Employer Branding Online – A War for Talent

Written by Masters Student at Lund University

What is it?

Employer branding is a strategic concept from the field of marketing – especially brand management – which is used to position a company as an attractive employer and stand out from the competition. It labels or ‘brands’ a company’s reputation as an employer (Barrow & Mosley, 2005). The term appeared the first time in the Journal of Brand Management in 1996 when Tim Ambler (Grand Metropolitan Senior Fellow at the London Business School) and Simon Barrow (Chairman of the management communication consultants People in Business) wrote their research paper “The employer brand” “to tests the application of brand management techniques to human resource management” (Ambler & Barrow, 1996:185). According to the later (1996), employer branding is “the package of functional, economic and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with the employing company” (Ambler & Barrow, 1996:187). In the paper they state that an employer brand is similar to a traditional brand and needs both personality and positioning. The conclusion of their research was, that companies with explicit employer branding strategies recruit future talents both more easily and in a higher quantity. Mosley & Barrow (2005:I) also confirm it, stating „skilled, motivated employees are as vital to their commercial success as profitable customers and apply the principles of branding to their own organization“.

The goal of employer branding is to create loyal employees that represent, together with the employer brand, the core values of the company (Moroko & Uncles, 2009). This will “attract the best people (…) helping the organisation to achieve its business goals” (Moroko & Uncles, 2009). Hence, the companies try to bond qualified and committed employees, through high identification and an emotional engagement, to stay with the company long-term (own translation from German) (Haldemann & Elbel, 2010). A survey conducted by Universum Communications with HR-, (Employer) Branding-, PR- and Marketing Managern from 875 companies worldwide revealed that 69% of the companies aim is to secure long-term recruitment needs (Universum Communications, 2009).

Why is it important?

The first reason why employer branding becomes more and more important is the worldwide comparability. Neutral (2012) claims, that “computerisation, Internet and social media have created global comparability”. The latter and the change from a mass market to a market of brands, made qualification and knowledge decisive production factors.

Moreover there are a lot of pressures in the economic world that currently generate a high interest in employer branding and draw a lot of attention to the topic. Moroko and Uncles (2010:1) found employer branding to be a critical management tool. They argue that the emergence of new economic powers like Brazil, China and India combined with the aging work forces in the European Union, United States and Japan “have increased the competition for skilled workers”. In addition to that and even more recently, the current economic slowdown as well as cost pressure and the demand for increasing productivity has made it a decisive factor to get the most talented people in the right jobs (Moroko & Uncles, 2010). Hence, the ‘human capital’ is a highly important factor and the undertaking of excellent work capital in terms of talented employees with a low labour turnover rate is crucial for a successful business (LimeSoda, 2013).

In addition to that the Employer Brand International’s (EBI) 2012/2013 Global Research study established from a world wide survey, that „39% of companies plan to increase their investment in employer branding initiatives in 2013“ (Minchington, 2013).

Why use it in Social Media?

In the global ‘War for Talent’ social media is the fishhook to attract the ideal employee. Sadly this instrument is mainly used for marketing purposes, rather than for important employer branding, which too often omitted But, Social Media or the so-called collaborative/participatory web2.0 gives not only customers and consumers new possibilities; the new multimedia channels offer a whole new range both for the people and company side. According the MindJumpers (2012) the behaviour of consumers and employees has changed with the new marketing tools. Everything is more interactive and the communication went from a traditional push messages monolog to a dialog with the tendency to “rely and trust peer recommendations” (Mindjumpers, 2012).

„In the age of social media and with sites like Glassdoor out there, ensuring brand authenticity is all the more critical. Candidates and employees no longer tell one friend about their recruitment experience with Company X; they broadcast it to everyone they know instantaneously.“ (Paul Maxim, Global Resourcing Director at Unilever)

Hence, companies need to build an employer brand online to be up to date and able to recruit the best talents for the fitting jobs. The use of Social Media tools offers new potentials that will be beneficial for employer & employees as well as candidates. And even though employer branding is a growing trend that some researchers already call a war for talents (Neutral, 2012) or bid for desirable workers (Moroko & Uncles, 2012) most of the companies don’t use it to its full potential. Lundquist founds that currently only 30% of the Europe’s top employers us Social Media to reach candidates.

According to Pring (2012) more then six out of ten adults (62%) of the Internet users worldwide use social media. They spend an average of 32 hours online per month. Pring (2012) claims further that social networking is the most popular online activity users spent more then 22% of their online time on social sites like facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter. Hence companies should promote themselves where the candidates of the future spend most of their time: online. Unfortunately employers are failing at the moment to pick up ambitious and sufficient future talents from because they don’t use it enough (Haufe, 2012). Furthermore Lundquist (2012) holds the view that it is important to present both the company’s traditional- and employer brand in social media. The use of digital tools (corporate websites, networks) will boost the reputation of a brand in the online world as well as in the marketplace for talent.

In addition to that current employees are crucial for the credibility of a company’s marketing message. With the use of Social Media their influence will increase even more. A survey from the employer-branding specialist Core Worker (2012) revealed that 59 % of potential applicants find information and posts from employees more credible than company posts. In addition tot hat 70% say that a positive comment from an employee encourages them to send an application. Hence leveraging employees as ambassadors creates – in the eyes of candidates – credibility, transparency and gives them the possibility to meet the company at eye-to-eye level as well as gather valuable insights about the organisations values and vacancies (MindJumpers, 2012). Through connecting and engaging employees and candidates it provides an opportunity to present one’s company in a more transparent and credible. The same assumption shares Unilever’s Global Resourcing Director stating:

„Lastly, more than 30,000 Unilever employees have LinkedIn profiles. There is so much potential and we’ve only just started to mine that data to better target talent, and engage with relevant communities and groups.“ (Paul Maxim)

As mentioned before, the highly qualified motivated key labour forces are all active participants in the social web. According to Neutral (2012) this means they meet each other on „equal footings“ and „established authorities lose their monopoly on credibility through the growing level of networking and verifiability of information. They have to convince“.

Dos & Don’ts within the online ‘War for Talents’

The following table of Do’s and Don’ts is developed on basis of Lundquist (2012), Neutral (2012) and Srinivasan (2012).

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A successful case:

On basis of the ‘Do’s and Don’ts table as well as several determined criteria (see table below), a successful case of employer branding in social media was identified. The criteria to determine a ‘successful’ were divided into three sections: organisation, application process and user experience.

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A successful use of social media is reflected in the case of BAYER’s employer brand. They try to recruit qualified labour, especially graduates and young professionals by communicating through social media using their employees as ambassadors. The implementation included a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a company blog, a Kununu profile, a YouTube channel as well as a LinkedIn and Xing group. All of the mentioned social media tools are linked to each other and updated daily. The interactivity between candidates and employees is high especially on the networks Facebook and Twitter.

Figure 1: Facebook page of BAYER careers (Germany)

Figure 1: Facebook page of BAYER careers (Germany)

For the section organisation the company does a great job on all channels, BAYER has a good company description and also deals with responsibility they have against the general good. Both application process and technical issues meet all the requirements. The application process from any social media tool to the actual job site is easy and quick. Last but not least the technical issues have a high standard as well. All channels work and there were no problems with navigation or uploading files.

So what?

Companies, the ‘War for Talent’ is on! Global players are on an online crusade for highly motivated and qualified future talents. Getting the most talented people in the right position is crucial for a successful business. The future belongs to those who prepare it for today.

Have you already integrated Social Media into your employer branding strategy? What are your experiences?


Ambler, T. & Barrow, S. (1996): The Employer Brand, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 185

Barrow, S. & Mosley, R. (2005): The Employer Brand, Bringing the Best of Brand Management to People at Work, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Bruce T. (2007): "Finding roles for social-media tools in HR", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 6 Iss: 2 pp. 3 -3

CoreWorkers. (2012): Survey Results. Available at: http://coreworkers.dk/employer%20branding%20og%20rekruttering%20via%20sociale%20medier.pdf [Accessed on 12 February 2013]

Haldemann, A. & Elbel, M. (2009): Marke such Mitarbeitende: Im Rennen um die Richtigen überzeugen. Available at: http://www.metadesign.com/sites/default/files/assets/000/000/008/428/MetaDesign_White_Paper_Employer_Branding.pdf [Accessed 14 February 2013]

Haufe. (2012): Social Media und Employer Branding - So baut man im Netz die Arbeitgebermarke auf. Available at: http://www.haufe.de/personal/hr-management/social-media-so-baut-man-im-netz-die-arbeitgebermarke-auf_80_127562.html [Accessed on 15 February 2013]

LimeSoda. (2013): Employer Branding: Social-Media-Marketing. Available at: http://www.limesoda.com/loesungen/social-media/employer-branding/ [Accessed 13 February 2013]

Lundquist. (2013): Lundquist Employer Branding Online Awards Europe 2012 2nd Edition. Available at: http://www.lundquist.it/media/files/Lundquist_Employer_Branding_Online_Awards_Europe_2012_17_January_2013_1358417087.pdf [Accessed on 18 February 2013]

Minchington, B. (2013): Employer Brand: It’s what you measure that counts. Available at: http://www.exaqueo.com/2013/02/employer-brand-its-what-you-measure-that-counts/

[Accessed on 18 February ]

MindJumpers. (2012): How to use Social Media for employer brading and online recruitment. Available online: http://www.mindjumpers.com/blog/2012/07/social-media-recruitment/ [Accessed 13 February 2013]

Moroko L., & Uncles, D. (2009):  Corporate Image as Recruiting Tool – WSJ.com. Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123740504559375085.html# [Accessed 14 February 2013]

Neutral GmbH. (2012): Employer Branding in Social Media. Available at: http://www.netural.com/en/news/employer-branding-in-social-media/

[Accessed on 19 February 2013]

Pring, C. (2012): 99 New Social Media Stats 2012. Available at: http://thesocialskinny.com/99-new-social-media-stats-for-2012/

[Accessed on 18 February 2013]

Srinivasan, L. (2012): Secrest of Employer Branding Leaders: Unilever. Available at: http://talent.linkedin.com/blog/index.php/2012/08/employer-branding-unilever/ [Accessed on 18 February 2013]

Universum Communication. (2009): Recruiting ist das wichtigste Employer Branding Ziel. Available at: http://www.employerbrandingtoday.com/de/2009/03/09/recruiting-ist-das-wichtigste-employer-branding-ziel/ [Accessed on 15 February 2013]