After spending the last 12 years as an internal talent acquisition professional, Sharnpal Jeetley, Associate Partner, CNA International, gives you 7 quick wins to build your authentic employer brand!
I was recently invited to speak at a best practice event. Riddled with my wealth of experience within talent acquisition I wasn’t sure what to talk about. I wanted to leave people thinking about what I had said. So I chose to speak about Employer of Choice, now I know this is not original, and by far not the most compelling of topics, however out of this came another thought provoking moment for me. Something I had always raised the roof about in every organisation I had ever worked for (many being a contractor). The importance of bringing employer branding to the top of the business agenda. I always found myself entering into a board level meeting room, with my name badge, a pen, a note book (not always branded) neatly laid out on the large conference room table in front of me, and then my eyes would scan across (in slow motion of course) to the agenda for the next 3 hours, to see where in the list the talent or resource topic would fall.
And low and behold, usually somewhere at the bottom. Above all this, would be topics like, business growth, company vision, financial risks, restructures and redundancies. I started to take this quite personally, and found myself trying to integrate into a conversation about the importance of Employer Branding during a discussion around Financial Risks or or Revenue generation or whatever the mainstream functionality of the organisation was, which were most of the time, at the top of the list, usually interpreted as being of more importance. At times(much earlier in my career) I found myself interjecting into these conversations, which soon started to become a little like an episode of Miranda, so I stopped that approach altogether, and found myself re-assessing how I would take a more tactical approach to somehow bring authentic employer branding to the top of the business agenda.
Very early on in my career as a talent acquisition professional, I embodied the idea that recruiting is the gateway for any business culture and have always worked hard to protect it. So my mission began some years ago when I decided to work hard to build the employer brand of any of the companies I have gone 2 into in the last 8 years, no matter whether they were small, medium or large organisations and start to build their story through the recruitment process. At times I found myself being quite investigative, trawling through online information about the company, to going out for a lunch meeting with executive level team and your graduate to mid- level employees to get to grips with how the company started, how people felt about working there, to creating stay interviews (Retaining tool for employees at the 6-month mark) But most of my efforts came when I recognised that employer branding is not like the ultimate and philosophical mystery that still baffles people today…. ‘Did the chicken come first or the egg?’ (Although I think scientists have the answer to this now). Employer Branding can start wherever you are as an organisation, and I truly believe this is where authenticity begins. Now I know this may break the internet, or possibly could go against the usual ethos around employer branding, but it’s true! I have worked with organisation’s that have zero employer branding, or if they do have, it is not much to be desired for, they have been non-existent amongst the talent within their industry, yet some have been going strong for 10+ years. And your strongest employer branding ambassadors sit under your organisational roof! Of course you have your usual tools, website, linked in, glass door etc. etc. But this is why the concept of authentic employer branding can start at any stage of your company growth.
So after spending time with such companies during my time as a contractor (Now a Consultant) I wanted my success to do the talking and therefore adopted the following approach in the first 6-8 weeks to gain momentum for the organisation I worked for at that time:
My 7 Quick Wins to build your Authentic Employer Brand
1. Build your credibility within your organisation. As a talent acquisition professional you can ask to be given a 30min slot to present in the next Board Meeting during their lunch (as lunch is usually provided). If your budget allows, do an EVP (Employee Value Proposition)! Board level members are always interested in what their competitors are doing!
2. Raise the awareness through a collaboration day with your employees, this could consist of a handful of meeting rooms within your building, consisting of a rotating cycle of activities that engage employees to talk about the best experiences at work to why they are still here. Get creative!
3. After this exercise circulate an EVP type internal survey that helps you to understand what needs fixing and what success looks like. By engaging employees, you help them feel part of the company vision, and therefore more willing to accept any new changes, at the same time you benchmark your next generation of talent.
4. Move forward to create a focus group (traditionally also known as a steering group) involving a mix of quiet but dynamic employees with one executive leader, keep the group small 5-7 and have everyone take the lead on a small project each week. Keep the meetings to 30mins only to ensure productivity is high, and successes are shared
5. This is one of my favorites and probably what has made me a success in my career to date. Create a positive candidate experience within the recruitment process. Who doesn’t like to be looked after! Just simple things like offering the candidate a drink, to remembering (if it’s a 2nd conversation) something personal they had mentioned in a previous interview stage (maybe they went skydiving!) can make all the difference. I remember my candidate pulled out from a recruitment process after reading bad reviews about the organisation I was an Internal Recruiter for. I picked up the phone and asked to meet him for a coffee alongside the Hiring manager (who 3 was a member of the Executive Level team). My intent was only to address his concerns, and reassure him of the positive changes that were taking place. Within 24 hours he was interested in coming back for a 2nd stage interview. He was offered the role and is still working there today. I have found that a human connection is all it requires to ensure a candidate has a positive experience.
6. Begin to respond to any negative comments, and engage by talking about the recent positive changes you have made as a result of the feedback you have received. Typical platform is likely to be Glassdoor. Keep a focus group, and create ambassadors within the company to encourage employees to post their positive experiences on such platforms.
7. Create an employee roundtable type exercise within the recruitment process for candidates (Better at 2nd or 3rd stage), which involves a mix of 4-5 employees that are there to respond to any questions that a candidate may have about the business culture, what they may love about working there, and also share what needs developing. This provides an authentic view for the candidate and manages any surprises or risks in the near future if they were offered the role. This is an informal setting and the candidate is left in the room with the employees alongside a HR Representative.
Your employees are your biggest assets, as someone once said ‘it’s what they say that counts when no one else is in the room’. Their loyalty, their motivation to want to stay with an organisation is what will make the difference in whether your organisation thrives on success or remains mediocre. This message is a common one, but sometimes we need a refreshing reminder (like someone jumping on your inflatable sofa whilst you sit in it drinking your cocktail!). I have brought many talent topics to the top of business agendas with reasonable success rates. A mix of charm, people skills and my 7 quick wins are a great combination for success.
A Thought: Next time you are at a dinner table with your friends what will you say about the company that you work for to spread the authentic employer brand of your organisation?