The Difference Between a Reactive and a Proactive Employer Brand

February 7, 2018

Most forward-thinking organizations today realize the importance of establishing and maintaining their employer brand – the ones that understand the current candidate-driven job landscape, at least.

However, there are still tons of companies who don’t have employer branding down quite yet even though they’re otherwise doing really well in other aspects of their respective businesses. (maybe yours is one of them?)

You might be wondering WHY this might be. Well the main reason is that, more likely than not, most companies’ employer branding strategies are reactive rather than proactive. Because just as it’s easier to establish trust in the first place than it is to earn it back after something’s gone wrong, a reactive employer branding strategy can be likened to an uphill battle; it requires the greatest investment and yields the poorest return.

So what’s the difference between a proactive and reactive employer brand strategy?

A reactive strategy focuses primarily on undoing the damage that’s already occurred while a proactive strategy focuses on preventing damage before it ever occurs.

Here are some examples that illustrate the difference well:

  • A proactive employer monitors online employer reviews daily, responding to all reviews within 24 hours in a way that reflects the company’s core values. A reactive employer doesn’t pay attention to reviews until prospective candidates start turning down offers, citing online reviews as the reason for their loss of interest.
  • A proactive employer seeks insight from employees at every level in the organization before initiating change that would impact them to ensure they understand the reason for the change and have had an opportunity to share ideas that might be different; a reactive employer makes decisions at the top, enforces them with an iron fist, and then is forced to react when employees begin to quit. At this point, his options might be to issue significant raises or “stay-on bonuses” or to retract the change altogether, however necessary it may be.
  • A proactive employer maintains an open door policy and works to resolve concerns that are brought forward the first time they’re brought, while a reactive employer starts showing interest after an employee becomes disengaged or submits their letter of resignation.
  • A proactive employer considers all of the potential implications of a layoff before proceeding; they take special care to ensure the remaining employees feel secure in their roles and confident that those laid off were well cared for during their transition, and they ensure their marketing team is working to reassure the public during the change. A reactive employer simply lays off the employees selected, crosses their fingers, and hopes for the best – and then reacts when the best doesn’t occur.

It’s important to remember that the organization loses control of the situation when they fall into reaction mode. Your reaction is never as controlled, planned, or successful as your actions when they’re well-planned.

What steps can you take to manage your branding strategy proactively?

Try these: 

  • Create a company culture plan. Involve employees and leaders throughout the company early in the process to improve buy-in and adoption.
  • Continually evaluate the effectiveness of your culture plan; are the measures you’ve taken achieving the desired result? Measure employee satisfaction, voluntary turnover, retention, time to fill, and other metrics that can provide the insight you need.
  • Establish an open door policy to ensure employees feel comfortable getting their concerns resolved in-house. Employees who can bring forward concerns and expect positive results are likely to say positive things about your organization as an employer.
  • Recognize that all employee concerns are valid; whether they seem resolvable or fixable, they still provide insight regarding what’s working and what’s not, how effective your communication has been, and what fears and concerns employees have despite your efforts.
  • Claim your online review accounts to receive notifications of new reviews in real time and track trends over time.
  • Respond to both complimentary and constructive online reviews in a way that reflects your company culture, investment in employee satisfaction, and mission and vision statements.
  • Ask your employees to share their experiences online. It’s human nature to share the most when feeling angry or dissatisfied, which lends to reviews that reflect the weaknesses of an organization and few reviews that reflect it’s strengths. Tip: Ask small groups at a time to ensure confidentiality and avoid receiving dozens of reviews in one day, which may appear to be untrustworthy.

Employer branding is a buzz word right now, which means if you aren’t doing it you’re five steps behind the competition. However, since employer branding is still undergoing massive change due to all of the new HR technology that’s coming into the market, few companies have really mastered the concept. Take the opportunity to set the bar; get ahead of the curve by adopting a proactive branding strategy that encompasses the employee experience, beginning before they ever submit an application and extends beyond end of employment.

Key Takeaways:

  • A proactive employer branding strategy beats a reactive one
  • Your employer brand starts with your employee experience
  • Few companies do it right, which makes it a great time to be the first
  • Claiming your online employer accounts is critical



Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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