Lipstick on: the importance of design in an Employer Brand
"Hi Ricky, the client would like us to take the EVP to the designed and polished ‘Lipstick on’ phase."
This was a brief I received last year, and it pretty much sums up what some may think the role design plays in an employer brand – creating a polished look that attracts the right talent. And it got me thinking…
Back in the day
I used to think the purpose of design is about making something beautiful but, in context of an employer brand, it's much more than simply applying a layer of lipstick. For me, it's about understanding the needs of the employer and satisfying those needs effectively through visual communications.
My introduction to design goes way back to design college where I trained as a graphic designer. I learnt about design as a form of visual communication which is, in essence, about striking the right balance between style (visual appearance) and substance (key message) to communicate the value or action.
Employer Brand vs Employer Branding
During my freelancing days I wasn't very familiar with the term employer brand or what it involved. Most of my work focussed on outward-facing brand and marketing communications – helping brands make their products or services more appealing to customers.
An employer brand is similar in the sense of how an organisation is perceived, not as a product or service but as an employer. Employer branding refers to the strategy and actions an organisation takes to influence those perceptions. It is in those actions, driven by a robust strategy, that design can shape these perceptions.
The role of design
In the field, my responsibility is centred around the creation of advertising campaigns and marketing materials. This includes but not limited to a training program print ad, a careers website landing page, an early talent brochure, an employer brand logo, a welcome pack for new joiners, recruitment campaign banner ads, social media content for a teaser campaign or pull-up banners for a graduate career event.
The list is varied but every design at every touchpoint is anchored to the employer's values and their brand guidelines. This involves working alongside people in marketing and brand, and together we would shape the brand's vision and articulate these types of communications, with the aim to help drive candidates or employees to join or stay at the respective organisation.
Beyond something visual
As I grew more into my current role, I quickly learnt that maintaining a strong employer brand isn't restricted to just visually communicating the benefits of why your company is or will be a great place to work. It's also about creating meaningful experiences that reflect the values of the employer, what an employer has to offer and what that means to candidates and employees.
Employers understand that candidates expect each touchpoint—from attraction to onboarding—to be consistent, clearly defined and reflective of the company's values. Candidates who are satisfied with their experience are twice as likely to become a customer of the hiring organisation compared to unsatisfied candidates (53 percent vs. 25 percent).
Creating meaningful experiences
I was involved in a pilot project to strengthen the attraction of our client by improving the candidate experience, with particular attention to unsuccessful applicants. The thinking was that even though they were unsuccessful, many screened candidates were suitable and improving their experience would make them more likely to feel like they had been treated fairly and would be receptive to considering another role with them. Job applicants who do not receive a job offer are 80 percent more likely to apply again if they already had a positive impression of the hiring organisation.
Our solution was to redesign their emails across each key stage of the candidate's application lifecycle so they would receive more modern, personalised and relevant content aligned to the company's values. This project has so far generated a very positive result and the client is planning to roll out these emails within their markets.
Design is multi-disciplinary
Interior design is also another area where design can help strengthen an employer brand. The idea here is that if you can express your company values in the character of your workspace then that too can generate a positive experience that will lead to higher attraction rates. Approximately 90% of job candidates declare that one of the key elements when selecting an employer is the interior of the office where they would be working.
John Sellery, group MD at M Moser Associates says:
"The workplace is an expression of the company's brand and values. This is not just an expression through 'graphics' or 'slogans' but rather a development of environments that truly express a brand and its values through the quality, character and attributes of the workplace."
An example of this is demonstrated through the same client who redesigned their entire office space to reflect the values of their organisation. By opening up informal spaces and introducing hot desks, it allowed for a more collaborative environment which was something valued by their employees.
One employee said:
"I have a team of four and having these informal spaces allows me to have a quiet one-to-one conversation so I can really connect with my team mates. This is something I value a lot."
The impact of design
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies are under immense pressure to continually stand out to attract and retain the right talent. The impact of a strong employer brand can influence this outcome and according to a LinkedIn study it can lead up to 50% more qualified applicants and a 28% decrease in an organisation’s turnover.
The role of design in an employer brand is varied and not always visible but if it can create a positive on-brand experience then it will strengthen an employer brand which will lead to increased attraction and retention rates for your organisation.
For employer brand managers looking to strengthen their employer brand, design should be considered more than just a means to create a polished look but as a solution to create a desired outcome.