Your employer brand is what people feel about working for your organisation. A compelling brand can make it easier for you to attract and retain talent. A lousy one can put off potential candidates, while making existing employees count down the days until they can leave.

What then makes a great employer brand, and how can your organisation develop one?

Every year, Randstad interviews executives from organisations with consistently strong ratings in the Randstad Employer Brand Research. The interviews are published in our annual Standing Out and made available as individual case studies on

This year’s Standing Out interviews bring together Merck, Colruyt Group, BT Hungary, TAP Air Portugal and the University of New South Wales. We also spoke to Jan Denys, Director Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at Randstad Belgium, who is a leading global expert on employer branding. The interviews were carried out before the full global impact of the COVID-19 outbreak became clear. However, the insights in areas such as workforce welfare and engagement are now more relevant than ever.

Five key take-aways come through strongly from this year’s Standing Out interviews.

1. let them know the real you

An emotional connection can do more to broaden your appeal to talents than dry facts and figures.

“We’ve always been very good at talking about technology, innovation and progress,” says Chris Dinwiddy, Merck Group’s Global Head of Employer Branding and Social Media Recruitment. “Now, we want to take this to a new level by encouraging our employees to tell their stories about what brought them to Merck, what inspires them, and what it feels like to work here. In other words, we want to talk about who we are, not just what we do.”

“We want the brand we project to convey how we see ourselves…moving from what has been quite direct and technical communications to a warmer and more emotionally-connected approach,” says Marcus Clark, Head of Talent Acquisition at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

2. actions speak louder than words

When developing their employer brand, a lot of organisations focus on telling a good story, without thinking about what lies behind that. In reality, what really counts is engaging with employees, creating a great place to work, and living up to your promises.

“If your staff feel like they’re treated well, they’ll tell their friends, and customers will see them smiling. That is the most authentic and convincing way to project your employer brand. Yes, good marketing and communications can support this, but only when the foundations of culture and behavior are in place,” says Randstad’s Jan Denys.

3. customer experience and employee experience go hand-in-hand

Employer branding has a huge influence on your commercial brand, and vice-versa.

“Our commercial and employer brands are highly complementary, and managed in an integrated way. A great employee experience is the key to providing the unforgettable customer experience we want to offer,” says Pedro Ramos, Group Human Resources Director, at TAP Air Portugal.

“When customers see smiling, friendly staff, they will want to come back. Similarly, we’ve seen how happy staff can encourage candidates to apply. A good working atmosphere is a visible expression of your culture and values,” says Kathelijn Vanhaute, Employer Branding Marketeer at Colruyt Group.

4. do your research

In a tight labour market, it’s important to know what could give your organization an edge.

BT’s (British Telecommunications) Regional Operations Centre in Hungary has been carrying out in-depth research into what different generations and cohorts of talent want from their careers. It’s using the findings to develop targeted messaging around these various demands. For example, by highlighting the gap between what school and college leavers thought they could expect to be paid and what the company could offer people with appropriate skills and knowledge, it has been able to boost its appeal among Gen Z talent.

For UNSW, the key finding from its talent research is the extent to which good people attract good people. “While we had in the past highlighted the attractions of the lifestyle here in Sydney, the people in our talent orbit are mainly looking at who they’ll be working with, and how they can come together to make the difference they all want,” says UNSW’s Marcus Clark.

5. be patient

A lot of companies want immediate results from their employer branding initiatives. If they don’t get them, they give up. In reality, it takes time to create a compelling brand.

Colruyt Group is a great example. When the Randstad Employer Brand Research began around 20 years ago, barely 20% of Belgians would consider a job with the company. Since then, Colruyt has sought to improve its appeal gradually and sustainably. This commitment to the long game means that Colruyt’s talent attraction score has more than doubled to around 45%.

“Patience is key. Strengthening our employer brand has taken a great deal of perseverance and ongoing investment over the past decade and more, but we’re now seeing the results,” says David Cornelis, who is responsible for Colruyt Group’s Center of Expertise for Talent Acquisition and Labor Market Research.

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