Let me tell you a little story.
I once had the pleasure to get to know a very bright, creative and driven student named Andrew. It was when I was myself conducting my studies in England and happened to work with corporate branding at Ogilvy. Andrew told me back then: “It would be a dream come true to work for Microsoft or Vodafone.” I remember we as eager students discussed where we would pursue our careers. It was always a popular topic. Career opportunities were back then as they are now what will define you, who you’ll end up being and will on average be 20% of your life story. That is the impact it has. So of course we care about career and as a student you know little of all the amazing opportunities that you can choose from.
Andrew and I lost contact for a few years but bumped into each other by coincidence In London, at Gatwick. It was a blast of course. We talked of what we had been doing and what we were up to for the future. Andrew worked for an exciting medium sized company of around 800-1000 employees as a business development professional. His employer was a provider of high end technology to the industry and he had a very impactful role there. Having pursued my own career with Digital and Talent, I was directly interested in what impacted his choices. A few things Andrew told me helped me to progress even more as strategic advisor in regards to employer branding and talent strategies. Especially when I realized it was a global phenomenon and not just one single guy with an opinion.
What Andrew told me was:
“Microsoft is still my favorite employer. Perhaps I’d say Apple are as cool these days but I will always be a Microsoft fan. But no matter how much I favor them as employer by reputation I didn’t have a relation with them, only a perception of what they were.”
I am certain many of you can recognize yourselves in what Andrew told me. At least I noticed that quite many, if not a very clear majority could. Already back when I was at Universum I tried to tell clients of the importance to differentiate themselves but also to tell what is actually true internally. When Andrew mentioned the “relation” as an important factor he did actually tell me that he could and surely also would choose to pursue career opportunities at other companies than those with his favorite employer, if they managed to create said relation.
Andrew also said:
“Naturally an offer from Microsoft would always tempt me but it is so much more than that dream company to work for with a cool brand. It is so important to see what I can do at that company, what I will learn from that and where that’ll take me. That requires you have a stronger relation to a company than just that image of something which you’re unsure of how true it actually is.”
What Andrew told me made perfect sense. It was all about making it personal. It was all about making him see that career opportunity match with his own preferred career journey. It was not only about that employer he had always been dreaming about.
What Andrew clearly made me realize was that even if a strong employer brand will always be a necessity for attracting the right talent, it is not enough. It does not suffice to have an amazing product portfolio, cool customers, lash out general marketing about your view on diversity, work life balance, equality etc. It would make people keep eyes open a little extra whenever you seek to hire. But it is the personal relation and clarity of a talents’ possible impact in your organization that will matter the most in terms of their career decisions.
You must be personal and the key to that is to do everything you can in every possible touch point available with your talents, to provide a targeted, personal experience.
That is why many companies are starting to measure their Talent Brand. The talent brand is all about the engagement with those you desire to have a relationship with. The higher the engagement, the stronger your talent brand. The more people who interact with you, the more they have you top of mind. The more often they are impacted by your messaging and content, the clearer their perceptions will be of how a possible role with you would impact their career journey. And the more likely it’ll be that they’ll join you when a suitable vacancy pops up.
Be personal, build relations and make sure you’re saying attractive things to relevant people. If you haven’t, stop your mass marketing now. In terms of how to increase engagement and how to truly lure the masses of talents of the social media ocean to your messaging and opportunities, there are loads of things you must, should and could do.
Remember that when you marry someone, you never end up marrying Sean Connery. You end up marrying some guy called Jeff from Georgia who happened to be a talented chef with a nice smile and who snores. He was perhaps not what you idealized as a kid, but he became your dream when he unlocked all that which you didn’t know you had in you. Branding and Talent is the same. Andrew still claims Microsoft is his dream employer – but he might never end up working for them. Because they have no relation.
So go out and build those relations.