Different from consumer-oriented business brand, employer brand is a brand established by an organization as an employer to attract potential employees and retain existing employees. Since employer brand is put forward, it has gradually been a hot topic in the field of human resource management. Aiming to manage the perception and views of existing employees, potential employees and stakeholders on the organization, employer brand becomes a powerful tool to drive employees’ work engagement and word-of-mouth. Existing research shows that good employer brand can promote employees’ work engagement and word-of-mouth. These studies reveal the outcomes of employer brand from the perspectives of social identification theory or person-organization fit theory. In essence, employer brand is the relationship between employees and organizations, which has the mixed characteristics of instrument and emotion. It is one-sided to understand the instrumental-symbolic framework of employer brand from the perspective of social identification theory or person-organization fit theory.
This paper divides employer brand into two dimensions: instrumental （tangible factors, such as salary and working conditions） and symbolic （intangible factors, such as employer image）. Based on the exchange theory and the identification theory, this paper reveals the influence mechanism of employer instrumental-symbolic brand on employees’ work engagement and positive word-of-mouth by the survey data of 451 employees. Mplus6.12 is used to test the hypothesis. The conclusions are as follows: These two dimensions are not all effective in driving employees’ work engagement and word-of-mouth; Only instrumental dimension has a positive effect on work engagement and word-of-mouth by improving employees’ sense of job acquisition and organizational self-esteem, but symbolic dimension cannot.
According to the above conclusions, the practical implications are as follows: First, to increase the investment of instrumental brand is the key for organizations to try to drive employees’ vitality from employer brand. Second, both sense of job acquisition and organization-based self-esteem are the key factors to win employees’ work engagement and positive word-of-mouth through instrumental brand.
The original contributions are as follows: It is revealed that the instrumental brand is the key factor to influence internal employees’ work attitude and behavior. From the perspectives of exchange and identification, this study provides a more complete explanation for the influence of employer instrumental-symbolic brand on employees’ work engagement and word-of-mouth.
The limitations are as follows: First, for all variables are self-reported by employees, the reliability of conclusions is easily questioned. Second, aiming to reveal the influence mechanism of employer instrumental-symbolic brand on work engagement and word-of-mouth, this study makes an investigation on the mediating mechanism of the sense of job acquisition and organization-based self-esteem, but does not take the moderators into account.