The term “employer brand” has been around for a while, but the branding game has changed radically in recent years.
It has been said many times on ERE that in days past, employer brand meant one-way messaging pushed out to the marketplace, while now it’s the highly social, public reverberation of what people think, feel, and share about a company as a place to work.
So who’s minding the “talent brand” store? The ongoing effort needed to communicate and shape that brand isn’t necessarily the job of HR alone. In fact, our “State of Employment Branding” report shows that 39 percent of talent acquisition teams co-own talent brand with another department, and play a bit part or no leadership role at all at 29 percent of organizations.
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But no matter who “owns” the brand, it’s an important competitive factor: 83 percent of talent acquisition leaders agree that an employer brand significantly impacts their ability to hire top talent, and 69 percent consider it a top priority for their organization.
Unfortunately, understanding the importance of talent brand doesn’t always translate easily into action. While some companies dive in, others may hesitate, unsure where to start and how to get various stakeholders working together. We have found that companies with the strongest talent brands share several common factors, among them solid C-suite buy-in, bringing the right data to the table, and strong teamwork across functions and departments. Since that’s naturally easier said than done, we’ve identified a few tips and insights to help HR professionals make it happen.
Start at the Top
Success requires the commitment of both the CEO and the leadership team in endorsing and promoting talent brand. As Kara Yarnot knows firsthand, it can be difficult to secure this kind of buy-in from dubious executives. Yarnot is director of the Talent Acquisition Center of Expertise at SAIC, a large aerospace and defense company.
When Yarnot encouraged the executive team to participate more actively in social media and empower employees to help spread their brand message, she initially encountered resistance. By educating executives on digital options and sharing data on how competitors were approaching various social platforms, she was able to take small steps. As one or two executives warmed to the idea, she would approach them one on one and invite them to participate in a pilot, knowing that if it went well, her team had earned an evangelist.
Bring the Right Data to the Table
As Yarnot demonstrates, creating a business case backed up by solid data will help frame the situation for executive leadership. For example, a strong talent brand can reduce the cost of hire by 50 percent, and reduce turnover by 28 percent. What’s more, proactively managing talent brand means companies have the opportunity to influence the conversation. If they don’t, others will.
Bringing in-house recruiting metrics into the discussion can drive the point home. For instance, if a company struggles to attract strong candidates in certain areas, that data can help demonstrate how a powerful talent brand would improve results. And metrics on your company’s social footprint — such as the number of employees on social platforms, and the number of visits to, likes and follows of your company presence — will drive home the magnitude of the opportunity, since every interaction with an employee profile or a company page leaves an impression about your talent brand.
“I probably delivered the same deck 40 times, sometimes to the same audience,” Yarnot says. “You will feel like a broken record, but it doesn’t sound like that on the other end until you start converting people.”
Bring Partners to the Table – or Get There Yourself
Even if the C-suite is committed to supporting talent brand, companies can struggle with who owns which parts, and how to best work together. At large organizations in particular, talent brand isn’t always the purview of the HR department. And when other departments have stepped up, busy talent acquisition teams may believe they can’t influence what’s already been created. The larger and more dispersed a company is, the greater the challenge.
It doesn’t have to be that way. A joint-ownership scenario is playing out successfully at Aurecon, a global engineering, advisory, and project delivery company with 7,500 employees and an office network in 28 countries. Marketing, HR, and the leadership team share responsibility for talent brand, according to Danielle Bond, chief marketing officer. Its human capital team manages employee experiences, and the marketing department works to communicate those experiences outwardly. To complete the package, it has the C-suite buy-in so vital to a successful effort: Aurecon’s leadership team is committed to helping manage and communicate the brand.
Talent acquisition teams who do own talent brand can start getting the help they need by identifying the departments who do (or should) play a part in developing and communicating the brand. Often it’s part marketing, part HR, part communications, with help from IT. Forming a talent brand task force with representatives from each team can help break down the silos and ensure the right people provide ongoing input.
Putting it All Together
Given the impact on recruiting results, talent acquisition teams cannot afford to remain on the sidelines of their talent brand. With the shift toward connectedness, sharing, and amplification made possible by the social sphere, candidates are already experiencing it. But with buy-in from the highest levels, solid data, and real cross-functional collaboration, talent acquisition teams can seize the opportunity to join — and influence — the conversation.