How to Build a Brand That Attracts A-Players
We all want our business to be best in class. And we don’t just want employees who help the brand thrive, we want to work with people who are passionate about what they do.
In many ways, the Internet has made finding the best candidates easier than ever. There are tools that allow you to organize and sift through thousands of applicants and track their progress through your pipeline. They allow you to do preliminary screenings of people from all around the world before bringing top talent in for a personal interview.
But all that reach and flexibility also has a cost. As Cal Newport explained in his book Deep Work, the Internet has also turned the world into an employee’s market – for the best of them, at least. If you’re top of your field, it’s easier than ever to interview with multiple companies around the world. And with the rising popularity of remote working and freelance contractors, you may not even need to relocate to accept a great offer.
That’s why today, more than ever, it’s important for companies large and small to work hard to develop their brand and fight vigorously to attract and retain top talent.
Attracting the best talent has been one of the keys to the success of our digital marketing agency and today I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Strive to Be Brag Worthy
Social status is a strong motivator for many of us. While we want to avoid creating a brand that is driven only by ego, almost everyone wants to impress someone, whether that’s their employer, customer or parents. So make sure your company is one that your employees are proud to work for and tell their friends about – and not just how much they earn, but about the good that the company is doing.
Start by focusing on building a strong reputation for excellence in your industry. The best examples are brands like Apple, Google, and Amazon – all brag-worthy names that people instantly recognize and know something about, whether they’re in the industry or just a consumer. Every business has its weak points, but these brands are generally known for their ability to go above and beyond – for their customers, for their employees, and with their products.
In addition, many A-players are looking to grow, learn, and improve their skills, and an organization with a reputation for excellence often proves to be a worthy training ground. Employees are excited about not just bringing their expertise to the company, but continuing to be challenged and expand their knowledge.
Consider this: the iconic Post-It Note was invented by 3M employee Arthur Fry during his paid time off that the company gave everyone to explore their own projects. Companies like this put the adage “creativity requires leisure” to good use by encouraging their workers to grow and learn in non-traditional ways.
And social proof isn’t just about consumer marketing. One of the first things a job applicant will do is Google your company. If they see an average 2.5 rating from your customers, they’ll probably steer clear of you if they have any other options.
Beyond that, make sure to give existing employees meaningful work, treat them with trust and respect, and load up on awesome and thoughtful benefits (not just fancy perks like in-office happy hours, but childcare or solid healthcare insurance). Give them a reason to make their friends jealous and word will get around that your office is the place to be Monday-through-Friday.
Potential candidates will also see your company’s Facebook page, website, and customer and employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor, so make sure that these sites aren’t only focused on attracting clients.
Share photos of your team on social media having fun and enjoying their work and post testimonials of current employees on your career page. If your hiring team is new to this, send them over to the marketing department for a few days to study up.
Remember, in 2017 marketing isn’t just about getting new clients.
Have an Excellent Candidate Experience
Just like building excellent customer experience is important to closing and retaining new clients, so it is for closing and retaining top talent. You need to think of the process like a sales funnel.
1. Start with a great careers portal
Make sure this page is mobile responsive and loads quickly. Clearly define what you’re looking for in a candidate and avoid vague buzzwords that are absent of clear meaning.
Talk about your company values and the type of work they will be tasked with. And make sure to list all your benefits, especially the unique ones that set you apart.
2. Make sure no candidate goes unanswered
I know this can be a tough one for any organization, but it’s really important. Even a polite template that says “sorry but we’ve decided to go with someone else” is better than silence. After all, these applicants took the time and made the effort to apply for your position. Develop a reputation for treating everyone like a human being that matters.
3. Make communications personal
I’m not saying you need to handwrite a letter to each candidate every time they advance to the next round, but take a moment to do more than a bcc blast.
Use a standard template or e-mail automation software to include their name and position. For later rounds or high-level positions where you’re dealing with 10 or fewer candidates, take the time to personalize it further by commenting on your last meeting.
4. Never leave candidates guessing
Some old-fashion interview techniques suggest letting them “sweat it out,” but when looking at the best of the best, this is a dangerous strategy in which you may wind up losing someone you really want. Don’t let them guess whether or not you’re interested or keep them waiting too long. Much like the dating game, the heart is fickle, and they have other options, too.
5. Personalize your rejections
At the top of your funnel, this might be as simple as including their name in a rejection letter that doesn’t sound overly corporate or robotic. At a later stage, it really should be a phone call.
If appropriate, give the candidate some constructive feedback. But remember what your mother taught you…if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The goal is not to burn a bridge or give someone a reason to bad-mouth you down the road.
6. Have great onboarding
Good, organized onboarding is absolutely critical. In fact, The Wynhurst Group found that “new employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.”
7. Listen to feedback
The funnel doesn’t stop there. As you probably know, retention can be even more critical than acquisition as studies show that the cost of replacing an employee can be up to 16% of their salary for an hourly employee, and up to 213% of their salary for an upper-level position! Not to mention all that lost productivity time.
Make sure that performance reviews aren’t one way. Encourage employees to evaluate management and seek their input on company policies. If employees aren’t giving any good feedback, don’t assume that you’re doing everything perfectly. You always have room to improve. The truth is, they probably don’t feel comfortable being open. To deal with this, make sure to offer an anonymous way that employees can submit feedback.
8. Do meaningful exit interviews
When a team member leaves, treat them with respect and curiosity. Don’t make them feel bad or try to persuade them to stay – the time for that is over. Instead, make an effort to understand their motivations for leaving. See if there is anything you can change about your business to prevent other talent from following suit in the future.
Develop Strong Company Values
This is among the most important things that a business can do – but it’s far from easy. Clearly defining your values will help you two-fold when it comes to recruitment:
- It will help you identify what qualities you are looking for in a candidate.
- It will help candidates know if they are a good fit for your business.
The key here is to develop unique and specific values to define what your team stands for and expects. Don’t just pick a few vague words like “excellence,” “dedication” or “passion.” There are tons of exercises you can do to figure out and/or clarify this and this great Buffer article can help guide you through this process.
Once you’ve set those values, make sure that you adhere to them and let your employees know that you expect them to as well. In the Buffer article, their co-founder recounts how their team shrank by 25% after they defined their core values:
“That’s what culture does. It’s a disinfectant – it hurts a lot, but you end up being a lot stronger.”
The result was a team that was much more in alignment and therefore had a strong base to build from. Which is the final kernel of wisdom – hire the right people.
Don’t just hire skills, experience or connections. Hire good fits. Hire people who will become brand ambassadors for your company. Hire people who share your values and goals, people who love their work and whose passion is contagious.
If you can do this part right, from leadership to entry-level, almost everything else here will fall into place.
A New Approach to Marketing
Maybe I’m biased because I run a digital marketing agency, but I think it’s about time that your HR team sat down with your marketing team and talked about how to effectively work together.
We’ve talked a lot about how marketing can impact your hiring strategy, but it’s also worth noting that in today’s world the way you treat your employees and partners can have a big impact on the world’s perception of you, too.
What do you think? Are there other ways we can bring marketing and HR together in order to build a brand that attracts A-players?