War for Talent is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997. It refers to the ever-changing landscape of attracting, retaining and developing talent. You might think what a terminology coined more than two decades back has relevance today. While business landscapes and organizations have transformed over the last few years, this aspect pertaining to Talent has remained throughout.
So, why is attracting Top Talent critical to business performance and eventually bottom line? A McKinsey study revealed that Productivity gap between average and high performers by job complexity percentage varies from 50 to 800 for low to very high complex jobs. Yet, an astonishing 82% of Fortune 500 executives believe they do not recruit top talent. While there are of course ways to attract and retain talent, how one propagates this and builds a perception of an Employer Brand is crucial.
Employer Brand is a term first defined in the mid-1990s, which describes people’s perceptions of an organization as an employer. Building a strong Employer Brand as a focused activity saw traction in 2004-08 when organizations like Unilver, Shell and P&G took it as their strategic focus areas.
Employer Branding is the process of creating a great place to work and promoting it to talent who can get attracted to the organization. So, why the recent focus on Employer Branding as an activity? Employer Branding has now become mission critical given the stiff competition for talent. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but ‘must have’ priority in any organization’s Talent Strategy. This change in mindset is due to two major factors: a hypercompetitive market for talent and a fear among executives that talent gap will have tangible, negative impact on growth and business. In addition, citing from personal experience, start-ups competing for top talent is one of the major reasons to project large companies’ brand value. Well-established iconic organizations are now seeing themselves pitted against newer, nimbler and agile Gen Y Gen Z friendly start-ups. What is it that will entice Gen Z talent towards a large brand Vs a start-up? Employer Branding and pitching the organization’s selling points are what matters here. 30% Talent leaders mention that their Employer Branding activities are towards building their brand at a global level and 40% cite that their activities are to secure long-term talent attraction needs.
Another critical component while defining your Employer Brand or Branding strategy is an Employer Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP speaks about the qualities an organization would like to be associated with as an employer. For instance, ‘Inspiring Purpose’ is one of the most common EVP ingredient mentioned by leaders to attract top talent. I, as an employee need to know and comprehend the larger purpose of my job and how my day to day tasks roll up to the organization’s overall strategy. In 2016, 30% of talent leaders cited ‘Inspiring Purpose’ as a key element but in 2019, 54% did so. Few other examples of EVPs are Professional Training and Development, Innovation and Respect for People. The role of an employer value proposition (EVP) is to create a clear and consistent foundation for Employer Brand activities, defining how the employer wants to be perceived both externally in the talent marketplace, and internally by current employees.
Who typically does the Employer Branding? There can at times be an overlap as to who owns this task at an organizational level. At small or mid-sized firms, it can be the CEO directly controlling the messaging or the Talent leaders or HR Heads. With larger organizations, the onus tends towards Human Resources and Marketing departments to own the responsibility together.
Now that we have the foundation set, how do we go about devising an Employer Branding strategy?
- First, identify the talent need for business to succeed.
Get familiar with the organization’s attributes, culture and values. Gain an understanding of what the objectives are and what talent is required to accomplish this.
- Then, assess the current status of the Employer Brand.
One might know how the products and services fare in the marketplace, but may not be aware of what prospective employees think and feel about the Employer Brand. Conduct surveys, internal and external, analyzing online reviews and social media searches are some ways one can gather perception of the Brand.
- Employer Value Proposition (EVP).
This is the true essence of Employer Branding and majority of the brainstorming and efforts need to be centered here. After all, this is the messaging one drafts to attract talent. Why does one particular Brand / organization stand out from the rest? What truly is the USP? Mention attributes that resonate with organization culture, mission, vision and values. Do you want to be known as an innovation pioneer or someone with an altruistic purpose in the world seen at changing lives? Get creative, but most importantly be authentic and genuine. Keep the target audience / prospective candidates in mind while drafting the EVP.
- Move on to the next stage. Develop the Employer Brand activation plan.
Build engagement amongst current employees. Prospective employees are 3X more likely to research existing employees and get their feelers than listen to what the CEO has to say about the organization. With the advent of social and digital media and Gen Y, Gen Z’s most preferred medium of communication, leverage Social Media messaging to gain maximum benefits.
Encourage current employees to update their Social Media profiles and get active professionally on professional networks. Prospective candidates always research employees while scouting for positions at organizations.
- Finally, as with any activity it is always important to track, measure and evolve your strategy.
How does one do so for Social Media you may ask?
Simple. Track the digital footprint of your activity. Say you have posted an article, job position.
Measure the reach and frequency. How many saw the advertisement / post?
Engagement. How many liked or shared the content?
Clicks. How many clicked to read more?
Applications. How many were interested and sent their profiles?
Media cost per hire. How much did one pay for the engagement?
While just curating a great Employer Brand will not solve talent issues, it is a jigsaw piece in a larger puzzle of organizations building stronger cultures, investing in new technologies and creating workspaces (virtual!) that can attract the new generation of hot talent.
As Scott Cook co-founder of Intuit puts it, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what the consumers tell each other it is”.
- Attracting and retaining the right talent – McKinsey Nov 2017
- 2020 Outlook: The Future of Employer Branding – Universum
–By Sushree Patnaik [Deputy Manager – Human Resources, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd.]
Sushree is an HR professional with ~10 years of experience in the HR domain. She has essayed the role of an HR Business Partner in her earlier stints in TCS, L&T and Thermax Ltd. In her current role at Bosch, she works on HR Digitalization, Analytics and Talent Management.
When work is not keeping her busy, she enjoys Netflix and reading. If not an HR professional, she would have probably become a journalist given her love for writing!