Article originally published in Employer Brand Bulletin by Peer Group Communications Issue 2 Spring 2009
In 2008 Brett delivered keynote addresses at conferences, conducted employer brand educational workshops for senior managers in 12 countries and consulted with corporations on their global employer branding strategies. Peer Group caught up with Brett to ask his views on the trends he sees emerging in employer branding and what advice he would give as a consequence to companies in the UK.
In this issue, Brett shares some insights into the future directions of employer branding. The rise of inter-departmental teams working on the employer brand strategy in collaboration with pockets of excellence across the globe is becoming more commonplace today. Traditional consulting models are being enhanced by virtual consulting models which optimise the benefits that VOIP and global networks provide by bringing corporations closer to accessing global best practice at a fraction of the costs under traditional consulting models. Companies should investigate how to leverage pockets of excellence in the virtual economy to access global best practice, keep costs down and to contract talent that would otherwise be inaccessible. This could involve engaging a team in India to work on an employer branding solution whilst your employees in UK are asleep.
Talent doesn’t always have to be employed inside the company and the global skills shortage is only going to make it more important for companies to ‘think outside the square’ to access best practice to assist in developing the employer brand strategy. My company was recently involved in a global employer brand project where the lead agency was based in the USA and our team was able to consult on the project from our offices in Australia using Skype to connect with our global team of associates. We also used teleconferencing technology to conduct market research inside and outside the company in five global regions where they operate. Our virtual model not only resulted in significant cost savings for the client, the project was delivered many months ahead of what would have been possible under a traditional face-to-face consulting model.
Highly engaged employees are now being considered and trained to fulfil employee ambassador roles to promote the company’s employer brand. Word of mouth has always been the most powerful and authentic form of promotion so it pays to research how your employer brand is perceived by employees and by potential hires to ensure the actual employment experience is closely aligned with the employment promise promoted through recruitment communications. Employment value propositions such as, ‘Grow your career with us,’ just aren’t believable anymore. If you don’t know how to locate your potential hires during your research phase then chances are your competitors do and are already building relationships with them.
Companies should increase their internal referral hire rate through ambassador programs which will not only save on recruitment costs, but will result in a new hire that is more aligned with the company’s culture. Our latest global research shows the career website is the main medium companies use to communicate their employer brand to their target audience. Our research on the career websites of the FTSE100 shows that companies still have a long way to go to be truly optimising their career website for competitive advantage.
Many still see their career website as a, ‘I’ll get to that soon,’ activity! This is not an advisable strategy given candidates are likely to visit your career website to obtain a better understanding of what it’s like to work at your organisation. Companies should invest in building their online employer brand by reviewing their career website and building profiles on networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to engage with their target audience. With millions of members these networks are fast becoming a valuable means of engagement with current employees and potential hires for companies. One of the first companies to build a company profile on Facebook, Ernst and Young now has over 23,000 members in the Facebook community, providing a cost effective, long-term opportunity to promote their employer brand to their target audience.
Resources should be allocated to ensure the company’s talent bank is more than a list of names. Talent relationship management is an emerging field and the global skills crisis will force companies to know more about the employment intentions of their target audience than ever before. This will drive companies to invest in relationship building initiatives rather than reactive practices that more often than not do not attract the best person to the role.
Similar to how we have seen a rationalisation of industries such as home wares, supermarkets, sporting goods and office stationery we will see an increase in the number of global employer brand projects being undertaken to optimise the benefits of a global strategy including a more coherent promotion of the employment promise and cost savings on recruitment, employer marketing, consulting and recruitment advertising. This will require global brands to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity in the employment experience desired across different cultures.
Recruitment advertising that appeals to an employee from the UK does not necessarily resonate with a potential hire from Poland. Companies need to invest to understand what can be customised across the borders and what needs to be reflective of local customs. This must penetrate deeper than simply changing the photos on your career website to reflect the person’s country of origin.
I am amazed but not surprised at the number of companies who join a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn, build a network of thousands (recruiters are famous for this!) and then never get in touch with them.
It’s not the quantity of relationships but the quality of relationships that extols the benefits of global networking. Very few companies actually leverage the power of networking through these online platforms. When HR technology was first introduced, recruitment agencies were quick to adapt the technology to build databases of contacts in excess of millions. Their business model didn’t support segmenting the database and maintaining relationships with candidates based on their talent profile. More clients created more ads which created a larger database. Each step was a billable activity so there was very little motivation to tap the talent that already existed in the agency’s database. I have only once been contacted by a recruitment agency in my lifetime and I would have registered with at least 20 databases during the last 20 years!
Unfortunately I see similar strategies being adopted by corporations who end up with nothing more than hundreds of thousands of redundant names in a database. Companies need to invest in talent database initiatives such as targeted marketing programs with those they would like to recruit when the time is right. These initiatives should support offline initiatives such as talent days where companies invite top potential hires to spend a day at the company to connect with leaders and be briefed on the latest developments.