Winning the Talent Wars: Defining Your Employer Brand

Defining your employer brand and having a clear value proposition is crucial to setting yourself apart as an employer.

How to define your employer brand

Defining your employer brand

If you want to set yourself apart as an employer, you have to define your employer brand in terms of a clear value proposition.

Decide who/what you want to be as an employer and tell your story loud and clear, not just in terms of mission, vision, and culture; but specifically in terms of the work that your organization accomplishes, how, and the value proposition you have to offer to the employees who do that work.

That means you need a purposeful staffing strategy. After all, the value proposition you offer to some employees may be very different from the value proposition you offer to others.

How are you going to get all the work done? How many ways do you have of employing people? What are the different categories of jobs and the corresponding roles and responsibilities?

How many ‘traditional’ employees do you need? Full-time; exclusive; uninterrupted; and permanent/long-term.

Versus how many ‘contingent’ workers? Short-term/temporary; consultants and other gig workers; people who may be shared with other employers; may come and go and come back again; and work highly variable schedules when their availability meets your needs.

How easily can people flow between the contingent roles into ‘traditional’?

How many ‘on site’ (and therefore local) employees do you need?

Versus how many remote (who can be from anywhere)?

Who are you trying to draw into your long-term core group?

Versus short-term high-turnover ‘just-a-job,’ ‘grind-it-out,’ positions?

What happens when ‘traditional’ employees, potential long-term core groupers leave?

Do you have means of flexible retention (part-time, flex-time, or periodic work), methods for staying in touch, efforts at recruiting, and an easy process for people to return?

Overall, you need an integrated staffing strategy that optimizes a mix of different ways to employ people. The more ways you have to employ people, the better.

For each role, you need to frame a clear value proposition:

The employer side of the transaction is always the same: Employers want out of every single labor unit (an hour of productive capacity) to get as much of the highest priority work done as well as possible as fast as possible, consistently, with the least possible cost or friction.

The employee side of the transaction is more complex and variable: Employees want to earn money, have favorable working conditions, and make a positive contribution to the mission.

Dream Job Factors

Every employer value proposition is based on some balancing calculus, mixing and matching on each side of the ledger various aspects of eight defining factors. We call them ‘the dream job factors’:

  1. Performance-based compensation: How much is baseline pay and benefits? Are they comparable to your competition? Are there clearly defined opportunities to earn more based on extra-mile effort and extra-mile results?
  2. Supportive leadership: Will I have an immediate manager or supervisor who provides regular support, guidance, and direction? Will I have a manager who makes expectations clear and provides regular feedback? Helps with resource planning, troubleshooting, and problem-solving? Provides regular recognition and reward for extra mile performance?
  3. Role and responsibilities: What is the nature of the actual work itself? Is it heavy lifting? Repetitive? Tedious? Or interesting and variable? Is it mission-driven? Do the outcomes produced by the work have positive results that are meaningful? Are we cleaning bedpans to make human beings more comfortable? Are we digging ditches to make money for billionaires? Or are we adding up numbers in a spreadsheet for charities? Or are we directing musical theater for schoolchildren?
  4. Location and workspace: Do we have to work in a particular place in a specific geography? Or can we work anywhere? Sometime? All of the time? And if we have to be in a particular place, is it comfortable and pleasing? Do we have any control over shaping that space?
  5. Scheduling flexibility: Is it full time, extra time, double/triple time? Or part-time/flex time? Year-round or seasonal? Is there any ability to set one’s own schedule? Start times? End times? Breaks? Occasional scheduling accommodations?
  6. Training and development: Are there formal and informal opportunities to build new, relevant knowledge and skills? Technical skills? Broad transferable (soft) skills? Is there a chance to become a deep subject matter expert? Or maybe to build a wide repertoire?
  7. Relationships at work: Is the workplace welcoming and inclusive? Are there opportunities to build productive and mutually supportive working relationships with colleagues, leaders, managers, clients, customers, and vendors? Access to decision-makers?
  8. Autonomy and creative freedom: Is it clear, exactly, what is up to employees and what is not? What is required in every job? And what is allowed? Where do employees have discretion in the who/why/what/how/when/where of their work and work conditions?

Very few, if any, employers can provide every employee with optimal choices in all the dream job factors. But you have to offer something. The less you offer in one category, the more you must offer in another: One job may offer only heavy lifting with very little autonomy or creative freedom. Then the question will be simple: What do you offer? Scheduling flexibility? Location flexibility? Supportive leadership? You have to offer something. Every role is different, but the value proposition of every single role will be made up of a mix/match and balancing of these eight factors.

Who you seek to attract — what sort of talent and from where — will differ from role to role. Some positions require specific training, credentials, or other criteria. Others do not. Once you know who you are seeking for what roles — what sort of talent and from where — you can start delivering relentlessly an attraction message calibrated to attract the right applicants for the right roles.

Yes, tell YOUR STORY: Tell people about your organization’s mission, values, and culture. But building a truly compelling recruiting message is by going beyond your story. You’ve got to tell every applicant the story of exactly where your organization will fit in THEIR STORY: What is the specific value proposition for every potential employee for that particular role based on mixing, matching, and balancing the eight dream job factors?

Bruce Tulgan
Bruce Tulgan is a best-selling author and CEO of RainmakerThinking, the management research, consulting, and training firm he founded in 1993. All of his work is based on 27 years of intensive workplace interviews and has been featured in thousands of news stories around the world. His newest book, “The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done” ( Harvard Business Review Press) is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major booksellers. Follow Tulgan on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his Website at: