Creating your brand story in the war for talent


Even in a buoyant recruitment economy, leading businesses know that if they want to excel, they need to ensure that they’re recruiting and retaining the very best people for their roles. In trickier economic times, attracting and keeping the best people becomes exponentially more important.

And when companies attempt to sell an inaccurate or inauthentic brand to potential employees, it could cost them in both the long-term and short-term when it comes to talent attraction, employee engagement and employee retention.

If your employer brand – the story and messages you tell the world about your company – don’t live up to the promises, and you haven’t painted an honest story of what life really is like as an employee of your company, you will struggle to attract good candidates. And sure as eggs is eggs, you won’t be able to keep staff either. You will find yourself in a costly virtual circle of recruitment and retention failure.

Do these phrases sound familiar?

• ‘Our people are our greatest asset.’
• ‘We have amazing benefits and perks.’
• ‘We offer career development and progression.’
• ‘Flexible working arrangements’

These seem like great claims, right? But after hearing the phrases 37 times, it can start to lose meaning to a prospective employee!
Stating your perks or benefits and things you believe are true or writing them down, is NOT what your employer brand is. Your employer brand is what is experienced by real people inside your company, and those interacting with it. Current, past and even prospective employees shape your employer brand through social media posts, review site comments, direct network conversations, face-to-face interactions and referrals.

With the concept of a ‘job for life’ now being almost non-existent, and a tendency for employees to be less loyal when it comes to their career choices, you don’t just hold on to your top talent by accident. Your current employees need to experience your positive employer brand values, which means you need to deliver them!

So, here are my top six practical and highly effective tips for demonstrating positive employer brand values to your top talent:

1. Offer your candidates a realistic job preview

If you want to keep your best people, you need to start at the very beginning. Some businesses make the mistake of thinking that their retention rates are solely impacted by what goes on in the day-to-day running of the working environment, but the recruitment process plays a very important role in this too.

A big reason why people decide to leave their roles is because the job isn’t what they expected it to be. You need to make it your business to give candidates a clear expectation of what they’ll be doing if they’re successful and are offered the role – and this includes the good parts, as well as the less desirable!

2. Be flexible with working practices wherever possible

The days of requiring all your staff to be chained to their desks for eight hours each day, between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, are over. At least, they are for the business owners who have realised the benefits of offering more flexible working practices.

Could you offer a choice when it comes to start and finish times? Could you spread shifts over a few days instead of making your staff work one long day? Could you offer job-sharing options? How about the option to work from home, even if its on a greed one day a week or at certain times?

People have lives outside of work, and if you can demonstrate that you recognise this and actively encourage it, you’re going to be rewarded with higher levels of engagement. Staff are then less likely to jump ship as soon as something comes along that gives them the type of choices that they’re looking for. Your competitors are probably already doing it, and if you fail to get onboard, your retention rates are likely going to suffer.

3. Run staff surveys – and act on the results

Staff surveys aren’t new in any way, shape, or form. Big businesses have been surveying their employees to find out what makes them tick and what they really want for many years. Where most companies fall down though is communicating the results and using the results to identify issues and create meaningful change.

If you’re going through the motions and merely ticking the boxes, you’re not only missing out on a huge opportunity to improve your business practices – you’re outright wasting your time and money, and you’re sending a message to your staff that tells them that you don’t really care about how they feel about their roles and your business. Make no mistake – they’ll quickly realise that you don’t place any value on their thought out responses, and this in itself can cause big problems in terms of morale and productivity.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to be in the position to completely overhaul each and every one of your people practices straightaway, even if your survey results indicate that you need to. Break your tasks down into manageable bite size chunks, communicate your progress with employees, and take a longer-term view. Changes to HR policies can’t be made overnight, but if you make the commitment to continuous improvement, you’ll undoubtedly reap the results.

4. Consider your total reward package

Pay has always been a big topic for discussion in the area of retention, and it’s true that many employees decide to move on in order to seek out a better pay packet at the end of each month. This can be a tricky issue to tackle, for obvious reasons. With the economic climate as it is, many businesses simply can’t afford to give their employees the rises that they might be hoping for. There are however other options that you need to consider.

The cash that you pay your workers is only one aspect of the total rewards package that you can offer, and it’s wise to think about the bigger picture. In practical terms, you might want to consider alternatives such as:

• Increases to Pension
• More Annual leave allocations, days off on birthdays, duvet days
• More Flexible Working practices
• Career development opportunities, such as mentoring, coaching, internal programmes, and external qualifications
• A discount scheme in conjunction with other local businesses
• Health Care Cash Plans – much more cost effective than the traditional private healthcare and it pays to keep your employees well!
• Recognition schemes

Pay is definitely not the only tool you have at your disposal. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s worthwhile taking the time to think about which of these elements could work for your business, and how you could make them available to your staff.

5. Give your line managers the capability to lead

As your business evolves it is important that you have line managers who are capable of leading and implementing your policies and procedures effectively.

When you’re implementing strategies to keep your retention rates at acceptable levels, consider how you can encourage your line managers to really own their responsibilities. Think about how you’ll communicate your intentions to the right people, and how you’ll ensure they understand the links to business performance and overall organisational success.

6. Always hold exit interviews when staff decide to leave

Regardless of how good your people practices are, staff will leave from time to time. It’s just a normal part of running a business, and unless it starts to spiral out of control, it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. When your staff are leaving though, make sure that you have an exit interview process in place so you can understand why they decided to move on to pastures new.

Collecting information about why your workers want to move on to external opportunities can be eye opening, and it can also help you to identify any problems that you might be able to nip in the bud. If you want to constantly improve your people practices and make your business an exemplary place to work, it’s important to take the time to gather this type of information and tailor your policies and procedures accordingly.

Giving your staff the opportunity to feed back on their time within the business also ensures that they’re leaving on a positive note and gives them the opportunity to highlight any issues that might have impacted their decision.

Hopefully you now have some pointers and inspiration to help ensure that you are shaping your employer brand to attract and keep hold of your very best talent.

But if you really want to nail it, and would welcome some additional support, why not book a spot at my upcoming free workshop, ‘Create your brand story to win the war for talent’. At this interactive session, I will explore the topic in greater detail and give you some specific guidance on how to facilitate transformative change. Hope to see you there!