Employer branding: what matters most to staff?

A tight labour market means the art of employer branding has never been more important. So, what do Britain’s workers want to see from a company before deciding to sign on the dotted line?

Attitudes to working life have changed significantly over the past few years. That’s at least partly down to the pandemic, which forced more of us to reconsider our priorities and reassess our careers.

But it’s also true that when it comes to what we expect to see in a prospective employer, British workers are something of an outlier, according to data from Randstad. Unlike their European counterparts, for instance, Brits put work/life balance top of their wish list, above even an attractive salary and a pleasant work atmosphere. 

Whether employers are successfully tailoring their image and playing to these preferences, however, is a separate question. So, are HR teams wise to what really matters to employees, or are their efforts to improve employer branding misdirected? 

Either way, understanding what British workers want has to be the first order of business.

Looking beyond the averages though, there’s a more complicated picture. In the UK, workers’ priorities differ across demographic categories, reflecting different life stages and career trajectories. 

For instance, older workers are more likely to prioritise work/life balance, whereas younger and mid-career employees tend to keep a closer eye on the prospects for progression.

There is also a gendered aspect to this. For instance, women are more likely than men to care about a pleasant work environment and policies around remote working. In fact, the only factors that men appear to attach more importance to than their female counterparts are the company’s financial health and whether the firm uses the latest technologies.

So, what are employers doing to target these preferences among employees and potential recruits? 

Well, employer branding is now firmly on the radar for most companies, as three-quarters of firms report having taken action over the past 12 months to improve their image as an employer. 

A range of tactics is available to companies looking to tune up their employer branding, from improved pay and benefits packages, through to opening up opportunities for progression. And HR teams do indeed appear to be trying whatever they can.

Of course, improving pay and benefits packages is a relatively straightforward lever for businesses to pull when it comes to improving employer branding and making recruitment easier. Tackling issues such as company reputation and organisational values will take a lot more work – but could pay dividends in the long term.