Employment branding has pretty much been accepted as part of the best practice cadre in the recruiting and HR field, and the standard thinking is that if your company has a strong and positive consumer brand, then it must be simpler to create a strong following for your employment brand. Employment branding, once a maligned fad, has come to the forefront of many talent acquisition strategic plans, with Blackberry-maker RIM using employment branding to prop up its shaky standing with consumers and financial markets alike. Billed as the solution for increased engagement, better cultural fit, reduced time to fill, and more, organizations have significant reason to build out their employment brand initiatives.
Make no mistake: the branding race has begun, and companies with a killer consumer brand have a leg up. Sometimes. I mean — what do you do if you have a great consumer brand that doesn’t align with your talent acquisition needs?
Lars Schmidt is the talent acquisition leader at National Public Radio, a company he describes as “sort of a 40-year old startup.” NPR certainly has no lack of passionate fans, so tapping into the consumer brand doesn’t seem that challenging, but as Schmidt explained, the reality is a little tougher to tackle. “We’re obviously very entrenched in the news media space but we’re relatively newer to the digital space.” And therein lies the rub. “When you think NPR, most people’s first reaction is radio, most people’s first reaction is not digital.” And digital is exactly the type of talent that Schmidt and the NPR recruiting team has trouble finding.
“Consumer brand is hearing the end result of that on air,” he says. Employment brand is the experience of that employee.”
The strong consumer brand of National Public Radio doesn’t assist when the non-profit has to compete for digital talent. The simple fact is it’s just not what NPR is known for.
The director of talent acquisition for 24 Hour Fitness has a similar issue. Lance Sapera has been solving issues in the company for over a decade, so when he was asked to lead the recruiting and staffing teams, he jumped at the chance. 24 Hour Fitness made its name by being open and flexible so that workers from any industry could work out, but the fitness company struggles with shedding light on its 20,000 employees’ varied skills.
“Most people understand there are jobs inherently to do at a club,” Sapera says, “but they don’t think about the fact that we have department heads, responsible for running multimillion-dollar retail enterprises. We go to job fairs, and people think we’re there to sell memberships. No, we’re here because we’re looking for talented IT programmers. It’s the same thing in areas like finance, accountants, finance experts — we need those same talented professionals.”
Getting over these perfectly natural hurdles is what Sapera and Schmidt have to do, not only to promote their employer brand but to tune up their companies’ brands.