In the ongoing battle to acquire and retain skilled workers, one of the most powerful weapons you can have in your arsenal is a strong employer brand.
This is the medium through which you communicate your organization's values to employees (both current and future) and demonstrate the experiences and opportunities available to your workforce. Consequently, it should be at the heart of your efforts to differentiate yourself from competitors and attract outstanding talent.
One of the key questions to ask when examining your employer branding strategy is whether you're making the best use of your most valuable asset: the people who already work for you.
Why employees are your best brand ambassadors
When job candidates are evaluating your company and forming their opinions about what it might be like to work for you, they’ll want to hear directly from those who can speak from personal experience.
There's a clear parallel to be drawn here with commercial marketing and branding activities. Customers know any company will always seek to present the best possible picture of itself and its products in the hope of making a sale, which is why more objective sources of information - such as reviews from past buyers and user-generated content - have become so important.
As far as employer branding and job applications are concerned, candidates will be just as interested in what your employees have to say as in what they can learn from your website, job descriptions and interviews.
This could prove particularly significant if you're facing a battle to recruit people with specific and highly sought-after skills in a tight labor market. For in-demand candidates that have the freedom to choose between your organization and several others, a powerful review from an existing employee could be exactly what you need to put you ahead of the competition.
How to turn employees into brand ambassadors
If this is an area where you feel your company could benefit from a different approach, consider taking the following steps.
Focus on positive employee experiences
Employee reviews and recommendations of your company need to come from the heart, which means people should feel genuinely positive about the organization and the time they've spent with you before you can expect them to become ambassadors.
Consider what steps you can take to improve the employee experience, which should naturally lead to people being more prepared to speak positively about you to others.
This might involve focusing on priorities such as:
Keep the workforce informed and up to date
Employee ambassadorship relies on a certain level of engagement with and knowledge of your organization, which means you need to keep the entire workforce in the loop with the company's latest developments and current priorities.
Make sure you're providing regular updates and maintaining open lines of communication with your staff. As well as encouraging people to become ambassadors, this will support broader performance and productivity by creating a sense of belonging and community within the organization.
Provide a platform for employees to express themselves
Workers can't do a good job of representing and talking about your employer brand without a proper platform. That's why it's important to give your people access to channels through which they can promote you.
Your first port of call is likely to be social media, which can be just as effective for employee ambassadorship as it can for marketing, brand-building and customer support. There are various ways you can use social networks to host and promote positive messages, such as encouraging workers to use company-wide hashtags when talking about life in your business.
Another option is to give people the opportunity to make contributions to your blog. This can be a good way to provide a level of freedom in terms of what employees want to talk about and how much depth they're able to go into. It also offers the chance for them to show some of their personality, which can help to humanize your employer brand.
Encourage people to contextualize their experiences
A common reason for jobseekers to look at staff reviews when evaluating a potential employer is to get a nuanced picture of certain aspects of your employee value proposition.
People with young children, for example, might want to find out more about your flexible working provisions and how you've helped other parents find a good balance between their jobs and their family commitments.
With this in mind, it's important to think about how employee ambassadors can help to engage prospective recruits by putting their experiences in a broader context. Communicate with your workforce to seek out opportunities for people to tell interesting stories that will resonate with candidates.
This can be a powerful way to go beyond usual recruitment methods and provide a platform for the individuals that make your business run. Focusing on human stories can help to distinguish your employer brand at a time when competition for talent is high.