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Employee Branding - You Have to Stand Out

December 28th 2017

Employer Branding - You Have to Stand OutHaving commenced my career in 1996 I have found professional inspiration to come in many forms and was recently alerted by an executive placed 13 years ago, to remain thankful for the effort made to secure his interest in career change. Noting that he remains with the same Big 4 banking organization, I was reminded of the extraordinary effort my client went to in order to secure his coveted signature.

 Being a regional appointment, things were going very smoothly until his wife suggested that it might not be a good idea to suddenly shift his allegiance from one local bank to another. As they enjoyed a high profile, with youngsters in their formative school years, she felt career stability was more desirable at that time. Having a sense of responsibility to their local community made this transition all the more complicated. Difficult to argue with, one must agree.

During the post interview phase my client took a particular interest in this executive and listened attentively to my explaining the rationale for their about face. He agreed it seemed both logical and complicated and shared empathy for their position. When I further volunteered that this executive remained firmly interested however accepted his partner's convincing arguments, our client suggested why don't we pay a visit to this family, and over dinner listen to their concerns, and if possible share the many benefits that such a career change would bestow on this family. Noting this to be a 500 + kms drive, I was stunned.  

Needless to say, this strategy worked and now 13 years later, I reflect on the tremendous goodwill my client established, the wonderful way he elevated the brand in the eyes of all, and the sheer leadership demonstrated. When I reflect on the many successes (including offshore) we achieved as a trusted and respected partnership, I cannot help but think of some other excellent examples of leaders demonstrating exceptional care for brand integrity. For instance. 

a) A recent (2017) MD assignment in APAC saw me taking a briefing with their global CEO, who asked if I would be interested to meet individually with eight direct reports of the incumbent MD, in order to gain a better feel for their professional needs and the prevailing culture. This is rare and was greatly appreciated for it enabled me to ultimately best respond to potential points of interest on the part of those executives under consideration throughout the search phase. Considering this to be our initial engagement, it conveyed a terrific sense of trust also.

b) Upon the appointment of a Director in Sydney and just following her resignation, her employer placed undue legal pressure causing considerable distress. Within of minutes of conveying this to our client the MD personally took matters into his own hands, by getting their legal team involved, and by reassuring the appointed executive that she had nothing to worry about. This not only resulted in significant gratitude and respect for her new employer's culture and brand, but had the counter balancing effect by causing concern amongst many of her former team members, some of who subsequently reached out to me for professional guidance.

So, what's the common thread that links these splendid outcomes? Firstly, they were orchestrated and delivered by each organization's CEO. Each of these CEO's referred seized the initiative firstly by acknowledging that there existed a scarce market for available talent; recognizing that the opportunity existed to make a profound statement supporting our search and selection efforts; by being decisive in their desire to secure the very best talent; getting personally involved which resulted in a significant uplift to their organizational reputation.

As an interesting segue I can't help but offer the findings gained through Universum's survey of more than 2,000 senior executives relating to their employer branding activities. This sample included CEO's, Heads of HR, Marketing and Employer Branding and presented in their "2020 Outlook, the Future of Employer Branding" publication. Interestingly one of the main findings was that many leaders now place primary responsibility for the employer brand with the CEO or marketing at the exclusion of HR and recruiters. This suggests that employer branding is fast becoming strategically important, and a key plank in organizational differentiation.

How does all this relate to hiring and retention? Just recently I engaged in an APAC HR conference with the theme being "hiring for scarce key technology/engineering talent in APAC." Underpinning this conference was the knowledge that there currently exists a 40% shortfall of available talent within the technology/engineering sectors within APAC, with many interesting and creative ideas fostered from which to secure and retain that elusive executive. Just as important was the use of social media and the creative implementation of hackathons from which to build brand awareness whilst creating the sense of employer desirability.  

As a senior Headhunter taking a new mandate is a most refreshing experience. The exacting discovery process  (recently a two day structured exercise) is something that strongly appeals to my sense of curiosity. On a consistent basis I will challenge our client to convey why a high caliber industry professional that is constantly attaining their KPI's; is provided with regular strategic challenges; enjoys a mutually respected relationship with their boss; whose career progression is firmly on track and future possibilities clearly determined, would consider a career change. When clients speak passionately about employer branding through the mix of customer experience and company reputation, I am personally energized for I know I am able to search the market for the finest talent with confidence. The employer brand is the thing.

Executives are armed with tons of information nowadays from which to form a valued judgement about potential career change. This is reinforced in the knowledge that we are regularly asked some really pertinent questions by prospective candidates, when contemplating whether to engage with us or not. Participating in a well-considered and structured briefing enables us to be sufficiently armed with key information (hard and soft facts) pertaining to our client so that we are in a much better position to offer reliable feedback about the employee value proposition. It is only then that executives not actively seeking career change might decide to seriously engage.

Having a client that recognizes the value of a compelling Employer Value Proposition certainly assists greatly. 









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