Crafting your employer brand: How to stand out

HR professional leaning in on conference table and smiling while discussing employer brand ideas

There's no question that today’s job market is constantly evolving and the rules around attracting talent have changed, especially for small to mid-sized business (SMBs). Today’s job seekers are looking for more than just a paycheck — they're looking for an experience, and that experience needs to be reflected in your employer brand to bring in the people who will make a difference at your business.

The problem is that many SMBs haven't put as much focus on their employer brand as they did in the past. This is primarily due to the many demands put on HR professionals, as a result of the current climate. That said, though, it’s no longer really an option for SMBs to have a brand that stands-out — it is a priority.  In fact, based on a recent study from and UKG, recruiting, onboarding, and HR administration rated as the number one areas where SMB’s are placing their focus.

These priorities require HR leaders to have strategies in place to showcase their employer brand in ways that highlight both the practical elements people are interested in and the personal elements that differentiate their organization from the crowd. However, according to the same study, many HR leaders in the SMB space struggle with connecting HR work to business strategies, making it even more difficult to know how to make their employer brand stand out. Exploring the practical and personal elements that are important to job seekers today and taking action can make all the difference, so let's do that together.


The State of the HR Function in Small to Mid-Sized Businesses employer brand banner


Practical elements of an employer brand

Understanding the practical elements that people care about when evaluating employers can help HR leaders put strategies in place to align their company brand with what job seekers want and expect form employers. There are many practical elements to consider, but here are three to get you started:

Equitable, fair, and competitive pay

It goes without saying that applicants want their pay to be accurate and on time, however SMBs need to ensure compensation is equitable, fair, and competitive. Compensation reviews can help identify where you have gaps, so you can put measures into place that ensure your employees are being paid equitably and fairly across the organization.

Equally important is ensuring your organizations compensation and salary structures are competitive in the market and match with the job title and descriptions being posted. Benchmarking where your organization is in relation to what others in your industry are doing around compensation, will give you a good idea where you stand. When job seekers are looking for employment, they will weed out organizations that do not align with what others in the industry are doing when it comes to how they pay their employees.

Total benefit offerings

As I mentioned earlier, for job seekers today it's about more than just a paycheck. They want to know the total benefits offered when coming to work at your organization. While health, dental, and vision insurance, PTO, and 401k offerings are all critical parts of the total benefits offering, job seekers today want and expect more. They want to know what you offer above and beyond the typical workplace benefits. This may include things like flexible work options, unlimited PTO, employee perks programs, mental health and wellness programs, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).  SMBs need to take a good look at what additional benefits they can offer to attract new talent and be creative and clear with how they showcase all their benefit offerings to really differentiate their brand in the market.

Growth and professional development

Job seekers today want to know what their potential employer is doing to help them grow and develop professionally. Because of this, SMBs need to be clear on how their organization is proactively retaining their top performers.

A well laid out plan on how your organization is communicating goals and expectations, setting people up for the next stage in their career, and  how you empower your people to succeed should all be a part of your overall branding.  How your organization views talent makes a difference in employee productivity, job satisfaction and retention and affects the quality of employees that you attract.

Personal elements of an employer brand

Beyond the practical elements, job seekers want to know that the organization has a vested interest in them personally. This is where HR Leaders need to shift their mindset and put a focus on what their brand says about how they serve their people. Let’s explore:

People-focused culture

What your culture says about the organization will either bring people to your organization or keep them away. Creating a people-focused culture is one of the most important things HR leaders can do to build a more attractive brand. Your culture should show your existing and prospective employees the time, effort, and commitment the organization is placing on putting them first.

Your brand should reflect why people love working at your company and why they stay. Pulse surveys and stay surveys are a great way to capture this kind of information and will help you to uncover areas where you excel and where you have roadblocks standing in the way of creating a people focused culture. Establishing a culture that is diverse, inclusive, and founded on trust is the cornerstone of building a brand that puts people first and entices applicants to want to be a part of, and more importantly stay.

One way to promote your culture in your brand is to put a human element into the applicant experience, giving applicants a good idea of how you foster a people focused culture. Having videos or photos of employees working at your organization can capture the attention of applicants visiting your career site and entice them to take action to submit their resume to your organization. What employees say about your organization speaks to your reputation and impacts your brand in the market.

Personalized experiences

Creating a personalized employee experience is no long a nice to have; it's a must in the workplace today. To do that you must first understand the wants and needs of your employees, what motivates them, their interests, how they are feeling, and their goals personally and professionally. This may look different for every organization and every individual, but it will help create an experience that shows you are invested in each person who works for you. Placing people at the center of your business and aligning your technology strategy with what matters most on their life-work journey showcases that you value them, are listening  to what they care about, and are acting on it to build a culture that puts people first.

Furthermore, because this is an applicant-driven market, it is equally important that SMBs create a personalized applicant experience. HR leaders need to modernize their recruitment process, making it easier for them to apply and providing them with guidance throughout the process. Easy to navigate technology for job searching, resume posting, scheduling, and status updates that's fully mobile accessible can minimize the risk of applicants not applying at your organization. Tips and guides on how to be successful in resume writing, the interview process, and on the job at your organizations should be posted on your career site and speak volumes about your brand versus the competition. Not only will this make it easier for applicants, but it also sets the tone for what they can expect when they come to work for your organization.

Identity and connection

Creating a brand that people can connect and identify with is critical to the labor force today. Workers want to know that the company they are working for or plan to work for aligns with what is important to them, shares common values and beliefs, and allows them to be their authentic self. Your brand is how job seekers perceive the “personality” of your organization, the experiences they will have working there, and how they will fit in your organization and your people.

Because connection is so important, HR leaders must look at their current work environment and encourage employees to engage with their peers and their work. Peer collaboration networks, communities of interest, recognition programs, and mentorship programs are important to bring social connections to the workplace. Understanding what your employees need to feel connected starts by hearing their voice and what is important to them. Recognizing employee voices and taking action based on what they say can help SMBs grow and champion connected and meaningful experiences for your people, showing the market that you care.

Conclusion: Employer brands get remembered, for better or worse

The face organizations put on the company brand — either good or bad — will be something people will remember and connect with for many years.  With the rise of comments on Glassdoor and other social media sites, SMBs need to have a solid strategy and ensure how people view their company is going to make them want to come and work at your organizations, and importantly stay.

Remember, we're now competing in an era of choice where people have a variety of options around where and how they work. You've got to look at all the places in your employee lifecycle where you have a chance to stand out and then communicate those with your employer brand using modern technology to maximize your impact. Check out this ebook for more on taking the right steps needed to be the employer of choice for today's workforce.

Get the ebook