Engaging Employees for the Long Term: Developing your Employer Branding

Rutherford Cross Consultant, Christina McLean, explores the link between employer branding and employee retention. She considers what it means to have a strong Employee Value Proposition and highlights key relevant findings from a recent case study carried out on the Livingston James Group.

As a boutique search firm, Livingston James Group covers three distinct specialisms: Executive Search & Leadership Advisory, Senior Finance, and Technology & Change. It goes without saying that a compelling brand strategy is paramount for an SME like Livingston James Group to thrive in what continues to be a highly competitive market.

With Livingston James Group’s purpose being to help our Clients, Candidates, Colleagues and Communities to realise their potential, I wanted this blog to consider the influence that branding and an Employee Value Proposition have on attracting top talent and retaining employees; not only within Livingston James Group, but within other purpose and values-led businesses across Scotland.


Brand Identity vs Employer Branding

Brand identity is the makeup of a brand’s purpose and values, how the organisation communicates its product or service, and what impact that has on its key stakeholders when engaging with the organisation.

Customers are of course vital to any business for growth and profitability; however, it can be forgotten that employees are the engine that drive business success and are arguably an organisation’s most important asset. Implementing initiatives to retain and attract staff is in other words an ‘employer branding’ strategy.

A recent case study carried out on Livingston James Group by an MSc student, brings to light some interesting examples of where employer branding can inspire employee retention within the executive search industry. As part of the study, employees at Livingston James Group were asked a series of questions relating to:

  1. Employee Retention Strategies
  2. Employer Branding
  3. Communication of the Employer Brand
  4. The Influence of Employer Branding on Employee Retention


To summarise, the research findings suggested that there is an inherent link between employer branding and employee retention whereby initiatives such as work-life balance, culture, training and development, and CSR activities can have a significant impact. Below are some examples of employer branding measures that have been implemented across the Livingston James Group.

  • Transition to an Employee-Owned business model
  • Each employee is entitled to two fully paid CSR days per year
  • Flexible working arrangements including hybrid working and 4.5 day working week
  • Core purpose & values underpin every decision
  • Clear communication of employer brand through online presence


The data suggests that the number one factor that attracts top talent and retains employees is our employee ownership model, followed by our proactive CSR approach, with 80% of respondents stating that the organisation’s employer brand positively influences their decision to stay with the business.

Here are two quotes from interviewees explaining example employer branding initiatives that have influenced them.

“In 2021, we introduced a discretionary 12.30pm finish on a Friday for all staff members, as long as you’re up to date with your workload. I think that the 4 ½ day working week is associated with our brand and I think that’s been very helpful in our employee retention.”

“It’s a particular model (with regards to employee ownership) that gives the employees perhaps more of a voice at Board level and that gives them access to potential profit sharing.”


Employee Value Proposition

Employer branding is closely linked to the increasingly common term ‘Employee Value Proposition’ (EVP). Referring to the total package of benefits an organisation offers to its employees, an EVP extends beyond salary and includes both tangible and intangible benefits; including training and development, flexible working environments and health and wellness programmes to name a few.

Growing your EVP is not a one-size-fits-all approach: it should be unique and tailored to your target market. If done correctly it can have an extremely positive impact on enhancing employee retention, engagement and productivity. Amazon, PwC and Airbnb are notable examples of large corporate businesses who understand what it means to have an attractive EVP. For example, Airbnb’s EVP targets those who enjoy culture and travel, aiming to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere”; honing in on their values and desire for diversity and inclusivity, whilst offering great travel perks such as experience credit and annual travel.


Growing an Employee Value Proposition within an SME

As an SME, your approach to growing an EVP might differ slightly from large corporations like Airbnb for obvious reasons such as financial and market limitations. This encourages smaller businesses to build a foundation centred around purpose and values, creating initiatives to attract and retain talent that align authentically with the core beliefs of the organisation.

Whether it’s recognising the need for flexible working arrangements or taking a monumental business decision such as transitioning to employee ownership, giving your workforce a voice and the opportunity to make a difference can be as powerful as offering costly monetary benefits; and as indicated by the case study findings, it can often be perceived as having a higher value than some of the more typical incentives.

If you are interested in reading the full case study findings, please contact Christina: [email protected].


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