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!