“What should I be measuring in my Employer Brand or Talent Marketing strategy?”
As a Talent Brand Expert, Consultant and Coach, I get this question all the time. To be honest, it still catches me a little off guard because I can’t know what to suggest measuring if I don’t know what the problem is that’s trying to be solved, or what target end goal one is working toward.
It’s kind of like going into the doctor’s office, sitting on the table and immediately asking, “How can I feel well again?” without describing the not well symptoms that you’re having, and agreeing a current state diagnosis with the doctor first.
Generally, speaking there are different “levels” of metrics in the universe of options, starting from lagging, macro level strategic ones (like brand preference), and drilling down towards leading, micro level executional ones like cost per click, social engagement rate and apply clicks.
Philosophically, I tend to like the following “buckets” when thinking about EB/RM metrics:
- Brand impact metrics – an assessment of the brand’s strength, engagement and positive perceptions within a target audience or market, using KPIs such as relative brand preference vs. target competitor set, level of awareness, understanding & favorability of the brand, overall net promoter score, and % positive sentiment rate.
- Campaign metrics – measures the success of a specific campaigns against its target goals (i.e. # of impressions, engagement rate, # apply clicks, apply start: completion ratio, avg. # of applications per req, recruiter response rate, # leads generated, candidate lead : conversion ratio, etc.) These are best reported sequentially according to how a candidate would progress across your recruitment process / career decision journey.
- Channel metrics – target goals for each of your key career channels which requires first being clear on what those channels are – both for always-on brand engagement purposes and for campaign-specific activities. Sample metrics here could include % increase in owned social media account followers, % engagement rate on Glassdoor.com, return visitors on career website, etc.
- Candidate Experience metrics – target engagement and sentiment goals on key brand touch points throughout the candidate journey (usually measurable via timely pulse surveys), plus an overall net promoter score to evaluate the total experience a candidate has on their journey into the company from first contact thru hire.
- Operational metrics – these should reflect the priorities of the team and company. They can measure cultural behaviors like # of case studies shared with the team per quarter or peer collaboration scores. Alternatively, they could measure operational excellence indicators like avg. days to launch, % on-time delivery, or adherence to set budget $.
Your metrics should never just be a list of numbers on a slide, though. They should be presented in the form of a powerful narrative that demonstrates progress against the key business priority or problem statement(s) your activities were intending to solve. With that in mind, I’ve listed 5 Tips below on how to select and communicate Employer Brand & Recruitment Marketing KPIs in a way that is logical, compelling and supportive of one’s success.
1. Agree a realistic END narrative and work backwards from there. I ask every single one of my clients this at the start of an engagement. It gives us a North Star to work towards together and highlights early on if there are expectations that simply can’t be measured. It also clarifies which of the ones that can be measured, are most important. Sometimes, you’ll find that you can still get to that narrative even without exact data points, and sometimes you’ll find that you have everything you need to make it happen. At the very least, it creates clarity up front so that expectations don’t creep above reality (which is the exact formula for unhappiness).
2. Only set goals against specific problem statements or known targets. Building off the above, know that there is no universal set of “must have” Employer Brand & Recruitment Marketing metrics. If anyone comes to you with a generic question like “how do I measure success?”, your response should always be a question back, “Well what problem(s) are you trying to solve?”
Before defining specific KPIs, get clear on and document what the priority focus areas are, and their current state. If you don’t understand what’s driving them to be on the leadership agenda then ask, and then chart an ideal improvement path. Once that is done, it’ll become much clearer as to what you need to measure along the journey and what, if any, data gaps exist to both measure and report progress against towards the target goals.
Furthermore, we live in roles that often attract executional requests to fulfill stakeholder agendas instead of problem statements that invite solutions against as strategic experts (cue the “we should do billboard ads downtown” reel).
If the “goal” is a yes/no delivery then don’t try to add a strategic metric. If the requests seems out of left field, respond with curiosity, “Can you help me understand what your hoping to achieve with this execution? Perhaps there is an alternative or different way that I can help you meet or exceed that goal with all the tools, resources and knowledge in my toolbox.”
3. Be very explicit up front about what data points you have access to and which ones you do not. Then collaboratively work with your leaders to place each of their ‘ideal’ ROI measures into 1 of 3 categories – possible, work together to enable, not possible. Document the outcomes, share with all stakeholders, and reference as many times as needed to quell the noise from your virtual doorbell. In this field, we often get requests to report on metrics for which the technical capabilities are not even in place to track (one of the many reasons a career in Employer Branding is so HARD). Knowing this and communicating it up front will keep frustration at a minimum and ensure know unpleasant surprises later on.
4. Proactively educate your leaders with the latest industry research that supports your cause. If you’re internal capabilities to tell the value story of your efforts is weak, leverage the external resources that exist to tell the story of how a well-managed talent brand can be both a value driver and savings mechanism. @Gartner/CEB conducts insightful research each quarter to demonstrate the value organizations realize from well-managed talent brands and Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) at a macro-level. @TheTalentBoard.org runs a massive Candidate Experience study every year which brings the non-negotiable voice of talent directly to the table, and @Universum leverages its research capabilities to exclusively focus on trends and impact of employer branding solutions in the context of the talent strategies. In our space, the data will pretty much always be precisely wrong, but directionally right. It’s still important to incorporate external data points from reputable sources into your impact narrative to reduce the amount of opinion-based conversations you’re subject to.
5. Translate raw data into a relatable, compelling narrative for your stakeholders. As a Talent Marketing professional, your somewhat operating in Chinese while your stakeholders speak English. The terminology that is part of your everyday interactions are not typically part of theirs, so you need to run your results through a translator before presenting them effectively. This step is arguably the most important, as it leaves the rest of your work somewhat wasted on an island if you don’t bring it home to the people it was developed for.
The truth is that a .08% social media engagement rate means nothing to most HR leaders at best and is perceived as quite unimpressive at worse. The numbers simply need more context. You could say something like “Our campaign performed at an .08% engagement rate vs. the .04% industry benchmark” or, “We received consideration from 8 high quality candidates for every 100 we messaged which is 50% above the industry for this type of campaign and has provided 4 great candidates for the two target roles.” The information, when presented this way, keeps representation of the data accurate, while leading your stakeholder to a definitively positive conclusion.
I hope those thought starters were helpful for those of you struggling with where to begin with EB/RM measurement! If you need or want templates, intro slides, confidence or additional guidance on how to put these tips into action, contact me to set up a free collaboration call.