Key Takeaways: Attracting Top Talent With an Awesome Employer Brand

9 minutes read
By Erik Samdahl,  Vice President Marketing, Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp)

Top Employers are two times more likely to report that their employer brand differentiates them from their competitors, according to research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). At i4cp’s 2021 Next Practices Now Virtual Conference, the company’s head of member services Mark Walker moderated a discussion between Top Employers Institute's CEO David Plink and SAP’s Elke Manjet, Global Head of Talent Attraction, on what makes for an “awesome” employer brand, the challenges you must overcome, and the importance it plays in both acquiring and retaining talent—especially women.

What are the opportunities you see in an enhanced employer brand?

Elke: Employer branding is really an integral part of our TA strategy. We're looking to attract a very diverse set of talent around the globe and branding and the respective messages and channels are a great opportunity for us to simply reach those people—as well see their reaction to some of our messages.

The opportunity we see now more than in the past potentially is on some strategic topics that we are driving as an organization—DE&I, sustainability, and getting across to younger generations that we're all looking for in the software industry that we have a digital native mindset. We see the opportunity to basically have every employee act as an ambassador in that regard.

David: One of the things we certainly see happening in the Top Employers community is an increase in adding purpose as part of the employer brand. That's been on the rise for the past years but it's accelerating right now and it's really in tune with that audience with the prospective employee that wants to work for a company that has a bigger meaning in life than just making money or making computers or cars

Mark: i4cp’s research model, which we call The New Corporate Currency, looks at the intersection of culture, brand, and purpose, and fully supports what you just said.

What are the key challenges that you’ve seen to establishing an effective employer brand?

Elke: One challenge is that as you’re aiming broadly, you're trying to automate. The question is how can you be very fast and very responsive at the same time? And how do you give a really personalized experience just to special talent segments?

Another is staying ahead of the game. The platforms we're all using to communicate, not only at work but as well in life are changing and those trends tend to come to the professional world sooner than later. Staying up to date and making sure you're where your consumers are is definitely important.

Another challenge potentially is you know if we're getting some great recognition as a company, for example as being named a Top Employer, the question is how do you top that, how do you stay continuously at a great level with what you're doing as an organization?

How do you bring company culture and purpose into the employer brand?

Elke: Culture is actually the key piece that we want to bring out as we are sharing our brand  with people… what does it mean to work at SAP, what it means to interact with colleagues at SAP, what it means to interact with the broad customer base that we have around the world, what it means to grow in this company? We are typically looking for more long-term engagements with our people—there are certain reasons why they stay and we want our brand messages to bring that across in a very authentic way.

We see from the data out there that people nowadays don't expect the highly polished marketing videos in that sense. What triggers people to then say let me look at their job site for real opportunities and engage is really to get an authentic sense of how this company takes what's behind the labels and the images and all of that. That's why we're going out with real employee stories as a key means because we believe our employees can best tell what it means to work and live at SAP. We’re also not looking at work and life as two total distinct parts but something that's coming together more and more—many generations are looking at life-life balance rather than work-life balance.

One trend we've definitely seen with the pandemic is that people reset their values. People appreciate again the time they can spend with their families versus being on the road to the office and that's something that we as employers need to react to and to create an environment that allows people to do a great job and grow their careers but at the same time have a life that’s valuable to them.

Is culture more important than compensation?

Elke: Compensation is important and does matter. It's part of the growth that people want to see. But for us that's not the key message; our focus is on the authentic real-life stories and messages that to a big extent our employees and leaders bring across.

We tend to look at compensation and benefits as something that connects the aspect of life-life balancing. For example, health benefits, and also help in difficult or special situations in life is something that we know that our employees appreciate a lot so we've expanded on that offering significantly in the last few years. Money is important to people but if you're looking at what makes them decide to join a company or not and to stay there for a while there are many more components that come into play.

Mark: It isn't just about what we represent to our future talent but it's also a retention strategy built into how you're thinking about talent overall.

David: What we see now is that total rewards goes beyond the typical reward components to elements such as well-being and flexibility. It has really expanded beyond the financial domain and we see a lot of employers really investing in integrating their people's well-being into performance management. That is something that can be communicated externally to make sure people understand how important that well-being is now.

These are components that people are weighing when they are joining an employer. The question plots culture and compensation against each other, but they go hand in hand because the culture you create around well-being and hybrid work—that says something about you as an employer, and it says something that goes beyond compensation alone.

How do you address employees’ life events and use that to build a stronger pipeline of female talent?

David: We are seeing a strong rise in companies that are offering mentoring and coaching on life-changing events. Companies are really going beyond the responsibility that they used to carry, and are particularly focused on advancing women in leadership positions. Additionally, we are also seeing specific programs focused on career progression, as well as programs on flexibility and de-biasing recruitment to make sure that there are equal opportunities for everyone. Those are all contributing to higher percentages of women in leadership positions.

Mark: There is a blended approach. One of the recent questions we asked the market was around what are the things that organizations are using as opportunities to increase females in the workforce and into higher levels? One aspect was auditing for discrepancies, offering career development specifically for female employees.

Elke: You both touched on a few points already. We’re seeing compensation, talent attraction, talent development, and management coming closely together. We have been auditing for equal comp to ensure that in case we have taken a decision that’s not in favor for the respective women at certain points in time.

We're doing a lot in terms of keeping women in the workplace in terms of those life events—obviously having ababy is a is a huge one—and in many countries we do have return to work programs where we are redesigning the experience. For example, if women who are on maternity leave or parental leave, we make sure to stay in touch to ensure that for them, coming back to work is a bit more flawless and an easy experience versus coming into a place that has totally changed given the dynamics in our industry and in our company.

In terms of attraction, again, branding plays a key role in terms of the messages we bring to women so first they understand we are a working place that embraces diversity and inclusion. Where you’ll have challenges in attracting women is if you tick those boxes and you expect them to come with exactly the same skills and competencies that you expect of the male candidates, if you will. If we're looking at the tech space, the pipeline is not equal, so we ]need to look at what we call transferable skills from one job to the other that women might bring. Then we must be willing to provide them some help on the job to grow into that job and to acquire some specific skills all right well we're doing it.

How do you measure the success of your employer brand?

David: There's a lot of measuring going on in the space of ranking and evaluating the employer brand so really making sure that the strength of the employment and the attributes are measured along the way. Also, when campaigns are run and when new positioning is chosen, you’re making sure to see what the impact is.

Elke: What David has alluded to is how do you measure the broad reach, which is typically impressions, how many people go to your site, how many interview, how many apply, and so on and so forth. What we're doing as well is to ensure we have some more qualitative data in terms of how the employer brand resonates.

We're doing mainly two things. We have a survey for candidates at whatever stage of their application where we ask for feedback on the brand itself and obviously how they learned about us. It’s a really good source to understand perception and how things resonate.

The other thing we're doing is to interview new hires on a regular basis to really get a bit deeper into what's beneath the data. What really triggered them? Is it actually what we think it is—our great branding video—or is it that they were at a party with somebody working at SAP who shared their great experience? Sometimes the data tells us just part of the story.

Mark: I’m a huge fan of being able to say data should point us to a direction and we should confirm or deny that our hypothesis was accurate.

Concluding Thoughts:

Business and HR leaders need to be strategic and open to embracing new ways of attracting top talent as they look to the future of their organisation. The success of an employer brand is found in many data points that HR and business leaders need to be open to exploring as they look to the future of their organisation.


Watch the session to learn more about creating an Awesome Employer Brand and learn more about i4cp at their website.

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Key Takeaways: Attracting Top Talent With an Awesome Employer Brand