How NOT to do employer branding

January 22, 2020

There is plenty advice telling you how to do employer branding the right way. But today, I want to highlight some of the disastrous things employers do, in their pursuit to become ‘the next Google’.

What is employer branding?

There are lots of ways to define employer branding. Some of them more useful than others.

According to, employer branding is a type of branding that goes beyond the typical consumer. It is how you market to the talent communities, to recruits, and to recruiting agencies that are recommending future employees.

Your employer brand is heavily influenced by what people think about working at your company. Unfortunately though, many companies seem to think that this is the only metric – and they kinda miss the point of the whole exercise.

With that in mind, here are three big mistakes many employers are guilty of making, during their futile attempts at building a strong employer brand.

Positive feedback is a symptom, not the cause

When employees say nice things about working for your company, it could indeed be a symptom of a strong employer brand. But it is important to focus on that word ‘symptom’.

Positive employee testimonials are a symptom of a strong employer brand – not a cause. And you’d have to be pretty stupid to believe that forcing employees to say nice things about your company is a good idea. It is not.

Forcing positive feedback from employees, for example, on review websites like Glassdoor, is not going to strengthen your employer brand. At best, it will temporarily trick some people into joining your company, only for them to walk straight back out that revolving door.

Do employers really force employees to leave fake positive reviews?

Senior HR expert Liz Ryan, writing on Forbes, published a letter she received from an employee detailing this very practice.

“My awful manager commanded each of us to write a positive review about the company” explains the concerned employee. “There are already 30 negative reviews about this organisation on Glassdoor. I guess my manager hopes that six positive reviews will undo some of the damage 30 negative reviews have done to the company brand.”

This is like wrapping a bandage around your neck, after kneeling at the guillotine. It is not going to work.

And actually, in the example of the company in question, employees who were forced to leave a positive review, only ended up changing it to a negative review once they left the company. This means that even employees who would probably never have bothered to visit Glassdoor, were now leaving negative reviews.

The net effect on the employer brand was negative.

Do not fire the people who criticise you

So, if you can’t force people to have a positive opinion about you, then why don’t you just get rid of the naysayers? Not a good idea, according to Joe Bailey, Business Consultant at Velvet Jobs.

“I know of an employer who made employees lie about the working conditions for years” he recalls. “However, one employee began documenting their day to day negative experiences. She was soon fired, and the company attempted to paint her in a very bad light in public.”

Joe tells me that the public saw through the company’s nefarious activities, and suffered from a serious backlash from customers, the press, and industry regulatory bodies. Eventually, the cost of all this led to bankruptcy.

Another negative net effect on the employer brand.

Free snacks and yoga do not create instant culture

Some companies think that the key to a good culture, and thus a strong employer brand, is to throw as many free things as they can at their employee, in order to promote employee wellbeing.

In theory, this should work. But in practice, it only works when your management style is free of micromanagement, and powered by trust, competence, and the right people skills.

In an interview we filmed with Professor Sir Cary Cooper, he told us: “As nice as it is to do mindfulness at lunchtime, as nice as it is to have somebody giving you smoothies in the workplace… that’s nice. It’s an added benefit. But it is not wellbeing.”

Start by making sure your managers understand the reasons behind your culture, and by making sure they are committed to this way of working. You can’t just throw free fruit at employees, and hope they’ll love being micromanaged.

For example…

One company I looked at on Glassdoor appeared to have a lot of ‘benefits’ for employees. One employee even described this as: “Free premium snacks, fresh produce, you can even make yourself a sandwich”.

On the surface, this looks great.

But if you look deeper, that one company has 150 employee reviews, with an average rating of just 3 stars. Most disgruntled employees cite ‘poor communication’ and ‘bad management’ as the reason for their negative experience.

Care about your employer brand, but don’t force the metrics

You should care about your employer brand. Having a strong employer brand is important, because it proves to talented people that you’re worth their consideration.

But if you don’t have the goods to back up your claims, there is no point trying to fake it. Because you’re never going to make it.

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