Separating yourself from the crowd

Posted on Jan 14, 2020 :: Insight From
Posted by Melinda Morella-Olson

Manufacturing makes up almost 12 percent of our nation’s economic output and economists are still (mostly) bullish on the future of manufacturing. But with 2 million manufacturing jobs projected to go unfilled nationally over the next decade, the optimism that comes with growth is overshadowed by the challenge of filling open positions. In states like Wisconsin, where unemployment is extremely low, manufacturers need to focus on how to bring more workers into their companies.

With this very real war for talent, businesses must step up how they market their employer value proposition (EVP). Simply put, an EVP defines how a company wants to be perceived by its employees. It embodies the company’s values and ideals and is a fundamental step in defining an employer brand strategy for talent acquisition. An employer brand answers questions like: “Why do they do what they do?” “What kind of impact are they making in the world and on customers?” “What kind of a culture do they promise?”

Simply posting a job opening and hiring one of many applicants doesn’t cut it anymore. The way we recruit, attract and retain employees has changed. For our customers, we all know that service, quality and price are not unique differentiators. In the same way, salary, benefits and job security are simply table stakes in the workforce game. Employees expect their experience with their employer to mirror the experiences they have with their favorite consumer brands. And just as consumer brands offer a strong customer value proposition, that requires companies to develop a strong employer value proposition if they’re going to compete.

Elements of a strong EVP

  • Goes beyond salary and traditional benefits
  • Is truly authentic
  • Is more than a ping pong table or beer tap in the lounge
  • Describes what an organization stands for and offers its employees
  • Is what motivates, inspires and engages employees

Develop your employer brand, tell your story

Think of your employer brand in similar terms as a customer-facing brand, only instead of selling your products, you’re selling someone a reason to commit their future to your company. Like any branding, it’s about getting into your customer’s (in this case, your employee’s) head and seeing the world through their eyes.

Speak to potential employees about the things they care about, not the things you care about. People need purpose, so make sure they see yours. Sure, your company might only make a widget, but that widget might go into a piece of equipment that helps people all over the world grow food. Or into an ultrasound machine that allows parents to see their unborn baby for the first time.

An employer brand is the story of why you do what you do and how working for you will feel.

10 steps to get you started:

  • Get HR and marketing working together. HR is critical to recruitment and retention efforts. They own the employee experience. Marketing leaders are masters at telling stories and motivating people to act. It’s not surprising that the most effective employer brand success is achieved when an empowered HR rep and an empowered marketing rep are aligned in moving the project forward together.
  • Start with research.
  • Review current internal communication and recruitment materials.
  • Conduct employee engagement surveys.
  • Conduct competitive research. Who are you competing with for talent?
  • Engage in a discovery session with representation from a variety of departments to uncover your EVP. These sessions are most successful when facilitated by an objective third party.
  • Compile a key findings report with results and insights gained from your research. This will guide the next phase.
  • Identify all of your key strengths as an employer. After you brainstorm an exhaustive list, decide on the five strongest. Those become your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs).
  • Take your five USPs and, for each one, list all the emotions you can think of that a person may feel when they think of that particular strength. Again, after you have many ideas, select one emotion for each USP. These become your Unique Buying Propositions (UBPs).
  • Using your USPs and UBPs, develop your employer brand positioning statement. This is a structured sentence that explains who your company is and who you’re talking to, what sets you apart and why someone should care. It’s a single sentence stating exactly what your position in the workforce marketplace will be, your EVP. Follow this example positioning template: To (audience) … Company Name is (fact) … That (point of difference) … Because (reason why) …
  • Define your employer brand personality and voice. Start by thinking about your company as a literal person. Think about it from an employee’s perspective and choose phrases that will help them understand what working for you means.
  • Compile all of your work into a brand language manual and share it with any team member who might touch elements of your brand.
  • Develop a plan to roll out your employer brand, first internally with existing employees, and then externally with prospective recruits. This plan should include updating existing materials (like job descriptions and your website), as well as new tactics to reach your target audience.
  • Go live it.

There’s no getting around it, this is a lot of work. It’s work you’ll have to prioritize on top of your other strategic initiatives, but it’s worth it. Do these things consistently, powerfully and fairly and you’ll have an employer brand that’ll be the envy of your competitors.