5 CEOs Who Make Employer Branding A Priority

5 CEOs Who Make Employer Branding A Priority

Emily Smykal

Companies promote themselves and their products through corporate branding, and they promote their reputation as employers through employer branding. Much in the same way that a business tries to sell its services or products to consumers, employer branding is an attempt to “sell” the business to potential job candidates. Those with the strongest employer brand strategies are more likely to attract top talent–an increasingly important task amid the current skills shortage.

So what makes up an employer brand? Consider every aspect of working at your company–salaries, benefits, working spaces, location, colleagues, employee training and development, other perks–all of these features can be promoted as part of your employment brand. An up-to-date and highly functional career website, paired with a strong social media presence and vocal brand ambassadors from within your ranks impact your status as a great place to work.

As competition for skilled workers heats up and employees make greater demands, some large companies are promoting their employer brand in a different way–through their CEOs. As their most senior team member, CEOs are uniquely placed to embody their employer brand, and promote it to the widest audience. In this post we’ll discuss five CEOs who are taking employer branding to new heights.

richard branson employer brandingRichard Branson

Perhaps one of the most well-known CEOs for decades, Richard Branson has built an empire of businesses. His ventures include record stores and labels, airlines, mobile phone carriers, and even commercial spaceflight. All along, it seems that Richard Branson has never failed to attract employees to his latest venture. His hard-working and authentic personality and his generous nature have put him in control of over 100 companies with 60,000 employees spanning 50 countries.

“If you run a business, put on top your employees, then your consumers, and then your shareholders,” Richard Branson.

In fact in 2012, 46 years after Branson’s first business venture, Virgin was named the most desirable employer brand to work for in a survey of 2,000 British workers. Branson’s image as a smart innovator helped Virgin beat out UK-based competition like British Airways and department store John Lewis, as well as tech giants like Apple, Google and the venerable BBC.

jack dorsey employer brandingJack Dorsey

A more modern employee favorite among CEOs is Jack Dorsey. After leaving Twitter, the social media site he co-founded and ran as CEO, Dorsey created the mobile payments platform, Square. Today he runs both companies as CEO, and is building an employer brand and fostering employee loyalty at both companies.

Glassdoor collects anonymous reviews from current and existing employees, and the reports they’ve collected on Jack Dorsey are telling. As CEO of Square, he has a 95% approval rating from employees, while a whopping 98% of Twitter employees approve of him as CEO. While the media has fussed over Dorsey’s ability to lead two growing companies, his emphasis on employee happiness and well-being have already convinced many of his workers that he’s the right man to work for.

You’ve probably heard about Twitter’s recent round of layoffs. In response, this week Dorsey announced he’d be returning one-third of his shares, worth around $200 million, of Twitter’s stock to the employee pool to help reinstate employees’ faith in the company.

mary barra employer brandingMary Barra

While Richard Branson may exert his employer brand through his empire, and Jack Dorsey benefited from his own social media platform, Mary Barra is a CEO who built her employer brand at just one company from the ground up. An engineering graduate from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), Barra joined GM at 18 through the school’s co-op, and never left. After holding several engineering and administrative positions, Barra became VP of Global Manufacturing Engineering, then VP of Global Human Resources, followed by Executive VP of Global Product Development.

“Everybody does a better job when they’re able to balance. It might mean on a certain day I’ve got to leave a little early because I want to see my daughter play volleyball. That doesn’t mean that after we go home, and after we’ve eaten dinner and the kids go to bed, I’m not going to take out the computer and catch up on what I missed. We need to provide that environment. In a world now with our BlackBerrys and our smartphones, we’re always on. We need to find the opportunity not to do everything, but to do the important things,” Mary Barra.

In December 2013 Barra reached the pinnacle of GM, becoming CEO. So far she has faced a multitude of recalls of GM cars and a subsequent investigation from the Justice Department. But Barra is putting employees first, focusing on improving safety and continuing employee development much like her own. Long term employees have been impressed with her on-site visits to plants and attention to employee concerns, and she currently has an 88% approval rating on Glassdoor.

tim cook employer brandingTim Cook

Recently, Glassdoor produced its Employees’ Choice Awards for the Highest Rated CEOs in 2015. Among large companies in North America, one name was unsurprising–Apple CEO Tim Cook. With a 94% approval rating, Cook has taken great strides not just to promote the Apple employer brand, but to step out from the shadow of his predecessor, Steve Jobs.

Cook’s leadership focuses on three things: people, strategy, and execution, and he has said, “If you get those three right the world is a great place.” His emphasis on people, and his appeal to young, progressive job candidates was further strengthened when he came out as the first openly gay CEO on the Fortune 500. This year he led 8,000 Apple employees in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

Cook understands the power he and his team hold over the company’s employer brand, stating, “Ultimately, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.”

larry page employer brandingLarry Page

We would be remiss to ignore the top CEO on Glassdoor’s list, Google chief Larry Page. With a 97% approval rating on Glassdoor, Google’s co-founder and CEO has helped build an employer brand that covers the globe. Universum’s Student Surveys of over 200,000 business and engineering/IT students around the world ranks companies based on the employer characteristics they find most attractive. And Google has topped the list for business and engineering/IT every year since 2012.

“My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society. As a world, we’re doing a better job of that. My goal is for Google to lead, not follow that,” Larry Page.

Page learned the hard way that not every management style works, and he even stepped down as CEO from 2001 to 2010. Page returned to the top job with a greater appreciation for kindness in the workplace and more collaboration across divisions. The result has been an employer brand that outstrips older, more traditional employers. Google’s consumer brand, its positive image as an employer, a strong internship program, and a recruiting effort that outweighs most of the competition turned Larry Page’s search engine into by far the most popular place to work.

Check out our new eBook, “The Talent Acquisition Leader’s Guide to the New Candidate Journey.” From employer branding to recruitment marketing and conversion optimization, this eBook dives into what modern leaders should be thinking about.new candidate journey ebookcareer site assessment


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