In a competitive employment market, where talent is scarce and skilled workers are in demand, your employer brand can determine whether talented individuals want join you, or go to your competition, writes Annemarie Viljoen, MD of FastForward.

The first step in developing your employer brand, is to understand what careerseekers look at when considering joining an organisation.
* Very important, first of all, is whether the company is stable. Are you making money and are you growing? Do you have a track record? No-one wants to join a company that may close in a few months’ time. Negative publicity about your company’s finances, regular union conflict, or losing a big deal, will affect your attractiveness as employer. Make sure you handle these matters quickly and efficiently if you want to attract the right people.
* How do you treat your employees? Never underestimate the power one unhappy employee or ex-employee can have in spreading the word about the way employees are treated. If your company gets a reputation that it does not treat employees with respect, or that unreasonable demands are made of staff, you will find it very difficult to attract the best people.
* What does your company stand for? Does your mission and values appeal to the people you most want to attract to your organization? Do you publish your values and do people in your organization live by them? What about your community involvement and social responsibility?
* Will a new employee feel part of something bigger than themselves if they join you? Potential employees must feel that they will be proud to be associated with your organisation. If your company has a proud history, use this to build your employer brand. Are you involved with a national sports team that people are proud of? Or do you contribute to the well-being of the community where you operate?
* Does your organization invest in developing talent and provide opportunities for professional growth? This is one of the most important considerations for ambitious, well-qualified and talented careerseekers. Talented individuals do not want to join a company where they will stagnate. Companies with well-published staff development initiatives (graduate programmes, management development programmes, learnerships, etc) are employers of choice.
It is, however, not enough to just do all these things, you have to publish it to prospective employees.
Publish your company mission and values on your web site, and show how these are lived in the organisation. Do you say you value your people? Then make sure every person that applies for an opportunity at your company receives a response from you: acknowledge receipt of applications; make sure every applicant is contacted even when they are not successful.
If you invest in your employees’ development, publish their stories on your web site. Give employees the opportunity to say why they enjoy working for your company.
Why not give people who registered on your careers website the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter where you can tell them about your company and new initiatives, or even job opportunities?
In the war for talent, your employer brand is a very powerful tool.