Employer Branding: About the relevance of employer rankings and ratings

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Employer branding and online dating show many parallels: Whether single or employer, both want to show their best side and promote their advantages. But how do employers recognize their own attractiveness? What the "swipe" to the right is on Tinder, employer branding often involves employer rankings or rating platforms.

In recent years, the number of employer leaderboards has seemingly exploded: "Universum," "Great Place to Work," "Swiss Employer Award," "Best Employer by LeTemps/Handelszeitung," to name just a few examples. So, one might think that employer rankings are still highly relevant nowadays. But they are not undisputed, as I hear more and more often from customers and experts.

Appearances can be deceiving
Besides the fact that - depending on the provider and methodology - a wide variety of company names can appear at the top, these rankings always represent just a small extract of reality (e.g. top 10 or 100). Mainly studies that are not based on employee surveys, but are conducted with external persons, reveal relevant weaknesses: The responsiveness of the persons surveyed mostly reflects the general level of awareness of a company or product and only to a limited extent the degree of attractiveness of employers. The respondents (often students) can actually only partly assess the quality of an employer because they have not (yet) worked in the company in question (Beck, 2008; Trost, 2009).

My conclusion: Question employer rankings critically. Do not automatically consider good ranking positions as high-quality employer performance. And: you should also not see them as a success of previous attractiveness and thus see no need for (innovative) employer branding measures.

Kununu? Revenge is sweet!
"Come in and burn out" - one of my favorite quotes on the employer rating platform "Kununu". I am visibly impressed by the creativity some (ex-)employees display! Admittedly: Platforms like "Kununu" have a reputation for being primarily for nasty retaliatory strikes from disappointed employees. That hasn't changed, but the point is: they're relevant all the same!

When the average is insufficient
According to a study by Bitkom, around half of Internet users in Germany have yet looked up employer ratings online in 2021. Since 2018, this figure has increased by eleven percent. But above all, how an employer is being rated has an impact on the job decision. 44 percent of all respondents who have read up on employers say it influenced their decision to change jobs. As Softgarden points out, "Clearly, an average rating is enough to be considered a miserable employer. In my opinion, however, it is not only the rating itself that is relevant, but also whether and how a company reacts to it.

Now the question is: what can an employer do to improve its ranking and rating? The call goes out for the one campaign that will make the Kununu score shoot up from 3.2 to 4. Digital channels are considered a key tool.

Digital? Not only for the «young talents»!
Digital channels are relevant for employer branding. Meanwhile a "no-brainer"? I know! Nevertheless, in my daily work, I repeatedly encounter people who want to do "some cool digital stuff for young talents". Believe it or not, around 63% of 50- to 69-year-old Swiss people log on to social networks (BfS, 2020; University of Zurich, 2019).

SEO und SEA – a strong team
Other studies show that job searches are mainly carried out via online job portals, search engines, career websites or social media (Uni Bamberg, 2020; Randstad, 2021). In other words: Digital is relevant. In fact, for everyone. So, it’s pretty clear that not even the best job ad and career website is of any use if it cannot be found (keyword: SEO/SEA).

In the long run, neither the best (digital) campaign nor the greatest ranking won't do you much good. To be consistently successful in employer branding, the following two points are match-decisive in my opinion:

  1. Employer Branding is not a sprint but a marathon
    Continuity and consistency in appearance and messages are important. A one-time campaign will not make you the most popular employer permanently. It requires solid groundwork (developing an employer value proposition), as my colleague Martin Fawer explains in his blog post.
  2. True beauty shines from within
    Internal measures are also necessary. Employer evaluations should be addressed within the company. The cause must be investigated and appropriate changes initiated.