Tomorrow’s Employer of Choice

Recruitment- Expert Andreas Alles has been successfully counseling senior management staff in HR as well as all recruitment topics for the past eight years. He has previously worked with corporations such as Allianz SE, ARAG SE and Generali Germany. Currently, he works as a branch manager at headwaypersonal GmbH in Mannheim.

Theory and practice of employer branding are two sides of the same coin: they only make sense to us if the strategies of employer marketing really prove themselves in the implementation in real life.
- Andreas Alles, Recruitment-Expert

In regards to successful employer brand communication, superficiality and lack of integrity are classic sticking points in employer's company values and principles.


Nearly all companies have a product and marketing strategy. However, if you're looking for a clearly defined employer brand, you rarely will make a find. And even if it exists, it is usually construed for advertising purposes. In good faith of having found a suitable frame for the entire corporate communication, it is used like a template for all touchpoints of various communication lines and without depth. Whether product, service or employer brand, the various job profiles and people are served with the same message, such as about tradition or experience for example.
For the perceived employer brand, it often means that the target market of a chosen employee group has little idea about it. What does it actually stand for? Are the company values noticable to potential employees? Simplified, you could also ask: "Do we speak the same language?"
It allows you to measure emotions efficiently. New neuroscientific methods illustrate how the employer brand is perceived and whether the company lives by it. How does the employer perceive himself and how do employees or applicants see him? Unfortunately, practice shows that oftentimes, the values determined for the purpose of candidate marketing, rarely match the actual values of the company.

Beware of "Employer Blending" caused by marketing lies

For many prospects, the intended employer branding turns into downright "employer blending" when promises made in glossy brochures are not honored and new employees work-to-rule after only a short time or quickly leave the company.
An unauthentic employer brand can be identified by high turn-over and low numbers of longterm employees. The companie's recruiters struggle with a very low employee recommendation rate and few truly qualified candidates. In monotonous job ads, topic such as "compensation packages", "fair wages" and "good promotion prospects" prevail. It does not only sound suspiciously like bonus payments, commissions and cancellation reserves, but primarily like volatile pay in an uncertain job. Job offers like this often have a "pleasant working atmosphere". However, in reality the atmosphere is rather chilly.

Close to 70 percent of all employees have only a poor emotional tie to their employer.

The same value propositions are made to all kinds of different target groups, because a dully staged employer brand is unable to illustrate fine distinctions and appears general and meaningless.

Gallup study finds minimal emotional attachment among employees

Even the motivation among the remaining employees is inhibited by fluctuation and constant staff turnover. The consequences are additional work and missed target attainments of entire departments. Every year, the consulting firm Gallup publishes a representative motivation study regarding the emotional attachment of employees. It confronts us with drastic numbers consistent with these findings. According to them, close to 70 percent of all employees have only a minimal emotional attachment to their employer. If we add the employees who have already written their two-week notice in their minds, we reach about 85 percent of all employment relations. These people would probably take a different, more fulfilling position rather sooner than later, if they could. Their potential is wasted.

With authentic communication, social media does not become a risk

Already today, social media plays a huge role in the perception of your company. You cannot stay out of social media; but you can influence what is being said. Terrible employer reviews in online port als are usually the results of mediocre or bad brand perception. A practical example: an employee can only be a s good as his manager employs, challenges, supports and leads him. If you give him an unwarranted bad evaluation after his resignation, he will do the same. Not even talking about the damaged reputation caused when the former employee talks bad about the company because unfortunately, none of the marketing claims from before hiring, turned out to be true. The result is that superficial employer branding in the area of social media is often due to pressure. Even though social media makes your reputation as an employer more clearly perceptible. You can be certain,that a candidate you're approaching with an offer, will google you to find out more about about your opinions and mindset. What is being said about you on social media is crucial. This applies to your entire company as well as individual actors in the HR department. Even the common rejection practice and the way companies deal with applicants must be reassessed.
If you have 100 applicants for one open position, you are technically forced to hand out 99 rejections. In my experience, it is a better alternative to open a talent pool to fall back on for the recruiting for different positions or simply at a later point in time. The quality of the applicant pool makes the difference- but the composition of the pool depends on the company's general image.

Markets are emotions: images are being created wherever the employer is under discussion

A generally positive opinion is only developed effectively when businesses see the point of positioning themselves as an employer with depth. To achieve this, companies set a strategic goal by means of emotional employer brand messages addressing all employed staff. Naturally, these inner values apply equally to communications directed outwards as well as internal communications. Nearly all perceivable values like corporate and leadership principles, mission statements, guidelines, compensation systems, principles, taboos, social commitment, environmental relations and collective behavior, contribute to the public image. Besides demand and supply, markets are also conversations and emotions. Whether in a private environment, on the customer market or on the market of employers, employer-related communications between people take place anywhere. The outer, visible values such as architecture, uniform clothing, appreciative approach, speech, rituals, legends, premiums, titles, company cars, commitment and business relations all provide a corresponding outer frame for the inner disposition and can reinforce the impact of the corporate cultures lived by.

Synchronizing people's emotional needs with company values

A good reputation is all about human, emotional needs as a foundation for the creation of a sensible corporate culture, including the way the company deals with its own and external employees or vendors. It's also about the ethical attitude it adopts. About production standards, the use of the products, as well as services a company adds in value to their clients and therefore society. Companies need to examine: What is the purpose of the business? From the answer, all concepts for change can be derived and synchronized through the interpretation of the neuroscientific analysis in reference to emotional aspects of the respective company value. In order for a good employer reputation to develop, employees need to express themselves favorable about the company first and foremost. The new reputation gains commitment, credibility and persuasiveness when communicated freely. Even more important in our increasingly digitalized world: a good reputation remains open to criticism, even in difficult times. For more recommendations by employees from within the company, it is best to work with the company's values.

For at least 80 percent of all decisions made by humans, the emotional component is the decisive driver.

Ask yourself: Why do our own employees not recommend you as an employer?

Unfortunately, it's not enough to merely take over one's own experiences form the past in order to meet the needs of the new generation of employees. You will need an open examination of the hidden emotions of your employer brand.
These emotions can be scientifically measured. Let's take generation Y. Search engine children primarily use the Internet to acquire knowledge, to draw their own conclusions and take responsibility. On the other hand, HR departments and superiors, oftentimes from the baby-boomer generation or generation x, urge them to think and act in the interest of business.
What you need is knowledge about the emotional needs of the people you want to approach. Because people from different generations have different needs outside of pure personal beliefs. Is the applicant a good fit for our company and vice versa, am I, as a candidate, what the company is looking for? Simultaneously, the message for the respective target group must commensurate the unifying corporate culture. After taking this hurdle, adapting to the ever-changing markets will become easier. Their new recruitment ads now also cover topics like ethics, culture & co.: "Research sustainable environmental technology with us", could be the next topic of future ads.
The intended target group must be precisely defined and analyzed to find out what kind of emotional message appeals to them. It could look like this: Which group of employees feels spoken to by which individual employer brand? And above all: Will potential candidates be more open towards the transfer of the employee value - the actual development of the brand?

The future involves turning unconscious thoughts into conscious thoughts

Four decisive basic types of unconscious perceptions play a big role. Our communications always strike a combination of autonomy, security, attachment and arousal. It's the same for communications coming from employers. To illustrate this further, let's take the security-type as an example of a candidate, exhibiting an additional strong manifestation in the areas of feeling and attachment, and confront him with our highly logical but also venturesomely chosen brand message. The desired effect will hardly set in with our target candidate. He is more likely to react to a light touch of the area family and tradition. For this, brandsync offers us a practical method to synchronize employer brand, human and media. The latest research findings from neuroscience and cognitive sciences give us a deeper understanding of the emotional drivers, subsequently allowing us to optimally match the values of human and company. For at least 80 percent of all decisions made by humans, the emotional component is the decisive driver.

The future of recruiting lies in the fine adjustment of the emitted values

After matching the company's values, it should not be a big challenge for internal recruiters to actively approach necessary candidates in the future. Their flexible and strong employer brand will help them to make a difference.
Let's imagine: In 2020, your HR department will have access to a huge talent pool for all areas of the company. It will be composed of people who have a general positive view of the company. They have all had or still have contact through their social media platforms, their own micro-career sites or they converse via the company's contact database in XING. Now, employees and departments will naturally put themselves in an authentic limelight and network within their own employee market. Job ads will not be thrown all over the market anymore, but transmitted on social networks through emotional, individual and targeted messages. The candidate already released all personal information to you. Finally, the recruiter can comfortably approach the desired candidate with an invitation to a personal meeting to get to know your company and be sure, that the match is right.

Clear Positions

Applicants and employees demand precise corporate values from employers. If you can't communicate them clearly, you will already fail at matching.

Whether a company is interesting to a candidate, is rarely determined by hard arguments. Many job applicants nowadays are not impressed by a company car and the prospect of other status symbols. Wages as well do not weigh as heavily in the decision for a job as they did in the past. What really matters are aspired corporate values and moral concepts and the candidates attitude about whether he would like to be part of this microcosm. Current and potential employees are in a permanent state of matching their own moral concepts with their employers values: do we think and act similarly? Is the company a good fit for me? In the past, the question of matching was more likely to be raised by the employer and the candidate had to persuade him. The winds have turned as the process is turned upside down in the course of demographic change. The job applicant gains more and more decision making power. The supply market turns into a demand market.

Candidates demand clear positions and become skeptical if they're absent.

Employees and job applicants want to know exactly whether the work, they'll be investing their time in and identifying themselves with, commensurates their own value concept. They raise two decisive questions regarding the sense of purpose: First: Can I make an immediate productive and positive contribution to the success of the company? And second: Can I make a positive contribution to matters of social responsibility such as sustainability?
In specific, this means that companies need to have an answer to the following question: How does the company treat it's employees? Do they do their bit to conserve resources during the manufacturing processes and in their products? Do they comply with labor laws and the protection of working conditions? How honest and sincere is the employer towards his employees? What is the management culture like? Which visions or missions did the employer define for himself?

The decision, which employer the applicant prefers, is made emotionally, un consciously and implicitly.

The quality of these responses account for the employer-of-choice status of the company - not only in reference to its applicants, but also to its current employees. They themselves are in a constant selection process, sometimes due to the fact that they never established an attachment to the company or identify only minimally with the business. It reduces loyalty to the employer brand and can cause serious personal shortcomings in the long-run due to high fluctuations of current employees and a lack of interested junior employees.
What exactly does that mean for companies? They need to develop honest, transparent, authentic and emotional relationships to their employees and potential candidates. In this context, culture and values are substantial components of in the internal and external representation of company and employer brand.
Just like in a newly developing relationship between two people, performance values and rational arguments have very little relevance. Similarly to the interpersonal relationship, the relationship between employer brand and employee develops subconsciously and implicitly. The first impression of the company arises unreflected, quick and with no cognitive effort just like the first intuitive impressions you get of a person you meet for the first time.

In this short time, a matching of values is already taking place, similar to a kind of emotional matching tool that checks the compatibility of attitudes and emotions. Candidates assess these transmitted corporate values, decode them implicitly and check for an overlap with their own values. The result determines the path ahead.

Articulating values precisely is time-consuming, but it's an employer's business card

Therefore, it's important to fortify these values with clear contents to give applicants a precise idea of the corporate mindset and culture. Successful matching of companies and candidates is essential, particularly in times of specialist shortages. Doing what's required to move up to an employer-of-choice sounds simple. But many businesses are reluctant to analyze their own corporate culture genuinely and truthfully and to discuss it openly and authentically.
More often than not, employers resort to exchangeable platitudes that are out of touch with reality. Many companies call themselves caring and strongly performance-oriented. A declared self-conception like that, can neither be taken seriously by current employees nor by job applicants. When the aspiration is authenticity and integrity, a large content-related effort is hidden beneath the short value message. Employers should not shun away from it. It's worth it.
Parallel to the situation on the job market, the discussions and topics regarding employer branding change. Now, the next generation raises massive questions and demands authentic answers. If you can't provide these answers, you forfeit credibility and attractiveness - and will be left behind in the years following.

Hans Hutten

Executive manager of business development for the Trio-Group Communication & Marketing GmbH in Mannheim. Business Administration degree, then various stations as a customer consultant for agencies. Employer branding expert and responsible for strategies for social responsibilities of companies.