Making the Most of Your Brand

Three ways to attract and retain talent with a consumer-driven mind-set.

By Adam Shay

Smart global companies of all shapes and sizes across every sector know to invest in developing and communicating their brands. And with good reason. According to Forbes, Google’s brand is worth over $65 million, Microsoft nearly $70 million, and Apple a staggering $145 million.

Organizations with strong and clearly identifiable brands generally outperform their market peers, their products, and their services are in higher demand. Plus, they are often able to charge premium prices and, crucially important for HR, they can attract and retain the best talent.

According to recent research from LinkedIn and global brand consultancy, Lippincott, companies with both a strong corporate and employer brand have generated growth in shareholder value of 36 percent over the preceding five years. On the other hand, organizations that fell short in both of these areas actually lost 6 percent of shareholder value in the same period.

Today’s job seekers are more informed than ever. In fact, Talent Board’s recent survey of nearly 95,000 job seekers found that 52.3 percent of candidates already had some type of relationship with the company because of its employer or overall brand. This could stem from being a customer; admiring its ethical or innovative policies; or knowing someone who worked there. If this is the case, across the employment spectrum, more than half of all mobile talent is in some way pre-disposed to an employer. Consequently, those in the front-line of talent acquisition perhaps bear even more responsibility since their task is to sustain a favourable inclination through the entire hiring process. And this rings true for whether an individual joins the organization—or not.

So how does a talent specialist leverage the power of the brand for the biggest impact? Through the approaches and mindset of a consumer marketer. Today’s candidates are consumers and talent acquisition professionals need to act as marketers.

Consumer marketing has made a significant and highly effective shift in recent years to focus on storytelling and curated content, which can genuinely enhance customers’ lives. Now is the time for employer brand managers and talent acquisition professionals to follow their lead. For example, by generating credible stories about successful, engaged employees and communicating them through  all relevant channels, including social media, HR will help candidates truly understand an organization. Similarly, recruiters should consider approaching prospective candidates in the same way that marketers approach consumers: By never assuming that they know what they are thinking, but constantly researching and gathering information to create an experience that is based on fact, rather than likelihood.

To date, marketing departments have shown themselves much more adept at leveraging big data than their peers in talent acquisition and management. But on-going development in workforce analytics technology is putting this immensely powerful tool well within HR’s grasp.

The Devil is in the Detail

Here are three steps to leverage employer brand and a consumer-driven approach to land the market’s best candidates.

1. Consistency. Research shows that candidates are very active consumers of employer brands. According to Talent Board’s survey, 44 percent of job seekers research an organization before applying to a job, and nearly 68 percent of this group spend up to two hours doing so. Candidates search for information on services, values and what it is actually like to work at the company. According to PwC, the reputation of an organization is the most compelling reason Millennials join companies, only after the opportunity for personal development. A strong and engaging employer brand is consequently vital.

Talent acquisition specialists need to think like a candidate and understand exactly what the hiring process looks and feels like. Be sure to examine the hiring process from start to finish in granular detail and make sure that any gaps from first contact to onboarding are properly addressed. The more compelling the employer brand, the greater the expectations are.

2. Authenticity. In the past, some recruiters have viewed the talent acquisition process as a sales process. In this case, competing for the best talent has often meant creating the most attractive offer based on tangible elements, such as pay and benefits, but also on the less definable, such as corporate culture. And if an element of exaggeration crept into the sales pitch along the way, then the end was often deemed good enough to justify the means. This is certainly not the case now. In the age of social media, the truly effective employer brand—the one that not only attracts, but also engages, then retains top talent—is one that is based on complete transparency and authenticity. Communicating what it is really like to be part of a particular organization is far more powerful than creating a fantasy. Unrealistic expectations will only earn very short-term gain that will be quickly lost to high levels of attrition. And don’t forget that if the working environment is really as good as the employee value proposition suggests, then the job of the front-line talent acquisition specialist becomes much easier. Dealing with reality is always more productive than dealing with distortion.

3. Challenge and eliminate the concept of losing. Organizations can build affi nity with their employer brand in a few ways: By clearly articulating what that brand represents, by enabling candidates to experience it, and challenging them to engage. This final phase of engagement has historically often led to a process of testing: through one-to-one or panel interviewing, roleplaying or even psychometric assessment. The problem with this approach is that it is based on a context— success or failure, winning or losing. What we need now is to use gamification to create experiences rather than tests. Market pioneers, including L’Oreal, Domino’s Pizza, the US Army, and Marriott with its hotel-themed online game, have already implemented this approach.

The key difference between these experiences and conventional tests is that the former is both enjoyable and advisory, leading a candidate to in effect make their own decision as to whether they are right or not for a particular role or even a particular company. And by removing the pejorative from the process in this way we not only bond earlier with the people we hire, we also stand to turn those we reject into potential champions of both our employer and master brands.

Posted December 11, 2015 in Talent Acquisition

Leave a Reply