There have been numerous high-profile instances of brands being criticised for their employer brand over the past few years, says Steve Leigh.

Perhaps one of the most notable was the crisis involving craft beer company BrewDog which faced significant public criticism after a group of employees signed an open letter accusing the chain of creating a “rotten culture”. But the BrewDog example showed that brands can start to turn things around, as it was listed among The Sunday Times’ Best Places to Work in 2023.

A positive employer brand is crucial for attracting top talent. It can also assist with employee retention and reduce recruitment costs, as employees who are proud of where they work are more likely to stay with an organisation long-term. However, the benefits of a good employer brand span well beyond effective recruitment.

It can also assist with improving a business’ reputation overall, not to mention it gives a competitive advantage. Prospective clients want to know if a business’ staff are happy and productive when deciding whether to do business with them. Investing in a positive employer brand can pay dividends in so many ways.

Yet swathes of businesses are struggling to nail their employer brand and, as a result, are missing out on attracting some of the most innovative and tech-savvy thinkers, Gen Z, who place enormous value on a positive employer brand. Here are three ways employers are getting their branding wrong – and how they can correct it to attract entry-level talent.

Not optimising social media

In a modern age where everyone consumes their news digitally, especially Gen Z, it is good business sense to advertise job roles on social media. But it is even better sense to use social media as a tool to promote employer brand and attract talent organically.

However, many businesses go wrong by not updating their company social channels frequently or by keeping it strictly business. Being virtually anonymous online will make it harder for prospective talent to find you. And when they do, they might not find anything impressive to convince them to apply either. 

Even worse, a business may actually have a negative employer brand that, when not dealt with effectively, can work against them. Employer review sites such as Glassdoor are hugely influential, and many job hunters will check out how an employer is perceived by others before making the decision to apply for a role with them.

An employer’s social footprint can tell a lot about how a business operates and what it is like to work there. Staff testimonials via blog posts or social videos can provide real insight and can help prospective employees work out if a job role with the employer is worth pursuing. Content showing team meetings, outings or even popular ‘day in the life’ videos can be shared across Instagram or TikTok too, platforms used predominantly by younger generations, to promote a positive employer brand. 

Overall, social media should be treated as a major communication channel for both prospective and existing staff, and it should never be an afterthought.

Keeping schtum on company culture 

Older generations tend to pride themselves on working hard, often at significant expense to their private time and family lives. But it has been said that younger generations of workers ‘want it all’, a good work-life balance, economic security and greater working flexibility.

Data from Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey supports this, with Gen Zs and Millennials admiring the ability of their peers to balance work and life priorities, more so than any other trait. What this shows is that work is a key part of their identity, but Gen Z recognises that there is more to life than just careers.

As a result, many are looking for evidence of quality company culture when they seek out job opportunities. For example, the availability of hybrid working, team socials and volunteering opportunities can all be a huge draw for prospective employees. Gen Z also want to know that they will gel well within existing team structures and that employee benefits will enhance their working lives.

As previously discussed, sharing details of a positive company culture online, either on the business’ website or on social channels, can go a long way in communicating that an employer provides a great working environment to prospective hires.

The wrong priorities

An employer’s ethical standpoint is also hugely important to Gen Z. A study of 1,000 UK adults by Sensu Insight found an almost three-fold increase in the importance Gen Z place on the social consciousness of organisations compared to older generations.

 Among today’s graduate recruits, 31 percent will choose to work for employers who proactively prioritise diversity and inclusion in the workforce, compared to 11 percent of Gen X (those aged 42 to 58). Also, 32 percent of Gen Z want to know how their employer invests in responsible and sustainable business compared to just 14 percent of Gen X. 

Also, 32 percent of Gen Z would not work for a company that did not seek to achieve gender parity in pay either, compared to 17 percent of Gen X. The data suggests there is also a greater interest in these issues among Gen Z then their slightly older counterparts, with only 23 percent of Millennials stating the same.

There is no quick fix for an employer who is perceived not to care about important societal issues. A business must work to improve its ethical standpoint with genuine initiatives, lest it face deserved accusations of insincerity or ‘greenwashing’. Then it can then work to communicate its standpoint and efforts effectively as a key part of its employer brand.

Moving forward

If recruitment or retention is a problem within a business, it can be hard to know where to start to resolve this. This is where external expertise can play a crucial role. 

Carrying out employer brand audits can pinpoint holes in a business which are contributing to a negative perception among prospective and existing staff. Once an employer is aware of the issues at play, they can aim to improve their reputation, recruitment and retention by tackling the problems head-on, whether it be through improved company initiatives, better communication strategies or reputation management practices.

With so many components of a business affected by employer brand, it is of paramount importance that it is taken seriously. Doing so will ensure talented employees are not in short supply, both in the short term and into the future, who are the beating heart of any business.


Steve Leigh, is the Managing Director of research, measurement and evaluation consultancy Sensu Insight.