To my query last week on whether or not the Employer Value Proposition can change like a flavor of the month, I received this from my former colleague Mark Hornung (though I don’t know if he remembers me) at my former employer.
And now, without further pontification, Dr. John’s article, condensed by me. Just wondering if it’s still going to be useful in Human Resources 2.009
Employment Branding: the Only Long-Term Recruiting Strategy
Almost every action and process in recruiting is designed for short-term gain. Despite talk about being strategic, most recruiters and recruiting managers alike respond only to requisitions, placing ads, visiting job boards, attending job fairs, and mining social networking sites in an effort to fill today’s job openings. There is lots of talk but little effort placed on building out truly long-term recruiting tools and strategies designed to impact the business. If all the talk were true, nearly every recruiting function on the planet would have dedicated resources to employment branding, the only long-term recruiting strategy that is designed to bring in a steady flow of high-quality applicants over a period of many years.
Employment branding stands alone as the only approach corporate recruiting managers can leverage to guarantee an end to their talent shortage problem. Unfortunately, most corporate recruiting managers spend less than 5% of their budgets on this powerful long-term solution. In direct contrast, firms that have taken the time to invest in building a great employment brand like Google and Southwest Airlines have not only dominated their industries, but they have also turned the common talent shortage problem into a more desirable talent “sorting” problem. If you’re tired of constantly fighting fires and of being continually bashed year in and year out by your managers for failing to produce a high volume of high-quality candidates, it’s time to shift your focus to the only solution that can reduce your job stress and make you a hero.
The Many Benefits of Employment Branding
I have found that the primary reason why corporate recruiting managers under appreciate and under utilize a corporate branding strategy is because they have done a poor job in making the business case for investing in their firm’s employment brand. You can’t make a compelling business case unless you first know the possible benefits of the branding strategy. Over the years, I’ve advised dozens of firms on building a compelling employment brand (including a Fortune #1 Best Place to Work winner) and, as a result, I’ve identified the many benefits that a successful employment-branding program can provide. When demonstrated, these benefits can help sway even the most cynical nonbelievers:
* A Long-Term Impact.
* An Increased Volume of Unsolicited Candidates.
* Higher Quality Candidates.
* Higher Offer-Acceptance Rates.
* Improved Employee-Retention Rates.
* Improved College Recruiting.
* A Stronger Corporate Culture.
* Decreased Corporate Negatives.
* Ammunition for Employees and Managers.
* Increased Manager Satisfaction.
* Increased Media Exposure.
* A Competitive Advantage.
* Increased Shareholder Value.
* Support for the Product Brand.
Additional Branding Benefits
Some additional benefits of an employment-branding program might include:
* Increased knowledge and competitive intelligence, as more employees from top competitors join your organization.
* The increased focus on excellence in people-management programs brought about by the branding effort will result in the continuous improvement of those practices.
* Getting talked about in the press reinforces the stories you have already spread to your employees.
* The increased notoriety might also have a positive side effect on the business by making it easier to attract strategic partners who are willing to link with your firm.
* Employment branding works not just for large corporations but also for smaller firms and for government agencies as well.
* A great employment brand makes it easier to attract top recruiters and branding experts.
* The high impact and ROI of the employment-branding program will help build HR’s image as a bottom-line contributor.
If you are part of recruiting management at an organization that has been facing continuous talent shortages, it’s time to get out of that rut and focus your resources on the areas that can have the highest business impact. Almost universally, that means shifting your recruiting talent, time, and budget towards the programs that will have the most impact, starting with employment branding (other high-impact programs include employer referrals, professional event recruiting, prioritizing jobs, bringing back key former employees (boomerangs), and making your corporate careers page compelling). Yes, I know it’s hard to find the time to step back from fighting fires but, at some point, you have to realize that you can’t just talk about being strategic. You have to act strategically by investing in the only long-term recruiting strategy that’s available.
In a report from Universum in May 2008, for the second consecutive year, MBA students chose Google as the No. 1 Employer (23.65 percent of respondents), after it trumped powerhouse consulting firm McKinsey & Company and received the highest percentage of respondents choosing it as the Ideal Employer.
“Smart MBAs know where they want to be in 5-10 years,” says Claudia
Tattanelli, CEO of Universum USA. “They look to strong companies like Google,
McKinsey and Goldman Sachs to give them the experience and references needed
to lay the path for their future career success, even with threats of a
recession. At the same time, as true Millennials, they chose organizations
that will offer a flexible and fun work environment, innovation and a good
But that was before the world changed.
Now, according to last week’s Wall Street Journal, Google is gearing down for tough times as their stock trades at less than half its one-time high a bit more than a year ago
For much of its 10-year history, Google spent money at a pace that was the marvel of Silicon Valley. It hired by the thousands and dished out generous perks, including three free meals a day, free doctors, ski trips and laundry facilities, and subsidized personal trainers. It let engineers spend 20% of their time pursuing pet projects. The company’s goal was to develop new products that would reduce its nearly total reliance on selling ads connected to Internet searches.
“We have to behave as though we don’t know” what’s going to happen, says Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. The company will curtail the “dark matter,” he says, projects that “haven’t really caught on” and “aren’t really that exciting.” He says the company is “not going to give” an engineer 20 people to work with on certain experimental projects anymore.
This fall, the company announced plans to “significantly” reduce its roughly 10,000 contract workers, whose jobs range from engineering to food services. While the timing and focus of the cuts remain unclear, Google employees already are joking that it’s getting easier to find a spot in the company’s crowded parking lots.
Google has also begun chipping away at perks. In recent months, it reduced the hours of its free cafeteria service and suspended the traditional afternoon tea in its New York office. A Google spokesman says its core culture is not changing. “Our unique culture is an essential part of what makes Google Google,” he says.
Early in its life, the company said that it would always put long-term objectives ahead of shareholders’ short-term interests. It wooed the best engineers with generous perks, workplaces that feature pool tables and volleyball courts, and a promise they could spend time pursuing side projects. Inside the company, it was considered crass to talk about whether a project would eventually make money, say current and former product engineers. The measure that mattered most was whether a new idea would be good for the Internet user’s experience.
Some engineers complain they can no longer tap the employees and machines they need to develop their ideas. This is no small issue among elite programmers, many of whom joined the company for the chance to work on such projects, according to current and former employees.
In 2004, they wrote:
We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge … We are careful to consider the long term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.
There’s no such thing as a free dinner. The company took evening meals off the menu: “Google has drastically cut back their budget on the culinary program. How is it affecting campus? No more dinner. No more tea trolley. No more snack attack in the afternoon.”
But what’s good for the diet isn’t necessarily good for the brand.
As BRANDEMiX continues to build out Employer Value Propositions and promote the inherent qualities in each organization that help them win the war for talent, we eagerly wait to see the impact these internal changes at Google have on the long term Employer Brand.
BRANDEMiX is forever.
The Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State’s Metro Services has chosen BRANDEMiX, the NYC-based communications consultancy known for innovative branding around human resources initiatives, to brand and launch an employee communications campaign in support of their new strategic plan.
“A dispersed staff performing on-site services poses unique communications challenges,” says Janis Pshena, VP of Human Resources for Metro Services, ”especially when attempting to implement a new strategic plan.”
According to a Flinders University report, worker isolation is one of the issues that contribute to the high turnover in the direct care profession.
“Successful internal branding and communication means higher retention which translates into long-term cost savings and improved quality of service,” says Jody Ordioni, President of BRANDEMiX. “We’re implementing a series of solutions that inform staff, convey employer support, and inspire a sense of teamwork around the new strategic goals.”
Metro Services’ new strategic plan will guide the organization through 2013 as they work to promote personal choice and independence, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.
J&J Caved to a Vocal Flash Mob, but Did It Hurt Its Relationship With a Larger Audience?
By Jack Neff
Published: November 24, 2008
BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) — At first glance, it looks like Johnson & Johnson’s Motrin was chastened by the power of social media when it yanked a Motrin ad campaign pilloried by mommy bloggers on YouTube and Twitter.
But as it turns out, J&J might have been a tad hasty in pulling down its ad. In doing so, it bowed to a vocal flash mob that represents a tiny fraction of moms, and Twitter, which itself attracts about 0.15% of the world’s internet users each day, according to Alexa — by the most generous possible estimate based on that data, about 1.1 million people in the U.S. And despite a storm of media attention, the ad — together with a YouTube video put together by a mommy blogger on the controversy — received less exposure than one 30-second spot on a cable news network.
On the one hand, so-called Motrin-gate proves the power of social media for marketers. On the other, it proves how quickly marketers can be forced to buckle to a relatively small but vocal minority of people who can create “flash floods,” as a Toronto Globe and Mail columnist described them, in e-mail boxes, Twitter queues or Google searches that get picked up and spread by mass media. Indeed, the flood that felled the ad started and ended in three days.
Quiet before storm
It all started with an ad that generated zero online buzz during its first 45 days online at Motrin.com. Created by Taxi, New York, it featured a voice-over of a mom who carries her baby in a sling because it’s good for her kid and she sees it as “a fashion statement” and validation of her as “an official mom.” Alexa data suggests the Motrin ad was seen by as many as 15,000 people daily at its peak after it went up Sept. 30.
No one complained much, it would appear, until Nov. 15, when Barb Lattin of Colorado noticed a mention of the ad on a babywearing section of a Yahoo Group for devotees of “attachment parenting” and posted it on the blog related to her business, Perfectly Natural Photography.
Another Colorado-based blogger, Amy Gates of CrunchyDomesticGoddess.com, picked up on that and posted the first tweet on the subject just under five hours later. By the following Sunday, the Motrin ad controversy was generating as many as 300 tweets an hour, according to TrendRR.com. That helped move it to the top of Twitter’s “trending topics” list, which in turn helped the original bloggers pitch the story to conventional news outlets.
Indeed, the person who hijacked Motrin’s brand on Twitter and was among contributors to the criticism appeared to be aware as of Sunday night Nov. 16 of impending coverage by the likes of The New York Times (which covered the fracas on a blog), The Wall Street Journal, AP and Reuters. Later in the week, the person behind the Motrin handle tweeted that he had offered Kathy Widmer, VP-marketing for Motrin and other over-the-counter drugs at J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare, to turn over the account with “no strings” but had received no response. In response to a Twitter query, the Motrin account owner gave an e-mail address that appeared to point to a male Ruby on Rails programmer from Austin, Texas, but that person could not be reached to confirm that by deadline.
Subsequent coverage came from USA Today, the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, too.
Yet, despite all the fuss, not that many people ultimately paid attention. The two YouTube posts of the actual ad in question (which was removed from Motrin.com) drew a combined 216,000 views through Nov. 21. A YouTube video by mommy blogger and online retailer Katja Presnal piecing together the Motrin protest tweets got 63,556 views.
Even without subtracting duplicate views by the same people, which are impossible to know, that amounts to less exposure than running a single 30-second ad on a cable news network — something even Motrin’s relatively sparse $2 million media outlay in the first half of 2008 could easily outstrip.
What’s more, data from Motrin.com’s Alexa graph suggest about as many people saw the ad there without turning to social media in outrage — averaging around 5,000 daily before the controversy broke — as saw it during the week after it broke. And comments on the YouTube posts after the initial controversy appeared to run mostly positive to neutral.
In fact, most online buzz about Motrin-gate was either positive or neutral in tone toward J&J and the ads, according to analyses by Tom Martin, president of Zehnder Communications, New Orleans, and Lexalytics.
Meanwhile, the core group behind the Twitter storm numbered in the low four figures. A Google search on Monday indicated around 4,000 tweets on Twitter, and analyses by Mr. Martin using Radian6 data and by Lexalytics suggested around 1,500 tweets involving around 1,000 individuals using the #motrinmoms hash tag.
“If Motrin’s brand managers were not just listening to the market, but accurately measuring it too, they might not have been so quick to panic and pull the ad,” Lexalytics said in a blog post. Its analysis found that even among those using the #motrinmoms hash tag on Twitter, only about 35% of the tweets were negative, with the rest neutral or positive toward the ad.
Mr. Martin suggested in his blog that J&J should have kept the campaign in place, apologized to critics in whatever medium they had used to complain, and used the opportunity to engage in dialogue. In a second posting on Motrin.com Nov. 20, Ms. Widmer suggested she intends to do the last part, anyway.
Was it worth it?
Meanwhile, even some mommy bloggers saw signs the whole episode had hurt their community more than helped it. “Right or wrong, the rest of the web is now rolling its eyes, again, at our community,” Erin Kotecki Vest said on Nov. 17 at QueenofSpainBlog.com. “I’ll be honest, they are right. What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally lynch mob.”
Corporate marketers already knew about the power of mommy bloggers, she said. “They are buying ads, they are engaging women online. They are sponsoring trips, sending you even MORE free stuff. They are paying for YOU to consult for them. … You have their attention. You have the power.”
Ultimately, Ms. Presnal said she sympathizes with J&J’s plight after having received at least two e-mails from Ms. Widmer last week. Reading from one, she noted that J&J had worked with focus groups of moms in developing the campaign.
“We listened extensively to moms, the insights about their lives, and how their pain impacts them,” Ms. Presnal said, reading from Ms. Widmer’s e-mail. She continued from the e-mail: “I think where this went wrong was the creative expression we used. … The tone was intended to be real and lighthearted, but it came off as irreverent. … We did conduct focus groups with moms. But truthfully they probably weren’t extensive enough to uncover this.”
“I think they truly believed they were doing a good job,” Mr. Presnal said, but believes the research probably didn’t include enough baby-wearing moms.