What is a talent brand?
As the Talent Brand Alliance explains, a talent brand is “the honest story of ‘life as an employee’ inside your organization, as told by the employees in parallel with the company.” Talent brands aren’t dissimilar from other types of brands you’re familiar with – consumers make decisions based on brands every day and so do prospective and current employees.
Before joining Insight Partners’ Talent Center of Excellence, I worked at LinkedIn advising clients from a variety of industries on their talent acquisition strategies. One perennial challenge was getting clients to realize the importance of their talent brand for attracting and retaining talent. An even the bigger challenge was figuring out what their talent brand even was. Few companies have spent time formulating and formalizing their talent brands.
Why do you need a strong talent brand?
Simply put, a strong talent brand will attract a greater volume of high-quality candidates to your critical roles. A LinkedIn study provides supporting evidence:
- 80% of talent acquisition managers believe that talent branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire great talent
- A strong talent brand can reduce time-to-hire by 50%
- A strong talent brand can reduce employee turnover by 28%
Are you winning the war for talent?
The war for talent, especially critical talent like engineers, data scientists, experienced sellers and marketers, is a hallmark of today’s tech market. Competition for talent is different than competition for customers. Scale-up companies compete with tech giants who pay significantly more while offering greater job security. For example, in New York City, Facebook, Google and Amazon have swept up talented people. They continue to hire, and they’re attractive employers. A strong talent brand provides candidates with a value proposition that can entice them from low-risk, resume-building brands to your company.
Most clients that I worked with didn’t realize that they competed with a different set of companies for talent than they did for customers. For example, one financial services client had anecdotal evidence from recent employee hires to suggest that they were successfully poaching engineering talent from other brand name financial firms; they took pride in the fact that they were viewed as a superior place to work and didn’t believe that they needed to do much work on their talent brand since they were winning top talent in their industry. When we took a deeper look into the data, we saw a much more nuanced picture.
Using a metric called "missed hires", we looked to see which companies were hiring the candidates that the financial firm had reached out to. It turned out that the greatest volume of "missed hires" were not to other large financial firms, but some of the biggest technology firms like Google and Amazon, especially for engineering talent. If the financial firm wanted top engineering talent, they needed their talent brand to outweigh the positive employee benefits associated with top technology companies. In addition to compensation (which was comparable), candidates needed to believe that they would work on interesting problems using cutting edge technology in collaborative teams with minimal politics and face time. In short, to join a large bank, they needed to believe it offered more opportunity, a better work environment, more interesting work, or something else above and beyond attractive compensation.
If large financial firms compete with large tech companies for talent imagine what the war for talent is like for scale-up software companies. In addition to competing for engineering talent, growth stage software companies compete with these large firms in their industries and technology companies generally, across all key roles, including sales, customer success, marketing, and finance.
Where you are now? And where is your talent brand going?
If you’re reading this, then you’re likely thinking about your own talent brand, and wondering how accurate your perspective on it might be. Fortunately, you aren’t alone. Most clients I worked with thought that their talent brand was in a much better position than it was.
Companies don’t develop a talent brand out of thin air. Most companies already have a talent brand, whether they’re aware of it or not. The key is in deliberate creation of a talent brand – tell your story rather than have it told for you by ex employees or the competition
Developing a talent brand requires a realistic reflection on two things:
- Where your company is now
- Where your company wants to be in the future.
To determine if your talent brand is in a good place, you will need to start an anonymous survey of current employees to understand what makes them proud of working at your company and what inspires them to continue to work for your company. To get a full and honest picture, you’ll also want to pay attention to any patterns in the not-so-great points your employees highlight as well. Does that feedback accurately reflect your recruiting team or leadership’s view of where the company is now? More importantly, does it show that you’re on the right path for where you want to be in the future?
Bear in mind that a company may have very different talent brands across different functions or geographies. For example, a company may have a strong employer brand for engineering talent, but most potential sales candidates aren’t aware that there’s a sales team in the company at all. As a company opens a new office or grows internationally, they may have a whole new set of challenges to get their talent brand known among candidate pools.
How do you measure the strength of your talent brand?
There are several ways to measure the current strength of your talent brand that don’t require expensive consultants or market research:
- Candidate feedback surveys
- Number of qualified applications per job posted
- Career website traffic
- Glassdoor ratings
- LinkedIn followers
These metrics can help establish a baseline for your talent brand that can be tracked over time as you implement a recruiting and marketing strategy to improve your talent brand.
Candidates are doing their homework. That’s a good thing.
Talent branding isn’t too dissimilar from other types of branding, so a good place to start is to think about the candidate experience as a consumer experience. There are a lot of similarities between how people make decisions about where they want to work and what they want to buy. According to Google, the average customer has anywhere up to 500 digital touch points before ultimately buying something. If someone spends that much effort to decide what headphones to buy, they’re also likely spending time familiarizing themselves with a company they might want to work with. Like expensive electronics, people hope their jobs will last for several years.
This can be good news for growing software companies: even though large consumer tech companies may have more recognizable brands, candidates are able to find more information than ever in order to familiarize themselves with smaller companies.
It is worth noting that there can be significant differences between a company's talent brand and a company's consumer or corporate brand. It is possible that a company with a terrific consumer brand can also be known as a terrible place to work. Conversely, a company that only has a very limited consumer brand, such as a B2B software company, may be an amazing place to work. Although a company may have a strong product value proposition, it may find it hard to counteract a reputation for poor leadership, confusing strategy, lack of collaboration or toxic team dynamics. A talent brand strategy can help.
Take the first step in your talent brand content.
Because candidates do their homework on where they want to work, it is important to have content available that speaks to your talent brand. For a recruiting department with constrained resources, developing content can seem daunting, but a useful place to get ideas is the career websites of top companies that have strong talent brands. What do they do differently from your company? How would you describe their talent brand from the content on those pages?
In addition to researching competitor’s career pages research, here are some other easy ways to build content that attracts candidates
- Employee testimonial videos
- Day-in-the-life videos and blog posts
- Mission and vision for specific teams
- Diversity and belonging initiatives
Its worth noting, that a talent brand strategy requires the collaboration between the recruiting team, company marketing, and the hiring team. Good content is created by all three, as is the core messaging to create a differentiated candidate value proposition.
A talent brand needs constant attention
As with anything in business, your talent brand will evolve and grow with your company, which means doing a “re-brand” on it isn’t a one-time activity. It’s important to continually check-in with your employees and hiring team to monitor your talent brand’s growth so that you can be sure you’re attracting the best talent available.
Want to learn more? Watch an Insight webinar on Bridging Brand & Culture.