Here at the Brand Education, we draw our strategies from two key places: our own experiences of over a decade in the education industry and key research on higher education marketing. That research is useful not just for proving what we’ve learned through experience but also for revealing the mechanisms behind key market phenomena. 

In this week’s post, we’re taking a close look at one of our favourite research papers to explore the effects of corporate brand on employer attractiveness in the STEM sector, especially as it pertains to the use of social media. In doing so, the authors reveal the most important ingredients to your employer brand strategy. 

Don’t forget, you can download the full paper from ResearchGate here.

What does the study say?

Using electronic questionnaires, the study found that the use of social media positively correlates to corporate reputation in its survey group of engineering students. That means that your university social media channels are absolutely key to affecting a strong employer brand. Most interestingly, however, the study identifies three core values that enhance an organization’s ability to attract candidates; namely, innovation value, application value and psychological value. Let’s explore these three values and how they influence your brand.

What is application value?

Perhaps it’s common sense that employees want to work for firms that are customer-oriented and build on their knowledge for real-world application. Application value is the dimension which measures this effect in employer branding. It’s comprised of three of the 25 items from Berthton’s Employer Attractiveness scale (2005) and measures how important customer-oriented working practices are to employees. Of our three key values, application value was the weakest indicator of employer brand, but still had a marked effect on the likelihood of a student to apply. When it comes to your brand, you can’t afford to forget about application value.

What is innovation value?

Innovation value was the second most influential of the identified values and was a fair indicator of employer attractiveness. It’s comprised of three of the 25 indicators from the EmpAtr scale and measures brand factors including the perception of innovative products and services, novel work practices and a forward-thinking. It’s perhaps unsurprising that innovation was a strong indicator of a candidate’s likelihood to apply to a company, especially given our sample group of engineering students.

What is psychological value?

Psychological value is a little more difficult to define than the other two values. It’s surprising then to see that it’s almost twice as strong as the other two values as an application indicator. It’s commonly defined in marketing research as the extent to which a product or service allows a buyer to express themselves or make themselves feel better. It suggests that psychological affinity for a particular brand is by far the strongest indicator of their likelihood to apply to a position. In practice, that means that aligning your brand with potential employees’ feelings, values and goals is the most effective way to increase applications from the best candidates.

What does all this mean for you?

The study has a few limitations, especially when it comes to extending the research into the area of higher education. It only focuses on engineering students, which means that value indicators may vary for candidates in different fields. It also focuses solely on corporate employers, not on higher education. 

That being said, STEM is one of the most important fields of focus for universities today. And it’s not a huge stretch to assume that the values candidates look for in a higher education employer are not so different from the corporate world. That’s why, when it comes to hiring the best of the best, focusing on psychological value is a huge part of making your employer brand effective. 

A job is much more than just a source of income. For many employees, it’s an expression of who they are. The key to being an attractive employer then is in understanding who your top employees are and aligning your brand with their feelings and values. The secret lies in the minds and hearts of your team.