Employee Value Proposition: Building a Stronger Employer Brand from the Inside Out

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While I was in talent acquisition and HR roles, I was often involved in strategy development for candidate attraction and retention. I would help my team come up with creative ways to attract talent, which could be especially tricky depending on the type of candidates we were aiming for. Once I started in HR and recruitment marketing, I realized that these were also hot topics when it came to developing copy for employer branding initiatives. Regardless of the role I was in, I knew the importance of brand marketing, effective recruiter communications and reputation damage control. Although these are all exceptional ways to help a company become an employer of choice, I believed that companies missed a step in the process. Sure, employer branding is great but you can’t truly make it strong if you have nothing behind it. To be an employer of choice, you must start from the inside and develop your employee value proposition (EVP).

Having an employer brand isn’t going to be nearly as effective if your employee value proposition isn’t robust. Companies need to focus on developing this first before they can brand themselves in good conscious. If your previous or current employees were to give a testimonial, what do you think they would say? What about the candidates that already interviewed with your organization? With technology making it easier for people to find news and reviews about your company or social media allowing candidates to communicate with employees, companies need to realize that they can’t just “fake it until you make it.” People will see right through it.

To build or revamp your current EVP, consider the following:

  • Surveys: Give the people what they want! Getting candid feedback from your employees can help you understand what retains them, what things they value over others and what they’d like to see for future offerings. Also, get additional feedback from candidates. Learn more about what attracted them to your company to begin with and why or why not they decided to move forward with the interview process. Accumulating distinct details about attraction and retention can aid in the development of new offerings and nix the ones that make no impact.
  • Competitors: Look at direct competitors within your industry to see what you’re up against. If a candidate is interviewing at multiple organizations, having this competitor intelligence can make it easier to seal the deal and help make your organization present itself as a stronger choice.
  • Voluntary Turnover/Exit interviews: If an employee is leaving your company voluntarily, it’s in your best interest to find out why. Any information you gather from their exit interviews can be invaluable when it comes to knowing where your company is falling short. For example, did the employee leave because of the long commute? Incorporate telecommunication opportunities. Did they leave because lack of growth potential? Work with HR about career succession. Every exit interview can be an opportunity for improvement.
  • Forecasting and continuous revamping: The world is fast changing, which means the landscape of employment, candidates and offerings will change quickly too. Employers need to focus on correcting or revamping their EVP for the here and now and they also need to stay on the forefront of what employees or candidates could want in the future. Staying ahead of the curve can limit any risk and make your talent acquisition strategy proactive. Revamping the EVP can keep it fresh and engaging.
  • And, of course, branding: Once you get all the details of the EVP squared away, you then have a really strong backing to help with your employer branding initiatives. Your brand can speak to things you’ve already implemented and employees can give their testimonials to confirm that your company practices what it preaches. Showcasing your future initiatives and how you value employee and candidate opinions can make those researching your company more engaged and excited to see what’s to come.

Your brand has to start from the inside. Before you can catch up with the trend of building a brand, social media recruitment, video branding and candidate experience, you have to make your employee value proposition into something worth talking about.

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The Evolution of HR and Talent Acquisition

The Sky's The Limit....or is it?

When I first started this blog back in June of 2012, my experience with HR had been quite different than what it is today. At the time, my knowledge came from textbooks and from working at small organizations with one-stop-shop HR departments. My job experience typically had me in roles that did everything from initially recruiting candidates, on-boarding, new hire orientation, training, employee relations, payroll, off-boarding, and general HR management. I had a hand in everything and at the time I thought this was everything I needed to know about HR. It wasn’t until shortly after I started the blog that I realized how wrong I was. Either my experience had been sheltered, the HR function had changed rapidly, or a bit of both. Regardless, the HR function has evolved right before my eyes.

Some of my most noteworthy discoveries:

  • HR and Talent Acquisition are two different things: Due to the fact that my experience had dealt with everything from start to finish, I thought that this was the norm across the board. It wasn’t until I got a new job as a sourcer (which I had no idea what that was at the time) that I learned how talent acquisition is a beast in its own right. Effective talent acquisition involves an in-depth strategy, involving anything from candidate mining, to employment branding, to better interviewing options. Once I saw how this was done, I almost wondered how anyone could even fathom handling all the other HR duties on top of this function. As time went on, I saw more and more companies splitting talent acquisition off from the HR department.
  • Recruiting has gone social: When I first started this blog, I was using it as a supplement to my resume. I wanted people to see my knowledge and passion. To promote it, I started using social media sites only to eventually get hired via Twitter. Once I got settled in my job as a sourcer, I was deemed the social media recruitment queen and had to create training on how to do this effectively. Needless to say, I like to practice what I preach so I often incorporated social media into my sourcing efforts. Candidates are also recognizing how much social plays in the job hunting game and now take the time to use social as a means for personal branding. Honestly, looking at some of these creative resumes was a lot more fun than staring at the typical resume format over and over.
  • HR tech is going beyond HRIS and ATS systems: Prior to my most current employer, my experience with HR tech was the typical HRIS and ATS systems. With the acceptance of social media in the workplace and the increase of technological advances, new HR vendors are emerging rapidly. HR technology now can include anything from video interviewing and social media recruitment platforms. Also, there are platforms for onboarding, recognition, training, career succession, and more. It’s wild how much has been developed over the last few years and I hope to make it out to the HR Tech Conference one of these days to see some of the interesting options.
  • The 2020 workplace is right around the corner: Not to alarm anyone but time is flashing by. Although it’s no secret that 2020 is known as the “Gen Y Takeover” of the workplace, companies need to start revamping their offerings to attract these candidates. Competitive companies are taking the time to understand Gen Y values and apply it to their culture or perks. For example, some companies are offering flexible work schedules, telecommunication options, social media friendly environments, creative workplaces, assistance with student loan payments and more. It’s no longer about offering a hefty paycheck but about creating a situation where work-life can be blended better.
  • Typical employment is changing: Say farewell to the idea that your employees are bound to stay with you for their full career. That’s not really a thing anymore. In fact, it seems as if more companies are contracting employees or more people are becoming free agents and/or consultants. When I first started recruiting, I was told to stay away from the job hoppers but as the years went on, I’ve realized that “job hopping” is becoming more of a regular occurrence. Some employers are actually even embracing those types of people because the amount of knowledge and skill they picked up from employer to employer.
  • Talent acquisition is becoming more proactive: Companies need to be prepared because any one of their employees can be a potential risk thanks to proactive recruitment. Recruiters are now taking time to build relationships with passive candidates and talent pools are now being upgraded to talent communities. Passive and active candidates are easily in contact with recruiters and are up to date about opportunities as they arise. Posting and praying is becoming a thing of the past and recruitment is now about two way communication.
  • HR law is becoming a bit trickier: HR law seemed to be so much easier to handle before social media and alternative workplace options came creeping in. Sometimes it boggles my mind to even try to consider what could be a liability in these situations so I’ll leave that to the professionals. There are way too many gray areas for me to process.
  • The usual training programs don’t cut it anymore: If you’re relying on classroom trainings during new hire orientation only, you’re doing it wrong. More companies are expanding their training through various means, such as job shadowing, social learning, mentorship, support for continued education and online learning. Additionally, training is no longer focused only on new hires. Instead companies are now offering trainings or refreshers for people who want to keep up with the fast paced changes in their industry. If an employee wants to take control of their career progression, these new options for training and development can allow them to do so.

If someone asked me two years ago what I thought my career progression would have been, I would have said HR assistant, to supervisor, to manager, to assistant director, and so on. If someone were to ask me now, I would have absolutely no idea. For example, my current job role is in marketing for HR and the talent acquisition industries. Never in my life would I have thought I would fall into marketing but apparently this is one of the many areas that someone in HR can go, especially with the emphasis on employment branding. I definitely am not complaining because it allows me to keep up with the industry and continue to learn. The sky’s really the limit and based on what I’ve seen over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to continue to be the case.

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Why I Can Picture Life at Adobe

 

Due to my passion for employment branding, I often take the time to research different ways that companies showcase their brands. In my recruiting days, I realized how helpful or hurtful a brand could be when it came to attracting talent. I recalled the challenge of overcoming candidate concerns due to unfavorable reputations. This was especially true when I had to battle against poor employee reviews on public forums, such as Glassdoor. Once I moved into the marketing function for HR, I dove into the topic of employment branding and explored the ways that a company could successfully market itself. These examples were essential when it came to educating people on the differences between an effective or ineffective brand. Upon my research, I discovered the “Adobe Life” page and it has easily become my “go-to” brand to promote.

Even a person who was happy and secure in their job might be lured by the Adobe Life page. Not only does it display anything and everything you’d want to know about its company culture, but it also does it in a visually stimulating way which simultaneously shows what its quality product is all about. Before I even research further, I often sit there to watch the images flash by at the beginning of the page. This is saying a lot, as I’m a person with practically no patience whatsoever. The five images that rotate through is the hook. It inspires curiosity, making it effective right off the bat.

Below are a few key areas that show why Adobe is a top brand:

  • Sense of community: Adobe is a massive company, spanning over several continents, but it doesn’t let its size stop it from seeing its employees as individuals. Its culture also encourages employees to support one another. If it has an employee in accounting who plays in a folk band, the team will go out and see him/her play. Someone in engineering who is participating in a triathlon to support veteran PTSD might even have a few additional co-workers signing up for the cause. Photos and videos are used to showcase such events on their Adobe Life page which humanizes this person to both employees and non-employees around the world.
  • Connectedness around the globe: Connectedness goes hand in hand with the community aspect of this brand. One the most interesting things I’ve seen was the “Adobe Around the World” campaign. With this campaign, individuals at Adobe locations took pictures of their offices and the surrounding views and then posted on Instagram. I loved the fact that multiple offices around the world participated. This is just one of the many things that Adobe does to promote the unity of its branches.
  • Strong values and culture: During my time in talent acquisition roles, I often heard that companies were focused on promoting diversity.  Although it was preached a lot, I sometimes saw companies struggle to embrace the concept. Adobe clearly doesn’t have this problem. I recently saw some postings in their “Adobe Clubs” section. Sure, it’s something so simple but it was great to see the different clubs around the world partaking in activities that are native in their countries. It was nice to know that they promoted the cultural differences from area to area.
  • Career progression: In my recruiting days, I often had candidates ask me about career succession within the organization. Of course, there were always the usual responses I would provide that were almost elusive and redundant. I always wished I could provide more information to help candidates get excited about a long, progressive future with a company. Thankfully, Adobe recognized the importance of showing people a future in their careers. Moreover, they did it in a way that brought it to life—through informative, entertaining videos.
  • Focused areas: After people have investigated the overall “Adobe Life” pages, they have the ease of looking further into the areas that are relevant to them. Are you a student who’s about to graduate? Check out the University page. Are you an engineer looking to switch to a company that offers more challenges with some of the latest tools? Don’t hesitate to watch the engineering videos. Adobe Life makes it effortless for people to envision themselves at the company and in a specific job function.
  • Options for additional research: Even if you don’t have time to log in and check the Adobe Life website regularly, it still offers you plenty of options to keep up with the company, such as Twitter or Instagram. You can also stream the hashtag #AdobeLife. If you don’t want to be bothered with all of that information, you can chose to follow one of the many specified handles they have available, such as a handle for their careers or university team.
  • World domination: It’s one thing to have a great employment brand, but what about a consumer brand? After seeing the economy rise and fall, many candidates are cautious about the stability of a company. Adobe doesn’t miss a beat and made a section to present all of the exciting things in the works that will be launched in the future. Maybe the company isn’t exactly dominating the world (yet) but it can ease a candidate’s mind by displaying how it plans to continuously progress in impressive ways.

In the war for talent, especially tech talent, it can be fatal for a company to neglect its employment brand. A strong brand that offers something for everyone can be the key to engaging active talent. Even passive talent could be so moved by a brand that they would be willing to share it with their networks (much like I’m doing right now). Companies should take note and review Adobe Life as a prime example of how to do employment branding right.

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Employer Brand: Is Yours Costing You Candidates?

After being in the working world for a few years and seeing the many different working environments an individual could be involved in, I believed that performing extensive research on a company’s brand was important for me once I returned to the job market. When I looked for jobs a few years ago, I never thought to look further than the job description I was applying to. Needless to say, I was often unprepared and didn’t have any intelligent questions to ask the recruiter once I landed an interview. Even worse, I wasn’t prepared to make an informed decision if I was offered a job and would occasionally find myself in work environments that were less than appealing. After seeing the difference that research can make, I often try to preach this to the candidates and job seekers I speak to.

Recently, I saw how helpful research could aid in a job seeker’s journey for a new opportunity. One of my good friends had just graduated with a new degree but was having a hard time moving up in her current company. Her current company was a tech giant and although it offered great opportunities and benefits, red tape and politics made it nearly impossible for her to transition into a new role. Reluctantly, she decided to apply to jobs outside of the organization to see if there were better chances for her elsewhere.

A few weeks into applying, she received a call from a recruiter asking to set up a phone screen. I told her the first thing she should do to prepare for the interview is to complete in depth research of the company. This included anything from press releases, social media, forums, Glassdoor sites, etc. Of course companies try to do a great job of presenting their employer brand in a positive way on their career sites, so it’s important to get some feedback from real people, such as employees or previous interviewees. Needless to say, she saw some red flags via employee reviews on their Glassdoor page. With this being a job out of state and with a company that wasn’t as secure or well known as her current company, this was a bit disturbing. I urged her to bring up these questions in her interview.

The first phone interview went well but when it came time for her to ask the recruiter questions, she completely stumped the recruiter. Apparently, the recruiter had no good response to the probing questions referencing what their current employees were saying about the company. Despite the poor responses, the recruiter suggested that my friend ask the hiring manager during the next phone interview. Although hesitant, she agreed for the next interview just to hear the hiring manager out. Unfortunately, the hiring manager also didn’t have much good to say ease my friend’s mind. It’s a bit concerning when members of company don’t even know its own brand well enough to be able to answer these types of questions during the interview process. How did they expect to convince people that they were competitive against tech giants?

Candidates should take note of the situation to properly prepare themselves to make good career moves. Additionally, companies should work with their recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they prepared for these sorts of situations. Needless to say, when my friend received a job offer from the company, she quickly rejected it. She was thankful to have taken the time to research its reputation otherwise she might have left her great company for something that was an awful career move.

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Gen Y: Generation of Entitlement?

I regularly research different topics surrounding Gen Y. Being in HR definitely sparked this interest because this is the generation that will be dominating our workforce in a few short years. To be ahead of the talent acquisition game and to be effective in restructuring leadership efforts to impact this generation, I’ve been taking time to read the many insights about characteristics that make up this generation. Of course, there are always conflicting thoughts about which ones are good or bad but one statement truly stuck out to me: Gen Y comes off as “entitled” in the workplace.

Not to make an overall sweeping statement of this group, but generally speaking, this statement came off both true and false to me. Can Gen Yers come off as entitled in the workplace? Sometimes. Are they completely at fault for having that mentality? Not entirely. With that said, it may be time to refocus the expectations of Gen Y while simultaneously giving awareness to “outsiders” as to why this may occur.

Gen Y grew up in a time where recognition was given out frequently and sometimes without merit. They were given a gold star or a high five for showing up or just for simply participating. They were given the belief that they could be anything they wanted to when they grew up. Technology had made life easier and things occurred a lot quicker because of it. These simple things have shaped individuals of this generation while growing up, and eventually leaked into the workplace. So when Gen Y workers complain that they aren’t moving up fast enough or that their boss blocks them from opportunity, does that mean they’re entitled? Not quite. Some may be misguided due to the things they were exposed to while growing up.

Falling into the Gen Y category myself, I learned the hard way. I eventually figured out that although recognition is motivating and that I truly do believe I can be whatever I want to, there were a few steps that I forgot about in between. “Showing up” to your job is one thing but showing up AND making an impact is another. I used to believe that just because I did a job function satisfactorily for a year, it would be enough to be promoted. I soon learned that I was wrong. Any average person could go to work day in and day out and get their job done. But a person worthy of moving up had to go beyond that.

Satisfactory work shouldn’t have been an accomplishment for me. I should have continued to find ways to excel at work and let my superiors know. I shouldn’t have thought I deserved a promotion just because I had a year under my belt. I should have done my current job well and then I should have taken on stretch projects to show that I could handle my job and also handle the additional tasks for the job I was aiming for. Did this mean I would be putting in extra hours and I wouldn’t reap the benefits instantly? Definitely. But why would an employer invest in me if I don’t show them I’m worth investing in? More importantly, why would they invest in anyone who isn’t invested in the work that they do?

The belief that you could be anything you wanted when you grew up isn’t far out of reach for those who work hard. Unfortunately, some give up early in the process because of the amount of dedication it takes to get there. You can’t wake up one morning and think that this will fall in your lap. And luck has absolutely nothing to do with it. To get where you want to be is comprised of long days of work/study, persistence, research, and the ability to keep pushing through pitfalls and rejection. The sooner that this is realized, the sooner people can start working on it. Additionally, maybe this realization would help people reduce the anger they feel when they don’t achieve their dreams right away.

The greatest thing I learned in my years as a Gen Y worker is patience. I grew up in a time where instant gratification trumped everything. I used to abandon things that didn’t seem to work out quickly enough. Now that I have learned the art of patience, I see that the fruits of my labor actually turn out better than I would have initially thought. I often wonder what would have happened if I gave other things time back when my need for immediate results blinded me from the big picture. Would I have been further along in business? Would I have accomplished more? I’m not sure but I’m glad that I figured it out early enough to change my approach and make a difference.

I don’t believe that all of Gen Y is entitled in the workplace. I think that sometimes we’re a little ill-advised. This could have happened because we were told that we were bound for greatness but never were told the amount of work it would require nor where to start. The greatest thing I was given was a few mentors along the way that showed me the reality of the world of work. I hope more people take time to guide Gen Yers as they make their way into the workplace.

Disclaimer: This post was not intended to generalize any group of people.

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Taking Social Media Recruitment to the Next Level

instagram and vine

For years we’ve been hearing about utilizing social media for recruitment. Over time, this developed beyond sites like LinkedIn and has now spilled over to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Open Source. But are you still missing out on available talent?

With more candidates finding ways to creatively share their personal brands, it might be wise to start tapping into other social media sites like Instagram and Vine. Not sure where to start? Check out a blog I wrote on SourceCon last month.

“Let’s Get Visual: Attracting and Sourcing Candidates Using Instagram and Vine.” Click here to read the original blog post on SourceCon.

Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

Don't jump bus advertisement

I remember when I first started learning about talent acquisition and recruitment. It seemed like the role focused more on keyword searches to find a bunch of resumes on job boards. Once a large stack of resumes was acquired, I then spent time interviewing individuals for jobs. If a job wasn’t open, I performed discovery calls to proactively build talent pools in the event that a new position opened up. Search, review, interview, document, and repeat. After a few months of going through this cycle, I felt turned off by the systematic approach. I thought this function was supposed to be about communication and genuine human interaction, not a robotic process. I bowed out from the recruitment role and eventually came back a couple years later to discover that it had morphed into something bigger and better.

When I originally decided to pursue a degree and career in human resources, I never dreamed that marketing skills would be imperative to have. When I returned back to the recruitment field, I soon learned that the role had taken on a new form and the successful recruiters were the one who blended talent acquisition skills with marketing. No longer did recruiters source the job boards for hours on end. Instead, they had structured their day to have equal time for sourcing/recruiting, interviewing, and now, marketing. After I got a sense of what people were doing, I dove right in and created a marketing strategy of my own.

  • I said farewell to posting and praying: Instead of posting job openings and waiting for people to apply, I became more proactive. How was I going to share this with people? More importantly, how was I going to make this engaging? My job promotions had started off as a link to the job with the title and location. Soon, I developed it into mini-marketing campaigns. These campaigns offered details that job seekers really cared about: company culture; things happening in the company; details about the office environment; details about the people they’d work with; and more insight to the projects or things they’d impact if they took the job.
  • I went to the places that allowed resumes to come to life: If you guessed social media, you’d be partially correct. Although social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been great, there is so much more out there. I started researching candidates and found blogs, portfolios, interest groups, other specialized social sites, and more. This helped me see more of what they had to offer than what their resume initially stated. It took their resume and made them into a 3D version of a candidate. I loved it.
  • I nixed the template messages: When I receive a message that seems even remotely “spammy”, I typically delete it before I even read it. How do you think candidates feel when it’s obvious that they’re just another person on a list for recruiter spam? I took this into serious consideration and decided to spend more time on message customization. After I researched the candidate thoroughly through social sites, read more about what they like, or learned about what opportunities they were looking for, I got cracking on some message creations. I let them know why I was contacting them and what individual characteristics stood out to me. Additionally, I’d include specifics about the opportunity based on what the candidate seemed to be interested in. Does it take extra time and effort to do this? Sure, but the response rate increased because of it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that a recruiter can do to blend marketing skills into their recruitment strategy but these were some of the first ones I eased into once I got back in the game. It was nice to start seeing a candidate as an individual, talented person rather than a keyword search result. It was also amazing to see how people responded to my creativity. In a sense, it felt honest because I was spending more time connecting opportunity with the right people and vice versa. If you’re in talent acquisition/recruitment and you haven’t tested these skills out yet, I highly recommend it.

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