Adapted from the book Finding Keepers: The Monster Guide to Hiring and Holding the World’s Best Employees by Steve Pogorzelski, Jesse Harriott, Ph.D., and Doug Hardy. Published January 2008 by McGraw-Hill.
People recognize culture, and it can be a powerful attraction to highly talented candidates. Good employer branding incorporates culture because it's one of the intangible benefits that make an impression on the poised candidate.
Furthermore, branding only matters if it reaches your target audience — so describe your employer brand for the poised worker. Since your job is to articulate the employer brand that already exists, in reality and in aspiration, start with your employees. Solicit candid input from your current workforce because, as we’ve seen, a large section of them are poised workers. Your current employees are the experts; if you start anywhere other than their experience, you are writing fiction.
Ask your employees these questions:
- What do we as an organization believe?
- How do we choose which projects get done?
- On what criteria is your performance judged?
- Are we fair?
- How do we treat customers?
- Which customers deserve the most attention?
- Why are you here?
- What is unique about us?
- What is your relationship to the customer?
- Why would your customer do business with you?
- What outcomes do you want from your work?
- How do we achieve our goals?
- Describe the kind of person who succeeds here.
- What do we want people who work here to feel for this place?
- What, other than money, would tempt you to leave?
- Would you recommend this organization to a close friend?
You should also develop a more detailed list of “features and benefits” of working at your organization. These are the details that HR professionals and recruiters love to discuss, because they’re more concrete than mission and culture:
- Job description
- Compensation details (salary, bonuses, hourly rate, profit sharing)
- Benefits of all kinds—medical, 401(k) and pension plans, savings
- Business line—your products and services
- Business opportunity—the upside of working for you, the chance to advance a career
- Lifestyle—“work-life balance” or “intense atmosphere;” a job’s travel requirements, etc.
- Positioning in the industry (best products, “employer of choice” status)
- Community service and other outward expressions of culture
- Recognition from the outside
You don’t advertise with this list because, frankly, these features and benefits play backup in the employer brand. A list is just not as compelling as a statement (or better, a narrative). The features and benefits of a job might help you close a deal with a talented individual, or tip the balance against a competitor, but they aren’t effective in getting attention.
Details help, and it’s important to accentuate all the positive things that go on in a company. Monster’s Lori Erickson remembers that “when I took this job at Monster there were benefits we offer that I didn’t even know about.We have an adoption assistance program and nursing rooms for new mothers in every single facility across the United States. We have a work-life person whose sole job is to put programs in place that make it easier for employees to balance the challenges of having a life and a job.We had to learn to push that message into the recruiting story.”
Your first attempt to define an employer brand doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to satisfy a few rules:
- Is it authentic? Does your statement reflect reality? Do employees recognize the values and the culture you describe?
- Is it unique? Would an employee know that this describes your organization and not a similar one?
- Is it compelling? Does it demand action? Does it describe the meaning of working at your organization?
- Is it relevant? Is your statement meaningful to the people you’re trying to attract?
- Does it describe an experience? As far as candidates, potential candidates, and employees are concerned, your employer brand is an experience. It’s not a slogan, and it’s not a logo, and it’s not a press release. It’s the good or bad deal of investing another day of their one-and-only lives in your organization.
The answers to each of these questions must be yes, because otherwise you’ll miss your audience. Rigorous questioning of the statement worked for Laura Stanley, who leads the Talent Acquisition and Employment Branding team at EarthLink in Atlanta. She started her work with a reality check: “When I joined, the first thing I did was to ask my team, ‘Okay, why do people join, and that you articulate pretty clearly what they’re going to get when they come, and also what they’ve got to give, too, and to make sure that we’re attracting the right people in the right jobs at the right time.”