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New developments from the world of employer branding

Focusing on applicant quality, employee advocates

By Brian Kreissl

According to a recent survey, employers may be focusing too much on quantity and not enough on quality when it comes to employer branding. The idea is that while they may be attracting sufficient numbers of candidates, in many cases those candidates may not be a good fit for the organization or the vacancies in question.

According to the CEB 2014 Employment Branding Effectiveness Survey, about three-quarters of organizations globally have undertaken formal employer branding initiatives in the past three years, yet only a quarter of candidates applying for vacancies are considered high quality. The survey also found that the number of applicants had risen by approximately one-third during the same period.

While employer branding allows employers to tap different labour markets for candidates, the talent organizations are attracting isn’t always the right fit for what they need. According to Jean Martin, executive director of member-based advisory firm CEB, “As businesses diversify their products and services, they have to hire people with skills their brand was never designed to attract.”

Martin suggests employers should stop focusing on branding for universal appeal, and focus instead on branding that allows applicants to make an informed decision about whether working at that organization is right for them.

I know that when I was a recruiter for a large financial institution, most job postings had several hundred applicants within a few days. There’s no question that while quantity of applicants was rarely an issue, quality often was.

That’s not to say most of the people who applied for the jobs were bad people, but they certainly weren’t a fit for the vacancies we were trying to fill. Nevertheless, we received so many applicants in part because the organization had such a strong employer brand.

Part of the problem is that the Internet makes it far easier to apply for jobs these days – literally from anywhere. Many candidates believe in quantity over quality when it comes to applications, and they don’t necessarily target their searches.

They also believe in outdated advice they may have heard that it’s helpful to apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for in the mistaken belief that recruiters and hiring managers might just give them a chance anyway or consider them for other vacancies.

Perhaps online shoe retailer Zappos has the right idea in doing away with job postings? I’ve commented on this before, but while Zappos definitely has a very strong employer brand, it also has a unique, zany culture that isn’t for everyone.

Employee advocacy in the product market

In a previous blog post I mentioned how some people have started to differentiate internal “talent branding” from externally-focused employer branding. While I believe the concept of employer branding is broad enough to cover the internal side of branding, and employer branding doesn’t just refer to “hype” or “spin” in the external market, some people do differentiate between the two concepts.

Similarly, some experts – mainly on the marketing side – are talking more about the idea of employee advocacy. The idea is employees can be very strong advocates for their employer’s brand, not just in terms of working for the company, but also with respect to the product or service market.

While there has been a lot of talk about employees being “brand ambassadors” from an employer branding perspective, I believe HR should also be aware of and involved in branding efforts vis-a-vis employees in the product or service market.

Whether or not they’re in sales and marketing roles, the truth is employees frequently promote their employer’s products to others. However, there's a catch - they really need to believe in those products or services before they can act as an “evangelist” for the company.

Employee advocates also need to be highly committed, engaged employees. But before they are going to be willing to promote the organization, they have to believe in the company and its products and services.

This involves promoting the organization as an employer of choice through what might be referred to as talent branding. Perhaps one commenter on a previous post summed it up best by saying, “The best way to be known as a great company is to be a great company.”

It also requires keeping employees in the loop and ensuring they understand the organization’s products and branding, and its strategic direction, vision, mission and values. Only then will they be able to promote the organization’s brand through their own networks.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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