Has SAP Revealed the Future of Employment Branding? Introducing ‘Freemium to Premium’

Business meeting(SAP was this year’s ERE Recruiting Excellence winner for the best employer brand and most strategic use of technology)

The “best” talent is getting harder to hire. Areas like the San Francisco Bay are witnessing a real high-tech “war for talent.” How can we shake up the traditional model of employment branding, and make an impact in this war? In the future, can we make the branding function self funding? Is that even possible?

The employment brand function is evolving. The old days of creating bright and colorful posters, giveaway swag, and running speculative brand campaigns with no data measurements are consigned to the dustbins of history.

As we seek to hire more passive candidates (which we all know is 80 percent of the talent pool), we need to get more creative in the way we reach out and seduce these passives. That’s why sourcing, digital marketing, and social media marketing are now a critical part of hiring campaign management. Employment branding has grown up. It’s 2015 and we are anchored on big data because we have to be.

What is the Future of Employment Branding?

We believe it is the Employment Brand Menu.

Like all companies, at SAP we have had to overcome employment brand challenges. There were a large number of factors that led to a fundamental drive in needing to launch a huge wave of employment brand initiatives. The key influencing factors (many inaccurate but perceptions are reality for candidates) were:

  • The misinformed concern that SAP is a large bureaucratic company where candidates get lost in a crowd (despite the many startups within SAP)
  • A brand not reflecting the new, fast-paced dynamics of the cloud and the growth & dynamics of SAP in emerging markets
  • The need to appeal and attract millennials against other key tech companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft
  • The need for SAP to be widely recognized as a Great Place to Work
  • A need to fundamentally update a careers site that did not represent the “new” exciting SAP, and provide a stronger candidate experience
  • The previous broadcast nature of SAP recruitment brand and unengaging social media content
  • A need to communicate, authentically, the true employee voice via video
  • A need to measure our source and quality of hire
  • Improving our candidate experience, with a goal of real time pass/fail feedback
  • A need to reduce recruitment agency hires and fees
  • The declining effectiveness of job boards and candidate quality derived from postings
  • A need to start pipelining and get ahead of the hiring curve
  • A desire to run recruitment by more big data and focus on ROI in decision making rather than “subjective finger-in-the-air guessing”

A long list, huh? These (many!) demands (and many misperceptions) combined to drive a compelling need to turn the dial for SAP.

2014: Starting to Turn the Dial

Given these challenges, much needed to be done and the employment brand team created real, tangible achievements:

  • Designed, created, and launched a brand new corporate careers site which is mobile enabled, has responsive design, powered by a content management system that allows instantaneous change/refresh of content
  • Uniquely, the employment brand team has been merged with global sourcing
  • Produced new branding guides for recruiters and sourcers: how to sell SAP and how to overcome  common candidate rebuttals
  • New sourcing hubs built and staffed in Boston, Prague, and Manila
  • Hired a dedicated video editor who created more than 40 employee story videos for social media and the careers site, sharing an authentic, real view of SAP from our actual employees
  • Democratization of university hiring with real-time candidate feedback and online assessments for the SAP Sales Academy Initiative
  • One of the fastest-growing talent communities in the world with 300,000 members using SAP’s own product called RMK
  • Launched new Life at SAP social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, anchored on humanizing SAP and unleashing employee stories
  • Focusing on big data analytics that track source of hire and allow the team to steer recruiters in which recruitment channels they prioritize their time (RMK)

And finally and perhaps most critically …

  • Launched a new revolutionary Employment Brand Menu, with a “Freemium to Premium” approach, allowing the team to detail services as an internal agency would, one that is not limited by budget or creativity constraints.

We are very proud that combining all of the above together won us the prestigious ERE Award for the Best Employment Brand.

Bold Decisions Laying the Foundation for an Internal Employment Branding Agency

We have taken some bold decisions at SAP. The employment brand team merging with global sourcing is one such unique move. It’s actually surprisingly simple — employment brand identifies talent pipelines and markets to these communities ahead of sourcing, and sourcing then targets top talent in those communities individually. This strategy prepares candidates and softens up the pipeline of candidates before sourcing calls.

People talk as if big data is the future. It isn’t; it’s the now, at least at SAP. We live and breathe it every day. Having a brand menu where we offer cutting-edge sourcing, branding, digital, and social media services is only half the equation. The other half is that we monitor and track the ROI of every single service we provide via our recruitment marketing tool, RMK. We can see, and most importantly show, our customers the most cost-effective yet productive channels, our candidate conversion rates, and our source of hire. This information is vital to our customers and our business.

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In the past, like most employment brand teams, we have been restricted by what we can recommend by price. We don’t have unlimited budgets and what we do spend we have to spend very wisely. But this does not always benefit the business. There are often elements that it makes sense to invest in for a campaign, be it digital marketing, social, video, community marketing, that would greatly help the business in their hiring objectives.

Hence, we have created an Employment Brand Menu, founded on the principles of Freemium to Premium.

When we consult with the business, we use the brand menu to describe what we can do. The menu details all employment brand team services: from free services to those that are offered at various levels of cost (think of it as Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze). The business chooses the level of service and investment they make. If they choose a low-level investment, we tell them what the chances of success are. Want to hire 200 salespeople in a new location and only willing to invest $1,000? … good luck!

Branding has to work hand in hand with sourcing. It does not make sense to run digital and social media campaigns without having sourcing provide input and play its part. All too often digital and social won’t provide the results that direct sourcing can bring. Sourcing is a scalable service, be it list generation all the way to full-level contact and deliver sourcing.

So how does the menu work?

Event pageThe Mechanics

  • The employment brand menu details the many services that the brand team can offer talent acquisition and the business, representing a new direction for the employment brand team that is anchored on adding value and ROI
  • The menu has several lines of service: sourcing (list generation through to full-service sourcing), social media promotion, digital marketing, traditional and disruptive marketing, video creation and editing, talent community creation, RMK big data analysis, creation of branded materials (from micro websites, to leaflets, posters, HTML e-mailers, and billboards), and awards and diversity offerings
  • Freemium options include video editing, social job sharing, access to the hundreds of thousands of talent community members, etc
  • The breadth of services ensures that we have the branding tools our recruiting teams and the business need to make the best possible hires
  • All activities listed in the menu are tracked using custom created campaign codes in our big data analytics tool, giving us full transparency into the success of every single social and digital marketing campaign and every campus or careers fair event we attend
  • (Examples of event pages (see image, click to enlarge) created using RMK tool, allowing us to track and follow up with candidates after an event, whether in person or online, are below) 

From Spending to Making Money

We think the creation of an employment brand menu, with a range of services, is the future of employment branding. We are creating our own internal social and digital marketing creative agency with an expertise in attracting the best talent. No longer are we constrained by merely offering the business what is free; we are liberated to offer an enticing menu of options from basic fast food to a la carte steak. 

The possibilities here are endless. Let’s fast forward. If we get the pricing right for the business, undercutting what the market can provide, but our service levels are higher than what the business can get (from our knowledge, expertise, and big data), then we can take any surplus made and reinvest it into the team. We therefore provide the stability of self funding the team while offering the possibility to grow it. Imagine the transformation from loss-making cost center to a commercial profit center. That’s got to be the end goal and vision!

Matthew Jeffery, pictured at center, cited as one of the world's leading recruitment strategists and leaders, is VP, head of global sourcing and employment branding for SAP. Previously, he was head of EMEA talent acquisition and global employment brand for software giant Autodesk. Previous to Autodesk, he was the global director of recruitment brand for Electronic Arts.

Andrea Woolley is a marketing director at SAP, the market leader in enterprise application software. She has been part of the sourcing & employment brand team for the last six years, focused on large-scale global projects to increase SAP’s employment brand global reach and impact the quality of talent hired at SAP.

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