This is the first in a series of three posts dealing with “brand.” A post on personal brands (YOU), and “how-to-do” examples will follow this first overview piece. As someone who’s been in the people (and teams) coaching business for over 25 years, and also been directly responsible for hiring thousands of people through roles running large staffing / recruiting operations, I have a pretty good idea why some firms recruit well (and others don’t), and how people can take their best foot forward as either a job candidate or consultant / vendor.
Like a lull before a storm, you can sense that conditions in the employment market are going to snap. Which way – up or down – isn’t totally clear but three decades of experience and a nose for change makes me believe things will go on an upward trajectory.
If I’m right, many firms – big and small – will be scrambling, mostly unprepared. Recruiting, if there’s an upturn, will become a job responsibility for managers again. For people individually it will be a time of opportunity to either change jobs, get promoted, or think about recasting themselves.
Why is this important to you? By doing a bit of prep work now you will save work and time for later when you will have little of the latter (time), and too much of the former (work). For companies, since most firms will be hanging back, still fearful of a deeper slide to come, you can practice the art of first advantage and be – as Warren Buffet might suggest – a little greedy .
For individuals – a topic covered more fully in a subsequent post – a rolling start distilling and clarifying your brand means greater opportunity and optionality as things move into a higher (employment) gear: you’ll be clearer – and crisper – than if you wait for opportunities later rather than do your prep work now.
Employment brands start with having a clear, defined sense of identity – who you are – and potentially what you see the firm (or person) becoming. To that foundation, effective employment branding adds elements of what’s called a value proposition (why should employees work here), and any supporting language, and/or imagery.
Good brands touches employment process and activities so you are recruiting the targeted “right fit” employees and potentially discouraging the possible “wrong fit” applicants. Effective branding also engages current employees – it is messaging that affirms what a firm does and the values it exhibits and desires – a common theme as it were as to what it means to be a part of Firm X.
Above all brands should be authentic – a stronger word for real – accurate, and consistent and complimentary with any customer marketing the firm does. San Francisco State professor John Sullivan provides a great source for information on employment branding here .
So where do you begin?
As Jodie Robie suggests start with research: understand how recent employees (6-12 months) as well as longer term employee chose to come to work with your firm, what are the things that caused them to chose your firm over others, etc. Here are some generally sequential steps:
- Research to determine your current and potentially desired future brand: who are you – and if you are business (or person) in transition – who are you becoming?
- Identify all the places (and pieces) you touch current and prospective employees and do the same for any marketing / advertising that reaches clients / customers.
- Figure out how best to communicate who you are, where you’re going, and the other items listed above regarding value proposition, best fit employees, etc.
- Determine how you might extend the branding work over time. In other words how does it grow: even the venerable Cocoa Cola symbol has changed over time.
- Test and retest your assumptions with both current employees and would be new-hires before you launch anything.
- Test and retest over time – find what works, and what gets you some benefit.
Is clarifying and revisiting your employment brand really necessary?
Yes: by doing some early prep work in the area of employment branding, companies can steal an early start on any (I’d suggest “the”) upcoming uptick in the employment market.
While firms might have a sellers’ edge now, they won’t forever: getting ready early, as they say, never hurt anybody. More to come.