Brand Stands. How to attract and win the best talent

People talk about the war of attention being one of the biggest challenges in today’s fast-moving world. I believe it’s the war for recruitment and retention which is equally important for leaders managing businesses today.

How do you stand out? How do you attract the best brains and the best people?

The answer is in your brand. A brand is a short-cut to help consumers choose in a world of huge choice. That is true on the supermarket shelf and it is true in the talent marketplace as well.

Look at your organisation brand (or your ‘employer brand’ as some people refer to it). What is the message you are sending? Will people be proud to be associated with the organisation or will they experience ‘dinner party shame’ when confessing that they work for you?

There are some fundamental brand rules that work for your employer brand as well as your consumer brand.

Brands are judged by where people find them.

So, for a B2C brand, the choice of where they are found sends clear messages about what type of brand it is. That’s why Chanel have made the choice to not be readily available in concessions or online; they can control the environment (and, as is so often the case with luxury, the elusiveness of the ability to purchase increases desire).

When thinking about your ‘employer brand’ you do want a high profile awareness so that you enter the purchase funnel of great talent at the right time, at the trigger points when people are deciding where to apply for jobs – whether it’s on graduation or when talking to recruitment consultants – but you want to make sure that you are in the right place and in the right company.

At Web Summit in Lisbon in November, there were some great examples of organisations who had made the conscious decision to be there in order to attract curious minds and smart talent. Being part of this tech festival symbolises an innovative, ambitious approach.

BNP Paribas were the only big bank amidst the fintech start-up proliferation and their presence sent a clear message consistent with their overall brand communication that they are a bank for the changing world.

A brand experience is built by your people.

A great customer experience should be built by great employees.
CEO and founder Herb Kelleher is a great businessman. Southwest Airlines is the only US airline to consistently deliver a profit across over 40 years of challenging economic situations where other airlines have gone bust or really struggled. And that is driven by Kelleher and all his senior team understanding that ‘the business of business is people’. The organisation has driven a legendary culture of focus on its employees. Which means that when they then interact with customers, those employees convey a positive, helpful, empowered and energising message to the customers they interact with.

Nielsen research estimates that consumers only believe 15% of what a brand says but 90% of us would trust the word of a friend, or a family member or a peer. Your employees are your brand advocates – they are ambassadors for you to get people to buy your brand or to spread the word that this is a great place to work. Here’s BNP Paribas’ people ‘positioning’ where employees met potential new ones…

The Farfetch stand was one of the best-executed designs in the Web Summit building; its presence was a testimony to the organisation’s tech-focus and the way it looked supported its high-end fashion credentials. However, it was interesting that what also stood out was the friendliness and engagement of the people on the stand. Representatives from the Farfetch People team did an excellent job in communicating the ‘be human’ value which is part of the heart of their culture.

Give people something to buy into, not just something to buy.

More than ever now brands need to tell a story, to share a vision, to give a sense of purpose. Clarity of that story is essential for attracting and motivating top talent. Unilever is the clearest example of the power of purpose in differentiating an organization to attract employees.

People’s early career goals are unlikely to be articulated as  ‘when I grow up I want to work for a household goods company’ but Unilever’s high-profile sense of purpose has made it a sensationally popular employer in attracting millennial talent across the globe; it’s ranked at number 11 in the Sunday Times UK Top 100 Graduate Employers, number 2 in the most popular employers in the UAE after Emirates, the number 1 employer in Kenya and at number 3 in the LinkedIn analysis of most popular employers – with only Google and Facebook ahead of them.

Global CEO Paul Polman has no doubt about the number one reason Unilever has become such a magnet for recruiting and retaining talent: Putting their purpose (‘making sustainable living commonplace’) at the centre of everything the corporation does is “incredibly motivating for our employees.”

When communicating your purpose or your vision, be careful with your language.

It’s good to be ambitious but it’s also too easy to say nothing that really means anything to people. Beware of bland tag lines when communicating what you do.

This stall at Web Summit was an example of someone who’d thought about the need to say something exciting about their vision but ended up with statements that mean nothing.

‘Beyond banking’ – doesn’t actually mean anything tangible or clear. Empty words like that communicate an organisation without integrity as they feel as if someone has ‘branded’ it with a sticking plaster, not built something carefully on the truth of the history of the brand, its values and its vision for the future.

Siemens have worked hard to reposition their ‘employer brand’ bringing together some truths about the organisation with the trends that they saw in what people want in an employer. Their ‘Future Makers’ positioning fits with their overall communication of ‘Ingenuity for life’ and is an exciting story which features real people doing real things.

Siemens wasn’t a brand that was on my radar as an innovative or interesting brand until it sponsored the House of Beautiful Business at Web Summit; your brand will be judged by what you do as well as what you say.

We cannot predict the challenges our businesses will face in the future but we can get ready to face change and the best way to do that is put in place the smartest, most talented people.

In the context of business being increasingly driven by technology, one of the biggest challenges is a human one.

Your brand should be built inside out; get it to work inside the organisation by connecting and communicating with your people and it will connect and communicate with people outside the organisation.
That’s how to win hearts, minds and top talent which stands out.

Andy Milligan, Founding Partner, The Caffeine Partnership

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