I have been blogging and presenting on the practice of Employment Branding since 2005, and facilitating a group on LinkedIn focused on this subject matter since 2009. This is an area of human resource management that I’m zealously passionate about, and the group has served as an excellent opportunity to connect with and learn from other like-minded professionals who truly believe in the importance and value of making great hires for every opening.
While I have put little to intermittently no effort into promoting or growing the group, there’s been a sustained, if slow, ongoing membership growth particularly since early 2011. As I have lived and worked my whole life based in New England, it’s no surprise that more members are from the Boston area than anywhere else, at 6% of the membership. What I’ve found to be extremely surprising is the growth of membership outside the US. Beyond Boston and Chicago- the top two demographics in this group-, the next largest groups are in New Zealand and Canada, with a good percentage coming from Australia, India, and Russia. What exactly does this mean?
I believe this shows that the idea of globalization is becoming a reality, that organizations across the world are buying into the value and importance of employment branding. Given the development of remote employment opportunities and increasing ease of global mobility and expatriate careers, are US employers now competing directly with Global organizations for talent?
Not too long ago, I sat down with a business that was looking to utilize an employment branding strategy to develop a strong candidate pool around a specific business line. What was particularly interesting about this meeting, was that the initial conversations weren’t with HR or Recruiting, but rather the VP and Manager of the product line.
This was the first time that I’ve entered into a discussion from this perspective, and it got me thinking. This actually made more sense than working with the HR leadership, as is the norm. The stakeholders who stand to gain or lose the most from poor recruiting are the business line leaders, not the HR staff. Business leaders are responsible for results without excuses (see the recent great post on HR Capitalist: http://www.hrcapitalist.com/2011/05/s-steve-jobs-says-the-difference-between-a-vp-and-a-janitor.html).
The product or business line leaders within an organization suffer the most from poor employee engagement and performance. Conversely, the most successful leaders always point to a high performing and highly engaged team when explaining their successes. Perhaps Talent Acquisition budgets should always be included in the business line’s overall budget, rather than under an umbrella operational budget.
Hire good people, treat them like adults, and get the hell out of the way. There’s not much more to it.
That’s an excerpt from a recent post, HR is Simple, by Chris Ferdinandi at RenegadeHR.net. Of course in order for your organization to find success by treating people like adults and getting out of the way, it’s vital that you actually hire great people. More often than not, companies develop overly complex practices to ensure they’re hiring the right candidates for every job every time. Unfortunately, convoluted hiring systems can sometimes get in the way of hiring the best talent. For all you HR professionals, Recruiters, and Hiring Managers who have yet to commit to a New Year’s resolution, perhaps you may want to consider streamlining your hiring practices.
There are several reasons why streamlining your hiring practices is worth your time and attention in 2011, not the least of which is that the employment landscape is changing. Since the second quarter of 2008, hiring has been on the decline in the US as the economy has weakened, forcing companies to focus more on layoffs and down-sizing than on optimizing hiring practices. As the economy slowly recovers, companies that have simple, effective, and engaging hiring systems will be better positioned to attract and hire the best talent.
Another good reason to put your attention on your hiring systems now is that it’s an activity that your leadership team can easily understand and support. In most organizations, it’s easier to secure financial support internally for these activities during the first part of the year. Additionally, most leaders are now predicting accelerated recovery as the year goes on, so your return on the investment in your hiring systems will be substantial as you reduce your time to fill and increase the quality of your hires as jobs open up later in the year.
One last reason why now is the best time to streamline your hiring systems is that there is a wealth of assistance available at a relatively low cost. Over the past two years, many organizations laid of HR staff, and most began with their recruiting functions, as this was an area of sharp decline. As a result, there are many experienced and qualified recruiting professionals now working as consultants as they weather the economic downturn. You may never have this level of access to such a large pool of recruitment consulting expertise again- why not take advantage of it.
Okay, so you understand why there’s value in streamlining your hiring systems… now what? What does “streamlining your hiring system” even mean, you may wonder. Speaking from a 30,000 foot perspective, it simply means to make the process easier, faster, and more efficient. Below, I’ve listed some possible opportunities for streamlining hiring systems. Since every organization’s hiring systems are unique, consider this list simply a starting point. The first step to streamlining your own processes is to identify where your inefficiencies exist.
Consolidate your recruitment advertising. According to Peter Weddle, the Zagat of the job board industry, the perfect mix of job boards includes 1 or 2 national/general sites, a geographic niche site, a diversity focused site, and a couple of industry niche sites. Identify which national job boards are best suited for your hiring needs, along with which geographic, diversity, and industry niche sites are best positioned to meet your needs, and focus exclusively on those boards. Additionally, if at all possible, invest in a technology that will automatically post your jobs to the various boards with the click of a button. These include job scraping and job distribution technologies. This alone can save your staff hundreds of hours over the course of the year.
Reduce the number of hoops an applicant must jump through. Best practices for hiring the best candidates include pre-employment screening and reference checks. I’m not saying that you should eliminate any of these steps from the selection process. Rather, be sure that the systems you use to collect data and consent forms are easy to complete for the candidates. If you’re going to require drug and background screening, it’s a good idea to include the consent form in the application process, to there’s no additional steps for the applicant to complete later in the process. In an ideal situation, the applicant would fill in all information needed for the background investigation and the consent forms when they apply, so if they are selected to be screened, there is nothing further required of them.
Utilize assessments to narrow the field BEFORE you schedule interviews. This is a great, not to mention low cost, way to streamline your hiring system internally. Contrary to many doubters, assessments are a proven way to screen applicants to make better hires. Unfortunately, many employers wait until after they’ve decided who they want to hire to present the assessment, which can cause all kinds of efficiency problems. The best practice is to use web-based assessments before you decide who to invite to an interview. While few people consider it, the actual costs associated with the interview process are quite high, so make sure you’re only spending your time interviewing the right candidates. Depending on your culture and the job you’re hiring for, you can choose either a skills-based or behavior-based assessment. For around $10 a test, this is a great way to cut down on the time your staff and your managers are spending in interviews.
These are just a few ways that your organization may be able to streamline your hiring systems to attract better candidates and make faster hires. As you review your current practices, be clear about the issues you are planning to resolve and the goals you are shooting for. Make sure you get input from your front line recruitment staff about what they perceive as pain points. Another good idea is to ask your most recent hires what they would change in the hiring process and how your system compares with other organizations they’ve applied to.
Efficient hiring systems directly affect your organization’s bottom line by reducing the time to fill vacancies, cutting down on recruitment advertising costs, and increasing the quality and productivity of new hires. There is no better time than now to focus on streamlining your hiring systems, so that your organization is prepared to attract great talent as the economy recovers.
As a follow up to my previous posts, Don’t Just Sit On Your Hands and 4 Keys to INTERNAL Employment Branding During a Recession, the following bullets are laid out to provide some direction to employers, recruiters, marketing directors, personnel managers, and HR professionals on EXTERNAL Employment Branding. (remember, Consumer Branding is meant to build up your consumer base, Employment Branding is meant to build your employment base.)
During a recession, you’ll likely be making fewer hires- potentially only replacing key positions. Employment Branding is absolutely necessary to ensure your attracting the very best candidates that will help you company survive the downturn and thrive in the upswing. Here are some of the most important things I’d ask everyone to consider when developing or reviewing your external employment brand:
If you asked every applicant to share what they know about your company culture during your first phone call, what would the result be?
Ask this question to every applicant you phone screen, and track the results
When you do an online search for “Careers at (YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE)” what would you find?
Make sure you have pages on your website dedicated to your employment brand.
If you aren’t hiring, how could someone find out what it’s like to work for you?
Be sure to keep your employment brand visible all year long and drive a consistent message.
How many GREAT applicants do you get when you’re not actively hiring?
Companies with well developed employment brands will receive applicants from great candidates all year long, because they want to be part of your organization.
If you went for a recruiting day at a campus right now, would there be a line of students waiting to speak with you?
Utilize social media and online resources to generate a buzz about your company- and yes, even YOUR company is buzzworthy!
What would your current employees say if they read your employment branding promotional materials?
Remember, brand integrity directly affects your ability to retain new hires and existing employees- so be sure that you’re brand is true.
Consider this: With all the bad news about layoffs and unemployment, any news or PR you can generate about your positive employment brand will catch people’s attention. In fact, it is much easier now to grow your employment brand awareness and brand penetration! While others are shying away from the spotlight, you can take center stage.
If you aren’t currently hiring, investing time and energy in your employment brand now will lead to significant payouts when you’re back in growth mode. Develop brand loyalty now, and when you’re ready to hire, great people- and maybe more importantly, the right people- will be banging down your door.
EMPLOYMENT BRANDING STORY FROM THIS WEEK:
When we work with job seekers, we push the idea that employers are looking for the “right fit” for their company. We guide job seekers to begin their search by doing a self assessment- what are their own core values, strengths, motivations, talents, desires, and comfort zones. Once you know what makes you happy, and what you want from life, then you can target companies who’s culture and mission fit your own. This is the key to long term employee satisfaction, increased retention, and ultimately profitability.
Here’s a quick story to illustrate (verbally) how employment branding can affect the type of candidates you receive. A soon to be graduate at Smith College is looking to start her career with BET, and has asked for some advice on her cover letter and resume. She has already interned with the Media Education Foundation and with MTV, so has relevant experience in this industry. Additionally, working in media is a passion of hers, and she has the experience to support that. However, it’s likely that BET will collect hundreds of resumes for this position, so it’s important to make sure she conveys her alignment with their culture and philosophy.
We went on the web to research more about the career environment of BET, their culture, professional development programs, etc. And found nothing. The job she was applying for was written up in three sentences, part of a pdf that included a dozen or so other job descriptions. There was nothing about their culture, nothing about the types of employees they’re looking for, nothing about the benefits they offer to top talent. There was simply no information that would shed light on who they are and what kind of environment a new hire is walking into. While I can’t find statistics published on this, I have a pretty high confidence that they struggle with significant employee turnover. If you don’t specifiy the type of culture you have and the type of people you’re looking for, you’re far less likely to attract the right ones.
I told this student that she continue to reach out through social media and other online resources to explore the culture and environment further. A key to getting the interview is presenting yourself as the “right” person for the job because of your unique combination of skills, talents, motivation, drive, values, and passion that align with the company.
Last week I presented a webinar focused on Employment Branding to more than 150 companies through a great resource called GoToWebinar (free plug- it’s a great and easy to use web conferencing tool).
I also provided the same presentation to a group of HR professionals at the Seacoast Human Resource Association, SHRA, in Portsmouth, NH, a local chapter of SHRM.
I’ve presented this material a handful of times, and one piece of feedback that I get consistently really stands out, so I wanted to share.
During the presentation, we discuss how to identify a company’s unique employment proposition- it’s employment brand. That is, what does your company provide to it’s employees that make you unique? This ranges from flexibility of schedules, to compassionate environment, to generous benes and compensation, to stabile work environment and so on…
We ask the employers to assign human personality traits to themselves as employers. Actually, we do this as an exercise, and suggest that they have their employees fill this out. As with a consumer brand, the brand is what people tell you it is, not what you think it is. If people perceive Kia’s to be cheap, low quality transportation, that’s the reality of the brand, regardless of what people at Kia would want you to believe, AND REGARDLESS OF THE ACTUAL QUALITY OR VALUE THAT KIA OFFERS. If people don’t see it that way, it isn’t that way.
Likewise, your employment brand is whatever your employees say it is.
So as we go through this process, it almost always comes up that this is difficult to do, because different departments (horizontal), or different job grades (vertical) would have different opinions about the company’s strengths, weaknesses, personality.
This is where I recently stopped my thought process, and asked myself, WHY IS IT THAT THERE IS SO MUCH VARIATION IN VIEW OF THE COMPANY BOTH HORIZONTALLY AND VERTICALLY? If one department treats your employees well, pays well, is open and honest in communication, and is compassionate to them, why would that change from department to department? Or, for that matter, based on how high up the ladder you are?
So, this is, or may be, a reality for many companies. And the suggestion up front is simple- analyze your employment personality/brand for each functional area- horizontally and vertically- to capture granular detail about each department, so as you build your brand it is customized and focused right down to that level.
Here’s my second thoughts on that. If you are hearing very conflicting feedback about your company’s strengths, weaknesses, personality, etc, there’s more work that needs to be done first…. sorry. This finding presents an excellent opportunity to identify inconsistencies internally, and develop a blueprint for building better employee relations and engagement.
OKAY, okay…. why bother, right? This is a lot of work. A waste of time. Will use up resources. What’s in it for me? I get all those very valid concerns. The answers boil down to very basic principles of HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT and Organziational Dynamics.
Your ability to have a strong and pervasive culture will allow you to better identify the best potential candidates, based on your current environment and staff. Attracting better candidates leads to hiring better employees.
Hiring better employees leads to reduced costs for turnover, as retention increases.
Increased retention means better long-term skill development for your business.
Better long term skill development means better productivity, consumer relations, profitability.
THIS IS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT. A business’s ability to realize long term sustainability and growth is based on the collective skills and engagement of it’s employees. Top producing, happy, engaged employees will have the greatest effect on you bottom line of any variable that you can control.
From the Recruiting Front Lines, that’s how I see it today! Please do share your comments.