Employer branding - it's a term recruiters have been banding around for a couple of years now - but what does it actually mean?
Sure, if you are a huge global corporate, the chances are your employer brand is as ingrained as your product or service brand. You've had marketing experts working on your 'employer of choice' badges for years, your employees can chant your values and mission statement in their sleep and your talent pool is heaving to the brim with candidates, keen for their phone call with a Recruitment Adviser hoping their name gets bought up in a key word search on your top end ATS system.
But what does it mean for the littler guys? Maybe not the one man bands, but the SME's, the 5 - 30 person, steadily growing companies, who have recruitment needs - but not the need for a recruiter? How do they get a piece of the employer branding action?
Actually it's really simple. Start where you stand. You've probably already spent some time thinking about the company as a whole, and what your company brand is?
Well, the good news is that this translates directly into your employer brand. Start thinking about why prospective candidates would want to work for your company? What do you offer as an employer that others don't? Ask your current employees why they work for you, and what attracted them to the company. Start to build a picture as to what your employment proposition really looks like vs how you would like it to look, and do some work to bridge the gap.
Next, get really clear on the type of person you want to attract into your business. In much the same way as you would for a product or service launch, start thinking about your 'target candidates', the type of messages that would attract them and the platforms to engage with them.
Once you are really clear on what you offer and who you want to offer it to, start building a story. Make it compelling. Don't just churn out job ad after job ad hoping the right person will stumble across it. Create an identity for your business as an employer people genuinely have an interest in working for.
Start with your social media presence - the perfect place for building that story and subconsciously, continuously selling the 'dream' to passive candidates (the best kind in my humble opinion!). If you have the best coffee machine in town - shout about it! If you offer flexible working hours - tell people! If the views from your office are what dreams are made of, then post pictures.
Next, look at your website. Are your careers pages easy to find? Are they interesting, or do they simply list jobs adverts? Can candidates get a feel for what it would be like to work with you? Put simply - is your website helping you sell your company as an awesome place to work? If not, then start to build some content. Create a careers 'homepage' where you let candidates know what it's like to work with you, entice them in, sell the company - then let them see your current opportunities. Give candidates a chance to engage with you, before bombarding them with adverts.
Then post those job ads sure, but just make sure the content is great! Rehashing the job description is not a job advert, it's still a job description. The job advert needs to tell a story, but it needs to be two sided. So not only do you need to ensure the candidate understands what the job entails - but also what's in it for them? Avoid bullet points, and speak to your audience like human beings. Don't use jargon or abbreviated words, and stay clear and concise. Provided you are using the right job title for the role, the right sort of candidates will know from that whether or not they could be suitable - they don't need to read 1,000 words and a list of bullet points to come to that conclusion.
Next, make sure that your candidate experience lives up to your branding. Keep your tone and language consistent, stay in touch and make the candidate feel special. It is possible to automate some areas of the process and for it to still feel personal, just be mindful of what and how you are automating.
Finally make sure all candidates exit the process on great terms. Whether that be a 'thanks but no thanks' or a new hire, ensure no-one walks away unhappy or unsure about how they feel about your company.
For those who weren't quite right for this role, maybe they will be right for another and can save you going through the hiring process in the future. For those you do hire, look after them, on-board them well from offer to new starter (and beyond) and you won't have to repeat this process.
For those that will never just be quite right, still look after them. If you're trying to build an employer brand the last thing you need is bad reviews on Glassdoor or negative feedback on your social media page.
Building an employer brand takes a little bit of effort in the short term, but get it right and it will pay off in dividends in the long run.
According to Ron Friedman (Author of 'The Best Place to Work') 81% of people lie in a job interview!
When you think about it, why wouldn't they? If you are asked about a skill in an interview that you don't have, or maybe you embellished something on your CV, admitting to it in an interview could then mean you don't get that job, right?
This brings about the question as to whether the traditional competency interview so many companies favour has a purpose? What are we really measuring for? How do we really know if someone has the traits, experiences, skills and indeed competencies to be hired (often above others) after a 45 minute chat, about standard information, often already detailed in the candidate's CV? (If anyone mentions 'gut feel' here I will scream.)
How can you really tell if someone is the right fit for both the role and the company without actually working with them?
But that's what a probation period is for ... Is it really though? Because surely, if you have done your due diligence in the interview process, a probation period should be nothing more than piece of the paperwork? If you are relying on your probation period to mop up 'wrong hires' then you, my friend, have a flawed recruitment process.
How about this for a crazy idea! Why don't we actually work with people before we hire them? You can have your 45 minute chat with them, but have a human to human chat. Get to know them, understand their motivations for applying to the role, their ambitions, whether you could have a working relationship with them and so on and so forth. After this initial chat (provided it's all still looking positive) invite them back in to do say - half a day - in the role they would actually be working in. Pay them of course! Then have them work with different team members, on the projects you are actually working on (allowing some flexibility for confidential projects). If they are going to be designing web pages or graphics - have them design something! Create a half day work simulation as such.
Sure, this will involve more work in setting up, and paying people for half a day will cause more expense, but according to studies the average cost of hiring an employee currently stands at around £4,500. That's a lot of cash (especially to a smaller or independent business) to not look after.
It will also mean tightening up on your CV screening and telephone 'chats' if you do them - as this will be a crucial part in the candidate funnel to ensuring that your business doesn't get overrun with potential candidates on their half day interview. Be selective, and only bring in candidates who (based on their credentials) on paper could do the job - or candidates who have the potential to do the job, and you have the resources to train them.
I think there is absolutely a place for structure and process within job interviews, but I think how we approach interviews does need to change. Human capital is (for most businesses) our most valuable and expensive asset - so investing more than 45 minutes, the back office and a cup of instant coffee could be worth considering.
I think it's a question a lot of businesses have found themselves wondering, particularly in industries or businesses where we rely on colleagues and workers from across the EU - whether that be in skilled, highly sought after specialisms, or unskilled industries, where a volume of workers is required - and we often find labour shortages.
We are of course (on the whole) speculating about what Brexit means for anything at present - however we are potentially looking at a stop to the current 'Freedom of Movement' for EU citizens as we know it. Dependent on just how 'hard' a Brexit this will be, this could potentially mean that workers from the EU will only be granted access to this country via a visa style system. Anyone who has ever applied for a visa, or worked with the system applying for visa's in this country will understand just how complex and lengthy a task this can be.
As I say - we can only speculate about which way this will go, however one of the key motivations for many of those who voted leave, was to allow the UK to take back it's border control - which suggests that the freedom of movement for EU citizens will be under serious scrutiny.
This will of course impact employment and recruitment processes as we know it. If we do go down the visa route for EU citizens, I imagine it will mean that the number of non skilled workers entering this country will dramatically decrease. As I say, the visa process (currently) is arduous, complex and lengthy. The level of resource and investment it currently takes to bring a member of staff into this country from say the United States would simply not be feasible or economical for many of our SME's to sustain on a regular basis.
For those companies who would have the resource and the requirement to undertake whatever visa or screening process required to employ EU workers, I imagine their recruitment processes will need to be reviewed and completely tightened up. As part of the (current) visa process everything must be documented, recorded and kept up to date in real time in preparation for any official visits that make take place to scrutinise your paperwork. With, for example, a Tier 2 visa the employer may need undertake (and suitably document) a 'resident labour market test', which (in short) is to satisfy that there is no suitable person already settled in the UK who could undertake the role for which you are applying for a visa. A fair request - but it is just an example of one of the many hoops employers may have to jump through in order to bring EU workers into this country.
I understand some of those who voted Brexit want 'British jobs for British people' - however the consideration has to be made as to whether our businesses are enriched by the different skills, experiences and approaches to work that our neighbors in the rest of the EU can bring the table.
However - I really don't think it's all doom and gloom. If a visa or official screening process is introduced for EU workers, perhaps this is an opportunity for the UK to invest in the education of the workforce of tomorrow - students. Perhaps we could use some of the capital we (supposedly) will not be spending with EU to invest in both academic and practical education in schools, colleges and universities, relevant to the current labour market, reflecting the needs that businesses actually have. We could invest in training and re-training in areas where we currently have skills shortages and are reliant on workers from outside the UK. Why not 'grow our own'.
As of November 2017 538,000 young people (aged 16-24) were classed as unemployed in this country. Given some inspiration, some hope, purpose and investment, perhaps this is a potential opportunity to start to plug our labour market gaps, motivating and supporting young people into employment.
As with all areas of the economy, Brexit presents both opportunities and threats, and it will be interesting to see how the decisions made will shape the future of how we recruit and employ our workforce.
Today Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, is expected to make a speech suggesting that the majority of graduates will receive a 'paltry return' for both the time (and more importantly) the money they invest in gaining an academic degree.
Halfon's comments have been made amidst the news that university applications have dropped annually for the last two years, this year being the lowest year for applications since 2014.
And is it really any surprise? With fees costing around £9,250 per year (dependent on institution) and living costs for a student estimated at around £10,000 per year (dependent on lifestyle) for your average 3 year degree course, we are talking a staggering £57,750 spent on gaining a degree. And how many of us can genuinely say that without our degree we absolutely could not have the job we have today?
University leaders have continued to stress that academic degrees are relevant and represent a good investment. There are, of course, some professions where a degree is essential criteria for entry. Teachers and doctors for instance. If you have your eye on a career in either of those sectors - sorry, but you're going to have to bite the bullet and start saving.
Halfon is expected to argue that we have become 'obsessed with full academic degrees in this country' and calls for degree apprenticeships that blend technical and academic studies, alongside offerings of online and part-time courses to be delivered.
This feels like a much more realistic approach to today's job market - because essentially, that should be what university is about - equipping yourself with the skills and knowledge to become an asset to a business. If universities make no effort to listen to what the jobs market is calling for, then they may find themselves in danger of becoming an outdated institution.
With the revelation that between a fifth and a third of graduates actually end up with non graduate jobs, it really is worth taking a step back and considering just how essential a degree, in it's current state, will be in getting your start in the working world.