Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Universum Advisory Board in the US

I have just returned from a business trip in the US, where we conducted an Advisory Boards for the most popular employers in America. The Advisory Board was hosted by McKinsey & Company in New York.

We touched upon different topics, and I had the opportunity to make a lot of reflections. Here are some of them:

First of all it looks like US employers face more employer branding challenges than ever due to the “New dot-com” companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. They are moving in with strong employer brands. These companies offer the stability that the old dot-com companies could not, and are therefore looked as good alternatives to traditional careers in corporate America that struggled during the financial crises.

External Employer Branding activities are moving toward more event-based branding such as competitions, and case studies, making students feel more important to the employer by involving them.

With the economy heating up after the financial crises, companies are coming back putting their employer brand out there to increase the awareness. Hence, it’s increasingly important to be aware of competitors’ images – not just one’s own. And employers have to keep in mind that the image they project externally has to be true internally as well. Failing to do so ultimately creates an even bigger problem – the retention of the top talents. The key to successful retention is to make sure the company can live up to the brand and the employer value proposition.

One of the hottest trends at present is internships. The market for talent is changing, as in the rest of the world. The Millennials are bringing new values and attitudes to work – they really need to understand how it is to work there. Companies have therefore increased their focus on internal branding and cross-departmental cooperation in order to connect their internal and external branding strategies. One way of showing the internal identity is by offering internships. It is seen as a very efficient tool, not just for recruitment but also for improved retention. Internships are now being developed into an on-boarding experience, designed to bring students into the company long-term.

I look forward to learn more at our next global Advisory Board in London!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Communication matter - dare to stand out

The number of communication channels has exploded over the last years. The social media has taken over the place and a single message can reach thousands in a very short time. At the same time, traditional print media has proved to be here to stay and the word of mouth seems to be a stronger communication channel than ever. As the time is passing by and talent shortage being the biggest future challenge, employers are struggling over what channels to invest time and resources in and what to communicate to an demanding audience uploaded 24/7 with networks connecting the whole world.

When planning a communication campaign towards future talent, there are some golden rules to follow. The first one is the audience, the target group of the message. What kind of future talent are we looking for and how should the audience be broken down into a target group in order to find the true stars?

Different target groups value different things and in order to attract the right talent the message needs to be customized based on the preferences by the selected target group. The employers need to dare to stand out and communicate unique messages. A recruitment ad should be attractive and increase interest, but at the same time reflect the company’s culture and values. Today, in order to succeed with the communication of the employer brand, the corporate brand and consumer brand, the brands need to be in line throughout all communication as the target group will be influence by all of them. Communication of the true values and culture is a key as the new generation has both the interest and the knowledge of comparing digital messages to the reality. If a new hire realizes the values communicated, that he or she believed in, are not present in the organization, the person will sooner or later look for another job.

As important as the message, is the communication channel. An attractive message will not attract the right talents if communicated through the wrong channel. There is no communication channel that can be used for all types of messages as little as one message can be used for all talent groups. Apart from traditional recruitment brochures and recruitment ads, more and more employers take the step into social media using social communities, blogs and employer videos. But remember, to drive brand awareness, the print media is the best.

When identifying the right communication channels, the company’s current position among the selected target group and on the market needs to be taken into consideration. Some channels will deliver better results than others, and also regarding choice of channel, differentiation from competitors is the key word. Research and evaluation of different channel alternatives requires more work, but will pay off as the message targets the desired target group.

Globally, the most used communication channel for students to find information about an unknown employer is the employer websites. But something needs to drive you to the webpage, and very often it is the print, e.g. career magazines. And remember; don’t fill print material with company history and hard facts that the talent can find on the internet. They don’t use print to get this kind of information. The second most useful channel according to the students is career fairs. This also proves that personal meetings and print communication are still as important as the communication on the internet when students are unfamiliar with an employer.

Social media as a communication channel is here to stay and today there are thousands of different social media publishing technologies available. Most popular are the personal social networks (Facebook), professional social networks (LinkedIn), blogs, microblogs (Twitter) and video sharing platforms (Youtube). Still there are many employers reluctant to step in to the social media. Even though an employer decides not to be present and take actions within the social media, the employer will be discussed, criticized and cheered in the networks. As it is not possible to take control over the discussions on the web, the best strategy is to be involved and follow the discussions to be updated on the discussions around your brand.

As the content in social media is user-generated, the way of communicating differ from traditional one way communication. The involvement needs to be engaged and ongoing, resources allocated and social media platform to engage in chosen. The interactions should be personalized discussions instead of information sharing and it’s important to be available and engage in conversations.

One group that sometimes is left aside when communicating the employer brand is the internal audience, the current employees – your ambassadors! The most credible sources for gathering information about potential employers are according to students worldwide, people they know working for the employer, friends, and other employees at the employer. The employees are the most important asset in the organization and the most trustworthy brand ambassadors. This is also why it is crucial that the external message towards future talent, is handed up by the current employees. Satisfied employees are the best communication channels you can get.

There are always risks with communication. The wrong message, sent to the wrong target group communicated through the wrong channel. A golden rule in communicating the employer brand is continuous communication to the target audience. During down turns when recruitment is slow, the message needs to be different from the message at good times. The best talent communication campaigns and messages are created by the marketing, communication and HR departments working closely together with the parts of the process they are experts on. In order to be successful in communicating you need to do your home work and make sure you know the target group to communicate to, their preferences and where to find them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Start working on your “employer value proposition” now!

If you are involved in employer branding, you have noticed that this field is becoming more and more crowded. Professional services firms – whose only product is their talent – have tripled their business the last decade, which means that they are even greater competitors for talent today.

Furthermore, despite financial crises, a wider variety of companies are working with employer branding than ever before in 2010. Everyone is doing it, from Google to governments, from super-sized corporations to mid-size regional employers. They are all fighting for talents - as you are. And the war for talent isn’t just a war about people; it’s a demographic too. In Norway, the last five years, Cities and regions have been branding themselves against each other, trying to attract the ideal talent and families for their region.

We are facing two main challenges in the future: First, the aging population, which leads to scores of workers going into retirement. Second, the shortages of crucial skills among workers. According to a survey I read some years ago, conducted by the global business research organisation Conference Executive Board , I remember they stated that the quality of applicants is 10 per cent lower now than it was a decade ago. So, what can you do to put up a good fight?

The answer is: “Start with your employer value proposition”! This is the foundation for all other employer branding work. If you ensure that it is distinctive, true and long-term, it will act as your own Force and keep you powerful.

Good luck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What are leading companies doing in terms of employer branding?

What are leading companies doing in terms of employer branding? What are the new trends? What are the strategies used by companies to profile themselves in order to reach the talent market? Let me present the current trends that I have seen lately in Europe, Asia and US. In general, companies want measurable results for their efforts. Although still popular with traditional corporate presentations on campus, companies are adding more focused events for students. Many companies use one-on-one “marketing” earlier in the recruitment process. In addition to trends such as niche-specific recruitment marketing, employers are making better use of web sites and social media.

The strategies companies use to market themselves to respective target groups are more refined than they have been in the past. The financial crises put more pressure on HR and demand for ROI. Universum has identified a few trends in this area that showcase the best employer branding has to offer.

Event-based marketing
Although events have been a popular venue for employer branding for quite some time, the style and scope have changed in recent years. Traditional events where companies invite students to dinner and hold a corporate presentation is supplied with events that focus solely on recruitment. A recent survey from Universum conducted among 1000 companies shows that 63% are doing events in 2010. The activities during the event may include competitions that present a problem for the students to solve. Vestas in Denmark (www.vestas.com) is a good example, inviting students from 10 – 14 countries each year to a 4-days event. With these competitions, both students and recruiters gain better perspective on one other; the students have a better understanding of what the position will entail and learn more about the company culture. The recruiters have more concrete information and insight into the applicants. Furthermore, companies are including line and senior managers much earlier in the recruitment process. “The idea is to make you feel special, and also give candidates the sense that the senior management at the company is actually going to care about their success. It’s a huge driver when you’re hiring at the undergraduate level or graduate level, definitely in the US, but also globally among the new generation (generation Y).

Moving online and to web 2.0
Just as consumer-marketing activities occur more often online than off, employer branding has started to follow suit and change its communication platform. Lately, many companies have moved their consumer marketing activities online, and the same idea is slowly trickling through to the employer-branding field. The same survey shows that 54% of the companies are planning to work with social media during 2010. They put up sites for fan clubs on Facebook, and it can became a cool sort of viral marketing. Now we’re seeing that this is starting to reflect in the employer-branding space. In the employer-branding area, some companies have also started using podcasting in their recruitment marketing practice as well, especially in the US and Asia.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Big 4 challenge Google’s position as the world’s most attractive employer

Universum released the global talent attraction index last week: “The World’s Most Attractive Employers 2010”, based on close to 130,000 career seekers, with a business or engineering background. Following the unprecedented world release in 2009, Google still manages to keep the no. one position, but this time facing growing competition from the big four auditing firms. In the business category, 2010 has been a good year for the auditing industry, as the top four companies now take four out of the top five places in the ranking. “We’re witnessing the auditing firms and FMCG companies reconquering their talent group after a brief love-affair with the IT industry”, said Michal Kalinowski, Universum’s CEO in an interview last week. On a less positive note, the companies in the Banking and Investment industry, Management Consulting, and Oil & Gas, now encounter the problem of being perceived as less attractive employers.

In the engineering category, however, the IT-sector companies continue to dominate: the top three employers
Google, Microsoft, and IBM—maintain their positions from last year. The notable changes are Japan’s Sony at no. four and Apple’s new entry. German car manufacturer BMW is still the most powerful employer brand in the automotive industry. In the top 10, where American corporations dominate, praise must also be given to Siemens for their 8th position.

World’s Top 10—Business
1. Google (1)
2. KPMG (8)
3. Ernst & Young (5)
4. PricewaterhouseCoopers (2)
5. Deloitte (10)
6. Procter & Gamble (6)
7. Microsoft (3)
8. The Coca-Cola Company (13)
9. J.P. Morgan (7)
10. Goldman Sachs (4)

World’s Top 10—Engineering
1. Google (1)
2. Microsoft (2)
3. IBM (3)
4. Sony (7)
5. BMW (4)
6. Intel (5)
7. General Electric (6)
8. Siemens (8)
9. Procter & Gamble (10)
10. Apple (new entry)

In parenthesis is the company’s position in 2009.

Go to www.universumglobal.com/Top50

Lovisa Öhnell, Universum’s research and consulting director, commented about 2010’s index, “Firms in the professional services need to attract top talent to be successful; the auditing firms are aware of the challenges and spend a lot of resources in talent attraction and employer branding. Regarding the career seekers in the engineering field, potential hires find companies that are innovative and produce exciting products & services to be attractive employers nowadays”.

In a world where top performing employees are becoming a scarce commodity, finding the right people is critical for business success and stock market value. At a time where low birth and death rates are significantly shifting world demographics, the dilemmas of the 21st century are not only “Who will make up the workforce?”, yet more importantly “Who will own it?“ Universum’s global talent attraction index is based on the number of nominations by career seekers—in 12 of the world’s largest economies—for companies they would ideally like to work for. The relevance for companies: 1) This target group will soon graduate from top academic institutions and enter tomorrow’s workforce; 2) The index indicates the companies that are top-of-mind employers and to what extent; 3) These are the companies that have a competitive advantage in the “War for Talent”.

“Multinational corporations are increasingly aware of the current and future challenges of a shrinking workforce. To counter problems in securing their talent pipeline requires a talent attraction and employer branding strategy. The companies that will be able to draw this next generation of top talents are presented in Universum’s global talent attraction index 2010“, concluded Michal.

The index reveals some dramatic trends

When 70% of corporate value is from intangible assets (according to Accenture) and skill shortages are acute worldwide, being an attractive employer is critical to keep a sustained competitive advantage.

1. American multinationals increase their lead over the rest of the world.

Already in 2009 the American companies was the largest single group in the top 50 companies (20 among business students and 17 among engineering students – even not counting Big 4 and large management consulting firms as US organisations). This year the number is 24 for both lists.

“It seems that despite the challenges to the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon capitalist model, the American corporations are increasingly the preferred destination for global top talent. They are often perceived as the true international organisations, where nationality will not stand in your way to the top”, said Michal.

“An interesting sign of things to come is that for the first time ever there is a Chinese company in top 50 – Lenovo nr 44 among engineers” commented Michal.

2. Employer Brands decoupled more and more from Corporate Brands.

Comparing the list of the most attractive employers with the list of most admired companies (by Fortune) or most valuable brands (by Interbrand), it is clear that extremely attractive employers do not depend as much on their consumer or corporate brands. The overlap between the rankings above and Universum’s global index is only half.

3. Companies that help talent develop the “me brand” are more attractive.

The world’s global talent are concerned about their own development and outside image. For that reason, they tend to choose companies that provide professional training and development, a good reference to a future career and organisations that have leaders who’ll support their development. The big 4 auditing firms just happen to be perceived by the talent group as fulfilling these important selection criteria.

4. Perception of industry and brand are interdependent.

Due to the banking and investment sector being perceived as responsible for one of the world’s largest economic meltdowns in history, employers in the industry have lost their appeal as a great place to kick-start one’s career. Management consulting companies have also dropped in the rankings, often linked to the banking and investment sector, and may have been perceived as part of the problem for past financial mismanagement. Due to public consciousness of environment issues companies in the Oil & Gas industry also face challenges to attract top talent and have also experienced a drop in the rankings this year.

About Universum’s Global Talent Attraction Index

The global top 50 is based on the frequency of being selected as an “Ideal Employer” by career seekers in the world’s 12 largest economies: U.S., Japan, China, Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Russia and India. The target group is comprised of close to 130,000 career seekers, who are studying for degrees in one of the world’s reputed academic institutions.

About Universum
Universum is an international company that specialises in the field of employer branding*. Founded in 1988, its goal was to improve communication between students and the employers who want to recruit them. Today, Universum’s mission is to help employers excel in recruitment and retention by ensuring improvements to their employer brand. Universum delivers a full range of services in research, strategic consulting and communication solutions that enable employers to better understand, attract and retain current and future ideal employees. Universum is a trusted partner to 1,200 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, and co-operates with 1,500 universities worldwide to conduct research on the career and employer preferences of top talent. On an annual basis, the company surveys approximately 400,000 students and professionals worldwide. For more information, go to
*Employer branding is the strategy companies use to appeal to desired current and future ideal talent.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Selling employer branding to top management

In order to effectively initiate and execute your employer branding strategy, support from top management is necessary. So how do you get top management interested? Employer branding is a cross-functional responsibility that spans across several functions and areas of expertise, such as marketing, HR and communication. Hence, it is vital to reach consensus and build co-operation internally. Without top management’s active support, effective employer branding may be difficult to execute.

I often see that Employer branding initiatives are often met with deeply rooted skepticism such as it is too difficult to conduct a cost/benefit analysis and measure results. Why should anyone invest in a new project with hard-to-measure pay-off and no solid facts to lean on? Hopefully, yours is the organization where the top management puts emphasis on people strategies. However, people-related initiatives are not alone in being difficult to measure. In fact, many marketing professionals I meet encounter many of the same kind of obstacles and critique. The difference is, however, that marketing professionals have more experience “selling” their ideas and initiatives to others. Therefore, the next time your top management team does not recognize the importance of employer branding, the solution may simply be to improve your sales pitch!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The value of Employer Branding

The buzz word “Employer Branding” is back after some difficult years with the financial crises. The word “Employer branding” sound nice but what is the value? For the last two years I have heard many times: “We only focus on short term recruitment and don’t have the time or resources for employer branding.”

But investing in long term employer branding is investing in short term recruitment. Unfortunately the opposite is not true - investing in short term recruitment is NOT investing in long term employer branding. In fact, prioritizing employer branding gives a better return on your recruiting investment in terms of both money and quality. The British Lloyds TSB knows this first hand, just to take an example. Their Dark Horse campaign in 2006 during the good times (featured in the first issue of Universum Quarterly 2006), cut the company’s graduate recruitment cost by half, to an average of GBP 3,500. Studies show that recruitment, including senior executives, can cost up to $70,000. How much money would you save? Even more important to the cost savings is that the quality of the candidates will improve. This means shorter recruitment periods and better-quality employees in the empty seats.

Another misconception about employer branding is that it is only warranted when a company is actively recruiting. The financial crisis has showed that many seem to think employer branding can take a hiatus in times of non-recruitment. But, as the best in the business know, beginning to build an employer brand when recruitment picks up again is way too late.

So to all companies out there – those who recruit and those who currently don’t – enjoy this blog and use it for a better Employer Branding future :)!