Your Employment Brand

A practical guide to drive
candidate engagement

The facts are alarming. Research shows that this year, for every one person entering the workforce, two workers will leave. By 2020, The Conference Board of Canada predicts there will be a shortage of 1 million skilled workers. The Conference Board of Canada also reports that "the war for talent is fierce, and is likely to become more so with the massive number of employees retiring in the next five years. Top organizations are moving beyond the vanilla 'employer of choice' concept to a more rigorous strategy of attracting and retaining the right employees through branding."

High performing companies understand that the key to attracting and retaining talent is to be recognized as a top-tier employer that can meet the needs of high potential/high performance employees. There is a direct link between recruitment practices and high performance. According to a 2005 Watson Wyatt study, companies with superior recruiting practices financially outperform those with less effective recruitment programs. To be effective, traditional marketing practices must be applied to recruitment. After all, every candidate is a potential employee whether it's now, or in the future, and every candidate is a potential referral source for future hiring needs. By creating a strong employment brand, employers get the edge they need in attracting, recruiting and retaining top talent.

How to Create and Live Your Employment Brand
There are some key areas to focus on when creating, living and enhancing your employment brand.

Find a Way to Touch Every Candidate
Each and every time you advertise an opportunity you attract a number of candidates. Some may fit this opportunity today (the "right-now" candidate), some may fit another existing opportunity, some may be a great fit in the future, and some may never become a serious candidate, however are likely a potential customer or referral source. Most recruiting organizations focus only on the "right now" candidate, and unfortunately ignore the latter three groups. Brand-centric organizations recognize the value in all candidates as potentials for existing and future opportunities, referral sources of top talent, and existing or future customers. Aided by technology to track and communicate with all candidates, market leaders view every applicant for their "potential". The manner in which you communicate, or fail to communicate, is a clear demonstration to every applicant of how you operate as an organization and how your company values its employees and candidates.

Avoid the Black Hole of Recruiting
Most organizations do not acknowledge the receipt of a résumé. Some indicate on their job ads "only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted". And less than 5% of companies notify candidates of their status if they are not selected for an interview. Frequently referred to as the "Black Hole" of recruiting, correcting this situation is by far the simplest way to set yourself apart from your competition. Finding a way to keep all your candidates informed of their progression, or lack thereof, through the recruitment process may require the use of some technology, but the impact this simple enhancement brings to your recruitment process will pay off in spades.

Leverage your Talent Pool
Through the effective use of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, or a creative manual system to track qualified candidates, you will find there is already a pool of qualified, interested and, more often than not, available talent, at your fingertips. If, for every employment advertisement that you place you receive 50 candidates, and 49 of those candidates are not hired, you've just created a pool of 49 candidates. In the world of recruiting, this is often referred to as Talent Pool management. This concept has received much media attention over the past few years, though few companies truly leverage the networking opportunity that each employment advertisement creates. Effectively marketing to, and mining from, this database of interested and networked candidates is more efficient and effective than re-advertising, and far less expensive. In addition, many applicants will not apply twice for a similar role unless personally invited to do so, as they make the assumption that once a company has their résumé, there is no need to reapply. This is a great opportunity to enhance your brand.

Imagine you are a financial institution and hire Accountants on a regular basis. Imagine that you could reach out to the 1,500 Accountants who applied to your company in the past, personally inviting them to re-apply, or to refer someone they know each time a new role opened up. Imagine you had a mechanism to allow candidates to come back and update their profile every time they gained new experience, every time they completed a new assignment, every time they moved or changed their e-mail address. Imagine the marketing power in taking this approach to recruiting top talent.

Train Hiring Managers to be Effective Interviewers
Many managers who make hiring decisions are not highly effective interviewers. This, of course, is not for lack of capability or desire; it is a result of a lack of training, coaching and ongoing support. The interview or series of interviews for candidates is a way for them to judge and assess their potential future employer and Manager. If there are significant issues with the interview and its process, you the employer could be setting unrealistic expectations, hiring candidates based on emotion as opposed to "best fit" and therefore contributing to unnecessary turnover. Most importantly, you could be missing the best candidates.

There are many interviewing methodologies, the most popular being behavioural. A behavioural interview is designed to ascertain a candidate's skills in relation to the required competencies to perform the role for which he/she is being interviewed. When done effectively, this interview will help the hiring manager select the best candidate for the position, based on competency as well as cultural fit. However, the effect of poorly conducted interviews can have a negative impact on your employment brand, as candidates will tell people they know about their experiences, resulting in a "knock" against your brand. Conversely, properly conducted interviews leave candidates with a positive perception and are more likely to attract a candidate that will be a good fit. A good interview experience can also help candidates accept a rejection when they are not the best fit. The interview, and the process surrounding it, is an incredible opportunity to maximize your company's brand.

Build and Use Consistent Employment Messaging – Internally and Externally
Your employment brand is far more than just what you're "messaging" to the outside (and inside) world about what your organization represents, and what your employment experience is all about. That being said, consistently and repeatedly messaging why your company is a great place to work is the way to begin your branding initiatives. Try soliciting an honest portrayal of the employment experience from your employees. To start, you need to truly understand why your company is a great place to work. They will gladly tell you, not only that your company is a great place to work, but also more importantly, why it is so. If your own employees have difficulty articulating this value proposition, this indicates that there are some areas of focus for future Human Resources programs and initiatives. However, there will always be aspects of the employment experience that are positive; these are the areas that your brand message should focus on. Much like a "vision" or "mission" statement, the articulated employment brand message for your organization is not all that makes up your employment brand. Ultimately it comes down to the employee experience - how much they enjoy working for the company and how engaged they are.

Have a "Great Start" Program
Probably the single most significant opportunity to affect employee retention is during the first month of employment of your new employee. A "Great Start" program goes far beyond orientation classes, or even on-boarding, as both of these processes tend to be event driven, not experiential. Filling out forms and signing up for benefits (orientation sessions) and ensuring the right tools and equipment are in place (onboarding) are important. However, the best programs include all of the above and help to create a welcoming environment to your new employee. Brand-focused companies are quick to realize that new employees' first experiences form the foundation of their affiliation with their new company and, as your employees represent your employment brand, isn't it better to start them off on the right path?

There is little doubt that recruitment over the next decade will have its challenges. We can mitigate some of these challenges by embracing our employment brands as our "raison d'être" and living "best of breed" recruitment practices. At the most fundamental level, how we recruit, manage the hiring process and bring new employees into our organizations is what will set us apart from our competition. It will involve significant change management to view every résumé as a person with skills, knowledge and experiences and to regard that person as either a candidate for today's need, tomorrow's opportunity or a potential source for the next great employee.

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