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HR should lead on employer brand management

More than half of employers (59%) believe employer brand management is key to HR strategy, according to research by consultancy People in Business and research body CRF Institute.

The research, seen exclusively by HR magazine, found employer brand development has become recognised as a key component of an organisation's HR strategy.

The term 'employer branding' describes how an organisation markets what it has to offer to potential and existing employees. A strong employer brand should connect an organisation's values, people strategy and HR policies to the corporate brand.

The global research analysed responses from more than 250 employers from 32 countries.

David Richardson, managing director of People in Business, former HR director at Coca-Cola and Lloyds Group and co-author of the report, said employers must ensure potential employees view the company "exactly how you want them to see it".

"It's important to get employer branding correct right from the start of the recruitment process," Richardson said.

"The promises you make as a company to the outside world must be followed through from the first day an employee joins. If not, they will soon realise it's not the place they expected."

Rob Howsam, creative director at consultancy Purpose, said a positive brand reputation is equally dependent on brand culture, which at its heart is about the actions of employees.

"And that puts HR firmly on the frontline, with responsibility for branding and brand strategy," he added.

"HR provides the ideal forum for investigating, defining and influencing brand culture. By involving employees in the process, not only can HR create essential brand expressions that have traction, it can also reduce the 'not invented here' resistance that is the downfall of many new branding initiatives."

The report found social media has had a profound effect on employer branding. It has improved the ability of candidates to compare a recruiter's claims with employee opinion. Therefore, organisations must ensure recruitment messages align with employee perceptions.

"When I first started as an HR director social media didn't really exist. Organisations could make claims about their company and no one would question it," Richardson said.

"It wasn't until someone arrived that they realised you weren't quite as straightforward as you should have been. Potential employees are now treating companies the 'Amazon way'. They are checking out reviews and gauging employees thoughts on Facebook and websites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.

"If HR is going to make an impact on the business, we've got to think like marketers."

The report also found career sites remain a key focus for external brand communication, but that there has been a significant shift in recruitment marketing towards professional, social and referral networks.

More than two-thirds of employers said they would be developing their careers sites and investing in image and video.

Eighty-two percent said they would be increasing their use of professional networks and 70% said they would increase their presence on social media.

But not all media channels remain popular - 43% plan to reduce their use of print media and 29% plan to decrease their involvement with recruiters.