Employer branding is the most important thing you’ve never heard of - This is ORB Blog

Employer branding is the most important thing you’ve never heard of

Employer brand – what the hell is it? To start with, it is the external perception of your company as a brand and a potential employer. A strong employer brand attracts the best talent and is perceived to offer the best career path and engage its staff. It’s not just fluff – unhappy employees are unproductive, unproductive people miss detail and missed detail is detrimental to your reputation, which will in turn affect sales.

Richard Branson got this right for years.

So, how do SMEs fair? Our Toolshed event platform explored this barely acknowledged topic, which packed out the Birmingham REP Theatre on 3 March, 2017.

Toolshed is a series of events that help the most ambitious fast-growth businesses in the region grow even faster. This event explored how SMEs can recruit and retain the right talent and build the right culture to succeed.


First, our Brand Director Jodie Price presented insights from our original research with 23 top local recruiters (who combined have placed over 14,000 candidates). The research opened our eyes to what candidates are looking for, the simple things SMEs need to get right, why the interview experience shouldn’t be overlooked and why culture can be your competitive advantage.

Jodie explored the Top Five Employer Branding Myths, smashing them wide open and educating how we, the SMEs can do it better. Here are some of the key takeaways from the presentation:

  1. “The bigger the company, the stronger the brand.”
    In 2016, Sports Direct was compared to a Victorian Workhouse by MPs as they condemned the firm for it’s appalling work practices. Past employees claimed to be treated as commodities rather than human beings. This is what happens when big names get employer brand wrong. Here is your opportunity, 43% of candidates believe that a strong employer brand is more important than pay. 69% of candidates believe that a strong employer brand is more likely to offer more progression opportunities.
  2. “We can’t possibly compete against big corporates for talent.”
    When you’re up against a big national brand, SMEs feel like they can’t compete. “There are so many benefits of working for an SME that aren’t promoted” – Discovery ADR Group.
    Better career progression
    Faster growth opportunities
    More fulfilling work
    Better cultures
    More flexibility and autonomy
  3. “The company speaks for itself”
    “Don’t assume that just because you have a job people will want it. You still need to sell it.” – 2nd City Resourcing. Be creative and brave – make sure your brand personality shines through. Scrap job descriptions and focus on behaviours, brand values and accountability.
  1. “We lose out on the best candidates because we can’t offer high salaries.”
    When a potential employee is deciding between two similar job offers, what makes them go for a lower paid job? Culture, hands down. Culture can be your competitive advantage.
  1. “We have a brand. That’s good enough...right?”
    A killer brand proposition will align and fire everyone up, internally and externally to help you act on brand.

We heard from Lisa Williams about why John Lewis sees its employees as partners which allows people to feel equal. Being a partner gives employees a voice and more of a vested interest in success. John Lewis also introduced a personal touch with an ‘I am’ wall, which has been a great way to find out more about each other. It fosters relationships and has proved a big success for the John Lewis Birmingham branch.

Theresa Nelson from the Birmingham Children’s Hospital discussed how, as a public sector organisation, they engage and create an employee culture in ways that matter to their people, without the big spend.

Kevin Watson, MD of Amadeus, the NEC’s specialist events catering business, talked about how they audition new employees because hospitality should be theatre. Kevin also talked about encouraging employees who are looking to change jobs to ‘ask for a day’ to make sure the cultural fit works and that the ‘sell’ is true.

James Villarreal, MD of Glide Utilities, explained how they initially banned social media in their business but quickly realised that with a young workforce, encouraging employees to share the Glide story through social media was a big opportunity.

Andrew Jackson, CEO of Intercity Technology was asked about employee engagement and explained how they created a socialites committee, which empowers employees to run company events – like the Christmas party. The result is that they cost less and are far better attended than ever before.



Finally, the evening ended with drinks and networking. If you want to know more about employer branding and how a culture audit could help you, take our free Employer Brand Health Check. This will include a short employee survey followed by insights and advice on how to improve your Employer Brand. Please click here to request your Health Check.

We would like to say a grateful thank you to our expert Q&A panel as follows:

  • Lisa William, Head of Branch at John Lewis Birmingham
  • Andrew Jackson, CEO of Intercity Technology
  • Theresa Nelson, Director of Workforce and Education at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • James Villarreal, Founder and MD of Glide
  • Kevin Watson, MD of Amadeus (part of the NEC group)

Missed out this time? Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know about our next Toolshed event in Summer 2017.

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