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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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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Civilian Candidates Transitioning from the Military

Today’s blog is mainly going to be a post to promote awareness. In the past, I have participated in discussions surrounding the struggles of military employees transitioning into the civilian workforce. HR professionals talked about the situations they were coming across and different programs they had in place to help these individuals. Military employees talked about their concerns when it came to transitioning. I knew that it was a hard situation but it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how bad it could be for someone who didn’t have help or guidance.

A friend of mine stopped by my house on Sunday because she was getting discharged from the Air Force soon and she wanted some help updating her resume in preparation for civilian job hunting. She slapped down her resume onto my kitchen table and all I could say was, “What is this?” The resume was barely half a page long and included a couple of skills written in military jargon. I’ve known her for about four years now and she often talked about her role in the Air Force, so right off the bat I knew that this resume was not even remotely useable.

I asked her where she got the format for her resume and she quickly supplied me with a random printed out package of “information”. After reviewing the details, I soon realized that this paperwork came from the department handling the transitioning soldiers. I was stunned. What they provided was not even slightly helpful in properly preparing these people for the civilian world. It suddenly became clear why so many people struggled.

Some things that these packages “taught” our transitioning soldiers are as follows:

  • Resume: update your resume based off of ERP print outs. These print outs provided very general information that was not sufficient enough to properly showcase their experience. Additionally, the print outs didn’t help soldiers learn how to  the change the military jargon into civilian terms
  • Important things to consider for your job search:
    • Who will this be effecting? Who do you spend your social time with now? How will you keep your social relationships in tact?
    • What are your financial obligations? How much money will you have to make to cover these?
    • What career are you interested in?
    • Where will you network?
    • What type of clothes will you need to purchase for your career?

I get it. Some of those questions are important to think about but is that really all they’re left with? Vague, general questions? More importantly, the package didn’t give examples for any of these questions, nor do they provide any guidance. These candidates have no one to talk to. How is a piece of paper going to be enough to help them prepare for this? Some of these individuals have no idea what career they would be a fit for because they don’t know how their military skills will transition into civilian work. Some don’t even know what networking is or what’s appropriate for the field that they’re interested in. Basically, they’re thrown into a civilian workforce that is foreign to them. It’s hard enough to find a job in our workforce as it is, could you imagine being a job seeker with absolutely no idea how to do it?

Luckily, my friend has me to consult when it comes to updating resumes, networking, clothing, and figuring out career paths. But what about the people who don’t have friends in HR or recruiting? As we hashed out the details, my friend said to me, “I guess this is why there are so many military people going into poverty.” Many of these people sacrificed so much for us. Many of them put their lives and dreams on hold to serve our country. Is this really all we can do for them? It’s just not enough.

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Showing Your Candidates That They Matter

Recently, I was having a discussion about the importance of the candidate experience with a friend. She’s a job seeker and was expressing her stress and frustration when it came to customize every single cover letter, resume, and letter of interest. It’s time consuming and exhausting. In the end, she sometimes only receives a generic e-mail back stating that her resume was received or that the company was going to “pursue other candidates that more closely fit their needs.” And just like that, it was all the interaction she got. Cold, human-less, and impersonal. We make candidates jump through all these hoops, but why aren’t recruiters held to the same standards? Recently, I came across an article on CoderWall and it really got me thinking about the messages we send to candidates.

The article on CoderWall discussed the issues with recruiting tech talent. I’m currently recruiting for tech talent and I know that it’s definitely not easy. This talent is in demand and more often than not, they get to pick and choose their opportunities. But regardless of this industry, the statements made in the article can ring true for any industry. With options like LinkedIn messages, e-mail templates, and automated messages, recruiters are able to increase the amount of people they contact in less time. But just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should get lazy or abuse them, right?

Stacy Donovan Zapar also wrote a recent blog about spammy messages to candidates, which just continues to show that candidates are sick of our lack of personalization. How can we expect candidates to respect us or even be interested in talking to us when it seems like we didn’t invested a couple minutes to read about their personal experiences? We make them customize their messages to show us how they would fit in our job opening but shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Have I been guilty of shooting out generic messages to candidates in the past? Unfortunately, yes. And I realized that it’s no way to build a relationship. I’m not saying that templates are a bad thing. It could make it easier to include the job details you don’t want to have to rewrite over and over again. But it’s important to leave a section of your message open for editing based on each individual. Read their profiles, research their blogs/portfolios, check out their skill sections, and so on.  When you message them, include the things you researched. Maybe even ask them how they apply that to their current job or side project. There are plenty of ways to uniquely humanize your messages for each individual candidate.

I know that I’m instantly impressed by candidates who take the time to customize their letters of interest or cover letters for a job opening I have. I appreciate what they did and it makes me want to talk to them because they seem like they care. I’m sure that candidates feel the same about our messages to them. So let’s raise the bar and show these candidates why they matter to us.

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Clearing the Misconceptions about Recruiters

Recently, a friend forwarded me a snarky blog post written by an individual giving technical recruiters “tips” on how not to be hated by technical candidates. I get it- technical candidates are contacted multiple times a day by recruiters and sometimes with job openings that aren’t relevant to their skill-set. I would be annoyed after a while, too. But as I read through the blog post further, I actually started to see that he was off-base on a lot of points he made and seemingly generalized recruiters into one “type.” After thinking about this, I started to wonder if other people who weren’t familiarized with the recruiting and talent acquisition industry had the same thoughts. If so, then I think it would be best to break them out of this one-size-fits-all mentality about recruiters.

I would like to clear the air about the following areas and help people outside of this industry understand our purpose a little bit better:

  • We don’t all work for commission: Yes. There are recruiters out there that work for agencies that only pay based on certain metrics. But that only makes up a small portion of recruiters. I’ve had people angrily say to me, “Well, what do you care? You’re only doing this to make your commission.” No. Wrong. Whether I hire you or not has no effect on my paycheck. Making a bonus has no part in the reason why I’m contacting you. I honestly reached out to you because I’m trying to find quality candidates for my client and I thought you were a potentially high caliber candidate.
  • We’re not sales people: Sure, sometimes recruiting duties have some similarities to sales functions. But that doesn’t make me a sales person. Some metrics are just to ensure that we are not only finding quality people, but that we’re also finding it in a timely manner. As much as I would love to find the best person ever, sometimes companies don’t have that time luxury. But regardless of this, it still does not make me a sales person. What I love about recruiting is the ability to help people find work and help companies find the person that can make their organization better. It’s about discovering the connection that benefits both parties.
  • We’re not all looking to hire temporary or contract employees: Sometimes companies don’t have the bandwidth to handle the tedious and long processes it takes to source and recruit candidates. They sometimes hire outside help to assist with their time sensitive positions. A good portion of those times, the positions are full-time, permanent, direct hires with the companies. So it may be best to clarify this with a recruiter before writing them off.
  • Trust me, we’re doing our homework: Just like you don’t appreciate having your time wasted by people reaching out to you for completely irrelevant job opportunities, we don’t like wasting our time searching for and connecting with candidates that aren’t a fit. In the blog article I mentioned earlier, the individual said something to the effect that “recruiters don’t do their homework.” I know several recruiters, including myself, that spend hours every day trying to educate themselves through various means. We try our hardest to wrap our heads around the lingo, the details, the expectations, and so on but sometimes we fall short. There is only so much we can learn about a job or industry without actually going to school for it or without actually working in it. It would almost be the same case as when a candidate first broke into their new job or first started going to school for a specific subject. Sometimes you can’t fully learn something until you do it for a while.
  • We take your feedback into consideration: On the same note as the “homework” thing, I’ve had plenty of candidates give me some detailed reasons about why a job was or was not a fit for them. Some even explained a few of the industry terms to me. Not only did I appreciate it, but I also shared it with my team so they can learn. Additionally, if the candidate said they weren’t a fit but gave me details of what they’re looking for, I’d happily pass them to someone who is recruiting for something more relevant. Your feedback does not go in one ear and out the other.
  • We’re not always recruiting for ONE job: We may reach out to you for one job because it seems like that’s what you’re most fitting for. However, there are plenty of times that we are recruiting for other positions or know someone who is recruiting for other positions. Instead of ignoring the phone or email, give us an idea of what you’re looking for (even if it’s passively) so we can hopefully help you down the line.
  • We’re extremely connected with each other: I wish I kept track of how many times I passed along a candidate to recruiters inside and outside of my organization. Sometimes I can’t help a candidate but know someone who could. I’ll try and get that resume to the appropriate person. I’ll try to help even if it doesn’t benefit me or my company. This seems to be pretty common in our industry (at least to me it seems so). I’ve worked with recruiters in different companies and different hemispheres to help candidates and vice versa. But just like a recruiter can positively recommend a candidate to someone, they can also be the reason why a candidate is not recommended. Remember to keep your interactions professional to ensure all recruiters have the correct perception and impression of you and can make those positive recommendations.

There are so many more points I can touch upon but I think this will do for now. Yes, there are recruiters out there that fit the negative outlook that the blog writer had indicated in his post. But it’s only hurting him to shut out all recruiters because he thinks this is how they all are. Recruiting is not an easy job. It involves a lot of research, strategy, and learning. We’re not just looking for ANYONE to fill a position, we’re looking for the RIGHT ONE. So before a candidate assumes that they’re just another random contact that has to be made to meet a recruiter’s metrics and goals, please consider the fact that we may be reaching out to you because we honestly think you could be the right person that our hiring manager is looking for.

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The Need for Digital Vacations

I’ll admit it- I have a problem. I’ve become so accustomed to checking my email, social media, and text messages that I’ve been on autopilot. I’ve been recently catching myself mindlessly unlocking my phone every couple of minutes to check if I missed something. Did my phone beep to indicate a new alert had come through? No. It’s just become the norm in my life. More often than not, I have my head down, focusing on some form of computer screen or smart phone. My brain is constantly working, multitasking virtual discussions and networking. Suddenly, it’s July and I don’t even know what I’ve done in my physical life that was significant. And then I was struck by a term I heard on #Tchat last week – the “digital vacation.”

I was curious. Needless to say, between managing multiple social media profiles, staying consistent with my personal brand, blogging, researching, networking, and creating and implementing social media training for my company and clients- I’m starting to feel a little burnt out. I love this industry and all the things I’ve been able to come in contact with because of social media and digital options but if I see (or even write) one more buzzword, my brain might spontaneously combust. As I got involved in social media, I realized that this is a lifestyle. You need to be present and consistent, otherwise you’ll potentially never make an impact. Over a year of doing this non-stop, and I’m a bit spent.

Then I learned about the digital vacation. As I learned more about the details of this, I started to see more people in my social circles participating in it. How can someone just take a break from this? How can you unplug without putting yourself completely behind? Apparently, it’s not as hard as I initially thought. Here were some suggestions from the wonderful contributors in #Tchat:

  • Set expectations: Inform your networks that you will be taking a digital vacation and that you will be unavailable. This can prevent them from contacting you with something pressing that you can’t ignore.
  • Utilize your tools: there are so many great tools out there that allows you to schedule posts to go out on specific days at certain times. I utilize Hootsuite pretty often when it comes to this. Even if you aren’t physically present on your social media, scheduling posts to go out while you’re on vacation can allow you to maintain your consistency.
  • Create boundaries: find ways to ensure your phone and computer aren’t tempting. Turn off alerts that come to your phone for that week or set a boundary for how much time (or what set hours) you can use your devices.
  • Have a responsible person on your team: the world doesn’t stop turning just because you’re unavailable, and thanks to technology, this is even truer. If your social media and digital presence is especially important (i.e. you are a business, consultant, etc.), have at least one person monitoring that and contacting you ASAP if anything dire happens that requires your attention. Knowing you have this safeguard can make you feel more confident about taking this break.
  • Relax: Need I say more?

I didn’t realize how much my digital life had taken over my regular life until I caught myself clutching onto my phone like a lifeline, terrified that I’d miss something major. I realized that it’s ok to take that break, especially if I don’t want to make my love for this industry turn into something that feels like a suffocating obligation. I appreciate all the tips about taking a digital vacation and I’m going to be trying this very soon.

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