critical in an age of extreme transparency where job candidates make reputational assessments with ease based on what an organization’s employees say online or through word of mouth.

“Employer branding has become an imperative in an era where talent is hard to recruit, change is rampant, engagement is weak, and Millennials have their sights on the next job,” said Kate Bullinger, executive vice president and global lead, Employee Engagement & Change Management at Weber Shandwick. “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.”

Opportunity for Improvement

Although the level of employer brand credibility is currently 19 percent, the study finds that the terrain for improvement is wide open. Only a minority of employees (7 percent) resolutely disagrees that there is any alignment between what employers say about themselves and what they experience. The largest segment – 74 percent – falls in between. These are “marginally aligned” employees, and the companies for which they work have the opportunity to change perceptions by better defining and living an employer brand that employees recognize, believe, and promote.

The industries in the Weber Shandwick study that have larger than average segments of marginally aligned employees are consumer packaged goods (84 percent), healthcare/biotechnology/pharmaceutical (80 percent), professional services (78 percent), retail (78 percent), and industrial/manufacturing (76 percent).

Why Focus on Improvement

Although building and sustaining a credible employer brand take effort, organizations reap benefits when there is alignment between employer brand and employee experience. The study finds:

  • Better Recruitment. Employees in aligned organizations are more likely than organizations on average to recommend their employer as a place to work (76 percent vs. 54 percent, respectively).
  • Stronger Advocacy. Employees in aligned organizations are more likely than organizations on average to urge others to buy their company’s products or services (59 percent vs. 49 percent) and post or share praise online about their employer (41 percent vs. 23 percent).
  • Greater Retention. Employees in aligned organizations are more likely than organizations on average to be very likely to continue to work for their employer over the next year (77 percent vs. 64 percent).
  • Increased Productivity. Employees in aligned organizations are more likely than organizations on average to put more effort into their job than is required (54 percent vs. 40 percent).

Reputation a Consideration

In addition, Weber Shandwick finds employer brand fuels employer reputation. Employees at organizations with well-aligned employer brands are more than 11 times as likely as those at organizations with unaligned employer brands to say their organization has a “very good” reputation.

A positive overall reputation is a real factor in considering a new employer, particularly among employees most likely to leave (“at risk” employees). When the average employee is asked which criteria they would consider if they were searching for a new job, the “basics,” such as compensation, employer financial stability, etc., are not surprisingly the top factors. But for “at risk” employees, the reputation of the next employer rises to the No. 2 position in the consideration set.