Franchisors looking to win the talent war cannot afford to have bad employer brands
Businesses live and die by their ability to attract the best talent. Without the right people, franchisors are left with no one to launch their companies into the stratosphere. But, in an increasingly candidate-led labour market, finding high-quality employees to man the take-off is easier said than done.
While an unemployment rate of 5.1% may sound like stellar news for the UK, the skills shortage has left franchisors with a limited talent pool from which to source candidates. It also means that jobseekers can afford to be picky about who they apply to work for. “More and more people want to work for employers that they believe will treat them well and offer an attractive working environment,” says Joao Araujo, country manager at Universum, the employer branding experts.
The trick to winning the talent war for franchisors is to ensure that they have strong employer brands. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, an employer brand is a company’s reputation for how it treats its staff. So while a company brand attracts customers, an employer brand attracts potential employees. “Without a good employer brand, we’d lose market share, our franchisees would miss opportunities and we’d miss the best candidates,” says Suzie McCafferty, franchise director at Select Appointments, the recruitment agency.
Poor employer branding doesn’t just slash franchisors’ chances of attracting talent; it can also see recruitment costs skyrocket. Recent research from LinkedIn revealed that companies with subpar employer branding on average have to offer 10% bigger pay packages than competitors with better reputations. In other words, franchisors who don’t take control of their employer brands can find themselves failing to recruit candidates at reasonable prices. “It’s crucial that your company can tell its own story,” says Mark Di-Toro, careers expert at Glassdoor, the online employer review service. “Your employer brand is your reputation; if you don’t define it, someone else will.”
And that someone could be a franchisor’s own workforce. Social media and employer-review sites like Glassdoor have provided employees with countless platforms to vent how they really feel about employers. And it seems prospective jobseekers are interested in their comments. “Candidates are looking to hear from their peer group, rather than from the employer,” says Duncan Berry, COO at Bluebird Care, the care company. “As an employer, you have to be increasingly aware of social media comments and how people rate you online.”
So while an exceptional About Us page on a company’s website may have been enough to convince candidates in the past, that is no longer the case. “All companies try to create a good culture and employer brand but you cannot hide from social media if you are not great,” says McCafferty. Ultimately, ‘fake it until you make it’ won’t cut it with employer branding. Franchisors have to make a genuine effort to be a great employer in order to build a fantastic employer brand.
Araujo advises franchisors looking to boost their employer brands to start by asking themselves one question: “Why do we exist as an organisation?” By asking that question, employers can pinpoint what the company’s vision and values are, which can also help motivate staff. “They will feel that they are part of something larger than just the office they are working in,” says Berry.
For the past year, Bluebird Care has been busy articulating what its values are in a bid to improve retention and recruitment. “People don’t generally have a very good perspective of what it is like to work in the care sector,” says Berry. The solution was to ask themselves what values Bluebird Care actually stands for. “Having those values helps our franchisee network and carers understand why they get up every day,” he explains.
Yet establishing company values and vision is only the first step. McCafferty advises franchisors to consider the identities of the candidates they look for, what kind of employer they are and what the company culture is like. That way, employers can better understand what they may have to change in order to attract much-needed talent. Just like selling a product, attracting jobseekers comes down to knowing your audience. “You may be an employer working in a fast-paced environment but not all candidates may want to be working in a fast-paced environment,” explains McCafferty.
Needless to say, franchisors rely on franchisees to ensure that the employer brand rings true throughout the organisation. Franchisors are therefore advised to establish a manual and code of conduct for their franchisees. “That way, everybody shares the same vision, values and beliefs,” says McCafferty.
But the top-down approach is not the only way to establish a good employer brand. Franchisors should also be open to ideas coming from the bottom-up. “I spoke with a franchise owner yesterday who’d introduced a random-acts-of-kindness box,” says Berry. The box allows franchisees and staff to give employees small tokens of appreciation, making them feel valued for their efforts. “Being able to share fantastic little ideas like that across the network is one of the advantages that franchises have,” he adds.
While franchisees can come up with brilliant ideas, they could also hurt the employer brand by treating employees unfairly. “You must react to that quickly because your franchise network is only as good as your worst franchisee,” says McCafferty. In the case of a franchisee not conforming to Select Appointments’ employer brand, McCafferty would sit down with the franchisee and explain where they have deviated. “Then we give them more training and set up a plan to get them back on track,” she says.
According to McCafferty, constant reconfirmation of the employer brand is key to ensuring that franchisees conform to it. “We have regional meetings where we share best practice,” she says. “We also organise national field competitions and awards to ensure that standards are being maintained.”
Finally, it is important to recognise that establishing a great employer brand is not a one-off effort. Maintaining a good reputation requires continuous improvement and awareness of what employees actually think of you. “Franchisors should conduct regular studies to understand the current satisfaction levels of employees in different branches,” explains Araujo. “They should also monitor social media to hear what people are saying about them.”
With a good employer brand, employees will take to social media, encouraging talent to apply for roles at your company. However, just because they talk about you with passion and excitement now doesn’t mean that their enthusiasm will last. “You cannot rest on your values as a brand,” concludes McCafferty. “You have to continuously look at what’s next.”