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The War for Talent: Branding 101 to the Rescue

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Branding 101 to the RescueEmployers who grasp the connection between marketing techniques and talent attraction stand to gain the upper hand.  Strong brands know who they are and engender consumer loyalty by living a life of alignment.   This helps consumers know what they stand for and understand how to interact with them.  To illustrate the point, let’s use the McDonald’s brand.  No one would walk into a McDonald’s restaurant in search of a spaghetti dinner.  Nor would we sit down at one of their molded plastic tables and expect wait staff to arrive with an order pad.  We know McDonald’s for what their brand is: speed, a fairly consistent menu across geographies, and a standard ordering process that begins at the cash register.

Employers: Branding is not just for restaurants & consumer products
Your employment brand is the sum total of who you are as a company.  It’s how people and organizations experience you.  It’s what your customers, employees, and ex-employees say about you.  It’s the look and feel of your job ads and includes the way candidates are treated throughout the advertising, interviewing and hiring cycle.

Here’s why branding matters when you’re hiring
Baby boomers are preparing to retire in numbers larger than upcoming generations will be able to fill.  This is creating a talent shortage that we’re feeling right now in North America and that promises to become more severe over the next 10 to 15 years (for more see Business Insider March 11, 2011).  At the same time, globalization means that companies are facing increased competition and pricing pressures that require them to do more with less resources.  Good talent isn’t good enough anymore.  You need the best.  The talent community is aware of these shifts and, as a result, they have become savvy shoppers when it comes to career moves.

Three positive branding steps companies of any size can undertake
First, investigate your external employment brand.  Take a look through glassdoor.com.  You can gain 30 days’ free access to their insight by creating an account.  Google your company name along with a few key words like this (substituting your company name for McDonald’s, of course):
You can also use a site called Twitter search to see what kind of mentions your company is receiving.  It operates on the same principle as a Google or Bing search.

Once you’ve found out what the external chatter looks and sounds like, it’s time for the second step:  talking to your employees.  Does each person understand how to communicate the vision?  Survey them for anonymous feedback to determine engagement levels.  Help them understand that they ARE the brand.  What they say on Facebook or at the family dinner table either adds or detracts from the business.  There is no neutral when it comes to branding.  Find your best internal advocates and deputize them to spread the word and help management understand where improvements could be made.

The third step is external engagement.  Consider starting an online community or forum where people are free to express themselves.  This can be daunting, especially if you have a strong marketing department that is accustomed to one-way communications.  If you decide to engage with the online community, make sure you are committed.  There is nothing worse than a Twitter or Facebook account that lies fallow.
If there is only one, single takeaway from this post, I hope it is that companies need to put at least as much effort into marketing to prospective employees as we do to prospective customers.

Your customer base will be worthless if you don’t have the right talent to deliver.

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