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Top Story: Employer Branding

Employer branding in the mid-market segment

The course has been set: the company is expanding. New office premises have been leased, workplaces set up and necessary strategic decisions made. What's missing now are qualified staff. But as a mid-market company, how do you manage to fill vacancies and realise growth targets when there is an increasing shortage of skilled personnel?
Employer branding is often presented as a solution to this problem. The goal of being perceived as an attractive employer and standing out from the crowd is one that many competitors on the job market have in common. However, each of them have to find their own way there. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

 

Staff shortages mean loss of revenue

First, the facts: more than one in three companies (38%) are currently planning to appoint new staff. In contrast, only three percent of companies are planning to cut jobs, the lowest figure since the summer of 2011. However, the task of staff recruitment sometimes runs into serious difficulties. 59% of companies in the German mid-market segment consequently see staff shortages as a major or even crucial risk. These results appeared in January 2019 in the mid-market barometer published by the audit and consultancy company EY (Ernst & Young). 1,500 mid-market companies all over Germany with staff numbers ranging from 30 to 2,000 and revenues between 20 million and 1 billion euros were surveyed for this study. Along with detrimental losses in revenue, staff shortages can sap a company’s innovative strength in the long term.

 

Creativity is essential when recruiting qualified staff

Companies are facing fierce competition in the struggle to recruit the best staff. Thus, they are facing an ever-increasing challenge to paint the clearest, most distinctive picture of themselves as employers who stand out from all the others on the job market. However, companies are still far too likely to rely on traditional methods when recruiting skilled personnel. Along with word of mouth and advertisements published online or in print, many of them rely on social media. Yet a more creative approach is by all means advisable. The importance of showcasing the company as an attractive employer goes hand in hand with the task of investing in the development and upkeep of the company’s own employer brand.

The employer branding strategy is not new, but it is undoubtedly effective. The term first appeared in 1996 in the article “The Employer Brand” published by Tim Ambler and Simon Barrow in Journal of Brand Management. “Employer branding is an opportunity for those of us in the mid-market segment to step out of the shadow of the large corporations. However, we also need to show a lot of ingenuity when putting this strategy into practice, as the resources we can expend for this purpose are comparatively small,” says Dr Torsten Angermann.

 

All theory is abstract...

Recognising the importance of employer branding is one thing, but developing and implementing an individual strategy is a disproportionately tough challenge. How can companies succeed in closing the gap between theory and practice? First, it has to be decided what the company stands for as an employer (employer value proposition). Instead of taking place behind closed doors, this decision-making process should involve the entire workforce. However, staff are often the last to find out about the reorientation of their own brand, in which case the company may encounter a lack of acceptance under its own roof. In contrast, actively integrating staff into the process increases their identification with the brand and motivates them to consciously act as brand ambassadors outside the company.

 

Authenticity instead of deceptive packaging

To ensure long-term success, the management should consider what promises can be made both to staff and to potential applicants. Daydreams only have a short-term effect and can damage the brand when they collapse. The corporate values identified must be internalised and lived up to throughout the company. An honest analysis that reflects the strengths, goals, philosophy and other attributes of the company's culture is therefore crucial. This is the only way in which employers can stand out from the mass of competitors in the long term and attain high standards of authenticity and credibility.

 

Does every employee wish have to be granted?

Knowledge of what today’s employees expect from their companies is an important first step. It still happens all too often that insufficient attention is paid to factors such as social change. “For a long time, the most important attractions were big salaries and company cars; nowadays they have been joined by considerations such as work-life balance, meaning the ability to reconcile work, leisure and family life,” reports Dr Torsten Angermann. A study carried out by kununu in 2016 shows that what corporate leaders offer is not always in tune with what employees want (see diagram). Before taking hasty measures to meet these supposed expectations in full, employers need to devote considerable thought as to what they can actually deliver. Flexible working hours, for example, are right at the top of the wish list, but are not always possible in a company characterised by high levels of customer interaction. There should also be some discussion as to which of the target group's named aspects are actually important. Here surveys and workshops can help companies find out what potential applicants specifically find attractive in an employer and what motivates current employees to stay.

 

 

Appeal oriented on the target group

The question remains as to how employers enter into dialogue with their target group. It is essential that potential applicants have several channels available through which they can obtain sufficient information about the company and recognise the employer value proposition (EVP). These could include specially created career pages on the website, recruitment films or even trade fairs. What is important is that companies perform regular reviews to find out whether the messages they are sending are being received as they were intended. Consequently employer branding should never be a one-way street. Instead, active steps should be taken to obtain external feedback. This can include applicant surveys, the use of social media channels or external reviews of the corporate communication strategy. Ultimately, developing an employer brand is an ongoing – and thus never-ending – process. Any employer that ceases its efforts in this area runs the risk of losing its edge in the competition for the best personnel.

 

In our own interests

For Angermann, cultivating an employer brand has long since become an important cornerstone of the company's strategic orientation. “It has always been important to me that our employees identify strongly with the company and that there is a positive, motivational atmosphere. “The above-average length of service of many colleagues, some of whom have been working for Angermann since their training, shows that we are already doing a lot of things right,” says Dr Torsten Angermann.

 

The special “Angermann gene”

Anyone who decides to work for Angermann consciously requires more freedom and individuality. This is why young employees are given the opportunity to look after their own customers while they are still in training. Moreover, the goal is to instil the special “Angermann gene”. “Among other things, this describes how our employees tick. Many of them see themselves as entrepreneurs within the company. This requires initiative, a high degree of personal motivation and excellent team skills. We deliberately steer our own course when identifying suitable candidates,” says Dr Torsten Angermann. While many major companies treat recruitment as an automated process with standardised application procedures and recruitment tests, etc., Angermann still takes an individual approach.

 

In it for the long haul

The goal is not only to attract high-potential employees to Angermann, but also to offer them an incentive to stay. This is why several qualified training supervisors are available to deal with questions, problems and organisational matters throughout the training period. “Short channels, flat hierarchies and an invariably open ear for the worries and concerns of our staff – these are a fixed part of our corporate philosophy,” emphasises Dr Torsten Angermann.

Conclusion

Mid-market companies in Germany are finding it harder and harder to recruit suitable personnel. It is becoming increasingly important for companies to present themselves as attractive employers by using employer branding to make sure they stand out from the competition. To do this, the company must decide what it stands for and what values it wants to present to the outside world. It is essential that current staff are integrated into this process so that the company brand is not merely an empty shell. Developing an employer brand is an ongoing process that must constantly adapt to changes on the job market and in society.

 

Fazit

Mittelständische Unternehmen haben es in Deutschland immer schwerer, geeignete Fachkräfte zu finden. Es wird immer wichtiger, sich mittels Employer Branding als attraktiver Arbeitgeber zu präsentieren und von der Konkurrenz positiv abzuheben. Hierzu muss festgelegt werden, für was das jeweilige Unternehmen steht und welche Werte nach außen vermittelt werden sollen. Die bestehende Belegschaft ist in diesen Prozess unbedingt einzubeziehen, damit die Unternehmensmarke keine leere Hülle ist. Die Entwicklung eines Employer Brandings ist ein fortlaufender Prozess, der stetig den Veränderungen des Arbeitsmarktes und dem gesellschaftlichen Wandel angepasst werden muss.

 

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Christian Schön

Christian Schön
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+49 (0) 40 349 14-122

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Tanja Drecke

Tanja Drecke
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+49 (0) 40 349 14-247

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