If you’re paying attention to the HR space, you’ve no doubt heard the words “employer brand” pop up lately. In the current fight to attract and retain top-tier talent, companies are spending a significant amount of time and effort on illustrating who they are as an employer. HR professionals are being encouraged to “think more like marketers” and corporate recruiting website pages now proudly bear company values backed up by personal anecdotes. Organizations have realized they must market the experience of working for them, especially to a generation of millennials who care strongly about issues like work life balance, company values, and authenticity.
Given these trends, a new brand of HR/marketing professional is emerging to tackle even more specific branding challenges: The Talent Brand Manager.
Talent Brand vs. Employer Brand
Employer brand professionals work in the space where marketing meets HR. Yet, marketing is changing in our increasingly social world, becoming more conversational and engaging with multiple audiences. A company can establish an employer brand through their outgoing messaging, but if the actual experience of working at an organization doesn’t match up, the truth will come out on blogs, in online communities, and through anonymous reviews. This is the realm of the Talent Brand Manager.
In LinkedIn’s Employer Brand Playbook, they emphasize the new convergence of consumer brand and talent brand, defining it as: “…the highly social, totally public version of your employer brand that incorporates what talent thinks, feels, and shares about your company as a place to work.” Customers and fans of companies are increasingly overlapping with the pool of potential hires. These candidates aren’t simply consuming your employer brand, they’re talking about it, reading about you on Glassdoor, looking at your employee’s social media, and doing their homework before they ever submit an application.
Talent brand does not simply cover how a company would care to be perceived, but the reality of the conversation. Getting a handle on this branding requires an honest effort to understand internal and external stakeholders’ satisfaction and engagement. The benefits of a strong employer brand are manifold: higher job posting response rates, better qualified applicants, lower new employee turnover, improved workplace culture, alignment between employee and organizational values, increased motivation, and so on. However, a strong talent brand in particular reduces cost-per-hire by up to 50% and can curb turnover rates by as much as 28%. It is logical that the majority of companies are dedicating time and effort to this specific area.
Talent Brand Managers
Talent Brand Managers are the professionals responsible for monitoring, shaping, and defining the conversation about the employer brand. Their skillset bridges HR, Marketing, and Communications because the position sits at the intersection of several job functions—plus they need a good dose of online community savvy. Job postings for these positions are just as likely to pop up under a marketing department classification as an HR one. Atlassian recently posted an ad for Talent Brand Marketing Manager position: “This person will understand the merging worlds of marketing and talent acquisition and be able to navigate through both.”
What does this job look like on the ground? Talent Brand Managers work similarly to other HR professionals at a high level. They investigate and research to understand the current state of affairs, spot areas where they can make an impact or capitalize on a strength, and then devise and implement solutions. After all of this they track their impact and report back. Talent brand management stands apart however in where they place their focus and who they are attempting to reach.
Most HR professionals are familiar with researching the internal employee experience, but talent brand professionals take it a step further. They dig into the outside world to understand the conversation around the employer brand. Their research covers the normal territory of examining employee surveys and interviews, but then they might use focus groups, market research, and external audience perspectives during their work. A talent brand manager doesn’t just want to know how a current employee feels, but also the feelings of those who declined a job offer, potential candidates, former employees, and so on.
Talent brand professionals also work with senior management to understand the larger corporate branding and strategize how the company wants to appear as an employer. They must design ways to carry the employer/corporate brand across all channels. When it comes to talent brand, the Focus should be on culture, especially individual stories that are relatable and real. While it is good practice to keep things honest, talent brand managers also need to look at where the company should strive go to and help move the narrative in that direction through internal HR efforts and external messaging.
An important aspect of this role is to get more people talking about the brand. An example initiative can be seen through Dell’s training of their employees on how to use social media appropriately and empowered them talk about their organization. Other companies have created online content employees are proud about and excited to share. Take for example Zapier, and their announcement to pay $10,000 in moving expenses for new employees to leave the San Francisco Bay Area. This move not only attracted press attention, but the founder’s blog post with the announcement was shared out by the majority of employees on LinkedIn. This caused them to receive 1,167 job applications in 10 days, representing a 32% increase over their typical rate.
When to Hire Talent Brand Professionals
Not every company will require a full-time Talent Brand Manager, but each organization does have a talent brand perception to manage. No matter how small or esoteric the organization, people will discuss and place value on what it is like to work there. Every single company can benefit from spending time understanding the current state of their talent brand and deciding how actively they want to manage it.
For companies just beginning this journey, working with an external consultant might be the best place to start. Though consultants can be costly, making the investment of getting a clear snapshot of your talent brand is worth it. Once an organization knows where it stands on this front, they can proceed to make a realistic plan.
It is possible to incorporate aspects of talent brand management into existing HR or marketing functions, particularly if the organization is willing to augment current feedback and metric tracking systems. As discussed above, talent brand management involves tracking certain HR metrics, but adds on tracking for conversations happening organically out in the world. If you aren’t working on talent brand management yet, you’ll likely need to devise methods to monitor external conversations about your organization on blogs, forums, etc. For larger companies, an investment in market research conducted by a third-party organization can help existing HR staff get a clearer picture of the talent and employer brand in the wild.
For those organizations with particularly lofty talent brand goals, it needs someone driving for them. Some examples of goals that talent brand professionals work towards include things like: increase the offer acceptance rate, improve employee survey ratings, increase the number of employees with a strong LinkedIn page that mentions their employer, create a style guide for optimized job postings, hit a particular target with employee referrals over a period, and so on.
For those companies working across different localized markets, talent management can be challenging task, usually requiring the dedicated attention of at least one talent brand professional. The payoff of this challenge is substantial though, as diverse, engaged teams have been shown to be some of the most innovative and productive. Excellent talent brand management is key to getting the best global talent in the door and excited to work for an organization.