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Three manufacturing workers on the shop floor. A woman is the hero of the image.

Unlocking the power of employer branding in manufacturing

Your employees are the heart and soul of your company and the face of your brand, especially in manufacturing. From sales and customer service to engineering and the factory floor, your employees create and deliver the brand to the market. Your employees need to understand the brand but also believe in it, know their role in it, and live it. Doing so instills pride and advocacy in your employees, which motivates them to authentically share your message with you.

Building a strong employer brand takes time and dedication, which might make you push this to the bottom of your to-do list. We would caution against that. Not making it a priority in this market could leave you in the dust. Employer branding isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have—for retention and recruitment in a market in which labor is scarce. But this isn’t Monopoly. You can’t skip past Go and collect $200. You can’t skip ahead to employee advocacy without a strong employee experience first.

Walking the walk: a strong, authentic foundation

The foundation of a successful employer brand is employee satisfaction and engagement—ultimately creating a great employee experience. Here’s how to get it right:

  • Leadership: Executive leaders need to set the vision and purpose for employees by paving the path and modeling the behavior they want to see in employees. From building a business strategy that aligns with the mission from the top to bottom, to showcasing the impact and purpose of each department and its role in achieving the mission.
  • Culture: Create and nurture a positive company culture that aligns with your mission. Today this means providing value above and beyond compensation and table-stakes benefits. It also means standing for something bigger than business objectives with ESG initiatives. Think about what value you provide that enhances culture and aligns with your mission, and encourage employees to get involved. Your perks, benefits, and programs only impact culture when employees know about them—make this is a top priority!
  • Communication and Feedback: Maintain transparent and consistent communication with your employees. Frequently seek their feedback and opinions through surveys, forums, and manager 1:1s. Show employees how you’re making real changes based on their feedback and engagement. Use internal communication platforms to keep everyone informed and engaged.
  • Rewards and Growth: Offer competitive rewards and clear growth opportunities. Recognize and celebrate employee achievements to build a culture of appreciation.

From employee engagement to employee advocacy

Once you have established a strong, authentic employee experience, it’s time to educate and engage employees to become brand advocates. Seventy percent of companies don’t have an employee advocacy strategy, so we know we are most likely talking to you.

  • Education: Educate employees on your messaging and how it relates to your company’s purpose, mission, vision, and values. Provide brand and social media guidelines and best practices to illustrate how they can positively represent the company online.
  • Incentives: Create incentive programs to reward employees for their social media engagement and sharing. Recognition can go a long way in motivating your team. You can work with companies like PerkSpot to manage rewards.
  • Content Strategy: Build a social content strategy and calendar focused solely on the employer brand. Consider stories, content types, and series that resonate with your employees. For example, Johnson Controls leverages employee testimonials to fuel its #BuildingTomorrowTogether employee recognition campaign via social media.
  • Employee Channels: Dedicate specific channels to employee communities where they can share experiences and connect. For example, Caterpillar dedicates its LinkedIn presence to highlighting its employees’ stories with the #iAmCaterpillar campaign.
  • Automation: Use internal communication platforms to automate sharing. Provide pre-written social posts and comments to make it easy for employees to participate. Encourage employees to create and share content. Authentic stories about the people behind your product or service and their experiences humanize your marketing and will resonate with your current employees, job candidates, and even prospective customers.

When your employee content becomes your external marketing content, you know you’ve nailed it. Siemens is a prime example with its Ingenuity for Life campaign that features stories, videos, and articles showcasing how its employees are solving global challenges with ingenuity. But melding employer brand with external brand content doesn’t need to be a big and expensive campaign; it can start small, such as:

  • Employee Creator Programs: Leverage social media-savvy employees who are already brand advocates by establishing internal employee creator or influencer programs to formally engage them to create content for your marketing channels.
  • Contests and Challenges: Organize contests and challenges to keep employees engaged and excited about sharing content.

The bottom line

Building a strong employer brand in manufacturing is essential to attracting talent, retaining employees, and supporting growth. Start today by prioritizing the employee experience, then expand to developing and empowering employee advocates. By doing so, you’ll create a workplace where employees thrive AND share your brand message with the world.

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