Special Reports
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

Nurturing your employer brand will help to attract and retain talent

A company’s reputation counts for a lot when it comes to hiring the best so they need to proactively guard it

Every organisation has an employer brand, says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It’s the way in which they differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to attract, recruit and retain the right people. A strong employer brand helps businesses compete for the best talent, while a weak one can have the opposite effect.

But employer brands, no matter how strong they may appear, are quite fragile things. As Benjamin Franklin observed: “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”

Warren Buffett, the famed Sage of Omaha, takes a similar view. “It takes 25 years to build a good reputation and five minutes to lose it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

“To understand why an employer’s reputation is so important you need to understand the talent journey and what candidates need at each stage of it,” says Marina Rivas, marketing and brand manager with Great Place to Work.


“The first stage is awareness,” she explains. “The candidate sees a job offer on a portal or sees a vacancy on LinkedIn. We know that candidates who trust the brand or who know and trust the person who posted the vacancy is much more likely to apply. You can measure that. The more trust the organisation has in the bank, the more applications they get.”

Sigmar Recruitment head of growth and partnerships Claire Kelly stresses the importance of a good reputation when attracting talent.

“A lot of the time if we are dealing with a company setting up in Ireland, they can have a great reputation in the US but are relatively unknown here,” she says. “The language they use during the hiring process may not be appropriate. The message may get jumbled and the approach might not work. You’ve got to get the interview process right from the start. Ireland is a small market and you only get one shot at getting it right. The impact can be massive if you get it wrong.”

How a company behaves during tough times is also very important. “It’s easy to say you care about staff during the good times,” says Kelly. “But what happens when the business is struggling?

“In some tech companies, people didn’t know they were at risk of being sacked until they got into work in the morning. It’s very hard to recover from a bad employee experience. If employees are seen as dispensable a lot of people won’t want to work for a company like that. But if you handle those things right, people will come back to you in a heartbeat.”

Kelly advises candidates to look at the employee experience before applying for a job.

“Look at the existing employees and how they are treated. It doesn’t always have to be about pay. It can be about mentoring and coaching. Growth potential for employees in the company is very important. Can you upskill to move to better roles within the organisation?”

Organisations have to take care of their reputation, Rivas advises.

“We see companies being reactive but they need to be proactive about their reputation,” she says. “Organisations can suffer different forms of reputational damage. It can be financial issues, customer backlash on social media, employee relations, and other things. You can’t control everything.

“But the key part is how you handle the cause of the damage and what action you take. And there are things to put in place beforehand, such as employee advocacy. Candidates trust employees three times more than the organisations they work for when talking about the workplace.”

Organisations can help employees to advocate for them, says Rivas. “You can set up workshops and other forums to let employees know how to tell the story of the workplace on LinkedIn, social media, YouTube videos and so on,” she adds.

“Make it easy for them to share. Employees want to share, a lot of the time, and companies should help them. When a crisis does happen the damage to the reputation can be counterbalanced by employee advocacy. I’m not saying the reputation will not suffer but it will be balanced by the trust they have in the bank. When a negative event does happen it won’t be the only thing people know about the organisation.”

Rivas also recommends third-party validations for employers. “These bring added value,” she says. “Great Place to Work certification gives good insights into what’s happening from an employee experience perspective. The certification is about who you are as an organisation.

“In a nutshell, employers shouldn’t wait for their reputation to be damaged; they need to be proactive in nurturing their employer brand. That will help them attract talent in future.”

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times