April 28, 2005   view past issues

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Feature: How e-Brands Work & Don’t

Employment brands or e-brands have been getting a lot of attention recently and for good reason. They are one of the keys-and perhaps the single most important key-to winning the War for the Best Talent.

The best talent-those rare skill holders and rare “A” and “B” level performers we all want to recruit-are motivated in a very different way than their less capable co-workers. They are not attracted to an opening by its challenge, its compensation, or by the quality of life it supports. Those factors are important, to be sure, but they are insufficient to get great talent to move. The best talent is almost always employed someplace else, so to recruit them, we have to convince them to do what all of us most hate to do: make a change. We have to sell them on the idea of going from the devil they know (their current employer) to the devil they don’t (our employer).

What will get them to make such an extraordinary shift? They have to come to believe that the employment value proposition of our organization is better than the value they are receiving from their current employer. How does that happen? The best talent carefully evaluates a prospective employer’s culture, belief system, mission, leadership priorities, employment practices and track record. Those factors determine the nature of the work experience an employer provides to the people it hires. And, that experience is the organization’s e-brand. Run-of-the-mill talent will “buy” a new job based on the job alone; to sell the best talent, however, an organization must have both a challenging job and a stronger e-brand than the competition.

An e-brand is similar to a consumer brand with one very important difference.

  • Companies use their consumer brands to differentiate their products and services in the marketplace. They know that consumers rely on such brands to help them make choices. People select a specific product or service because they believe it “stands for” attributes that they can count on: high reliability, stylish design, low price. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting that “belief” in consumers’ minds so that when the time comes, they will make the right choice and buy their product or service rather than the competition’s.
  • Similarly, an e-brand differentiates employers in the minds of prospective employees. Because the best talent always has a wide range of employment opportunities, they use e-brands to make choices among organizations. An e-brand is not, however, as advertising jingle or even a stirring statement of corporate commitment. It is, as noted above, the attributes that define the employment experience at an organization, and there’s the rub. No one outside the organization can ever truly know what that experience is like. How, then, are judgment made about those attributes? By using a surrogate. The best talent uses the experiences an organization provides in its recruitment process to gauge the nature of the employment experience they are likely to encounter if they accept an offer from that organization.
  • It’s not that the best talent ignores the statements organizations make about their employment offering. Indeed, they carefully read what is said on employer Web-sites and in job postings. However, like any good consumer, they do not accept these statements at face value. They do some field testing on their own. They sample the attributes the company claims to include in its employment value proposition by evaluating how they are treated during recruitment. This assessment begins with recruiters’ sourcing activities, continues through their efforts to evaluate and select candidates, and doesn’t end-because these pesky high value prospects have lots of recruiters after them all of the time-until they have actually walked in the door (when a second form of recruiting-called retention-should begin).

    The best talent evaluates employers from their first touch point, whether it is a job posting or a brand-building newspaper display ad, and continues through successive touch points that should-if they are well designed-interest, educate and finally engage them. What are they looking for? They are making two kinds of judgments:

    What does the organization do at each of the touch points?

    This is the objective part of their evaluation.

  • Does it treat candidates with courtesy and respect?
  • Does it provide the information they need to make smart judgments about their future?
  • Does it demonstrate that talent matters to the organization and its vision for the future?
  • Does it demonstrate that the organization cares about talent in its day-to-day operations?
  • How does it do the things it does at the touch points

    This is the subjective part of their evaluation.

  • Are the values of the organization, reflected in its behavior during recruitment, coincident with their own?
  • Is the culture of the organization a good fit for them?
  • Are they comfortable with the leadership priorities reflected by the organization’s behavior during recruitment?
  • Does the organization’s mission interest and challenge them?
  • An employment brand is every organization’s “non-secret weapon” in the War for the Best Talent. It is the public face of the organization-one that is composed of both the statements it makes to describe its employment value proposition and the features of its recruitment process that reflect the true nature of its values. The better aligned those two aspects are, the stronger the organization’s appeal to the best talent in the marketplace.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. WEDDLE’s Newsletter grows only by word-of-mouth. So, please … tell a friend or colleague (or two) about the newsletter. We’d be very grateful, and they will be too.

    This Issue’s Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    The Employment Guide(R) offers the nation’s most comprehensive recruiting solution for hourly to mid-management jobs. offers online hiring solutions and candidate search options across all industries on a nationwide basis. The Employment Guide publication offers traditional print and more than 150 job fair resources for employers across 56 major hiring markets. Let us be your Guide to hourly and mid-management recruitment.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Deloitte published the findings of a study entitled It’s 2008: Do You Know Where Your Talent Is? Why Acquisition and Retention Strategies Don’t Work. Among the key points: one-third of U.S. companies expect to lose 11% or more of their current workforce by 2008. Now, we all know that, for many CEOs, the definition of long term planning is a six-month lead time, and with CEO job tenure now down to under three years (that according to DBM), who can blame them? Besides, most of the studies predicting severe shortages in the U.S. workforce assume that Baby Boomers will retire at the same rates as their parents. Given the financial pounding that we all took in the late unlamented bubble, I don’t think that’s likely. I also think it makes more sense to focus on a labor shortage that exists right now. Today, companies are already finding it hard to recruit people who are superior performers and those with certain rare skills-the Deloitte report, itself, notes that, at this very moment, more than 80% of U.S. manufacturers face shortages of machinists, craft workers and technicians. These shortages are undermining corporate performance in 2005, so focus your investment of political capital there. Making the business case for something that will affect the company’s outcome on the CEO’s watch may be shortsighted, but it’s much more likely to be successful than asking them to gaze into some crystal ball.

    Bernard Hodes Group is conducting a survey of recruiting practices among HR professionals. Its goal is to determine how best to help HR professionals with their job posting needs. All participants completing the survey will receive a free copy of the research report and be entered in a drawing for a free iPod. To reach the survey, click here. launched its recruiting site for “bilingual-Spanish and English or Hispanic speaking-professionals.” That specialization in bilingual workers, notwithstanding, the site also offers to “assist in Translation Communications between jobseekers (sic) & employers.” Go figure. Anyway, postings run $225 apiece and remain online for 90 days.

    TrueCareers released the results of a survey conducted among job seekers earlier this year. As with several previous polls, it found a large number of workers itching to get out of their current employers. Among respondents, nearly half plan to move on to a new organization as soon as they can, saying they want a “higher level, higher-paying position.” Perhaps most importantly, nearly one-third of this group is conducting their search passively. Does that mean they aren’t really serious about moving on? I don’t think so; rather, I believe it’s an ominous sign of who will leave employers first. It suggests that the first out the door will be the best and brightest. They know that recruiters will reach out to them-they do all of the time-but now, they’ve started to listen. What should you do? Make retention a leadership issue. Work with supervisors so that they come to see themselves as CROs … Chief Retention Officers. Yea, I know they’re busy, but they’re going to be a whole lot busier if they have to pick up the slack for the talent they lose to attrition. What should they do first? Take the temperature of the top performers in their unit. Know where they stand and get any issues out on the table where they and you can deal with them.

    WetFeet, Inc. introduced a software product to streamline high-volume interview scheduling. Developed in collaboration with Federated Department Stores, the Enterprise Interview SchedulerTM can help organizations that do extensive seasonal hiring, participate in career fairs and campus recruiting, and conduct interviews in multiple locations and time zones.

    Jack Welch has written yet another book on corporate leadership. Called Winning, it’s available in bookstores now. Interestingly enough, despite his reputation as “Neutron Jack”-the CEO who didn’t worry about the people costs of business decisions, he offers plenty of advice on how to find, hire and lead talented employees. For example, he believes that the one question you should ask every applicant in an interview is: Why did you leave your last job? He opines, “Listen closely. Why a person has left a job or jobs tells you more about them than almost any other piece of data.” I don’t agree. What happened in the past is useful information, but the more important insight is what the applicant expects and hopes to accomplish in the future. Probing that point is key to understanding not only their capability but their character.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    1. Your dude ranch is now hiring ranch hands for the summer. Which of the following sites would help you lasso some good prospects?

  • 2. Several teachers in your school system have just announced their plans to retire. Which of the following sites would give your search for replacements a failing grade?

  • 3. Your company needs a new Java programmer in its IT Department. Which of the following sites would put a bug in your candidate search?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005 Guides and Directories

    Post full time jobs: Yes [nonprofit-ed.]

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $50/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: No

    Number of resumes: N/A

    Source of resumes: N/A

    Top occupations among resumes: N/A

    Other services for employers: Listserv/discussion forum

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but, a site that sells products for those interested in a Western lifestyle.

    2., the site of a company selling software for Web databases.

    3., the site of a Web development company.

    Support Our Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    The Employment Guide(R) offers the nation’s most comprehensive recruiting solution for hourly to mid-management jobs. offers online hiring solutions and candidate search options across all industries on a nationwide basis. The Employment Guide publication offers traditional print and more than 150 job fair resources for employers across 56 major hiring markets. Let us be your Guide to hourly and mid-management recruitment.