Why do certain organizations attract tons of students and recent grads while others struggle to fill all their entry-level positions?
Being a household name that twentysomethings grew up with can certainly help, but it’s much more complicated than that.
A lot of companies are successful in university recruiting because they are experts at employer branding. They understand and manage the message they send about what it’s like to work for their company and why it’s a good place for Gen Y job-seekers.
We caught up with Jody Ordioni, branding expert and President of marketing communications agency Brandemix, to discuss what employer branding is all about and how you can steal some tactics from companies that excel at it.
What is your company, Brandemix, and what types of services do you offer?
Brandemix is a woman-owned marketing communications agency with a strong niche in recruitment marketing and the employer branding of human resources initiatives. We produce, enhance, and implement end-to-end programs to attract and inspire the real drivers of your organization’s success—your employees—and keep them informed and committed to achieving your business goals.
Our core competencies include:
Our philosophy is “One Brand.” We believe you should communicate with the same voice and messaging to consumers, employees, potential employees, and shareholders. Only through the promotion of an authentic and aligned value proposition can you win the competition for attention, awareness, and engagement of your target audiences.
Your brand and employer brand are the promises that your organization makes to the public and to your employees. Brandemix helps you craft that promise—and keep it. Whether it’s creating a uniquely different brand architecture, employer value proposition, designing multi-tiered interactive websites and digital marketing campaigns, or hosting media tours and events, we get the right people to believe in your brand and support your business objectives.
What is the difference between consumer brand and employer brand? Why is it important for companies that recruit college students to understand this difference?
A company’s consumer brand tells the public what a brand stands for, such as convenience, innovation, or low prices; an employer brand speaks to employees—from the newest hire to the CEO—and to potential employees. Just because a restaurant serves delicious food or a corporation builds cool cars doesn’t mean they treat their employees well, or cultivate their careers, or are fun places to work.
Likewise, “boring” companies that don’t interact much with consumers, like Salesforce and Qualcomm, can still offer fantastic opportunities, fun cultures, and good work/life balance. This was confirmed by a recent survey from Collegefeed, which found that slightly more students and recent graduates wanted to work for Salesforce and Qualcomm than Nike and Disney, which are strong consumer brands which that age group has grown up with.
A strong employer brand connects employees and potential employees to an organization’s culture, mission, vision, values, and business goals.
How can a company measure their employer brand?
A successful employer brand can be measured in plain, hard-number ways. Numerous studies have shown that strong employer brands decrease time to hire and cost per hire. They increase retention, engagement, and employee referrals. They directly affect the bottom line through what the Harvard Business Review calls the service-profit chain: Employer branding fuels employee engagement, which fosters productivity, which fuels profitability. The result is higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue growth.
We recommend you start with the end in mind.
1. Identify key area(s) of the business you want to improve based on the EVP
- Employee Engagement
2. Operationalize desired outcomes
- Increase applicant pool by 15%; increase employee referrals by 30%
- Reduce time to fill critical job positions by 20%
- Reduce turnover in critical jobs by 10%; increase engagement scores by 20%, etc.
Rather than HR metrics such as time-to-fill or cost-per-hire, consider applying business metrics like customer engagement, employee engagement, same-store sales growth, shareholder value, or customer satisfaction.
Effective engagement leads to employees who stay, perform, and recommend the company to other applicants. More importantly, happy employees lead to better customer service, which can mean up to a 22% increase in sales.
In a recent blog post, you mentioned that “a brand’s familiarity, likability, and even peer respect isn’t as compelling to young job-seekers as whether the company is a great place to work.” How can employers prove to young job-seekers that they are a great place to work?
Through their recruitment marketing. A robust careers website is the first step. But companies need to reach job-seekers where they spend much of their time: on social media, on video, and on mobile. The best companies answer job-seeker questions on Twitter and post photos of employee events on Facebook. They post employee testimonials on YouTube and brief “behind the scenes” snippets on Instagram Video and Vine. Their careers sites are optimized for mobile, making it easy to search for and apply to jobs on a phone or tablet.
And companies should address millennials’ needs. That same Collegefeed survey showed that compensation was fourth on the list of what recent grads look for in employers. “People and culture fit” was first, followed by “Career potential” and “Work/life balance.” Qualities like “innovation” and even “market leadership” simply weren’t that important. Every company’s ideal candidate pool is different, but these guidelines are useful, and provide more focus than simply wanting Ivy League graduates for every position.
You gave a few examples of companies that could be perceived as “boring” (Salesforce, Qualcomm) that are really excelling in attracting students—what are these companies doing right, and how can others learn from them?
Salesforce’s careers site is colorful and interactive, with videos, fun spinning images, a world map, and references to their support for diversity—their outreach to the gay community is called OutForce; for women, they have FemmeForce, and so on. They have a social media-friendly tagline: “Find your #dreamjob.” Speaking of which, they have dedicated recruiting accounts on Twitter and Instagram. The site looks great on mobile, as well.
Qualcomm’s careers site leads off with “Yes, ‘change the world’ is part of the job description.” The site has six employee video testimonials, with diversity in gender, race, and seniority. The company offers a “Resources” page that includes FAQs and helpful tips regarding applications, résumés, and interviews. They have a dedicated recruiting account on Facebook, too.
In short, no one told Salesforce and Qualcomm that they aren’t Google, so they simply decided to present themselves as fun, cool tech companies looking for the best talent and investing in their workers’ careers. This can work for pretty much any organization in any field. [Editor’s note: Check out our interview with the Director of FutureForce to learn more about Salesforce’s university recruiting program.]
How can employers communicate their company culture and career potential to college students and recent grads?
One way is through honest communications that accurately convey what your company and culture are really like. Employees will then self-select, make good matches, and end up staying and performing. Being on social media, having a simple mobile site, and speaking the “language” of millennials (video, Instagram, hashtags) also help.
But before you can communicate your employer brand, you have to know what it is. For many companies, that means creating one. Every department should be involved, and every employee, from rookies to the CEO to the board of directors. Everyone needs to agree on what the company’s mission statement is, its values, its vision for the future. Is sustainability the most important part of the company? Customer service? Innovation? Agencies like Brandemix know how to lead these discussions and write internal surveys that decode what the company and its workforce are all about.
Is there anything else you’d like to add on the topic of employer branding for young job-seekers?
The economy just saw six straight months of at least 200,000 jobs added, the first time that’s happened since 1997. That means the competition for talent is increasing. A compelling employer brand can help any organization—from a local business or a non-profit to a tech start-up or a global legacy corporation—attract the best workers.
The next step: Take stock of your current careers page. Is the content as dynamic and compelling as it could be? Does it make the case to millennials about why they should work for you? Jody mentions Salesforce and Qualcomm’s careers pages as great examples, and we discuss a few more in our post “How to Improve Your Careers Page And Attract New Grad Talent.”