What’s Your Story?
Top talent doesn’t come easy. To attract them and keep them, your people, your divisions, and your departments need to rally around a story that shows your company's best self.
It seems like just about everyone uses the verb ‘brand’ right now. It’s used for products and companies and individuals seeking to stamp a persona onto themselves in hopes that it sticks.
Branding is important. But many of the people and companies who toss around the term loosely often miss what's at the heart of a brand. Branding is doing no more than telling a story. A simple story. One that creates an image that lingers for all who meet you, a feeling that suggests a positive energy relating to whatever person, product or company it labels. That story? That is your brand.
Your hiring brand is an extension of that, but equally broad based. What are your values? What do you demand of your employees? Culture plays a role.
Perhaps your company already has its hiring brand in play; the 'who you are' for employees that lays out your best assets for recruiters and employees alike. Equally important? A branding story for every division and every department that acts as a subset of the main brand. A story that speaks to the unique style and culture of the environment for employees every day.
If you’re a company of fifty employees, that may be all you need to tell your big corporate hiring story in a way that sings to new hires. Different offices, separate divisions, global offices — what is true about the culture of one is not true for all. With the critical importance of hiring for cultural fit, the more well defined your divisional brand, the more likely your new hires will be the right hires.
What is the environment like in the office? In the department? If engineers on one team are developing software and in another writing code for specific applications, the culture is no doubt different. So is the management. With cultural fit so critical to employee success, answering those questions with a department brand helps to ensure the next hire is the right hire.
At a time in which the zeitgeist for job seekers is information rich, each department, division, and office within your ecosystem needs to define itself from within — a definition your people know and feel speaks to the great unspoken culture within that area of work.
Your people are out there as the ultimate brand ambassadors, sharing the best and worst elements of your team. It’s news that spreads quickly. Candidates can access enough material about employers’ performance and behavior to make decisions — lasting impressions — about the companies they are considering. Since the tech job market is currently skewed so heavily on the side of the skilled candidate, that means stepping up the corporate game to ensure the story you’re telling is the story that builds the culture you crave.
So how do you tell the right subset story as nestled within your larger brand? A few thoughts to help:
Make sure you’ve got your overarching hiring brand nailed down
Accessing the right technologists and engineers for your team is mission critical. Chances are, if you’re talking to them, you’re not alone. There are five or ten other, perhaps equally interesting, roles available to that possible hire should they want them. You want your company to be the place to go, you’ve got to make sure your employee brand story is tight, and, more importantly, is accurate. It’s a transparent marketplace. If your people live it and believe it, the word spreads and that, in itself, is the most powerful recruiting tool. In essence, it puts an authoritative, job seeker stamp of approval on a company. A poor brand, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, warning talent that no matter how attractive on the surface, that company is not a good place to work. Recruiters for disrespected employers are always working uphill, especially with higher quality talent.
Walk the walk
As we’ve said above, words are the easy part. Ensuring that your people are authentic representations of your department brand is the key. Your recruitment efforts must be equally authentic. Are you straight-forward? Understanding? Do you know the ins and outs of the role you’re recruiting for? Can you give an example or two of the kind of work flowing through now? Give a glimpse of the people within? While you’re interviewing talent, as you know, they’re interviewing you. Every part of the process contributes: integrity, decency, understanding all play a part and set you in a different stratosphere than your competition when executed on point (and with a long tail as well).
Be more than staffing. Become employee advocates
Companies that are actively recruiting the talent you want often have staffing departments actively developing employee programs, in culture-building, and keepers of the behavior and values carried on through the organization from the top down. Each engagement to better employees lives magnifies your own brand, authoritatively proving your story out. For each department, the programs you develop, the kinds of help you give, can be different. It’s up to you to get to know the managers and the teams, and assess not only on a big picture level, but on a more detailed level as well.
Your partners in staffing should know your stories. Tell them
Your partners in recruitment efforts need to know the stories you tell backwards and forwards to paring down the possibilities and send you the kinds of candidates best suited to play well in your sandbox.
Steve Rock, Technical Recruiter at Hollister Staffing says “I’ve got maybe five minutes with some of the most wanted technology people out there. They want to know the story. The real story. They trust me to give it to them. It’s not going to do anyone any good unless I’ve got a good handle on everything, from the details on the work they’ll be doing to the way the team works as a whole. That story makes the difference.”
What are the questions a recruitment company needs to get you the right talent? Things like who’s the manager? What’s that person’s style? Maybe the recruiter can speak with the manager directly (even better) to get a deeper handle on the variety of management and technology skills that person is looking for. There is a range of questions that drill down and get to the heart of the role and the culture of the department that make great candidates rise to the surface.
Start early for better results
You’re looking for top notch tech talent so the effort requires a rigor that perhaps other roles don’t require. That said, it’s always a good idea to pull the curtain of your company back a bit and invite your partner in recruitment in to get to know you, your culture, and your approach a bit more up close and personal. When recruiters come in early and develop a relationship with you, getting to know a bit more about your departments and your overall working style, when the time comes to hire fast they’ve got the firepower already in store to make it happen.
Developing your divisional or department stories in advance is a good idea as well, with managers leading the way. It is a world of LinkedIn and Glassdoor and all the corporate-speak about integrity matters little in the face of an employee base that feels misunderstood or a message that’s misaligned with facts.
As Steve Rock noted recently: “Your own people are the greatest assets for recruitment.”
“With strong word of mouth, with a very clear idea story that’s accurate and strong, you can get the right candidates to take your call or go to your company in the face of other big factors like money. It’s powerful, really powerful.”