Six Ways to Put your Employment Brand to Work

 In Branding, Employee Engagement, Team Building

With a war for talent in high gear, employment branding is getting a lot of attention these days. New positions with titles such as Director of Talent or Chief Culture Officer are cropping up to address the issue in mid to large companies, conferences dedicated to the topic are in high demand and not a week goes by without opportunities to learn more through articles and webinars. In fact, CultureTalk conducted a webinar just last week called The Culture-Talent Connection: Employment Brands that Connect People with Purpose.

These conversations are happening on your local main street – think, “we can’t find wait staff for our family restaurant” – and in the global market for talent run by major players in the technology world like Facebook and Google. It’s clear that organizations at every level need a strategy to compete.

I recommend beginning by uncovering the authentic culture at your organization by taking the initiative to do an organizational culture audit – one that documents the values and attitudes that underlie the things people are sharing about your company in online forums. What you find and how you use it will reap significant rewards for your existing employees, as well as the new talent that will cross your threshold tomorrow.

Once you’ve taken this courageous step, here are six ways that you can put that information to work to achieve your business goals.

  1. Close the gap between what you say about yourself and how your employees view your company.

Have you ever read the website or a recruitment ad for your own company and thought, that sounds great, but it’s nothing like my day to day experience at work? Many employment brands are built by marketing professionals who are focused on an idealized version of things; a.k.a.; ‘the way things should be’. Hey, as a long-time marketer myself, you have to cut us a break. For years, it was our job to stylize flawless images and photo-shop anything that was less than perfect. We’ve honed the art of winning ‘best places to work awards’ and are relentlessly focused on the positive side of things.

It turns out, though, that employees are more interested in progress than perfection. They prefer an honest assessment and a commitment to evolve to some glossed-over version of the truth. David Mattin, Global Head of Trends and Insights at Trendwatching, says that today it’s, “all about making positive changes to your brand’s internal culture and processes, and telling the world about them.”

In other words, honesty will take you further in your employment brand and you have the opportunity to message the truth about working for your company and come out ahead, even as you work towards improvement.

  1. Save time and money during the hiring process.

Developing a strong and intentional talent brand just makes financial sense. In fact, LinkedIn reports that companies with a strong talent brand represented on their site hire 20% faster and spend 43% less, on average, than companies that do not prioritize their company page on the site.

There are numerous places to build and cultivate your company profile online. Focus on the sites that are most aligned with your business vertical and the jobs you’re filling and be relentless about keeping them up-to-date and relevant. Make it someone’s daily responsibility to respond to inquiries and reviews on your selected sites, and stay on top of posts to those channels that are not primary referral sources as well.

When your brand messages are built on your authentic culture, the experience candidates have during the hiring process should be a match for what they’ve learned online and result in better cultural matches from day one.

  1. Put your best assets to work for you.

With all the data-driven resources we have in place today, referrals are still the most the effective way to attract new hires. Why? Because these candidates have unsolicited feedback on what it is really like to work for your organization.

An honest story of your company shared by the people who are living it is the single most powerful tool in your recruiting arsenal. Your best “brand ambassador” is not a highly polished campaign, but employees sharing insights that ring true about their employment experience with their friends and social networks.

You can, however, ‘help them to help you’ by inviting employees to participate in the formalized recruiting process. Build content from their own words and experiences through videos, case studies, blogs and social posts. Create a referral program that rewards them for introducing winning candidates. Interestingly, that does not always need to result in a cash reward. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nonfinancial rewards such as career development opportunities and meaningful and challenging work are compelling, too. 

  1. Help the right candidates to choose your company.

It used to be that hiring was a lot like dating, where the interview process might be compared to the first few dates. Everyone is on their best behavior, dresses for the part, focuses on the positive sides of their personality and keeps dirty laundry and family secrets out of the conversation.

Even today, with all the insight we garner through social sites and the fact that our companies have become like ‘glass boxes’ where people have a great view inside to what’s really happening on a daily basis, a 2015 global Job Switchers survey conducted by LinkedIn found that 49% of professionals said their biggest obstacle when changing jobs is not knowing what it’s like to work at the company.

It’s your job to clear that up. Through tactics such as a CultureCode, you can share in some detail the nitty-gritty of who should be on the team, how we like to work and what makes us tick. Often shared as a presentation, it covers your company’s motivations and inspirations, the common drivers, and passions that unite your team and define your cumulative culture. Think less employee handbook and more, ‘unwritten rules of engagement.’

Patagonia works from a manifesto that prioritizes hiring ‘dirtbags that are more at home in basecamp than in the office.’ That kind of rich detail paints of very clear picture for new hires and existing employees alike.

  1. Encourage people to stay and keep them engaged.

With all this talk about hiring, it should not be understated that keeping the great talent you have already have is the smartest and most lucrative move. According to Bob Kelleher, CEO of The Employee Engagement Group, there is more to engagement than just amenities. Employees need a strong connection to the values and purpose of the organization ­– in other words, an understanding of how they fit into the mission.

He calls this the Employer Value Proposition, or EVP, and shares this is the quickest way to connect with your employees at both an intellectual and emotional level. Capturing your employees’ heads and their hearts is the surest way to get them to go the extra mile.

A well-defined employment brand that begins with an honest audit of your culture will help you to understand areas where you are knocking it out of the park, as well as shine a light in the dark corners of the break room to learn where the shadow sides of your culture may be lurking. Systematically address concerns and keep the lines of communication open. Companies with highly engaged workforces and low turnover cultivate cultures that demonstrate their core values and can point to detailed and intentional plans that support them every day.

  1. Build a Great Campaign.

Of course, you will still need to build collateral and content to support your goals. Your employment brand can serve as a blueprint for strategy and creative. And there is no greater motivator than the stories of real people who are thriving at your organization. They will peak personal interest from talent who can see themselves in the stories and inspire the connections that will move your company into the future.

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