Branding and Communities: Finding Your Starting Point

blahblahblahLately, I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple projects that deal with employment branding and talent communities. I’ve come across some fantastic examples while performing research on successful and unsuccessful companies. I’ve been able to consult companies on their current state and provide suggestions for a better strategy. I’ve even had the chance to implement a few initiatives for my own company. It’s been a great learning experience from both research and hands-on experience, however, during this time I’ve also come across a lot of misconceptions regarding this. This simple misconceptions are what’s causing many companies to fail when it comes to maximizing their efforts.

In my time, I’ve seen companies with amazing branding, such as Adobe. I’ve also discovered some unique and fun talent communities, such as Zappos, GE and Accenture. I’ve even had the pleasure of demoing technology such as Work4, which has really added something appealing to social media recruitment and social media talent communities. And tech companies like Ascendify work well when it comes to having the functionality to truly make a talent community work in the way that it has been theorized. All of these things are examples that companies should look to when envisioning their strategy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Some companies think that creating an email list to blast out their job agents is a talent community. Some companies think that throwing together a little fluff piece about their company culture or a job is employment branding. Neither are the case and, unfortunately, these scenarios are usually run by the same companies who curse communities and branding months down the line when they’ve gained no traction. To have a robust, valuable and engaging community, you not only need the manpower to run it but you also need the content to share. Content can’t only focus on sharing company news, jobs and employment branding, but also educational or informative pieces regarding the industry or job from other sources.

To have a functional employment brand, you need to go beyond the surface and really dig deep. When investigating this for my clients lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the issues seemed to revolve around the fact that they lacked an engaging or defined employee value proposition (EVP) that helped differentiate them from other companies. There were some companies that really didn’t even have one established at all. In my opinion, this is the first thing companies should focus on before they get to branding content and communities. The EVP is the backbone of all of these activities for so many reasons.

The EVP is a way a company defines itself to its employees and candidates. It’s a way of attracting new talent and a reminder as to why current employees would want to stay there. It also acts as the basis of all branding content. It gives branding a purpose, a focus and helps ensure consistency. It establishes a company’s personality and voice. And it helps branders understand what point they’re trying to make when they create content. This should be the starting point and companies should scale back to work on this before anything else.

To have a strong brand and community, companies need to know what they’re promoting. So many companies fail at this or create confusing messages because they haven’t established the consistent voice and message. Without a defined starting point (the EVP), your community messaging will be empty and provide no value. Starting at this point can also make it tremendously easier when moving forward with other parts of the development.

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Virtual Employment for Attraction and Retention

You belong somewhere you feel free

During the HCI event last month, several employers expressed the changes they’re seeing in employment trends. More employees and candidates are aggressive when attempting to progress in their career path and many are willing to make risky moves to get there. Additionally, it was noted that more people are becoming mobile in order to reach their career objectives. Because of this, employers are seeing an influx in voluntary turnover and shorter employment tenure. So, why aren’t employers considering telecommuting or virtual work to help retain their employees?

Over the last two years, I’ve been a full-time virtual employee. I typically receive the same responses whenever mentioning this to new acquaintances, ranging from curiosity, skepticism, envy or disapproving. Many people ask me if I feel isolated or if the lack of face-to-face time has prevented me from moving up within the company. Surprisingly, I’ve progressed faster in my career, learned more and had stronger development opportunities in a virtual setting than I ever had in the office.

Virtual work requires a person to hone in on specific skills or build new ones. It’s all about adaptability and identifying resources to use to your advantage. You learn to be independent due to the lack of “crutches” (aka constant coworker/superior feedback) or validation. This forces you to rely on your own decisions. Also, accountability is a must. The lack of micromanagement allows you to focus on producing results and perfecting processes. Of course, this only can happen if an employer has the infrastructure, processes and leadership to allow employees to succeed. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools are necessary to understand employees’ skillsets and help develop them for career succession.

Over the last week, I spent some time researching if more employers have embraced virtual employment options. Much to my dismay, the majority of the positions I’ve come across dealt with customer service (contact center, reservations, etc.), sales, consultants for software development and recruiting. Many of the positions were contract or freelance opportunities. I was surprised that more employers aren’t opening up to additional full-time positions that can be virtual, nor creating opportunities for internal mobility to higher-level positions. I’ve been someone who’s experienced both… and I continue to be successful this way. Sky’s the limit for my career potential as long as my employer has opportunities to support it.

Virtual employment can help retain employees for a couple of reasons:

  • It allows them to have better personal opportunities: We all hear about work-life balance or work-life blending. The point is, people have other needs outside of the workplace. For example, my fiancé recently got a fantastic job promotion that would require us to relocate 1,000 miles away. There were no second thoughts about accepting it. All I did was take a couple of PTO days to move and I was set. I didn’t have to worry about quitting my job or dealing with a lapse in compensation when I was struggling to find work. The process was very seamless.
  • It allows employers to find and develop talent: there are plenty of people within the country that may possess some amazing skills but might not be located near a major branch or headquarters. Organizations can utilize this talent by offering them employment without requiring them to relocate. This can be the same deal if an employee is ready to be promoted but can’t relocate. Rather than giving them the less-than-ideal options of staying underemployed, relocating or forcing them to consider another employer in order to move up in their career, a virtual option can help retain an employee while giving them internal mobility.
  • It focuses on what matters: Results. Much like the purpose of ROWE (results only work environment), virtual work can be supportive of a results-focused situation. Micromanagement is disengaging and sometimes people don’t perform their best work during normal business hours. Being strapped to a desk can lower productivity. And maybe some people thrive when they’re blasting music, while others might prefer a quiet workspace with no distractions. Virtual work makes it easier for people to find their happy place without having to deal with formal requests or pushback from their peers.

Virtual employment can be a fantastic opportunity for both employer and employee, as long as it’s done right. Consulting an Organizational Development Specialist and researching technology to ensure a virtual environment can function the same as a traditional environment will be necessary.

If you’re curious to know more how virtual employment and virtual internal mobility works, ask me! I’ll be happy to tell you about my ongoing career story. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Simple Steps to Boost Your Employer Brand

 

 

Love Your Job

As employment branding continues to be a trend in talent acquisition, more organizations are starting to see the positive effects of this, while others are sensing competitive pressures by not having one. As more job seekers become advised about performing their due diligence and researching a company before applying or interviewing, companies need to take stock of what a seeker would see if they did a basic search of the organization. Will the company have a robust presence on social media and enticing career pages, or will their social media pages seem abandoned and will the career page fall flat?

Of course, there are plenty of companies who have an amazing brand, but some of them also have a person or team of people dedicated to managing it. But, what about the companies that don’t have the resources or budget to hire a full time employee or consultant? Do they miss out on the chance of showcasing their culture just because they don’t have the means to do it? The answer is no.

There are plenty of simple things that companies can do to build some traction on their brand, and it doesn’t require a full time person to manage it. It’s simply about optimizing on the things occurring at your organization day in and day out and repurposing it for branding. The person contributing to this effort doesn’t need to be a marketing guru or recruiting genius, but someone who understands the fundamentals of both and who has a little extra time in their work week to keep initiatives consistent.

Below are a few easy things to boost your brand:

  • Social platforms: There’s no denying how useful social media can be when it comes to getting your company’s name out there. Some of the best brands even have dedicated profiles for their jobs or specific job roles. Of course, managing a bunch of profiles can be a huge undertaking. In this case, simply using your established company profiles to include employment branding can be perfect. Ensure you’re regularly scheduling out jobs, events and things showcasing your culture. All it takes is a few minutes a week to schedule out consistent messages through tools like Hootsuite. Just make sure whoever’s managing the profiles also remembers to check and respond to messages in a timely manner.
  • “A Day in the Life” campaigns: When candidates research your company, they’re trying to get the most accurate picture of what it’s like to work there. Including little blogs, short videos or employee Q&A sessions can give them exactly what they’re looking for. Take time to connect with internal recruitment and find out what hot jobs they’re recruiting for and then connect with those currently in the position. Taking time to interview them or get some candid feedback about the aspects of their jobs, why they like it and any interesting facts can help you build that content easily. Keep it authentic—include the good and the mundane aspects. That can allow candidates to get a realistic preview of the job.
  • Employee testimonials: Employee testimonials are considered heavily by candidates, so be sure to consider these in your branding efforts. Creating a Glassdoor campaign to get consistent (and candid) reviews is one suggestion. Also, including employee spotlight features on social media or your career pages can be another simple way to boost the brand. Get a quote or two about why they like working at the company or in the specific job.
  • Sharing events: Your company participates in several events a year and this can be a great way to showcase your culture and happenings. From pot lucks, birthdays, “wins”, conferences, holiday events, social responsibilities and just general good times, this can be opportune for getting visual content. Snap a picture or take short videos. Make sure they’re edited and post away on social media, eblasts or the career sites.
  • Optimizing career pages: I have come across career pages that are so boring, it actually turned me off from the company. Even if they were a reputable company with good opportunities, a bad career page can have adverse effects. This is the time you can hype up a candidate and it’s the homestretch before whether they apply to a job or not. Even if you don’t build out multiple pages to highlight specific things like benefits/perks, corporate social responsibility, and so on, it’s still an opportunity to build out the content on one. What differentiates your company? What can you offer your employees? Why should someone want to work for you? Keep these questions in mind when including key information. Also be sure to include the content you’ve been creating for the branding initiatives, and if possible, feeds to your social sites.

Building a brand doesn’t have to be as involved or as intimidating as some companies might think. It’s just a matter of staying timely, consistent and well-rounded. Dedicating some time to this regularly will build up your content quickly.

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Performing with Purpose

 

When reflecting on my career progression, I recall the early years when I first started working. I relied on delegated orders, would dutifully fulfill them and wait for new assigned tasks. It was an endless cycle of repetitiveness and I often found myself on autopilot. Sometimes I even found myself disengaged when I couldn’t identify the intent of some of my responsibilities. But, being young and not feeling like I was experienced enough to have a voice, I continued performing without ever questioning it…that was a mistake.

As I’ve made my way through my career, obtained a degree and became more involved in understanding business and organizational development, I started to see that never questioning anything has done a disservice to my growth and a disservice to the betterment of the organization I was working at. Asking thought-provoking and well-structured questions won’t make anyone question your competency (as I often feared it would), but it gives you a chance to perform better. At this stage of my career, I make it a point to perform with purpose. And to do this, you have to start with one simple question – Why?

  • Asking questions: Once I started to know why certain tasks relevant, I was able to get a bigger picture. Asking what or how always helped too, but I felt the “why” was the most important thing to know. Questioning this allowed me to gain insight into the overall purpose of each function, what the expected outcome was, etc. Knowing this information not only helps you do your job better, but also sets you up to do MORE.
  • Performing better: knowing key details as to the purpose of your task and what’s the expected outcome can help drive the direction of your performance: It gives you a starting point, a path and a goal that you are aiming to meet or exceed.
  • Continuous innovation: set up time regularly to review the information you gathered from asking questions and critically analyze it. With the fast changes in business, it’s important to constantly reevaluate processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Even if you aren’t in a role to implement change, your analysis and suggestions can help leadership see ways to positively impact the business.

No matter what level employee you are or how swamped you are at work, I urge you to take the time to ask questions, find ways to perform better and look for opportunities to innovate. I’d personally rather take the time to do these things and ensure every function I’m performing has a purpose than keep my head down. To help your professional growth and your organization’s growth, its things like this that can help move everything forward.

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What Questions Should You Ask When Considering Virtual Employment?

 

breaking chains.208145743 std Breaking the Mold

We hear a lot about the challenges organizations face when they consider virtual employees or telecommuting options. These challenges are even more predominate when discussing flexible work options or results only work environment (ROWE). How can they evaluate an employee’s performance? How can managers ensure that they’re working full-time? Will there be backlash from employees who work in a traditional capacity? After working as a virtual employee for almost a year and a half, I can honestly say that it works… sometimes.

There are a lot of factors that affect the success of these flexible options. Before a company or an employee decides that this is right for them, consider the following:

  • Employee personality: As an employee, it’s important to really understand yourself as an individual and as a professional. For me, virtual work was ideal because I knew that I have a type A personality and my morale is higher when I don’t feel the watchful eyes of a micromanager. Additionally, I can produce better results more frequently in my private (and quiet) office than I would at a distracting workplace. Although this has worked for me, many people informed me that they would probably go crazy without social interaction. Others have admitted that the leniency of being home could distract them for work. It would be best to think about these things if considering this as an option.

 

  • Employee functions: As a company, you need to determine if full-time telecommuting or ROWE work for this particular job. Does an employee need to be available at certain times to interact with other members of the company or clients? Can the employee handle tasks remotely or are there some things that require the employee to be on-site? Does their status/level cooperate with the type of employees in it, such as, are they responsible and can self-manage?

 

  • Restructuring of management functions: This might be one of the toughest areas to figure out but it’s definitely not impossible. In my current experience with virtual employment, I have the privilege of working for a company that seems to have this sorted out. Even if it isn’t perfect, they take the measures needed to ensure ongoing improvements. Somehow their ability to increase support through communication and measure productivity without micromanaging has actually helped me feel a stronger connection with my leadership team and direct managers. Despite the fact that I’m not physically working in front of them every day, they have taken the time to recognize my achievements as well as areas I’ve struggled in. Does it take extra time out of their week to pay attention to their individual employees? Sure, but it’s the best experience I’ve had with a manager thus far.

 

  • Benefits: For companies, there can be plenty of benefits as far as cost savings go due to reduction of overhead. When it comes to hiring, it allows employers to find diverse talent and top candidates because they aren’t limited to one specific area. As an employee, it can be really beneficial for your everyday life. I’ve been told that mothers enjoy the ability to be available to their children when they are home or sick. Military spouses like the mobility aspect when their significant others move around.  I personally like it because I don’t feel restricted to a particular area. If I wanted to move to another state or travel, I could do it tomorrow. I also love the fact that I don’t have to waste time commuting or spending money on clothes or gas. Instead, I actually have more time to actually do the things that matter, like work.

 

  • Challenges: Of course, there are always challenges. How can managers keep morale high if on-site employees feel like virtual workers have it easier? Can managers ensure the virtual workers have the same exposure to internal mobility? How do managers know that their virtual workers are being productive? These are just a few things that companies face when developing and implementing flexible work options.

I’m an advocate for virtual work, telecommuting and flexible options. I don’t think employees should be limited or confined and that some of these options can actually help employees performed better and allow companies to retain talent. Of course, I’m aware that this doesn’t always work and that a great deal of thought and strategy has to go into the development and management of it. However, for me personally, I would love to stay in a virtual position for as long as I can.

Want to know what others think about this? Check out the discussion on #TChat tonight at 7pm ET. Take a look at a preview here.

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Use Employment Branding to Impact Your Sourcing Strategy

In my last blog post of 2013, I took the time to reflect on what I learned throughout the year and my intentions of getting more involved in the subject of employment branding. It seems as if though 2014 is starting off on the right foot, as my first blog post of the New Year covers just that.

Due to some of the diverse positions and industries I’ve recruited for in the past, I quickly learned how creativity could impact time-to-fill and quality-of-hire. As I played around with different options to promote my jobs to candidates, I saw that employment branding seemed to add the most value while performing sourcing functions.

SourceCon was kind enough to allow me to contribute some tips from my experience of utilizing employment branding for my sourcing strategy. Check it out here.

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

Lately, I’ve somehow found myself in the position of an informal career coach. I’ve been assisting job seekers who have been off the job market for several years and who were overwhelmed and intimidated by the way this whole process has changed. I was able to guide them through the process, from resume writing, personal branding, researching companies, and developing questions to ask during the interviews. As I went through this journey with them, I was surprised to learn that some of these questions have left recruiters scratching their heads. When I recalled my own experience in recruiting, I remember being in the same boat as these individuals. It wasn’t until later in my recruiting career that I realized how important it was to do deep research about a company to be able to confidently provide the information that these candidates wanted to hear.

To really create a positive and informative candidate experience during the interview process, a recruiter has to think like a candidate thinks. I know when I was a job seeker, the first thing I would do was essentially stalk anything and everything about a company before my interview. If I came across something negative, I wanted it cleared up early in the process so I knew whether or not to move forward. When applying this knowledge to my recruiting career, I noticed a huge difference. Transparency helped me build a trust with my candidates and they felt more confident when it came down to making a decision.

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

  • Talk to people within the company: Even if you work at the company you’re currently recruiting for, it’s important to speak to several people in different roles or departments. Getting an overall idea of employees’ opinions of the company can help you paint a solid picture for your candidate. So rather than saying, “It’s a great place to work,” you’re able to provide several perspectives, making your examples well-rounded.
  • Check out reviews on Glassdoor: Alright, I get it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to this point but it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. I’ve had plenty of job seekers tell me that they completely stumped a recruiter when they referenced specifics from these reviews. Needless to say, the job seekers would drop out of the interview process because they felt like there was a disconnect or that the company was potentially hiding something.
  • Know your employer brand: Employment branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Being on the marketing side of things, I see the amount of effort companies put into their brand to make sure they have various examples of why working for the company is great. The content put out can be a fantastic resource to provide to the candidates and can help keep them engaged throughout the process.
  • Do a deep Google search: What’s your reputation? Employment branding and content pushed out by a company attempts to paint the company in the best light, but what about the stuff that WASN’T put out by the company? What are brand ambassadors, customers, clients and/or competitors saying? Do credible news sources or amateur bloggers have something worthy of sharing? Are your employees bashing or praising the company on social media? Knowing these things beforehand can help you discredit things that aren’t true, give a deeper explanation for things that are, or promote things that are aligned to what the candidate values.

When I started doing this in my own recruiting practices, I was able to really make the most out of my conversations with candidates. If they mentioned something they were interested in, I had the specific details they needed. If they were concerned about something, I was able to ease their mind or give them the hard facts so they could make the call. If I was a job seeker, I would hope that the interviewer would do the same for me. After all, job seeking is hard these days and accepting a job offer can be nerve-wracking.  Essentially, a candidate is making a big decision based on referrals and other people’s opinions. It would make a huge difference if recruiters were able to incorporate these details during the interview loop.

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