This week I had the opportunity to present at the Glassdoor Employment Brand Summit. The meeting was like the “twitteratti” (like Glitteratti) of recruiting. Lars Schmidt, Stacy Donovan Zapar (Zappos and Restoration Hardware), Jen Powell (Deloitte), Bryan Chaney (IBM), Will Staney(Glassdoor), Jennifer Tharp (AT&T) , Shannon Smedstad (CEB), Arie Ball (Sodexo), Anthony Scarpino (Sodexo) were all presenters and I walked away even more convinced of the tremendous importance of employment branding. (I recommend you listen to the replays.)
Why has employment branding become so critical? Because the job market has become highly transparent and if you can’t excite people about what you do and why they should work for you, they are likely to go elsewhere. The presentations focused on some very important topics: how to promote your culture, how to manage all the content you produce, how to define personas and target your messaging, and how to use story-telling to attract people.

The focus of my presentation was a simple message: you can’t market something you don’t have. If your people are not happy and engaged, selling your company will be difficult.

Look at the nature of the problem. Gallup believes that only 13% of all employees are highly engaged and Glassdoor data shows that only 54% of employees would recommend their employers to others. Many people are unhappy with their jobs, even if they’re not telling you explicitly. (We have more on this topic coming in an upcoming research study.)

Worse than this, companies often oversell (or over-position) their job opportunities. Robert Hohman, the CEO of Glassdoor, told us that 51% of job seekers have buyers remorse and 83% of those individuals leave their employer in the first year. So we as talent acquisition leaders must make sure we are authentic, honest, and clear about who we want to recruit.

Engagement, or your ability to create an Irresistible Organization, is fundamental to your employment brand. People go home each night, talk to their spouse friends and family, and spread the word about your company. If they’re not happy, word gets around.

Glassdoor is making a tremendously important impact on this process. Several of the employers at the conference told us that they see more traffic on their Glassdoor company page than their own career website. People are searching around to understand your culture, career opportunities, what the environment is like, and how leadership is viewed.

Leadership and management plays a huge role. New research we just completed shows that the factor most highly correlated with an employee’s willingness to recommend their company to others is their respect for senior leadership. So everything leaders do is reflected in your employment brand… so if your leaders are not part of this process, your recruitment efforts will suffer.

As I discussed in the speech, recruiters are like the canaries in the coal mine. You are out there talking with candidates, walking them through the interview process, and hearing what people think about your company. If people are mistreated by hiring managers or hear bad rumours about the work environment, you hear it first. So it’s your responsibility to carry this information back to the company and tell HR and business leadership what’s going on.

An analogy which occurred to me is the relationship between the sales force and the product team at a software company. Sales people get unfiltered information from customers about what’s wrong with the product. So strong product teams listen to sales people and actively work to address the issues they bring back. In talent acquisition the recruiter is the “sales person” – pitching the company, finding customers, and closing deals. When they hear common objections, we need to listen to them and fix the “product” (the company).

Our new research on employee engagement and culture shows that there are 20 inter-related factors which drive engagement. We call this model the Irresistible Organization, and a small overview is shown below. Engagement is impacted by work itself, job design, management, leadership, the work environment, and a variety of developmental issues in the company. Our job in HR is to stitch these together and work with leadership to fix any problems that arise.

We are completing a new research report on this topic (available this Autumn) and I am happy to talk with any of our clients about the model in more detail.

The bottom line is this: without a focus on making your workplace “great,” employment brand will suffer. When your engagement and culture is strong (and you hire the right people who fit), marketing your company becomes easy.

Today more than ever, integrated talent management touches everything. The way you hire, manage, lead, reward, and treat people will impact all your HR, learning, and leadership programs. Think holistically and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

I’ll be talking much more about this at the upcoming HR Technology Conference in October – I hope to see you there.