Are you a magnet for top talent? Mary Pratt interviews GE & Tanfeeth

Written by
Changeboard Team

07 Sep 2016

07 Sep 2016 • by Changeboard Team

Talent brand

We strongly believe culture is about understanding behavioural norms within a defined context and people often look to their leaders to see what is right.

The term ‘talent brand’ returns over 241 million Google search results. But according to EBI Consultancy, brands with clearly defined strategies account for just 14% of these. This is an interesting statistic in light of research by SHRM suggesting that it costs up to five times an annual salary to rehire, while Harvard University claims that 80% of staff turnover is down to bad hiring.

As General Electric CEO Jack Welch said: “The best teams are the ones with the best players”. The simple reality is that good talent will have opportunities, hence the critical need to build a compelling story that ‘does as it says on the tin’.

World-class brands understand that there is only one differentiator between a great business with great profits and an exceptional business with exceptional profits – the people. You very rarely see phenomenal talent in average organisations, and if you do they won’t be there long.

You can influence your talent brand but you can no longer have full control over it. With the proliferation of crowdsourcing review sites such as – which, according to Recruiter is hitting 200 million unique visitors per annum – your brand is very exposed.

Dr Linda Sharkey and Dr Frank Wagner, co-authors of Optimizing Talent, advise that you should first question organisations around their talent development plans and leadership/coaching capabilities. Sharkey, former vice-president – people for HP and VP Staffing (US) at General Electric explains: “Companies that focus on talent development have lower recruitment costs, a 40% higher retention of top talent and outperform their competitors in sales by 20%. These are impressive numbers that others should take notice of. Also, companies that take talent branding seriously show 15% greater diversity of talent than those that don’t.”

Employer branding specialist Universum’s 2013 Middle East Student Survey suggested that the top five employer attributes are: a creative and dynamic work environment, professional training and development, respect for it’s people, a friendly atmosphere and opportunities for international travel/relocation. Meanwhile, it is predicted that Generation Y will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025. The best employer brands will always win and keep the best talent.

Case study: General Electric

GE’s employees consistently rate the company – which has had a presence in the MENA region for more than 80 years – highly as an employer and workplace. According to Joe Chalouhi, senior HR director at the organisation, GE invests in developing the next generation of talent through co-operative programmes and training initiatives, both locally and globally.

“In the past two years, GE has invested $200 million in Middle East localisation initiatives and it runs internship and student co-operative programmes to mould its future leaders,” he says. “Almost 75% of our full-time college hires come from internships and co-ops and we use workshops and careers fairs to reach out to young people who could be potential employees.”

GE’s approach to hiring and HR development is marked by five ‘pillars’: innovation, continuous leadership and training, global business, integrity and citizenship. “A continuous learning programme is designed to enable employees to develop their personal capabilities and reach their full potential, while the focus of our leadership development initiatives is highlighted by our Leadership Accelerating Business, a corporate learning development centre in Abu Dhabi that is modelled on the organisation’s Crotonville executive education programme,” explains Chalhoui.

As well as rankings by external organisations, GE uses internal tools to measure its talent brand value. The results of analysis have suggested that there is a strong interest among the region’s talented professionals in working at GE.

“A company’s talent brand must reflect its corporate values and aspirations. These must be integrated, demonstrated and told from the heart,” he adds.

Case study: Tanfeeth

“Our talent brand is a combination of our employee value proposition, employer brand identity and our external brand identity,” says Giovanni Everduin, head of strategic HR & organisational change at Tanfeeth, the GCC’s first shared services company. “Our main talent brand ambassadors are our recruiters – they are our ‘directors of first impressions’.”

The talent brand is an extension of CEO Suhail Bin Tarraf’s vision – conceived when he joined three years ago – and how that would drive measurable business performance. According to Everduin, positive feedback from clients, partners, potential recruits and current people suggests the company has an attractive talent brand in the region. “We are known for having a fun, vibrant, performance-driven culture,” he says. “This is enabled by high investment in learning & development and a data-driven approach to managing talent that eliminates bias while promoting fairness and transparency”.

“We have clearly defined horizontal and vertical career paths with transparent requirements for each role so employees can charter their own future with us,” he adds. The company also has a range of development programmes designed to benefit staff during their time there and in their long-term careers.

Everduin says there is a focus on “clear and honest” communication to employees about what they can expect from the company, and delivering on those expectations. To promote a two-way feedback culture, Suhail walks the operational floors and asks employees for feedback on his performance. There is also an open-door policy that encourages staff to speak to him in his office at any time.

Values are translated into 10 tangible signature behaviours. “We strongly believe culture is about understanding behavioural norms within a defined context and people often look to their leaders to see what is right and what’s not accepted,” says Everduin. “Suhail is defining our culture through his actions rather than just his words, and people are emulating that across the organisation.”

The company’s quarterly reward & recognition ceremonies include recognition of behaviours as well as performance. Its head office is designed with features to boost employee engagement: fussball and ping pong tables, relaxation areas filled with bean bags and a mini library with books to inspire reflection and innovation.

Values are displayed on walls alongside signature behaviours and showcases of high performing role models from within the organisation. One of the newest employee benefits is access to an in-house medical facility. As Everduin explains: “All of these measures are on top of ensuring the basics are in place, such as a robust talent management and development platform, frequent communication, cascaded empowerment, job enrichment, and an effective HR business partner capability to address and fix any issues on our floors.

“We recently launched a talent analytics capability that allows us to validate our practices against performance and engagement drivers based on regression analysis and statistics,” he adds. “This also allows us to predict recruitment success, hire the right talent and keep out the wrong behaviours out. The biggest impact so far is that we can now translate our talent practices to a clear dollar value for bottom-line ROI.

Giovanni Everduins advice on employer branding

  • Be honest about who you are as an organisation and develop a deep understanding of what the right talent looks like for you. This should be a combination of desired and relevant competencies, skills and behaviours and will vary for every organisation.
  • Once you know what talent you need it’s about using data and analysis to understand where in the market you can find them and what will attract them.
  • Don’t make your organisation out to be something you’re not. Stay true to your culture and consistently overdeliver on your commitments. There is a fine art
  • to getting this right.

How to keep your talent brand in order

By Mary Pratt

  • Do not promote out before you promote in. Before promoting yourself as an employer of choice to the external market, work on the internals. How disappointed would you be to buy an iPhone, only to turn it on and realise it has the functionality of a BlackBerry.
  • Fix the people. Do you have the right people in the right jobs from a leadership standpoint? To make your brand alive, it needs to be lived and breathed from the top down with inspiring and dedicated ambassadors – you can’t build your followers if your leaders are not demonstrating the right behaviours.
  • Measure your brand strength. Assessing talent brand is business critical. For example, Google have people analytics teams that approach talent acquisition scientifically. All people decisions are metrics based.
  • Join up communications. Talent brand is not down to one superhuman. The ‘powerhouse couple’ are HR and marketing – you are simply switching your marketing approach from consumer to talent. IKEA Australia ran ‘Assembling Your Career’, a recruitment campaign targeting consumers as potential new talent, which was very successful.
  • Dare to be different. As Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Marriott Group has created ‘Xplor’ – a free mobile travel app – and Facebook game called My Marriott Hotel as part of its communication strategy.

Joe Chalouhi

GEsenior HR director, GE

Joe manages an HR team of 120 overseeing 5,700 employees in 19 countries in MENAT.

Giovanni Everdiun

Tanfeethhead of strategic HR & organisational change, Tanfeeth

Giovanni leads a team of five and oversees 2,300 employees in Dubai.

GEsenior HR director, GE

Joe manages an HR team of 120 overseeing 5,700 employees in 19 countries in MENAT.

GEsenior HR director, GE

Joe manages an HR team of 120 overseeing 5,700 employees in 19 countries in MENAT.