The Top Employer Branding Challenges of 2024 [New Data]

In the battle for top talent, your employer brand is your most powerful weapon. A whopping 86% of HR professionals say recruitment is becoming more like marketing, and in today‘s competitive market, candidates are researching potential employers with the same level of scrutiny they would give to any major purchase decision.

Consider these eye-opening statistics on the state of employer branding in 2024:

  • 75% of candidates consider an employer‘s brand before even applying for a job (LinkedIn)
  • Organizations with a strong employer brand see a 43% decrease in cost per hire (LinkedIn)
  • When companies improve their employer brand, their quality of hires improves by 54% (Workable)
  • 50% of candidates say they wouldn‘t work for a company with a bad reputation, even for a pay increase (Harvard Business Review)

The stakes have never been higher, yet many organizations are struggling to keep pace. According to a recent report by Hinge Research Institute, attracting and retaining top talent remains the #1 biggest challenge keeping business leaders up at night.

Top Business Challenges in 2024
Source: Hinge Research Institute

And the shift to remote and hybrid work has only intensified the war for talent. With location no longer a limiting factor, the best candidates have more options than ever before. Employers have to work even harder to cut through the noise and convince candidates to join their distributed teams.

So how can you build an employer brand that wins over top talent in an increasingly virtual world? Based on the latest industry research and insights from talent leaders, here are the top 5 employer branding challenges to focus on in 2024.

1. Differentiating your employer brand in a sea of sameness

Quick, think of a company career page you‘ve visited recently. Did it feature smiling employee photos, vague mentions of a "collaborative culture" and "competitive salary and benefits?" I‘d bet money it did.

The truth is, most employer brands are painfully boring and interchangeable. When every company is touting the same bland platitudes, it all just blends together for candidates. To stand out, you need to dig deeper to uncover and communicate your true differentiators as an employer.

What are the unique aspects of your culture that someone couldn‘t find anywhere else? How does your mission create meaning for employees‘ work? What special benefits or growth opportunities do you provide? These are the elements that make up your employee value proposition (EVP).

For example, take a look at Hubspot‘s career page messaging:

Hubspot Careers Page
Source: Hubspot

Notice how it goes beyond the basic "great culture and benefits" messaging to highlight specific aspects of their EVP, like their commitment to hybrid work, employee development and social impact. They back up these claims with proof points like their impressive Glassdoor rating, making it more authentic and credible.

Some other great examples of differentiated EVPs:

  • Twitter is known for its decentralized structure, hackathons and opportunities to work on emerging tech like Bitcoin and VR
  • Marriott offers unparalleled travel perks and "a world of opportunities" with global roles across 30 brands
  • Shopify champions entrepreneurialism, giving employees time and funding to start their own businesses

The key is to always tie your perks and programs back to your deeper organizational values and mission. Free lunch and ping pong tables are nice, but they aren‘t unique and won‘t move the needle on their own. Focus on the elements of your culture that are true differentiators and align with your "why."

Once you‘ve nailed down a compelling EVP, make sure to weave that messaging throughout the candidate journey, from your job descriptions to your interview process to your onboarding. Repetition is key to getting your brand to stick in candidates‘ minds.

2. Creating authentic employer brand content that converts

You can talk about your culture all day long, but candidates aren‘t just going to take your word for it. They want to hear what it‘s really like to work at your company, straight from your employees‘ mouths. Employee stories, testimonials and day-in-the-life content are some of the most powerful tools for building an authentic employer brand.

According to LinkedIn research, candidates trust a company‘s employees 3x more than the company itself to provide credible information on what it‘s like to work there. And companies with a high level of employee engagement see a 33% decrease in application drop-off rate.

But these employee stories have to be genuine to resonate with candidates. Overly scripted or staged testimonials can be a major turn-off. The key is to empower your employees to share their experiences in their own words, even if it‘s not all rose-colored.

For instance, check out this testimonial from an IBM employee:

IBM Employee Testimonial
Source: Glassdoor

Notice how it comes across as honest and balanced, touching on both the positives of IBM‘s culture as well as the typical challenges you would expect at a large company. This builds trust with candidates and paints a more realistic picture than a testimonial that‘s effusively positive.

Some other tips for sourcing authentic employee-generated content:

  • Encourage employees to share photos and stories on their own social media channels with a company hashtag
  • Host employee takeovers on your company‘s social channels to show a day in their life
  • Interview employees for behind-the-scenes blog or video content, but keep it casual and conversational
  • Incentivize employees to leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor, both positive and constructive
  • Share employee quotes, videos and stories on your careers site and other recruiting touchpoints

The more you can fold real employee voices into your employer brand content strategy, the more relatable it will be for candidates. Just make sure you have social media guidelines in place and train employees on employer brand best practices to maintain a consistent message.

3. Targeting top talent where they spend their time

Creating compelling employer brand content is only half the equation. The other half is delivering that content to the right candidates at the right time on the right channels. And candidate behaviors and preferences are constantly shifting.

For example, while LinkedIn remains recruiters‘ top channel for promoting employer brand, newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok are rapidly growing for reaching millennial and Gen Z candidates.

According to a survey by CareerArc, 86% of job seekers use social media in their job search, and 45% say social media is their preferred way to learn about companies. Meanwhile, candidate use of traditional job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder has declined.

Candidate Social Media Preferences
Source: CareerArc

To maximize your reach, you need a multi-channel employer branding strategy tailored to your target candidate personas. Where do your ideal candidates spend their time online? What kind of content do they engage with? How do they prefer to interact with employers? Use these insights to prioritize your efforts.

For example, let‘s say you‘re trying to attract mid-career software engineers. In this case, you‘d likely want to focus on:

  • Targeting ads on niche sites like Stack Overflow and Github Jobs
  • Hosting AMA sessions on Reddit‘s cscareerquestions subreddit
  • Sponsoring hackathons and conferences like Grace Hopper
  • Showcasing your company‘s tech stack and interesting projects on your blog and social channels
  • Encouraging your engineering team to share their work and recruit their networks on Twitter and LinkedIn

On the other hand, if you were hiring for sales roles, you might focus more on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and sales-specific communities like RevGenius.

The key is to segment your strategy based on role, skills, level and location, rather than relying on a one-size-fits all approach. Programmatic job advertising platforms like Appcast, Pandologic and JobAdX can also help you precisely target niche audiences across thousands of sites, without having to individually manage dozens of contracts or bids.

By showing up in the right places with the right message for each candidate segment, you‘ll be able to punch above your weight and get more bang for your employer branding buck.

4. Getting executive buy-in and company-wide adoption

According to Talent Board research, 53% of talent acquisition leaders say their biggest obstacle to employer branding success is lack of leadership support. Many executives still view recruiting as a cost center, not a strategic driver of business growth. As a result, HR teams often struggle to get the resources and cross-functional alignment they need to build a truly impactful employer brand.

But employer branding isn‘t just an HR initiative — it touches every aspect of the employee lifecycle and requires an organization-wide effort. From executives to managers to employees, everyone has a role to play in shaping and activating your employer brand.

The key to getting buy-in is to tie your employer branding efforts directly to business outcomes that leadership cares about. For example:

  • Improving quality of hire and retention
  • Reducing time-to-fill and cost-per-hire
  • Boosting employee engagement and productivity
  • Driving more employee referrals
  • Supporting diversity and inclusion goals

Come to the table with a clear business case and plan for how you‘ll measure the ROI of your employer branding investments. Start small and build momentum with quick wins you can point to.

For example, at Sodexo, the talent acquisition team was able to secure leadership buy-in by piloting an employee advocacy program and tying the results back to key business metrics:

  • 32% of hires were influenced by the program
  • 25% increase in applications
  • 2,000 new followers per month on their LinkedIn page
  • 40% of employee advocates were promoted

By demonstrating the tangible impact on hiring and retention, they were able to scale the program and get ongoing executive support.

Beyond leadership buy-in, it‘s also critical to engage employees at all levels in your employer branding efforts. Educate managers on how to be culture carriers and brand ambassadors. Train employees on how to use social media to share your brand story. Solicit employee feedback regularly to keep a pulse on your culture.

The more you can democratize employer branding and make it a shared responsibility, the more authentic and sustainable your initiatives will be. As Glassdoor‘s community expert Scott Dobroski puts it, "Your employees are your most valuable asset in building and promoting your employer brand. Make them feel valued, heard and integral to the process."

5. Measuring and optimizing your employer brand over time

Finally, to prove the ongoing value of your employer branding efforts and optimize for ROI, you need a solid measurement plan. But according to CareerArc, while 96% of companies believe employer brand and reputation can positively or negatively impact revenue, only 44% regularly monitor that impact.

To connect your employer brand to hard dollars, you need to track metrics across the entire candidate funnel. Some of the most important KPIs to measure include:

Attraction

  • Employer brand awareness
  • Reach and follower growth on social media
  • Branded job ad views and click-through rates
  • Talent community growth
  • Employee referral volume and rates

Engagement

  • Interactions and engagement rates on social posts
  • Job apply rates
  • Talent community email click and conversion rates
  • Candidate experience survey scores

Hiring

  • Quality of hire
  • New hire turnover rates
  • Time to fill
  • Cost per hire
  • Offer acceptance rates

Retention

  • First-year turnover
  • Employee engagement scores
  • Employee Net Promoter Scores
  • Internal mobility and promotion rates

By tracking these metrics over time and comparing them to industry benchmarks, you can start to quantify the impact of your employer branding efforts and identify areas for improvement.

For example, Salesforce has a sophisticated employer brand measurement framework that ladders up to key business objectives:

Salesforce Employer Brand Metrics
Source: Salesforce

Each quarter, they report on these KPIs and use the insights to continually optimize their strategy across attraction, engagement, hiring and retention. As a result, they‘ve become one of the most recognized and respected employer brands in the world.

The key is to start somewhere, even if you‘re not measuring everything right away. Pick a few core KPIs that are most important to your goals and build from there. Use tools like Google Analytics, social media analytics, your ATS, and HR metrics platforms like Visier and Culture Amp to track and report on your progress.

Key takeaways

Attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive market is never easy. But by investing in your employer brand, you can tip the scales in your favor and build a sustainable talent advantage.

To recap, here are the key strategies for overcoming the biggest employer branding challenges in 2024:

  1. Differentiate your employee value prop with unique, mission-driven messaging
  2. Create authentic employee-generated content that showcases your real culture
  3. Take a targeted, multi-channel approach to reach candidates where they are
  4. Build an organization-wide employer brand program with executive championship
  5. Measure the ROI of your efforts across the talent lifecycle and optimize accordingly

With the right focus and a commitment to continuous improvement, you can build an employer brand that sets you apart and helps you win the war for talent now and in the future.