Employment Branding: The Social Media Piece

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I’ve had acquaintances and colleagues reach out to me regarding employment branding over the years, and, in many cases, they simply wanted to brainstorm different ways to build a grassroots brand with little-to-no budget. I had been in similar situations in the past and although it would be nice to have a budget and/or a person completely dedicated to employer branding initiatives, I can see why it’s hard to convince an employer that it’s worth the investment. But fret not, there are still plenty of things you can do if you’re short on bandwidth or money.

Social media is a great option to get the word out about your company culture and jobs, and one many job seekers are now expecting to find if they’re doing research on your organization. If you’re the one trying to initiate the branding piece, consider how much time you have to dedicate it. Also consider your level of marketing skills. Although many people have used social media for personal purposes, it’s important to realize that personal experience and marketing skills are two very different things. Once you identify these things, here are a few suggestions to help you get your branding efforts up and running:

  • Choose your platform: Would it make more sense to separate out your employment brand from your consumer brand, or should you work with your marketing team to incorporate recruitment marketing into their content schedule? If you do decide to create new employment branded-based social media profiles, will you throw a wide net and utilize as many social media platforms as you can or optimize a couple platforms leveraged most by your audience? Figuring out these aspects are the first steps to developing out your social media employment branding strategy. Typically, though, many people put focus on mainstream platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Figure out your content calendar: There are plenty of free tools online to help you develop out a content calendar and schedule. Choose one that will keep you the most on track and stay consistent in your postings. Additionally, determine what you should post and how often. As a general suggestion, start small and assess the results. Do research to find out when the best times to post are and appropriate hashtags to use. For example, Facebook has highest engagement from 1-3pm on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. However, Twitter works best 3-6pm from Thursday through Sunday. Share your postings during that time manually or use tools like Hootsuite to automate postings.
  • Know what to post: Many people make the mistake of using their social media platforms as a way to simply post jobs. Although the point is to reach more candidates and increase your applications, many candidates will lose interest if you only post jobs. To keep people engaged and to continue to expand your network, incorporate content that will add value. For example, make sure you include things that will showcase your culture, like pictures of recent events or the day-to-day at the office. Also make sure you curate content. For instance, if you are a tech company, share content that is industry-focused. Or even share job-seeker tips. You want people to look at your feed and find useful take-aways rather than just a job feed.
  • Take time to communicate: Social media is meant to make it easy for individuals to communicate with each other. So, make sure to create opportunities for two-way communication. Respond to comments/inbox messages in a timely fashion. Comment on posts. Participate in social media chats, such as Twitter chats.
  • Track and adjust: Track results on a weekly basis for a month to three months and identify any patterns. Make adjustments and/or optimize successful results when making a more robust schedule later on. Some things to measure are engagement, hashtag impact, follower/like growth, clicks and hires. Some free tools you can check out are Ritetag and Keyhole. You could also leverage some free reporting via Hootsuite. There are tons of tools out there, so be sure to take the time to find the right one for your needs.

Employment branding can be done on a budget, even if you don’t have someone solely dedicated to the initiative. Little steps like the ones mentioned above can help you incorporate this into a talent acquisition strategy in the most efficient and effective way possible.

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#UCFBizChat: Uncovering Company Culture through Social Media

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A former colleague of mine recently reached out to ask if I would host a Twitter chat for her students at University of Central Florida (UCF). As a career center advisor, she was excited about the prospect of her business students getting exposure to seasoned recruiting professionals and the opportunity for them to get sound advice when it comes to careers after college. Of course, I was honored to contribute to the conversation, especially since the topic focused on investigating the company culture of prospective employers via social media.

Not so long ago I was in their shoes, aggressively looking for work at an employer I could feel excited about and one that seemed to match my personality and values. During my search, I discovered how informative social media was when trying to uncover that culture fit. Even after I finally landed a job, I often tell those who come to me for career advice about how important this research could be in terms of finding an employer that’s right for them. And for both students and experienced professionals, this should be a major part of the job seeking process. Digging deep with multiple resources allows a candidate to get a better sense of what the company is all about and may limit any surprises if they end up landing a job with the company.

As I’ve gotten more involved with things like employer branding, I’ve seen the hard work employers put in to try and provide valuable insight into their organization and jobs. They’ve really incorporated a ton of information about their culture, perks, videos, “a day in the life” campaigns and images of events or daily happenings. Although employers go through great lengths to provide a detailed and positive image for their companies to attract talent, I also know there are external factors that play a big part in the full employer brand, including news resources and employees themselves. Job seekers should incorporate this information too to ensure a more realistic and well-rounded view of the organization.

So, some simple research tips I suggest are as follows:

  • Career sites: Career sites are always a great starting point and may provide more information than just a job board. This is a place where employers can include updated information about the organization, specific roles and locations. Be sure to click around and review things like their videos, blogs, benefits details, corporate social responsibility and so on. Also, see if there are any external links to review, such as their social media sites.
  • Social media: Try to find career-focused social media sites for the company or their main social media sites if they don’t have it segregated. Review their postings, see how they interact with people and even investigate some hashtags they are using. This could help you discover current employees that are also using the hashtag to promote life at the company. It could provide you some more candid insight than what the employer shares on its own. Usually Twitter and Instagram are great for researching these things.
  • Google search: Performing general Google searches or setting Google Alerts can allow you to stay current with what’s going on at the company. Press releases, blogs, new jobs and news about the company keeps you updated with both good and bad. It could also help you get a feel for the direction the company is going in before you decide to apply to jobs. After all, you wouldn’t want to accept a job offer for a company that has been experiencing major lay-offs or is being acquired by a company that has a completely different culture. This can help protect your decisions.
  • Social networking: As I mentioned earlier, social media allows you to discover hashtags and current employees. If you’re really interested in a company, social media could be an easy way for you to connect with employees and get some real feedback about what it’s like to work there. If possible, I would also suggest trying to find an employee that either works in the location you’re looking at and/or an employee who might work in the same role or department. This can give you a direct look into the working conditions and culture of that particular office or role. Just because a company is tooting its horn for having an awesome company culture doesn’t always mean this trickles down to each location, department or role. It’s best to hear it straight from someone who knows.

School might be getting out, but doing your homework during your job search can save you a lot of headaches! Make sure to research on multiple platforms to ensure you’re getting the full story.

For those interested in this discussion, be sure to join #UCFBizChat on Friday, October 24th at 11:30am EDT.

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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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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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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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Consumer Brand vs. Employer Branding

Last week seemed like it was a hot week in the social media world in regard to branding. I was involved in a few different webinars that focused on brand ambassadors. I listened to #TalentNet radio show and participated in #TChat , as well, to hear more about the different perspectives when it came to effectively branding.  I learned all about the difference of influencers and ambassadors. I also learned about the importance of adding “personality” to your brand to engage an audience while still maintaining a bit of control. But one of the most interesting things I learned  was that a good portion of companies don’t realize there is a difference between consumer brand and employer brand.

For all my HR and talent acquisition people out there: it’s important to have an employer brand in order to attract talent. Additionally, it has to be a strong and consistent brand. In today’s job seeking world, candidates EXPECT to find more information on your company’s brand in order to determine if it would be a company they would be attracted to. Job seekers don’t care about the brand you use to tell people about your products and services. It might initially give them information about your company being a potential lead for employment, but it’s not going to engage them in the way you need.

First thing’s first- learn the difference:

Consumer Branding: As the article in Chron had stated: “Consumer branding is a concept that relies on the creation of visual, and possibly audio, elements that help to create recognition of the product. These branding options may include the shape of the packaging, colors, characters and even the shape or feel of the product itself.”  Needless to say, this branding is usually utilized to generate sales.

Employer Branding: As stated in WSJ: “The key is to align the brand with the company’s business plan, meaning the brand is designed to attract and retain the kinds of workers the company needs most — those who can help it increase sales, profits and market share. And the key to doing that is to borrow a tool from the product-marketing toolbox.”

Just like in consumer branding, it is important for employer branding to be engaging, transparent, show all of the “features”, give the “inside scoop”, and regularly update their audience about what’s new within the organization (i.e. partnerships, new career opportunities, changes in culture, and so on). Employer branding should be high on your list of “to-do” when it comes to talent acquisition and the results you get can not only bring in the best and brightest of talent, but can also allow your business to advance in ways you hadn’t imagined before.

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How are you Maintaining Your Culture?

 

As I’ve been going through the book, “Benefitfocus: Winning With Culture”, I’ve thought about what made their culture so successful compared to other companies. After thoroughly considering this question, I realized that some of the issues companies have in regard to creating and maintaining their cultures are because they don’t follow through. So many times I have witnessed companies state that they had a certain mission, culture, and vision and yet, some of their branches/locations or maybe even the company as a whole did not practice what they preached. So how can companies expect their employees to maintain the culture they specified if seasoned employees are teaching them something entirely different?

The reason why Benefitfocus can have bragging rights about their culture is because they actually practice what they preach. They defined their culture, they put it into play, and then they ensured that they kept up with the culture so it didn’t die throughout the years. Maintaining culture is all about consistency. If you want to be sure that your culture will live on and have more glory days, you need to be sure that every current and new employee who works for you knows what your culture is and what their duty is to play the part in making your company’s the best. Benefitfocus found a way and this allowed them to have endless employee testimonials raving about how the work environment is great, the reasons why it’s amazing, and the reasons why they are proud to work for the company.

Do you honestly believe majority of your workforce would feel that way? If not, then you need to consider some options on how to create and maintain the culture you originally wanted:

  • Get feedback from your employees: they’re the ones who are going to keep this culture going. The easiest way to ensure they’ll happily do so is to create a culture that not only has the company’s best interest at heart, but also one that takes in account the employees’ values. It is a lot easier to promote a culture if it involves things that relates to your employees’ personal values.
  • Create your backbone: based off of your company’s needs and the feedback you received, you should be able to define a clear list of what the culture should be. This will be the foundation of your culture and also will define your employer brand.
  • Create a plan of action: decide on what course of action you will need to take to make this list into a reality. After all, the issue that companies deal with is the fact that they say they’re one thing but never really do anything to prove it. Thoroughly determine what steps the company and employees will need to take to build the culture.
  • Set up a maintenance plan: maintaining your culture will take continuous effort. Be sure to appoint people in the organization (even a rotation of people) to gather feedback, encourage, and troubleshoot. To maintain the culture, it must always be in the front of every employee’s mind. It must always be practiced.
  • Celebrate: give your employees reasons to want to maintain this culture- don’t just tell them to do it and then forget about it. Culture should always mean a reason to celebrate and promote a good-feeling, overall. Get your employees into the habit of correlating their efforts to maintain the culture into something positive.

The culture of the company is the core of the company. It defines who they are to customers and to employees. It determines if the company will attract quality talent to lead the company to success or not. Benefitfocus has endless pages of positive employee endorsements – maybe if your company follows these steps, it could, too.

Benefitfocus Culture

Benefitfocus:Winning with Culture