• A GUIDE TO CREATING AND MANAGING A POWERFUL TALENT BRAND

    by Bill Ballas

    TALENT BRANDING: BEYOND A COMPANY’S REPUTATION

    It may be true that a dissatisfied customer tells 10 people about their experience and an unhappy employee tells 100, but talent branding is much more than a company’s reputation. In fact, talent branding lies at the heart of HRM programs because it creates the emotional connectivity between the company and its human capital.

    For the past several years companies such as Google, Toyota, Ford and Marriott have made talent branding the foundation of their long-term retention and recruitment strategies. Simply stated, talent branding is a marketing campaign directed to prospective employees, current staff, and other key stakeholders. Due to its positive impact on recruitment, retention, engagement and profitability, talent branding is a major HRM strategy for corporations worldwide.

    In this blog entry you will see talent branding’s benefits to a company as well as its members and stakeholders, and you will have the chance to order a complimentary copy of my in-depth “Step-by-Step Guide to Creating and Managing a Powerful Talent Brand.”

    5 BENEFITS OF TALENT BRANDING

    Talent branding represents five major competitive advantages for employers: (1) it improves recruitment and (2) retention rates – especially in competing for experienced, highly-skilled, and technical talent; (3) helps market HR throughout the company, (4) casts a “halo” over the company’s consumer brand(s); and (5) enables employers to make truly better workplaces.

    A strong talent brand helps an organization differentiate itself from competitors since its messages remind targets and members how deeply allied they are with the company in terms of mission, vision, and values, and in achieving the organization’s goals. In terms of retention, it has been well-documented that members who possess the same values and norms as their employer tend to stay and remain motivated and engaged.

    The talent brand serves HR’s self-interests, too, because it helps communicate the department’s contributions to key stakeholders. In fact, organizations whose talent and consumer brands are aligned have discovered their talent brand casts a “halo” on the consumer brand(s).

    Companies with a talent brand also have better workplaces because they tend to live up to the talent brand’s promise. If a company is not a good place to work, it is impossible to create a talent brand communicating it is. Trying to create a false brand is unethical and a waste of resources.

    3 ELEMENTS OF TALENT BRANDING

    To create and manage a talent brand requires a well-defined, interdepartmental process  for managing the company’s (1) reputation, (2) culture, and (3) value proposition. Each of element is essential for talent attraction, selection, and retention.

    Managing the company’s reputation helps ensure the right applicants apply for the right positions, and that they fit with the organization’s culture. A company’s strong reputation adds prestige to a position, thus encouraging attraction, and inspires employees to maintain their association.

    Managing the organization’s culture is crucial to attracting the right applicants. A well-defined and clearly understood culture appeals to prospects who share the firm’s values and norms, making these individuals more likely to accept job offers and stay with the company. Plus, these members are more apt to remain motivated and engaged.  

    Managing the firm’s value proposition requires understanding the unique qualities the company offers members, why the employees are better off than if they worked for a competitor, and communicating those attributes consistently. Companies who do this are better able to convey the firm’s high intrinsic and extrinsic rewards which allows them to attract more qualified applicants, and retain and engage members.

    CREATING YOUR TALENT BRAND

    To craft a successful talent brand, one must first form a value proposition. As summarized earlier, a value proposition is a positioning statement that explains your value to employees and how you do so uniquely well. It also describes the main advantage(s) you offer members, and why employment with your company is far better than working for a competitor.

    Keep in mind that value propositions can follow various structures so long as they are easy to understand, differentiate the company from competitors, and demonstrate proof that your organization’s value proposition is unique and real. However, eCornell has a free positioning statement generator to help folks write a clear and persuasive value proposition (http://blog.ecornell.com/how-to-write-market-positioning-statements/).

    Using the eCornell format for WSB as an example, our value proposition is:

    For businesses and not-for-profits alike, WSB is uniquely qualified among ad agencies or consulting firms to create a talent brand because of our expertise in Human Resources, Leadership Development, and Branding.

    WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD A TALENT BRAND REFLECT?

    A talent brand exists only as a set of beliefs and associations in the minds of prospective employees and active staff, and is part the company’s cultural network (e.g. informal communication). Therefore, the talent brand must be authentic, reveal the employer’s essence, and reflect the real culture and principles of the organization. If it doesn’t match reality, the retention rate will quickly decline.

    There are several ways to create a talent brand. One method I use is to begin by surveying recent recruits and longer-term members to learn what concepts, words, and slogans they find compelling. Based on their insights, WSB creates materials to test several visual and verbal messages with employees in focus groups until the talent brand emerges.

    Bringing the talent brand to life entails formalizing it into HR’s planning, job analysis, recruitment, and selection processes. This is done by validating strategies through SMART goals and other metrics, and institutionalizing a “talent brand” campaign.

    Such campaigns often feature the talent brand being communicated through employee testimonials. In these endorsements, employees speak about the organization’s vision, culture, and their relationship with the company. Most importantly, members share their achievements and how the organization is helping to fulfill their career goals.

    Regardless of specific strategies and tactics, the talent brand image, statement and testimonials should be featured on the organization’s website, social media sites, and in HR advertising and other consumer touch points. This is especially true before, during, and after job interviews. Indeed, any contact with the talent brand must leave a positive perception with all job candidates – even those not selected.

    BENEFIT TO HRM PROGRAMS

    A talent brand benefits HR professionals and HRM programs in several ways. First, it enables HR staff to learn how members feel the HR department is and should be performing. Once staff feedback is analyzed, appropriate suggestions are implemented which leads to a better workplace.

    Secondly, the talent branding process requires a campaign with specific measurable goals. HR departments communicate these outcomes (and the value of HRM programs) to members, executive staff, and other key stakeholders. This talent branding campaign’s SMART goals and objectives will likely indicate HR’s substantial, indirect contribution to company profitability.

    Talent branding establishes the emotional connectivity between the employer and the  organization’s human capital by creating strong bonds with forthcoming employees and existing members. It reveals the company’s soul by establishing shared values and beliefs. Moreover, talent branding promotes better workplaces, HRM programs, and staying ahead of competitors.

    And talent branding's value is measurable.

    Creating and managing a talent brand requires more than the HR department overseeing a silo function. In fact, it requires the talents of many folks across the enterprise coordinating a process of inputs and messages to their diverse constituencies. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of my detailed "Step-By-Step Guide to Creating and Managing a Powerful Talent Brand," drop me an email at billballas@wsballas.com. 

     


  • MAJOR TRENDS IN CSR

    A colleague and I were having lunch recently when our natter predictably lurched to work.  She asked what I thought was trending in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) field.  My top-of-mind reply was, “What is old is new again. But more so.”

    What I meant was – and this is obvious – that we live and work in a time where “brand is king.”  As a result, corporations and their foundations use philanthropy as a tool to develop their brands as never before.

    Sure, relationships and mission alignment are important.  Yet today’s “reputation economy” demands more of us.  In fact, it obligates our proposals – whether they be for cash, sponsorships, in-kind contributions or volunteers – to be driven by advancing the grantor’s brand.

    Doing so offers new, meaningful, and thrilling ways to grow revenue.  Mentioned below is my method for using today’s CSR environment to further the grantor’s interests as well as mine.  I hope you find it useful.

    If you are already incorporating any of these practices, then I say “Congratulations!” to you.  Because you know the "traditional ask” is dead in the eyes of foundation decision-makers.

    My assumption is you are skilled in performing research, getting meetings, and preparing a test pitch.  Thus I will only share my techniques that I use once an in-person or conversation occurs.

    Sometimes my process and content is communicated during one meeting.  At other times over two discussions. My scenario is based on the latter.

    My objective the first meeting is to learn what the grantor wants to accomplish and fund by asking them to state what change they want to bring about.  My mind is open thinking is flexible.  My priority is to learn how to become relevant rather than to promote a program or agency.

    To discover our related interests, I often use an “opportunity plot” (e.g., a tic, tac, toe diagram).  In the left column I note the three (or more) major changes the grantor wants their funding to achieve while the right column are three (or more) points I want to accomplish. 

    The middle column records our mutually compatible interests.  (If it is blank, I thank her/him for speaking with me, and leave.) I then ask which middle column entry or entries merit a proposal.  Those that are worthy I refer to as the grantor’s needs.

    In our “reputation economy,” their needs are really brand needs.  I never mention the term. Maybe I should.

    I then verbalize how my application will address their needs.  We talk about the compelling data points and human interest stories my request must contain to show I am united with their goals.

    Next I suggest two opportunities to address each of their needs and those of both our beneficiaries.  The “client” tells me if that makes sense or not.  Her/his comments are taken into account as I summarize why her review committee will think my application is unique, exciting and on point.  I end by explaining how by working together we can make the change they want to fund last.

    Before leaving I request a 15 – 20 minute second meeting for a day far in advance of the submission deadline.  If it is not granted I describe my anticipated budget in medium-to-broad detail.

    However, if there is a second meeting, I will recap our previous discussion and disclose my plan’s finances.  Specifically, we talk about (1) the requested amount of my grant; (2) my program costs; and (3) the return on their investment (ROI). 

    Since the finances are intertwined, I present discrete information as to why my requested budget is necessary to fulfill their needs.  (This assures them that I will not ask for more funding during the grant term.)  I continue by comparing my budget, overhead percentage, and program fees (if any) to similar programs.  Then I make sure they know of any budgeted fundraising expenses in case they want to eliminate them.

    This is followed by a summary qualifying and quantifying their investment to their beneficiaries and stakeholders.  I also share what their support means to my beneficiaries and stakeholders.

    I then present the ROI their investment will create. My calculations result in being able to say, “Every dollar you invest in my proposal will return $5 toward meeting your expressed needs targeted beneficiaries.”

    Perhaps the best metric is saved for last.  It applies directly to the corporation’s and foundation’s brand.  I wield it only when my gut tells me it will have a positive impact on my application.

    I ask if they are aware of the Lev, Petrovist, and Radhakrishnan research published in 2007 that quantified the value of a corporation’s philanthropic giving on its bottom line.

    The three researchers studied 251 of the 300 largest U.S. corporations and found that the “average” company’s philanthropic investment – which was 10 cents for every $100 in net sales revenue – generated a $2 to $3 rise in profits (not gross revenue!) for every dollar they put into philanthropy.

    Most importantly, the research showed that charitable activities attract new customers and build brand loyalty.

    Corporations and their foundations have long recognized philanthropy’s benefit to their marketing mix and brand.  It is our job to use their brand commitment to benefit those we are both privileged to serve.

    Parenthetically, last January I contacted Dr. Lev for a study update and he said Dr. Petrovist was preparing new results for publication.

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