The importance of employer branding
Strategies to recruit and retain employees
Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. | December 2021/January 2022 Footnote
Editor's note: Updated November 29, 2021
There’s always been a competition to hire top talent, but with the number of open jobs today, employees have more options than ever before.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, leaving 10.4 million open positions, a decrease from the record-breaking 11.1 million open positions in July. It’s being called “The Great Resignation” and professional services firms in the Midwest and South are being hit hardest.
CPA firms are acutely at risk during this time. A growing shortage of accountants has been brewing for more than a decade, as many baby boomers reach retirement age and fewer young people are interested in becoming CPAs.
But it’s more than that. Midcareer employees between the ages of 30 and 45 — those with the skills many CPA firms rely on — are driving resignations.
Amid all the bad news, here’s some good news: It’s possible to counter the forces that make it hard for accounting firms to recruit top talent.
In this article, I share how an employer brand can benefit your firm. I’ll dive into what an employer brand is, how to build your employer branding strategy and how to promote it to attract high-quality candidates.
What is an employer brand?
Your employer brand
is your reputation and visibility among potential employees, recruiters and job boards.
While your employer brand must work in sync with your firm’s overall brand, each has very different purposes. Your overall firm brand
is your reputation and visibility among potential clients and referral sources. It is optimized to attract new clients and business.
Today, corporate executives are very interested in employer branding. A recent study found that 41% of companies have formal employer branding initiatives, while 94% of professional services firms plan to maintain or increase their investment.
Designing an effective employer brand
Your employer brand strategy outlines how you want your firm to be viewed in a competitive talent marketplace.
First, take note of what your brand says about your firm right now. Audit the career section of your website. Monitor your company profile on LinkedIn and Glassdoor — what are potential employees saying about you? What information is being shared when candidates search for open positions?
This audit is a critical first step in designing your strategy. Here are four additional items to consider as you develop your plan.
Your employer brand must support your overall business strategy.
Not every firm treats talent the same way. To be profitable, some firms acquire talent at the lowest possible cost. Others invest in hiring new employees of the highest caliber. Clearly, these two scenarios demand very different employer branding strategies. Be sure your employer brand strategy advances your firm’s particular business model for long-term success.
Research your audiences.
Research is the best way to identify messages that will resonate with your target audience. Most firms target three primary audiences in their recruiting strategy: potential recruits, recent hires and talent referral sources.
Long-term employees and recent hires can offer a valuable perspective on your firm’s culture. As you interview these individuals, consider asking questions like:
Your brand must be authentic and consistent with how you treat your clients.
- How is your firm viewed in the marketplace?
- What sets you apart from competitors?
- How do people learn about your firm?
- What tips the scale for your firm?
- What is the employee experience at your firm?
- What is the current culture like?
An employer brand can be somewhat aspirational, but it’s hard to live a lie. It should be in sync with your overall firm brand and how you run your business and treat your employees.
Set your firm apart from top competitors.
Once you have identified what sets your firm apart from your competitors, take that knowledge and develop a positioning statement. It describes key characteristics of the employees you are seeking and why they should choose your firm over a competitor.Remember, to be effective, these facts must be accurate, provable and relevant to your target audiences.
Be sure to hone your messaging and differentiators to speak directly to your target audiences. Each piece of new content — whether it is for your website, blogs or social media — should advance your firm’s employer brand and positioning statement.
Promoting your employer brand
You’ve conducted your research. You articulated your company culture and secured buy-in from management. How do you turn your strategy into real results?
Your website is the single most important tool for making your brand visible.
It communicates both your firm’s brand and employer brand.
Dedicate a section of your website to career opportunities. Recruiters and potential employees will visit this part of the website first, but they will also scour the rest of the site.
Today, prospective employees expect companies to articulate their commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, corporate responsibility and community involvement. Brands that are not transparent raise concerns among many candidates as to their fit within your organization. Those with options will look elsewhere for a position.
Be sure to promote employees’ contributions. Share webinars or articles your directors and teams write for industry publications. Not only does this content position your firm as a thought leader in the industry, but it also gives candidates an inside look at how you celebrate success at all levels. It illustrates the impact they can make on the industry at your firm.
Don’t forget social media
Optimize your employer brand with social media. When building social media campaigns, pay close attention to your target audiences and what platforms they use.
LinkedIn has become the top resource for job seekers of all ages. Prospective employees search for open positions and research potential employers and teammates. Create regular, engaging content that candidates can follow to bring your company culture to life.
Don’t forget to look beyond LinkedIn. Creative organizations recognize that TikTok is popular among young employees. Consider what content you can create that is authentic to your firm’s brand and culture. If your firm is conservative, TikTok might not be the best channel for you.
Midcareer employees also turn to Twitter and Facebook to research potential employers. Tailor your message and content to leverage the strengths of each platform. Use search engine optimization tactics to monitor engagement with your content and refine your strategy as necessary.
Across all platforms, be sure to include pictures of your team that show diversity and high energy. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.
Setting your firm up for success
Your top competitors are only too happy to hire your best employees.
While increased salary is a factor in The Great Resignation, it’s not the only factor. Employees want to feel good about where they work, and a strong employer brand can be an incentive to join and stay with your firm over time.
If your employer branding strategy is well-conceived, you should expect to see an increase in your firm’s bottom line. A strong recruiting strategy saves on hiring costs, and you will attract higher quality candidates who will increase your firm’s profitability.
What’s more, a strong brand and company culture will impact employee turnover, morale and productivity.
Your employer brand is a roadmap. It shows candidates — and clients — where your firm finds itself today. And it lays out your future — a future that speaks directly to the heart of prospective employees and future hires.
Lee Frederiksen is the managing partner at Hinge, a strategy, branding and marketing agency for professional services firms. You may read more of his articles at hingemarketing.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Invest in — and keep — your future leaders
The MNCPA Leadership Academy is an immersive leadership development program that supports your firm’s pipeline of future leaders — and employee retention. It equips emerging leaders to deliver their best value and drive future success for the entire firm.
Keep your best people. Invest in them and send them to the 2022 Leadership Academy, which starts June 27.
Visit www.mncpa.org/academy for details.