September 1, 2003   view past issues

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Feature: Brand, Brand on the Wall, Who Should Be One of Us All?

Let’s begin with a rash statement: You can’t win the War for the Best Talent with the highest quality candidates. That’s right; simply going out and recruiting the best and brightest in each career field is not likely to get the performance gains your customers-those pesky hiring managers-really want. Why not? Because only the right quality works well. In other words, the goal of your efforts should be to find and hire the best and brightest who exactly fit both the specifications of your openings and the culture of your organization. They must not only be at the top of their field, but they must be challenged by the work that needs to be done and fit in with the team, department and company where they will do it.

While assessment enables you to make such distinctions among candidates once they have applied, it is your employment brand that ensures you have the right quality candidates among the field you are evaluating, in the first place. Hence, effective assessment depends upon your organization’s ability to

(1) attract the top talent who will fit in and

(2) persuade them to apply.

Fail at those two tasks, and assessment is a futile exercise. You are simply picking the best credentialed person who likely won’t perform as required or stay around very long.

How does an employment brand accomplish those tasks? It must address the issues that matter most to the people you most want. It must focus on the key motivators for the unique cohort of the workforce that is right for your organization. In essence, it must answer two questions:

  • What will induce the right talent to leave whatever they are doing and accept employment with your organization?
  • Top talent is almost always employed someplace else. Therefore, the outward facing aspect of your brand’s value proposition must be so compelling that it will overcome the inertia of staying where they are and induce them to take on the risk of moving to a new organization-yours.

  • What will incent them to resist offers from other organizations and continue their employment with yours?
  • Top talent is almost always being recruited by your competitors. As a consequence, the inward facing aspect of your brand’s value proposition must be so powerful that it will blunt the (often formidable) inducements offered by other employers and encourage them to stay right where they are.

    Answering both of those questions is central to an effective brand. However, if you don’t get the second one right, working on the first is a waste of time.

    To put it another way, recruiting and retention are inextricably linked through the operation of your brand. The external facing aspect of the brand is the promise your organization offers to the right talent during the recruiting process; the internal facing aspect of the brand is how well the organization delivers on its promise. In other words, how much of your employment brand message actually comes true on the shop floor and among the office cubicles? And, how much of it is hype or wishful thinking? Sure, there are other issues that impact on retention, but the alignment between what you say about your organization in your brand and what is real on-the-job and in-the-culture is of primary importance. It sets the tone, or more precisely, becomes the lens through which all other factors (e.g., an employee’s relationship with their supervisor, a revision to the benefits program) are viewed.

    This alignment is accomplished by ensuring that your employment brand has four key attributes:

  • Articulate meaningful norms
  • The brand must describe the norms of employment that are most important to the right quality talent for your organization.

  • Hype free
  • The brand must be accurate, free of jargon and designed to describe what’s important to the organization as an employer, rather than to sell it.

  • Honest
  • The brand must be a true expression of the organization’s value proposition for right quality talent.

  • Appeal to all
  • The brand must appeal to right quality talent among all cohorts of the organization’s workforce, not just to professionals and not just to managers and/or executives.

    Build a brand with those 4 attributes, and you’ll elicit exactly the response you want from the talent you most want to hire … AH HA.

    How can you create such a brand? I suggest you use the following 4-step methodology:

    Step 1: Ask the experts. Conduct regular focus groups with the best performers in each of the career fields for which you recruit. To the maximum extent possible, these should be candid, uninhibited and unconstrained sessions. If necessary, have a third party conduct the meetings. The goal is to get highly precise answers to those two key questions raised above: Why did they decide to join your organization and what keeps them there? Capture the exact words and phrases the participants use as well as their caveats and reservations.

    Step 2: Describe what you heard. Using the insights captured in Step 1, draft several versions of your brand message. It’s fine to use outside help in this creative effort, but the themes should be based, as closely as possible, on the key ideas expressed by the focus groups. The goal is to bridge their views into one or more universal values that will resonate with your target demographic. To do that, look for words and phrases that “have legs” (i.e., meaning and impact across the spectrum of employees) and avoid the issues that may create dissonance (as identified by their caveats and reservations).

    Step 3:Test your drafts and select the best. Reconvene the focus groups and ask them to evaluate the various drafts. If possible, pick a consensus winner (i.e., one that is compelling to all). Don’t force fit a choice, however; if none of the drafts attracts general support among the group participants, repeat Step 2 and try again. Continue the creative effort until you find a message that produces an AH HA among your best and brightest in every career field for which you recruit.

    Step 4: Use the message everywhere. All too often, employers go to great effort to devise an effective brand message and then use it only sporadically in their recruiting or not at all. To avoid this mistake, make your organization’s brand a mandatory component of every job posting and every classified ad. In addition, make sure that the content in the career area of your organization’s Web-site is written around the brand message. In other words, that message should determine what topics are included and which are not and how each topic is addressed on the site. Similarly, the brand should shape the content of any sites you operate for your employee referral and alumni programs as well as for employee communications and your internal mobility system (to address the internal facing aspect of the brand).

    Employment brands are often misunderstood. They are not a public relations strategy or solely a communications initiative. They are, instead, an exercise in asset formation. Indeed, a powerful employment brand is as important to an organization as capital and good will, for it alone enables that organization to attract the right top talent to its workforce.

    NOTE: There are any number of newsletters available online, so why should you bother to read mine? I hope it’s because I try to provide a blend of strategy and tactics, of concept and “how to do it” that is both unique and helpful. If so, please tell your colleagues about the newsletter so that they can sign up and benefit from it, as well. Thanks.

    Section Two: Site News

    Bernard Hodes Group announced the publication of a new book by Barry Siegel, President of the company’s Interactive and Staffing Solutions group. Entitled “The Keys to Successful Recruiting and Staffing,” the book draws on his 30+ years of experience to detail the strategies companies will need to implement in order to be ready for the War for Talent that is reemerging with the recovering economy. [Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, WEDDLE’s is the proud publisher of Barry’s book. It is available through the online Catalog at WEDDLE’s.]

    Hospitality Online has revised its job posting policies to align them better with job seeker preferences. According to the site, 84% of job seekers apply for an opening within the first two weeks it is posted. More important, they mistrust openings that have been posted 30 or more days. “They wonder how good the companies are if they can’t fill jobs within a couple of weeks.” As a result, the site shortened its posting period to 2 weeks, with the option for two additional 2-week periods at no extra charge. released the results of a June survey of recruiters which found that 74% prefer to find candidates locally. In a similar survey of job seekers, it found that only 30% were willing to relocate for a new or better employment opportunity. These findings are undoubtedly behind the site’s recent announcement that it has renewed its partnership with Internet Broadcasting System (IBS) for another year. IBS operates local news and information sites for over 60 TV stations representing NBC, Hearst, Cox and Washington Post Company. will power the employment areas on 55 of the IBS sites.

    Society for Human Resource Management, and unveiled the results of a recent survey of HR professionals and managerial and executive employees. It found that 83% of employees were extremely or somewhat likely to seek new employment once the job market recovers. What are they looking for? Fifty-three percent want better compensation and benefits, 35% are dissatisfied with their career development prospects, and 32% say they are ready for a new experience. What are HR professionals doing to retain top performers? Sixty-two percent are offering tuition reimbursement, 60% are offering competitive vacation and holiday benefits, and 59% are offering competitive salaries. What’s missing (or, at least, not mentioned)? An internal mobility system and commitment to individual development that will give employees the new experiences necessary for growth within the organization.

    TrueCareers announced the results a survey that underscore the growing popularity of telecommuting among employees. Among the survey’s respondents, 80% say the ability to work from home part or full time is an important consideration when looking for a new job.. That’s down from 92% last year, but still an impressive level of support. Why is it so popular? Twenty-four percent of respondents say telecommuting gives them more time with their families, 19% say it saves time and money spent on commuting, and 43% say it enables them to be more flexible in managing their workday.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    Which of the following sites is not a good prescription for filling a pharmaceutical sales position?

  • Where might you look to find a dog walker for your pet dachshund?

  • If you were recruiting veterans with trucking driving experience, which site would be a dead end?

  • TAOnline
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories

    Association for Financial Professionals

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes

    Distribution of jobs: National: USA

    Fee to post a job: $201-250/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: No

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 2,894

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates

    Top occupations among resumes: Finance, accounting, banking, executives

    Other services for employers: Auto notification of resume-job match, Special area for HR professionals, Status Reports: job postings

    Answers to Site Insite:

    1., a sales consultant’s site


    3., a listing of truck driving schools and career resources