#WorkTrends: Why You Need a Talent Brand, Not an Employer Brand

This week on #WorkTrends, agency founder and author Lee Caraher has a wake-up call for all of us. Her message? We need to stop focusing on our “employer brand” and start building a talent brand.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

Find a Better Way to Retain Millennials

Back in 2008, Lee had a problem — a big one. Her agency, Double Forte, couldn’t retain millennial employees. At first she figured it must be the millennials’ problem, but when they kept quitting she realized it was the organization’s problem.

She was reading negative headlines everywhere about millennials when she decided to stop looking for answers elsewhere and build her own solution. “I rejected everything bad that I heard,” she says. She knew finding a solution mattered: “A business without millennials is a business without a future,” she says.

She recommends one big change to anyone leading a team: Build a culture of appreciation. “The research shows that teams that feel appreciated outperform those that don’t by 30 percent. I grew up in a household where ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ were implied,” she says. “I thought people knew I appreciated them, but they didn’t. So I started saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and by the end of the month everyone else was saying it too. Our nonbillable time went down. People worked better, faster and more efficiently.

“This is a human trait, not a millennial trait. We all work better when we’re appreciated. People come to our office now and say ‘You guys are so nice to each other.’ But that didn’t just happen. You have to practice.”

Through trial and error and a lot of hard work, the company tripled the tenure for people under 30 — to 4 1/2 years.

Create a Talent Magnet

Building an employer brand is about building a great place to work. That’s really become “an arms race of perks,” Lee says — the best paternity leave, free lunch, laundry on-site. “But the best talent is not inspired by perks. The people who are going to drive your business aren’t inspired by free lunch. They are inspired by being around other great people.”

Instead of trying to build an employer brand, Lee’s team focused on building a talent brand — a company known for attracting great talent. That distinction will only become more important as organizations compete for top talent, she says. “If you’re known as a talent brand where great people come to work, you’re going to have a strategic advantage over just being a great place to work.”

Build a Place for Boomerangs

“If you’re born today, you have a 50 percent chance of living to 104,” she says. “We’re going to be working for 60, 70 years, people. There’s no way that one company can hold someone for 70 years.” Because of that change, companies have to think differently about their alumni — former employees. “If we’re going to be sustainable, we have to break the old paradigm of ‘If you leave, you’re dead to me,’ ” she says. “When someone leaves that may not reflect on us at all. It’s all about the person crafting their career.”

So, it’s normal and expected for someone to leave, but if you have a strong talent brand, you might be able to get them back to your organization down the line. “Inspire loyalty for that person’s entire career,” she says.

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

Your Talent Brand Matters More Than You Think

It’s not enough to think of your company brand. Or your product brand. Or, actually, your employer brand. Think about it: being an employer implies having employees. But much of what we really have these days — partially influenced by Millennial values — is talent, who act less like employees and more like consumers. There’s a whole spectrum of talent out there, and many consider jobs as a pick and choose and change cycle — steps on a career ladder as opposed to the career in itself. That means your brand has to be seen from the outside, by the talent: it’s your talent brand that matters.

What’s fascinating is that, according to a number of my colleagues, including human capital consultant Joan Graci (the CEO and President of APA Solutions), the working population cares not a whit about product brand. Graci notes that under 30% of the working population says they’re concerned with the product brand of their employer. Instead, they factor in the talent brand: the three-dimensional nature of the place in which they work: the who, what and where.

Four Dimensions To This Brand

To those three dimensions, I’d add a fourth: the tone of the takeaway. What I mean by that is an intangible sense of atmosphere and mission that drives tangible engagement. It’s part why, and it’s part how, and it’s more than that as well. It’s the X-factor, though I’d assert that we certainly have ways to measure it. But that’s for another post: what we’re going to learn in talent management as a field is that there are far more ways to measure engagement than we imagined, and some fascinating examples we can all draw from.

Talent brand has an enormous impact on how your company is perceived, from the broadest end of the talent funnel — pre-candidate, to existing employees. But talent brand is not a passive amalgam, to be allowed to organically grow. Please. It’s too valuable for that. Even in 2012, LindedIn’s “Employer Brand Playbook” noted that a strong talent brand reduces cost-per-hire by up to 50%, and can reduce turnover rates by 28%. And four years ago is ancient history in the digital timeline.

Keep organic in your kitchen if you’d like, but talent branding is about actively pushing, monitoring, shaping, building, and maintaining. It has nothing to do with sitting back and allowing anyone to form a miasma of impressions. To put it bluntly: if you don’t tend to your talent brand, you’re going to lose out. Because while you’re looking the other way, and you’re not controlling your message, your main competitor is spearheading a serious talent branding campaign. And guess where the talent’s going to look?

Two interesting convergences here. One is that there’s a new understanding about the process of recruitment and engagement —that in fact, recruitment and engagement are actually a cycle that creates invaluable ambassadors that can, in turn, drive successive waves of recruitment, and so on — and this feeds directly into the need to make sure your talent brand is dovetailed into your employer and product brands across all platforms.

The other is that along with a refreshing appreciation for the marketing of a talent brand to its audience is the critical role of the C-suite. I’ve long discussed the need to get the C-suite on board for HR, and this seems to be a fulcrum. Harvard Business Review found that CEOS are getting in on the talent brand effort for a variety of reasons — some good, some possibly not as good (a lack of faith in HR’s ability to get it done, which, well, I’ll leave that one alone for now). But they found that 60% of CEOS surveyed believed that the responsibility of shaping talent brand lay with the C-suite. Finally, we’ve got top-level executives who get the strategic importance of being involved with managing talent.

Which, frankly, makes me very happy.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Why Talent Acquisition Should Own Recruitment Marketing

Recruiters and marketers used to sit in different areas of the office, playing distinctly different roles. But as we all know, that’s shifted quite a bit with the focus on recruitment marketing. A marketing hat is now an essential part of a talent acquisition leader’s wardrobe. The most successful recruiters and talent acquisition leaders have embraced the entire world of marketing, from tactics to metrics.

According to The MRINetwork Recruiter Sentiment Study, a biannual survey conducted among nearly 2,000 U.S.-based executive search recruiters of MRINetwork, 90 percent of recruiters say the market was candidate-driven in 2015, up from 54 percent in the second half of 2011. When the landscape looks like that, candidates need to be wowed and wooed. And let’s be honest, the best employer brand often wins the race.

Within this same study, 31 percent of respondents say that hiring managers are not finding enough suitable candidates. And when that happens, they have to fight that much harder to find, grab and retain high quality candidates – or someone else will.

So creating a brand that compels people to want to work there is absolutely critical. Whether it’s a perk like free lunches, a dog-friendly workplace or a generous vacation policy, those messages need to be blasted loud and clear. What are even more important to share are those deeper cultural messages such as commitment to transparency or the opportunity to do meaningful work. And who should be behind this communication? Talent Acquisition! (With the support of executives and current employees, as well.)

LinkedIn recently released Global Recruiting Trends 2016, offering both predictable and interesting findings. It states 59 percent of respondents are “investing more in their employer brand compared to last year.” So with this investment, it’s once again obvious who should whole-heartedly, passionately and strategically own the employer brand and the correlating recruitment marketing: the Talent Acquisition Team. Here are a few reasons why.

Consistency of Message. This is Marketing 101. When you want to send a message, make it clear and repeat it. When you are marketing to potential candidates, it’s the same concept. If there are inconsistent messages coming from social media profiles, job boards, talent networks, online employee reviews and other platforms, candidates are just confused.

When Talent Acquisition owns the employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts, it is a great opportunity to fully grasp the company culture, put it into compelling words and sell it. This requires savvy research, solid writing and constant management. Simply put, employer branding needs to be placed as a high priority and coddled a bit. With all the visibility that comes with our online culture, monitoring and engaging potential candidates is part of the big picture.

Universum’s research showed that “74 percent of respondents claimed to have at least a moderate employer brand presence on social media, only a third said they had dedicated employees posting content and responding to users on a regular basis. Even more surprising was that only about half of respondents said they measure their social media activities.”

Candidates Care More. I talk a lot about the candidate experience because expectations have changed. With a talent shortage and shifting generational demands, people want to be courted a bit. The process of the candidate experience is a slight jump from what we’re talking about, but it starts with effectively reaching talent. With companies like Google, Salesforce and Wegmans out there topping Best Companies to Work For lists, candidates want a little cultural dazzle with each job posting. Research continues to show that Millennials and Gen Z are more extremely interested in company culture.

Virgin Pulse’s report, “Misunderstood Millennials: How the Newest Workforce is Evolving Business” states that “73 percent of Millennials seek meaningful work at an organization with a mission they support, and a remarkable 90 percent say they want to use their skills for good, suggesting that Millennials seek workplaces with a culture of altruism that enable them to give back. Millennials also care about workplace culture, with 77 percent noting it is just as or more important than salary and benefits.”

And I’ll throw it out there again … who needs to own these messages, illustrating a commitment to altruism or a hip company culture? Talent Acquisition.


Here’s a little warning for you, though. If a talent brand is misrepresented – by flat-out false promises or simply poor word choices – or even through silence – quality of hire will be affected. You want employees to be there for the right reasons: They knew what they were getting into and they want to stay. They are more productive, visionary and committed. When Talent Acquisition effectively manages its marketing efforts, the overall workplace will reap the benefits.

So how do you put in into action? To understand how to become a modern recruiting organization, SmashFly offers a great resource that outlines some of the key skills and roles within the recruitment marketing discipline in 5 Essential Roles of the Modern Recruitment Marketing Team.

This post is sponsored by SmashFly. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more content like this, follow SmashFly on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare.

Photo Credit: RollisFontenot via Compfight cc