What is the objective?
When managing or directing an employer brand, the temptation is to focus energy and output on understanding who the company is, what it stands for and what makes it unique. Many methodologies insist upon it. For me, this misses an important point.
The focus of your external activity should be your audience and the relationship you wish to build with them. This is what you truly need to understand. By persuading talent to join, remain or advocate for your company, your people brand achieves business success that earns attention, investment and ongoing commitment. This is where your impact lies.
If you have a clear understanding about the aspirations and motivation of talent, you can share more reasons for them to engage with your organization, increasing the chances that the best candidates will select you over any competing opportunities. And that’s the real litmus test of your employer brand — not in an application but in an accepted offer, strong retention, performance data and willingness to advocate or refer. This is a long-term impact, where the work of your employer brand directly affects the success of your business.
So, how do we do it?
It’s really all about layering, appreciating the inherent complexity of an individual and ensuring the picture you paint of employment with your business takes heed of that complexity. Your brand also shouldn’t limit its thinking to how you construct a role or job family. You need to reconcile yourself — and your colleagues — with the fact that you will not be attractive to everyone. It’s a fact of life.
A data scientist, a human resources manager or a marine biologist is much more than his or her professional title and credentials. Many other factors influence the life they lead and career decisions they make, including family life, socio-economic background, geography, gender and generation, just to name a few. Your business is unique enough to appeal to some but not to others. We need to be able to forgive ourselves this fact and not see it as a failing.
The truth is, no matter how grand our organisation becomes, we’ll never want to employ all marine biologists or all HR Managers; just the right ones.
How do we find them?
Whether the skillset is scarce or bountiful, finding people that fit is difficult. We are all complex individuals, the result of thousands of events and influences shaping the life we lead and the things we hold dear. So we’re hard to predict, difficult to guarantee.
As an employer, you will never understand the needs and wants of every candidate or be able to mould yourself to them. Nor should you spend your time and resources trying. What’s important is ensuring that every candidate is able to see and understand what it means to work at your company, what the role is and what kind of team he or she will join. The company’s culture, ambitions and leadership should be completely transparent. Explain your social elements, strength of corporate responsibility, five-year vision and suite of benefits. Be clear about the salary offered and the demands required in return. Don’t spare any details, down to the size of the office and how often the candidate needs to be there.
All of this information will help you to...
• Build a stronger relationship with your target candidates based on layers of personal interest that extend beyond the fact that they are a marine biologist (etc)
• Equip that target audience to make a better decision about whether you are right for each other
The better you are at helping candidates make that decision, the stronger your recruits will be, the longer they will stay and the better your conversion and economic metrics.
Research can help you uncover what, in broad terms, marine biologists are interested in, and it’s always worth auditing your offer against these criteria if this audience is vital to you. This kind of hyper-targeting can really differentiate in scarce-skill markets.
But as with any relationship, all you can be is yourself. Anything else gets found out. For some candidates, you will be more than enough. Others will look for something different. My advice is to accept yourself, and your brand, for that. It genuinely isn’t you — it’s them.