The branding imperative in talent management

by 25 Jun 2008

Borrowing from the concepts of product and trademark brands, the talent brand is a relatively new idea. It represents the image and, ideally, the reality of an organisation’s combination of culture, reputation, products and services, and the way it deals with and values its workers. In sum, the talent brand is what differentiates an organisation as a good (or not so good) place to work for potential and current employees.

Brand the workers view

Not surprisingly, an organisation’s talent brand is critical to both talent acquisition and retention. The first fact is highlighted in findings of a recent study by SilkRoad Technology and the Human Capital Institute, which show that 71 per cent of survey respondents viewed the talent brand as either “somewhat important” or “very important” in their decision to join their organisation.

And once they have a job, their decision to stay is also heavily influenced by their organisation’s talent brand – with a full 75 per cent of respondents stating that their organisation’s talent brand is somewhat or very important in their decision to stay. The workers also see it as being an important factor in the organisation’s effort to attract and retain other top talent: 61 per cent of workers agreed that current employees are one of the best sources of finding new talent – eg their positive image of their organisation makes them a willing source of referrals.

Workers are very clear on what makes for a positive talent brand in their minds – good compensation and work/life balance. This result was expressed in several ways.

One, when asked to rank ten factors in importance when deciding whether to stay with an organisation only two – compensation and work/life balance – were chosen first or second by more than 30 per cent of respondents. A big 64 per cent of respondents selected compensation as one of the two most important factors and 55 per cent chose work/life balance.

Importance of on-boarding

If an organisation’s talent brand is going to improve retention as well as talent acquisition, the positive effect should begin early in a worker’s tenure with an organisation – for most organisations, at the time of the formal or informal on-boarding process. According to the survey, 62 per cent of organisations have a formal process, while 15 per cent do not. Worth noting is that 23 per cent of respondents stated they were unsure about whether their organisation had a formal on-boarding process – which, at the very least, speaks to a lack of communication of policies and programs.

But do the same people who say that their organisation has a positive talent brand also believe that it has an effective on-boarding process? The results show that respondents who believed that their organisation had a positive talent brand also believed that it had a very effective on-boarding process – as indicated by the highly significant correlations among all the talent branding and on-boarding criteria.

The fact that the talent branding and on-boarding variables are highly related (correlated) is interesting – organisations good at one talent management tool (talent branding) might also be good at using other tools (eg on-boarding). However, some organisations are better at developing formal processes and strategy related to talent branding and on-boarding than they are at delivering the results expected from these processes.

Our respondents know the difference! They were clear in their message that they care about how well organisations deliver on the promises of an image, strategy, or process – not the formality behind the image or process – and many complained about what can be summed up as a “saying/doing gap”.

Personal & professional transitions - the key times for the talent brand

Nothing can create goodwill (or ill will) between an employer and its workers more quickly than how people are treated during times of professional and personal transitions. These can include changes in duties or relocations, as well as personal issues such as maternity/paternity responsibilities and family illness. It would seem obvious that those organisations with a positive talent brand would also be the ones that deal with these transitions better than the average organisation.

Not surprisingly, support during professional and personal transitions is important to workers – 84 and 83 per cent of respondents believed that the success or failure of their organisation to support them through professional or personal transitions, respectively, had a moderate to large impact on their work.

By Allan Schweyer, president of the Human Capital Institute and Ross Jones, researcher with HCI