PIC Reports – Employment Branding

It seems like most medium to large towns have that “it” employer.  Sometimes it’s a large Fortune 500 or medium sized private company.  You know, the cool place that you’ve heard is a great place to work. Maybe you saw their company tent at the local 10k and observed how much fun they were all having (or all the kegs in their tent). Or maybe you know someone who works there and “loves” it.

Chances are you didn’t actually work for that company but you “heard” they are a good company.  And that in a nutshell is great employment branding.  Successful employment branding is the phrase: “I’ve heard they are a great place to work” or “Wow! What a cool company to work for.”

Have you ever wondered how to create that kind of buzz? Or maybe you don’t even want to be a “cool” company, maybe you just want to get some better quality candidates? Employment branding or recruitment marketing is a relatively new area of HR (maybe 10 years old) but can have a strong positive impact on your recruiting efforts.  That’s where our PIC investigative reports series comes in to play. In this month’s issue we are tackling all things employment branding:

  • What is it?
  • How does it work?
  • Who does it well?
  • Who has screwed it up?
  • And of course, how can you try it out?

Why Should You Care? I know. You’ve been hiring people for the last 10 years at the Widget company and everything is just fine. Okay, maybe there were a couple bad apples in that bunch but who cares? There were 10 more lined up to replace him/her!

Those days are over. Unemployment is down to 5% and in some cities the rates are as low at 2-3%! As recently as three years ago, rates were 7-8%; it’s safe to say that the job market is heating up (I refuse to say “war for talent”).  How will you differentiate your company when good candidates have their choice of places to work? Telling a compelling story about your company can be the extra point you need to land your next hire when you can’t beat the competition’s salary dollars or nap pods. 

How Does It Work? Successful branding starts with a good story. Think about what makes your company great. This isn’t erasing the past or ignoring the negatives but think about your company’s history and its future. What makes it a compelling place to work?

Now here’s the fun part: this isn’t just an HR exercise.  Get together with marketing, the business line(s), operations and anyone else you can think of who would want to share their thoughts and ideas on what makes your office a great place to work.  Work with your marketing team to put together a revamped careers website page, new job posting verbiage and/or a new employment video.  In your recruitment marketing efforts you want to address job seeker questions about your company:

  • What is the history of the company? What is the future? Can I see myself in their future?
  • What kind of people will I be working with?
  • What is it like to work at that company? Can I work from home? What does the office look like?
  • Is the company involved in the community?

In other words: transparency. People want to know as much as they can about the company before they even apply. The story of your company is told in a variety of mediums: careers page, social media channels, company events and your employees. Yes, your current and future employees help tell your story. No amount of splashy marketing can overwrite the negative Glassdoor reviews or word of mouth.  

So who does the employment branding thing well? Not so well? In the AMAZING category, we have GE.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  Their latest marketing campaign focuses on their shift to a digital company and calls out all the preconceived notions of an “industrial” company. This video does a great job addressing those preconceived notions, and explains the “new” GE in a quick 3 minutes:

This video is great because GE knew they had a problem with younger people who want software and developer jobs and GE also wanted to highlight its entrance into the The Internet of Things. Through this ad campaign they drew attention to all of these: their new competitive strategy, showing themselves as a “digital” company and a brief mention of their past as an “industrial” company.

And on the other side of the spectrum we have to point out a recent employment branding flop: IBM’s #HackAHairDryer campaign. IBM decided to use a hashtag and video to draw attention to women in technology and engineering.

IBM decided to challenge “ #WomenInTech to join the #HackAHairDryer experiment to reengineer what matters in #science .”   IBM was criticized for the ad in a series of tweets that went viral with responses calling out the sexist nature of the ads.  Needless to say IBM deleted the tweets and associated videos.

Ouch! Maybe more focus-grouping next time?

IBM and GE are two very large companies with sizeable budgets. I call those out because they are two powerful examples of how employment branding can play out.  By putting your company out there in the public sphere in a much more transparent way you do risk blow back (negative Glassdoor reviews anyone?) but at least you are telling the story.  If you don’t take charge of the story, someone else will. Who do YOU want telling your company story? 


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