Employer branding can improve recruitment and retention by showing people what to expect from working at your company. It can build credibility and even protect your organization in times of change.
Knowing exactly how to build your employer brand is much more difficult. A little guidance can go a long way. If your organization is prepared to bring on an employer branding agency, here’s what you should look for.
Buy into a Vision of Success
Take a moment to align internally on goals and expectations for employer branding before you start evaluating agency partners. If you haven’t yet, build your case for employer branding and anchor it into your business strategy.
There are qualitative and quantitative reasons to hire an agency that can enhance your bottom line, but knowing which reasons matter most to your organization will be foundational to your working relationship with an agency. Are you looking for stronger engagement and retention? A communications strategy to enhance the employee experience? Support attracting the right people to your organization?
According to Glassdoor, an overwhelming majority of HR professionals agree recruitment is becoming more like marketing. Looking at the talent side of things, according to a JobVite report, 30 percent of workers left a new role within 90 days—a clear indication that misalignment between candidates and employer branding plays a role in turnover.
Identify the problems you’re solving and envision the desired outcomes for your employer brand. How will you create harmony between your brand message and actions? How will you measure success? When your team can answer those questions, decide who will take the lead in managing the project—someone to own decisions, communications, and collaborations with an employer branding agency.
4 Factors to Evaluate in an Employer Branding Agency
This process will be personal. Finding the right partnership is about finding what works best for your organization and its goals. To guide your search, keep these factors in mind:
1. Client Portfolio
There’s something to be said for showmanship and presentation, but try to look past the flash. Does an agency’s work include clients in your category? Has it solved brand positioning problems like yours? Has it worked with clients of your size?
Experience isn’t just linear—it’s also lateral. Take a broad view of each employer branding agency to understand whether it has led organizations through similar changes. If it doesn’t have adjacent category experience but has successfully worked with organizations of your scale to solve the same employer brand challenges you’re facing, it’s worth a second look.
If an agency’s experience measures up, does its portfolio have a specialized area of focus? Does it feel like every case fits a stylized design perspective? Will it complement or conflict with your own? Does its work make you feel something—good, bad, visceral, or familiar? At the end of the day, you need to feel confident it can tell your brand story.
2. Proven Capability
Technical expertise is another factor to consider. From what you’ve seen, does the agency’s work meet your quality standards? Revisit your vision of success. Has it delivered the type of employer branding work you're looking for?
As you evaluate what it’s capable of, look for clear strengths and weaknesses. Does it seem like the agency relies heavily on any one discipline to compensate for weakness in others? There should be a balance of design, strategy, development, execution, and measurement to fit your needs.
Look closely at case studies. Forget the awards—did an agency’s insights solve its client’s problem? Does its work demonstrate meaningful business outcomes?
This is where it truly becomes personal. As you meet with each employer branding agency and exchange emails and calls, decide if its communication style matches yours. Is it responsive and polite? Direct and unhurried? Do you get the impression the agency will be collaborative and constructively critical, or is it just saying what you want to hear?
Gauge each agency’s reaction to your timeline and budget. Does it think it’s realistic? Do you know what the next steps will look like when you start working together? Trust your gut here—these will be telling answers.
Consider how the agency will get to the heart of your organization. If it’s not capable or ready to diagnose your culture, are you prepared to prescribe for it? Can you afford to have an order-taking agency partner? Maybe that’s exactly what you need; you know your organization best.
As you develop a plan of action and scope of work, consider what’s right for your team. Will this be a drive-through window experience where you get exactly what you ask for? Or will it be more like fine dining, where you’ll be guided and surprised at every course?
4. Vision Fit
You know how you plan to define success, but the agency will have its own perspective. Make sure its vision aligns with yours and you understand how the agency plans to measure it.
Before moving forward, get a sense of whether it clearly understands your employer branding needs and how to solve them. How can the agency assure you of its ability to remain neutral about your organization? You want it to stand far enough away to make honest assessments but close enough to validate them. If the agency doesn’t have a point of view on this, that’s a red flag.
Find Your Fit
Knowing what to look for in an employer branding agency is about knowing what will work for you and your team—not what worked for one of your competitors. You want to find the right fit for your organization in order to realize qualitative and quantitative results.
As you meet with prospective partners, be prepared with questions to ask. Read Maximizing Your ROI: Agency vs. In-House Employer Branding Solutions for more insights.