In a Talent Shortage, a Strong Employee Brand Is Crucial.


Organizations work very hard to create and market a great brand for consumers. Their goal is to make sure their products and services are distinguishable from the products and services of others. I’ve seen a brand described as a perception in the mind of the customer, and as a promise of what they will experience. That brand promise is vital. It attracts customers and gives them a reason (the “why”) to use the product or service.

The most powerful brands are ones that create great word of mouth. I fly on Delta quite a bit. I hear them say they have the best on-time performance of major airlines. And they do. For October of 2023, Delta was on time 90.84 percent of the time. For many fliers, this is very important.

Most businesses understand the need for a strong brand to attract customers and keep them coming back. But what about your employee brand?

I spend most of my time with healthcare organizations. Their biggest pain point today is staffing. And healthcare providers are not alone. We see signs on the doors of many businesses stating that hours have been reduced due to staff shortages. There are not enough new grads to fill these open positions. However, there are enough experienced people to fill them. Where are these people? They are working someplace else.

The best “recruitment” strategy is to retain current employees. But that is not enough. It is necessary to attract the talent that’s working elsewhere. And people are willing to move for the right position. People are leaving jobs in record numbers. Why? Because they are looking for a better fit for their needs.

Just as companies create a brand to attract consumers, it is important to have an employee brand that attracts talent. Companies are very specific about why to choose their product. The best companies are also specific on what their employee brand is. They purposely create a great place for workers—one that is so great that workers will let others know it is a great place to be and why. It is important for a company to be able to back up what they say with data.

There are so many workplace recognitions now that just saying you are on a best-place-to-work list may no longer be enough. It is good, but more is needed.

A few tips:

  1. Measure employee engagement (which often indicates loyalty). Dig into the data. When engagement is high, ask people why they feel this is the place for them. This helps identify what, specifically, people value about the workplace.
  2. Focus on trust and well-being. After making sure your current workforce feels good, then identify your workplace promises. Research today shows that items like trust in top leaders, organization support (staff and resources), and the belief that “my company cares about my well-being” are at the top of the list for places people want to work. Another item is “I feel comfortable sharing my concerns with my supervisor.” This supports the feeling of trust and well-being. It is very much like saying, “This is the brand you can trust.”
  3. Get intentional about great communication. Like the other items identified in Tip 2, communication is important to the workforce. Many times, surveys will point out that employees feel they are not aware of decisions that affect them. Once a company is strong in that area, publicize it.
  4. Use current employee testimonials. Just think of how powerful it is when a current employee says: “I love working here because I am included in decisions that may affect me. I love working here because I can trust the information received is open and honest. I love working here because they care about my well-being, and here is how…” (and then provides a list of resources offered by your company).
  5. Be bold in your marketing. In the 1980s, I was living in Janesville, Wisconsin. At the time, Mercy Hospital was the only hospital in town (there are now two). Ten miles to the south was Beloit Memorial Hospital in Beloit, Wisconsin. The local healthcare workforce tended to work in the hospital they lived closer to. Because the population of Janesville was larger than Beloit’s, to fill staff spots, Beloit Hospital could not depend only on Beloit workers. Michael Rindler became president/CEO of Beloit Hospital. He was willing to be bold. One day billboards showed up all over Janesville with photos of Beloit healthcare workers. The caption read, “I live in Janesville and work in Beloit, and here is why.” It let people who worked at the only hospital in town know they had an option they may not have thought of before. It also helped Beloit Hospital build a brand of being such a great place to work that it was worth traveling out of town to do so.

Demographic shifts and changing expectations around work are creating challenges for employers. There are not enough people entering the workforce to fill the current vacancies. Low birth rates, Baby Boomers retiring, and people looking for great places to work that are a better fit for them mean that some organizations will win and some will not. Those places with the best employee brand will be the winners.

Quint Studer
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Quint Studer’s latest book, Rewiring Excellence: Hardwired to Rewired, provides tools and techniques that are doable and that help employees and physicians experience joy in their work as well as enhance patients’ and families’ healthcare experiences. His book The Calling: Why Healthcare Is So Special is aimed at helping healthcare professionals keep their sense of passion and purpose high. In Sundays with Quint, he shares a selection of his popular leadership columns for leaders, employees, and business owners in all industries.

Quint is the cofounder of Healthcare Plus Solutions Group, a consulting firm that specializes in delivering customized solutions to diagnose and treat healthcare organizations’ most urgent pain points.