Why employer brand is the key to retaining and hiring the best talent

Businesswoman holding a surf board on the beach in the water

Our CEO, Melissa Davis advises how happy, healthy, engaged colleagues have never been more valuable.

In 2022, my conversations with managing partners up and down the country indicate that the recruitment market is much tougher on employers and the effects of the pandemic on people’s life choices are becoming clearer… meaning many sleepless nights for leaders who are worried about how to retain their talent.

So it is time we asked the question “Is HOW we do things as important as WHAT we do?”

Everyone has a favourite brand. Ask a room full of lawyers and accountants for their favourite brand and I guarantee, John Lewis gets mentioned pretty quickly. Although it might not be the best one for me, after I recommended them to my Dad, four months later he was still waiting for his fridge to be delivered!

Our knowledge and understanding of brands have improved massively in recent years and it’s become a much bigger focus in the professional services sector than it ever used to be, which is good to see.

But what about employer brand?

And the same can be said for purpose.

They’ve both been something which other sectors have embraced for some time, but they are only now just beginning to permeate the legal sector it seems.

The ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’

Both employer brand and purpose link to the same thing. An increasing focus among the people who work with us and the people who may be looking to work with us. It’s no longer just a focus on what businesses do. In most cases, that’s pretty obvious anyway.

Increasingly, potential recruits and those already inside the business want to know how the business does what it does. What does it stand for? What is it there for and why? And, most importantly of all to more and more people, what good does it do?

If the answer to any of those is, “I don’t know” then you need to start thinking about it.

Investment in brands is happening all the time – but what’s the point in investing the money if your own colleagues don’t understand it or, even worse, don’t believe it?

Our colleagues are our best brand ambassadors. They’re also, by default, our best employer brand ambassadors.

That could be a challenge for the legal sector in which, as I’ve written before, wellbeing hasn’t always exactly been the top priority. Many would argue it still isn’t.

But in a recruitment market which is getting more and more challenging, and with a new generation of recruits coming through, the legal sector again needs to play catch up.

Standing out

Purpose has been a key word for some time in other sectors but in law, it’s still relatively new. However, it really matters.

A shared purpose drives a sense of togetherness and helps build a sense of team spirit – even more important in the hybrid world emerging post-pandemic. That, in turn, aids retention, always a cheaper option than paying recruiters and head-hunters. So too is the employer brand. Most law firms are good at saying what they do but when it comes to the how, and what it’s like to work for them, they do less well.

It’s fine to say what it’s like but great employer brands live that through their social media, their websites and the way their people do everything – from answering the phone – to the way they sell the business in everything they do and with everyone they do it for. They stand out, and when potential recruits are checking websites and social media feeds for a sign of what life at a new employer might be like, that’s a real plus.

Who doesn’t want to work for a business that knows exactly what it’s trying to achieve and why – and a business that looks like it does great work for great clients and also has a great team spirit, looks after their people, is choosy with their clients and looks like a place that’s fun to work.

Ask yourself the question. What would your employer brand be? What is it that makes your employees want to wake up and come to work every morning? WHY would they work for you and not head down the road (or sometimes stay exactly where they are and add a couple of extra noughts to their pay packet with a big city salary whilst surfing during lunch breaks).

What image do you portray to the outside world and is it the one you want to portray? If it isn’t what you want, it could be costing you recruits now and in the future.

Similarly, what would your colleagues say? Do they all feel the same sense of direction about what the business is trying to achieve – and how would they describe working life?

As communicators, asking difficult questions is what we do, but the answers we get could be the difference between current colleagues staying or leaving, and their replacements choosing to join or work elsewhere.

Employer brand will only become more and more important for law firms as the recruitment market gets tougher and tougher. It’s time to stand out.

We run messaging workshops to help law firms with their brand positioning and purpose. If you need help on designing a plan for your employer brand please do drop us a line.

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