In part two of this four part series covering the ERE Recruiting Excellence Award winners, we’ll take a look at how leading organizations are positioning themselves via employer branding and telling their story via their career websites. Always popular categories, this year drew numerous applications as more organizations realized the power of differentiating themselves in a highly competitive labor market despite economic turbulence around the world.
Best Practices in Employer Branding
Most activities in a modern-day recruiting function are operational or tactical in nature, meaning that they are focused on filling talent needs in the near term. One of the major exceptions to that rule is employer branding, a strategic practice that involves managing the perception of the organization among targeted talent populations to attract top talent and foster engagement of existing top talent. Branding works by understanding what attributes top talent truly desire in an employer and communicating stories and information that virally spreads, demonstrating how the organization realistically delivers those attributes.
Firms that engage employment branding well create a velvet rope behind which top talent lines up for an opportunity to be considered for employment/affiliation with the organization. The very best firms approach employer branding as a science, using extensive metrics to understand candidate perception and to target brand management efforts to reposition the organization according to what is required to attract top talent versus how those in HR or leadership desire the organization to be portrayed. The efforts are always focused on key attributes — aka brand pillars — and rely on portraying the organization in the best “true” light, meaning that all branding points can be backed up with examples of programs that deliver the brand systematically.
Both of the organizations highlighted this year do a great job at looking at employer branding as much more than advertising and recruiting collateral development.
Award Winner — Ernst & Young
As a global leader in accounting and advisory services, Ernst & Young has a long history of excelling in many aspects of talent management. Its efforts with regard to employer branding are no exception. E&Y’s brand focuses on telling a robust story about how it helps professionals “Achieve Potential — Make a Difference.”It has been early adopters of using emerging communication and engagement platforms and continues to experiment as new ways of sharing its story emerge. Some key elements of its program include:
- A focus on brand pillars –Ernst & Young’s brand focuses on establishing an industry-leading perception around four brand pillars that all relate to the opportunity for an individual applicant or employee to achieve their maximum potential. Its brand pillars include: opportunity, learning & development, an inclusive and flexible environment, and making a difference in the community. Brand messaging on these pillars is embedded in every candidate-facing communication. The identification of brand pillars is a foundational activity too many organizations execute half-heartedly, relying on generic attributes their organization isn’t engineered to deliver. Establishing a great employer brand requires the organization to focus on key factors that not only influence a potential applicant to deem the organization highly desirable, but also factors that the organization can realistically provide.
- Best-Place-to-Work awards — Ernst & Young consistently ranks in numerous Best Place to Work award rankings including: Universum’s #1 IDEAL Employer of U.S. undergraduates by business and accounting students; #3 on BusinessWeek’s Best Places to Launch a Career; Top 3 in BusinessWeek’s Top Places to Intern; Top 10 in Working Mother Magazine’s Best Companies for Working Moms; and Top 3 in DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Ernst & Young is the only big four professional services firm to be ranked on Fortune Magazine’s prestigious “Best Companies to Work For” list for 11 years in a row. For many well-branded organizations, such awards are as much about auditing and refining their story as they are about garnering publicity. Applying for consideration and completing the application process forces organizations to ask questions about how they deliver on their brand promise that might otherwise not get asked.
- Touch point mapping — Using a customer service type model, Ernst & Young identifies or “maps” every critical interaction point with potential applicants and candidates to determine what activities and communications are needed to communicate the brand.
- Using social media — Even though it operates in a conservative industry, Ernst & Young has chosen to use the latest communication platforms to engage its large multi-generational audience. It uses video, micro-blogging, blogging, and Facebook to ensure that it communicates using channels the talent desires to use versus what might be easiest to support. With more than 35,000 Facebook fans in 2009, E&Y launched Connect2U, a Facebook application that includes an interactive events calendar and empowers students to connect directly with recruiters and vital career information.
- Personalized channels — Advanced employer brand messaging customizes the message so that it best fits the targeted audience. By moving beyond traditional advertising channels, E&Y reaches out to students (a significant portion of its target population) in ways that are uniquely meaningful to students. This mass-personalized messaging approach includes the development of a Pandora Streaming Radio Channel that plays songs selected by the 2009 Sumer Intern Class. In addition, it also provides personalized channels for potential experienced hires. For example, it launched the EY Experience, an innovative online tool to communicate E&Y’s culture and opportunities to potential candidates long out of college. This tool delivers dynamic, personalized content to experienced professionals based on users’ responses to profile questions.
- An exciting corporate careers page — Its innovative Flexspace provides a virtual reality tour of employees’ workspaces in order to communicate how work and personal responsibilities can work together. A supplementary printed brochure helps point students towards that online tool.
- Include an internal brand message — Its branding efforts focus not just on external populations, but also on existing employees as well. Reminding current employees about their “brand experience” can increase employee referrals, as well as help spread a credible message via social networks. Its internal branding efforts help employees understand how their work, energy, and enthusiasm contributes to the success they have with clients, the environment in which they work, and how together they can make a difference in the world.
Finalist — UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group is known to many in the United States, as it is one of the largest health insurers and health system operators. Thanks to its employer brand management efforts that focus on telling the story of there being “Something Greater at Work Here,” UnitedHealth is also well regarded as an employer. Some key employer branding program elements include:
- Identifying brand pillars — UHG conducted a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews with employees, recruiters, and senior leadership to discover the most salient employer brand attributes among 75,000 employees dispersed across a multitude of individually branded facilities. This information, when categorized, help senior leadership better understand which brand pillars represent their strengths.
- Corporate careers website — It launched a new career site dedicated to painting a clear picture of the culture, diversity, career progression, and corporate social responsibility efforts of the company. It also embedded brand positioning statements in all print collateral including business development tools.
- Internal brand messaging — UnitedHealth launched a brand campaign around “There’s Something Greater at Work Here.” They used a variety of media including Town Hall meetings, teaser emails, infomercials, and the company intranet to articulate the new brand positioning internally.
- Results — The branding effort demonstrated significant measurable results including a 46% increase in the number of candidates who were knowledgeable about UnitedHealth Group’s mission and values, and a 36% increase in the number of candidates who perceived UnitedHealth Group as an employer of choice.
Best Corporate Careers Website
Most corporate careers sites are boring, serving up little more than generic content that can be found on nearly every other talent competitor’s site and offering no interaction of value except for an incredibly painful online application. Great corporate career sites break the mold and focus on both engaging and servicing prospective talent. The very best take advantage of streaming video, social media, mobile accessibility, online assessment, metrics for continuous improvement, compelling and fun features, and personalized messaging based on the interests of the visiting candidate.
Winner – DaVita
DaVita is the largest provider of outpatient and inpatient dialysis treatment to patients suffering from end-stage renal disease or chronic kidney failure. Recruiting medical specialists to staff more than 1,400 outpatient facilities and 700+ inpatient facilities is no easy task, and DaVita has rose to the challenge with a level of strategic aggressiveness few can match. Key highlights of its ongoing best-in-class career website include:
- Extensive benchmarking — The benchmarking team audited half of the Fortune 500 career portals in order to learn best practices. It identified 12 features that DaVita should implement in 2009, including making application navigation buttons more intuitive, rewording headers to provide clearer directions, and simplifying its “source of hire” tracking.
- Use of video — Because pictures are more powerful than words as selling tools, DaVita started the DaVita YouTube.com channel, with 30+ videos. It later expanded its own portals video offering to highlight its seven most popular positions.
- Use of social media — DaVita created branded social media networks and integrated pointers to them throughout the site. There are prominent links on every page to allow candidates to interact using their chosen platform(s). It uses crosslinks, contests, and job updates to drive candidates to their careers portal from these networks.
- Mobile Accessible — It came to the realization that all firms eventually will come to: accessing to the Internet via a mobile device is quickly becoming ubiquitous for professionals. Recognizing the incredible growth rate of smart phone usage among its target population, it retooled its site to be mobile friendly. Smart phone browsers are automatically directed to pages with easier navigation, quick access to company news, and options to subscribe to mobile updates.
- Fun features — It added some features to its site including printable coloring book pages to help teammates and patients explain dialysis to children, while at the same time hopefully planting seeds for future healthcare careers.
- Online assessment — Improvements in technology now make it increasingly possible to conduct some candidate assessments online. As a result, DaVita integrated its standard DDI assessments into its online application process.
- Used metrics and analytics — It used Google Analytics to extensively monitor visitor trends. However, it didn’t just use metrics to report trends; instead, it used the analytics to adjust how DaVita organizes and presents information, so that it actually garners more attention.
- Ease of navigation — It added rotating branding messages to each page’s navigation bar. This helped to strengthen the DaVita brand image by highlighting its employer-of-choice awards and other recognition. As part of this effort it created a corporate awards page.
- Realistic job previews — it “screens-in” higher quality candidates by presenting realistic job previews. It also upgraded its Community & Culture page to better show the DaVita VILLAGE (worksite).
- Investment and results — It did the work to modernize the career site internally, spending just $60,000 for upgrades and ongoing maintenance. Results included significant growth in hiring while reducing job board expenses by 85%. Part of this budget is now used for targeted search engine marketing.
Finalist — Intuit
This well-known financial software provider, under the leadership of Michael McNeal, has been a long-time innovator in all aspects of recruitment. This year Intuit trashed the traditional career site architecture, opting instead to create a rich user experience that demonstrates to prospective talent that Intuit does a lot more than make tax software. While not accessible to mobile browsers (mobile visitors are served up more traditional content), the site provide an interesting experience worth checking out. Key features include:
- Interactive — The new site, launched in mid-2009, is built entirely in Flash. The highly interactive portal opens with Melanie, a real Intuit receptionist who welcomes and instructs visitors to explore three interactive “rooms” labeled Innovate, Connect, and Grow. In the innovate room visitors can discover several ways that Intuit employees let their creativity run wild, such as Idea Jams, Design for Delight methodology, and “follow me homes.” The connect room lets visitors connect with social networks, and the grow room tells them about growth and learning opportunities at Intuit.
- Product integration — Intuit is currently developing an additional interactive channel called “Main Street” that will let visitors explore the multitude of products and services that can help Intuit customers manage their financial lives.
- Use of analytics — It implemented Google Analytics to enable robust tracking and better reporting capabilities.
- ROI — the cost to rebuild the site was steep, $250,000, but the results are promising. Over the last half of 2009 it averaged 26,000 unique visitors per month and over 10,000 applicants selected the website as its source of hire.
In recent years prospective top talent has got much better at filtering out attempts to market to them, and much better at engaging in efforts to communicate with them. As social networking continues to evolve and more recruiting organizations master the art of servicing talent in interactive and innovative ways the importance of the employment branding will skyrocket. If you think your organization is among the best, put your assumptions to the test and apply for consideration next year!
In the next installment of this series, I’ll take a look at college recruiting, retention, and the use of technology.