B2B organisations aren't making the most of employer brand
The past two years have seen a huge shift in workplace expectations. Purpose has taken centre-stage as workers look to join organisations whose values match their own. But has it been enough?
In light of what’s become known as ‘The Great Resignation’ or ‘The Great Reshuffle’, employer brand has become an even more critical element of the core B2B marketing toolkit as businesses look to use it to attract and retain the best talent.
And quite rightly so. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 60% of workers will choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values. Young Millennials and Gen-Z employees are increasingly purpose-driven in the way they approach their careers. As they seek out new career opportunities, they want to know what a brand stands for and how they leverage employee experience.
A strong employer brand that communicates a company’s purpose, beliefs, and culture can go a long way to building brand stand out in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. But while it can positively affect the attraction, retention, and motivation of top employees, our recent ‘State of B2B Brand Building’ research report revealed that B2B organisations still aren’t doing enough to optimise its potential.
Walking the talk
We found that, while 62% of B2B brands had a formal employer brand strategy in place, views on its effectiveness remained mixed. B2B organisations have turned to brand as a point of distinction in an increasingly competitive marketplace. But it seems that they are neglecting employee experiences in the brand building process. And perhaps tellingly, the B2B marketing leaders we surveyed placed much less emphasis on using brand marketing to attract and retain talent compared to attracting and retaining customers.
This is reflected in how today’s B2B employer brands – despite their relative effectiveness at transforming company culture and improving the consistency of internal comms – are still failing to address more people-centric business outcomes. We found that 45% of B2B marketing leaders felt improving employee belonging and inclusion through their employer brand was only “fairly effective”, while 24% said, “not effective at all”. Its role in improving job satisfaction was also deemed “not very effective” by over one-third (36%) of respondents.
B2B brands need to be more authentic and purpose-driven in today’s post-pandemic marketplace. Buyers and workers alike are paying close attention to the organisations that stay true to their values while avoiding those that don’t. Word spreads quickly and misleading claims about employee-centric initiatives can easily damage brand trust and reputation in market.
The business case for a comprehensive employer brand
A strong employer brand not only impacts employees and candidates but, as suggested above, prospective buyers too. Many B2B organisations have a sizeable human service element to their offering that acts as a multi-channel direct line to buyers, prospects, and suppliers. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity to promote the brand explicitly and implicitly through tone, expression, and attitude.
This is especially significant as an increasing number of buyers look to gauge employee wellbeing and satisfaction as part of the consideration process. They want to understand the stability of the teams they’ll be working with as well as an organisation’s attitudes towards building effective working relationships.
The stronger the employer brand, the stronger the shared sense of purpose and loyalty employees are likely to have with the brand – and the more consistently and positively they’ll present the brand. But while a comprehensive employer brand can influence whether an organisation makes the cut in a procurement process, our research shows that B2B organisations aren’t making the most of this opportunity.
Putting employees at the heart
While customer insights are the foundation of any external brand building programme, we’ve found that employer brands don’t benefit from the same careful approach. Just under 80% of the B2B marketing leaders we surveyed collect insights from external customers and prospects on a 'weekly, monthly, or quarterly' basis. On the other hand, a worrying 48% admit they gather employee insights 'occasionally, rarely, or never'.
Organisations need to be more effective in seeking and listening to employee viewpoints in both external brand building and employer brand programmes if they are to reap the full benefits. Part of the challenge lies with internal ownership of the employer brand and the allocation of responsibilities to ensure it stays authentic and relevant.
Sadly, 57% of our respondents say that Marketing and HR are only “somewhat” aligned in building employer brand strategies. Our results show that contrary to brand building best practices, the leadership team (51%) and Marketing (49%) are the two functions setting company beliefs, values, and culture over those with the best insight into how current employees feel – the HR department was only included in 33% of responses. This suggests that departments are failing to consult with one another when drawing up their employer brands. Or worse yet, are yet to find an agreement on who owns the employer brand strategy.
Going forward, B2B brands will need to leverage employee experience by regularly measuring satisfaction, expectations, and sense of inclusion and belonging to build a healthy brand. A strong employer brand is accessible, authentic, and perfectly aligned to the realities of company culture. Get that right and it can provide a foundation for positive business outcomes across talent acquisition, employee retention, brand advocacy, and reputation in the marketplace.
While we can’t say if current employer brand strategies are plagued by the hangover of employee advocacy schemes of old, our research has revealed that B2B organisations still have a long way to go before they make the most of employer brand.
To learn more about the opinions, challenges, and priorities of 500 B2B marketing leaders worldwide, download our exclusive report here.