5 Ways to Upgrade Your Talent Branding Strategy

By Lisa Colella, Founder/ Chief Strategist for Truist, with input from Ted Nelson, CEO, Mechanica

Back in the 1990’s – fueled by competitive proliferation -- customer attraction was the defining issue for most brands. Failure to grow was often linked back to the unresolved challenge of effective reaching, attracting, converting and gaining loyalty from a valuable customer and prospect base. So, marketeers had to rethink their approach and start to tackle the issue more strategically. This included shifting from “spray and pray” approaches to insight-driven outreach. Evolving from rational, single moment connections to more emotional, integrated connections across an interconnected journey became a key success factor. And focusing on external differentiation in a brand’s creative expression became critical vs. merely striving for pleasing the tastes of internal decision makers.

Fast forward to today’s “Future of Work” era … Technology-driven skill imbalances in the labor market, candidate consumerization, changing value systems for new generations entering the workforce, and the rise of social transparency, are all seismic shifts that have elevated TALENT attraction as being equally important (if not more so) to customer attraction for most brands. After all, you can have all the customers in the world, but if you can’t meet the increased demand because of a talent crunch, then it’s a moot point. As such, failure to grow or maintain competitive advantage in today’s climate is often linked back to the unresolved challenge of effectively reaching, attracting, converting and gaining loyalty from a valuable talent base. This is a challenge with an eerily similar composition to last decade’s, but with new complexities revealed by the ownership lines between HR and Marketing become blurred.

Research shows that organizations have begun to leverage “talent branding” as a key lever in their response strategy; investments in this space have been on the rise steadily for the past 5+ years. Despite the heightened focus and incrementally greater spend, many companies are finding that their efforts are still falling short of the desired value-based outcomes, or failing to yield the intended changes sustainably.

With that in mind, here are some tips for upgrading your talent branding strategy for better results:

1.     Embrace Talent as a Value Multiplier
Talent related expenses like recruiting and engagement tactics are often viewed as an expensive commodity by many CEOs when, in fact, it should be seen an essential value multiplier. According to a 2016 study by LinkedIn, companies that have a weak talent brand end up spending at least 10% more on salaries to acquire talent (if they are even able to do so at all). And so far, companies that invest in developing a strong talent brand have seen a proven difference in their bottom line. In the same study, LinkedIn found that companies with a strong employer brand:

·        achieve 50% cost savings per hire

·        enjoy 28% lower turnover

·        calculate 2.4x more revenue growth; and

·        have demonstrated 1.8x larger profit margins

Therefore, approaching this work with a bigger picture, investment-based mindset is the first step in building a talent brand that is strong enough to attract and retain a diverse set of workers in today’s marketplace, who will uniquely enable your business goals time and time again. 

2.     Ignite collaboration vs. competition between human resources and marketing.
In the majority of cases, talent brand ownership resides in the HR department of an organization– often separate from the corporate brand and marketing strategy set forth by the company’s CMO. Internally, this can result in suboptimal resourcing plans against the work and notable tension between departments. Externally, it creates friction for people who experience the brand as both candidates and customers. With social media making these frustrations more publicly visible than ever, it is crucial for the internal war to cease. Driving stronger strategic partnerships and more open collaboration between HR and Marketing leaders serves to mitigate long term reputation issues and create greater clarity and value for the shared brand. 

3.     Integrate talent into your corporate brand development and optimization processes
The most impactful and consistent brand experiences stem from a core mission, vision and values set. When it comes to activation however, PEOPLE are the most critical factor in determining a brand’s pull-through and strength. With that in mind, input from your target recruits and employees should be a key component of your corporate brand development and management strategy. And when it comes to activation, talent review sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Kununu can’t be ignored. Results have shown that including them in a holistic brand activation strategy boosts results in common focus areas like brand reputation, advocacy and word-of-mouth referrals from your workers.

4.     Link candidate experience, employee experience, and customer experience
It’s possible to resolve talent gaps AND enhance customer satisfaction simultaneously by aligning your brand’s activation strategy across candidate, employee and customer touch points. Doing so has shown high correlation to increased profitability. A recent study from LinkedIn found that businesses with strong alignment between their corporate and talent brands demonstrated a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 36%, while companies with an internal talent brand that doesn’t match up with its external consumer brand have paid a severe price. Virgin Media realized it was losing $5M in revenue due to a poor candidate experience on the recruiting front. Therefore, reformulating cohesive, authentic brand experiences for candidates who are also customers of the brands serves to mitigate loss while increasing overall return on total brand and marketing investments.

5.     Don’t settle.
How a company portrays itself at every touchpoint in the candidate to employee journey- from job postings, to offer letters, to onboarding processes and culture drivers- has direct impact on the caliber of talent it is able to attract and acquire. We recently conducted a mini study, comparing the publicly available talent and consumer brand touchpoints put out in the market by the same brands. The gap in quality was astounding, with the most notable differences apparent in clarity of message, technology experiences, and creative execution against the brand’s essence (photography, copy, video treatments, etc.). The message here is simple - if you don’t want mediocre talent, don’t accept mediocre strategy, creative or design work for your talent brand.

In the future, building a strong talent brand will be table stakes for companies looking to cultivate connections inside and outside of their organizations; those who do it right will be exponentially ahead while those that don’t will struggle to succeed in this fiercely competitive market.  Faced by a more diverse talent pool than ever, the most attractive companies will be those that leverage their core values and purpose to collaboratively create insight-driven, integrated, differentiated brand experiences that engage and retain selective consumers, and empowered candidates alike.