It’s simple: great companies need great people. If your ambition is to outperform your competition, to reach the highest heights of your industry, to be the best; amongst many factors, building an incredible team is of utmost importance.
Our new partnership with Tech Jobs Fair, the largest tech job fair in Europe, now in Canada, the US, and hosting virtual fairs in 14 countries across 4 continents, has brought the topic of employer branding top of mind.
And with this year’s “Great Resignation”, the topic has never been more relevant.
There’s an old saying, “Good help is hard to find”. And in today’s highly competitive market, it’s not enough to only find said help, but to be so appealing that they choose to help you over all others. If this is starting to sound like branding, it’s because it is.
Of course, we can’t be dismissive of the impact of compensation – or more directly – salary. Like marketing to consumers, price certainly matters. We also must talk about the total compensation of perks and benefits. Again, as we know with consumers, features and service matter. But just as with all decisions we make, and increasing by significance, it’s ultimately something deeper that truly affects our choices: our emotions. Or how we feel about the decisions we make.
The bulk of the attention around employer branding is feature-centric. Companies look to show that they have a good employer brand by highlighting culture and benefits. As they see it, the reasons why prospects would choose to work at their company. Paid time off. Work-life balance. Flexibility. Remote-first. Team building. Health and wellness initiatives. Shared values. Collaborative environment. Supportive culture. Recognition. Opportunities for growth. Diversity and inclusion. Education/Training budget. Team lunches. Even the much-maligned foosball table.
They will highlight employee stories to help paint a picture that “This is the company you want to work for”. They make investments into the personal and professional growth of their staff. They publicly support causes that align with their stated values to attract the right “type” of employee. They commit to recruitment and hiring practices that create positive candidate experiences.
Cultivating a strong employer brand that effectively positions your company as a desirable place of employment is vitally important in attracting today’s top talent. But there is another side of employer branding that for many holds even more influence, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the features or benefits that accompany employment.
The truth is, the strength of your brand to attract employees has less to do with your culture or your benefits (retention is another story). It’s about affiliation. Is your brand one that job seekers want to be affiliated with?
The need for affiliation and status are incredibly important to people, including job seekers. Of course, the perceived ideal affiliation is going to be different from one person to another, but ultimately it is the strength of your brand from a holistic standpoint, more than a strictly employer standpoint, that will sway prospective employees in your direction.
Working at Google is cool. Working at Netflix is cool. Affiliation to these brands carry a weight of cache or prestige that gives employees a sense of pride and status.
But it’s not just the pride and status; job seekers know that in addition to the positive feelings of association, they also get the actual benefits of perceived credibility. Working at a world class brand does not definitively mean you’re better, smarter or more qualified than someone working at Joe Nobody and Sons, but it certainly can appear that way. By being affiliated with a brand that is viewed as exceptional, you’ll often get the benefit of exceptional by association.
In addition to the knowledge and experience of working at best-in-class organizations, employees can leverage this association to attract recruiters, and parlay their past experience into higher, more lucrative positions with other organizations.
For the ambitious brands that want the best talent, it’s not a matter of this or that. It has to be both.
In fact, all employers ought to be good employers. Treating your employees with respect, providing opportunity, work-life balance, equitable treatment, reasonable accommodation, positive hiring practices, caring about, recognizing and supporting your staff – these shouldn’t even be points of differentiation, they should be standard.
The route to attracting the best talent is not just about having a good employer brand; you have to build a brand that people want to be a part of. That people want to be associated with. That will provide them with emotional and social adulation and esteem through nothing other than their affiliation.
And this is not limited to the big boys! Any brand at any size has the potential to be attractive to exceptional talent. Strong positioning. Great work. Positive reputation. Innovative thinking. Unique attitude.
Some of the best talent prefer the opportunity to create a greater impact at a nimbler organization. They want to be on the frontlines of change. These are things that can be harder to realize at large, established companies. Take advantage of your differences to flip your perceived deficiencies into strengths!
But remember, in order for those elite candidates to choose to bring their immense talents to your team, you need to provide a compelling appeal – and that can only be done through a consistent, thoughtful dedication to the totality your brand.
Philip Agnello is the founder of Philip Agnello Creative Consulting – the Toronto based, global boutique consultancy dedicated to the highest level of strategic creative thinking.
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