Many companies find it challenging to develop an authentic employer brand — one that’s distinctive, compelling and resonant with the people they’re trying to reach. It isn’t an easy road. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But, there are some transferable themes. Those who do it right tend to possess five noteworthy qualities that set them apart.

If you’re struggling with your employer brand, consider taking these characteristics to heart and investing in them with consistency. You will impact your culture for the better and bring about many positive returns in the process.

1. Passionately authentic

Be passionate about expressing your core beliefs and the foundational attributes that capture the essence of your character and culture. Those elements can genuinely help you stand out in the marketplace and establish a competitive advantage for talent.

It takes rigor, courage, and conviction to uncover your soul as a company and express what’s authentic to your being. By defining who you are, why you exist and what you aspire to be, you heighten your sense of authenticity in a way that’s magnetizing.

Truly expressing your core does not stem from company-wide consensus or a committee decision that has been watered down to please many. Don’t expect to make everyone happy.
Steer clear of generic terms, bland ideals and empty statements. Those tend to create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers and undermine managerial credibility.

Once discovered, express your ideas and principles with passion, energy, and personality. Give them meaning that connects with your character. Let people feel what you say.

2. Distinctively different

A brand is only as good as the touch points and experiences that bring the strategy to life. We are bombarded with thousands of messages and images every day. It all becomes a blur. To break through the noise and be noticed, you must disrupt people’s attention. Your communication must be enjoyable, emotive and purposeful to set you apart from the pack.

This means you must step beyond the corporate comfort zone. Differentiation won’t arise from playing it safe. Consider concepts that challenge the status quo. Every great brand that you can think of has achieved that goal, and your employer brand should be no different.

A distinctive and engaging brand must come from your unique positioning and promise. Creatively exploring the unexpected and challenging conventions are all part of brand creation.

Knowing what your competition is saying and doing is crucial too. Many businesses are hard to distinguish one from another. All are striving for a similar goal. Ask—is our brand fresh, different, own-able, memorable and enduring?

3. Highly relevant

The most effective employer brands are relevant—both to the organization’s essence and to employees’ needs. They clearly articulate the culture, brand, EVP, and criteria for talent to be successful in the organization.

A vital piece of this story and driver of attraction is a company’s culture. At your core, you must have a clear purpose supported by equally clear values and beliefs. Express this clarity in your employer brand; it allows you to attract and keep people who believe what you believe. A cultural fit is imperative.

Take a holistic view of the employee experience, leveraging a unique set of attributes, offerings, and benefits to meet the needs and desires of talent. What’s the ultimate promise you can make for employment? Is it differentiated, compelling and ownable? Do the attributes of your EVP answer the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me)? Have you addressed what matters most—meaningful work, career advancement, growth and learning, collegiality, trust in leadership and supportive management?

Attracting and retaining top talent in this highly competitive market is challenging at best. A comprehensive story that captures your uniqueness and relevance is critical for success.

4. Emotionally connected

What are the qualities of your employee experience that matter on a deeper level—meaningful work, collegiality, team, purpose, betterment, feeling valued and cared for, helping others? Many of us are driven and passionate with a deep desire for connection with our work. Work can give us a sense of pride, self-esteem, and satisfaction.

Tapping those emotions and feelings will enable you to connect on a genuine level with your people. An invaluable bond can be forged when one feels authentically connected to one’s company and something bigger and more meaningful.

When companies do good for the world and are making a difference, they attract people emotionally. In their drive for the advancement of people and planet, they consistently go above and beyond, clearly demonstrating what’s at their core.

Whatever the driving purpose, employees should be inspired and equipped to be great ambassadors and influencers. Heartfelt stories need to be shared in workshops and live events and across multiple channels. Those beautiful stories have the power to engage and influence like no other. Find those stories and communicate, communicate, communicate.

5. Refreshingly human

An organization is made up of flesh and blood. People like you and me. Too many corporations lose sight of this reality and somehow shift to an impersonal, formulaic and institutionalized way of communicating with their employees.

Thankfully some leaders are enlightened—knowing that their most valuable asset isn’t their customer, their innovative technology or even their fantastic product/service/idea. They know it’s their people. At Baker, we call these “People-First” companies. They’re dedicated to hiring and keeping the best and brightest. However, this is easier said than done.

Companies with a “People-First” mindset understand that nurturing, motivating and empowering their people is the most important strategy. They create a positive work environment and shape a culture where talent feels valued, trusted, safe and cared for. In turn, their engaged and inspired people go the extra mile.

Though they are a rare breed, these enlightened companies typically out-perform their peers.

People-First companies say what they mean because they care. They communicate in a language that is simple, clear and straightforward. They don’t use complicated, confusing, impersonal corporate jargon that gets in the way.

The opportunity

The hard truth? Countless organizations haven’t identified their employer brand strategy or haven’t considered deeply how to use it to their competitive advantage. Instead, they communicate with bland ideals and mediocre statements that lack meaning and fall flat. They choose stock photography and clichéd images that you’ve seen over and over again (sometimes for another company — maybe even a competitor). It’s a losing approach.

Given that, there’s a tremendous opportunity available to you. When you develop a brand that genuinely represents your EVP, employee experience and culture and express it with passion, pride, and distinction, you will stand out from the pack. You will attract the best talent, engender greater loyalty and lower your churn rate in a highly competitive marketplace. Now that’s a good return on your investment.

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Why it matters

Employers with strong employment brands see a 43% decrease in cost per hire. (Source: LinkedIn)

Strong employer brands discourage early departures: New hires are 40% less likely to leave after the first 6 months. (Source: Career Arc)

Companies with strong positive employer brands grew 20% faster than counterparts with weak employer brands and bad reputations. (Source: LinkedIn)

Employer branding can increase your stock prices by 36%. (Source: Lippincott via LinkedIn)