Building your employment brand

I was told once that the way to determine whether the glass if half full or half empty is to know whether your filling the glass or emptying it. If it started out empty, it’s easy to see the glass as half full; if it started out full, you’re likely to feel that it has become half-empty. Following that logic, I suggest that the glass of our economy is half full.

“What I can tell you is that we are seeing signs of improvement. Layoffs, although we are still having them, seem to be leveling off a bit compared to a number of months ago. Of course, that doesn’t help those still out of work.”

Those were the words of Fran Allain at the beginning of September. Allain is the employee retention project manager for the State Department of Resources and Economic Development, one of the officials on the front line of the labor market here in New Hampshire.

Allain continued: “Simultaneously, we see more hiring. Not in great numbers, but there appears to be some positive movement. I wouldn’t expect massive hiring too soon. It’s going to be a conservative, long-term correction to the workforce.”

While not a very positive outlook for job-seekers across the state, it is a very good environment for employers. In fact, forward-looking employers have a rare opportunity to significantly enhance the quality of their workforce. Those companies slowly adding new staff will have the pick of the litter when making hiring decisions. Now more than ever, they can position themselves to attract high-quality talent that had not been available prior to the recession.

Of course, to be successful, employers will need to pay close attention to the recruitment process.

Differentiate yourself

If you’re fortunate enough to be among those who are creating the positive movement in the labor market, be prepared to make great hires. This is where I see many companies fail, resulting in long hiring cycles that attract low-quality applicants.

Preparation begins with defining what makes you unique as an employer, then identifying what makes a great candidate.

I recently attended a national conference keynoted by the recruiters from Adidas. While they have the power of a multinational brand to support their hiring process, it’s their philosophy and clarity of purpose that stands out. Adidas, like every employer, is always looking for opportunities to do more with less and has identified that one significant way to drive productivity is to develop a more engaged workforce. To make this a reality, they have built an employment brand designed to attract the best potential candidates for their workforce.

To build that brand, Adidas uses an exercise called “Differentiation in Degree vs. Differentiation in Kind” to identify the company’s unique offerings. This is a valuable activity for employers of any size. The idea is that you want to come up with what differentiates you in kind from your competition in the war for talent.

Differences in degree include compensation and benefits, which are offered by all employers in varying degrees. While potential candidates are interested in these, they are not primary drivers for their decision on where to work.

Differences in kind include such things as your unique niche. For example, if your company does metal fabrication that is used on the space shuttle, that makes you very different from a competing employer that fabricates metal for ventilation systems in warehouses.

Once you clearly define what differentiates you in the eyes of employees and job-seekers, you can begin to formulate the profile of a candidate that is most likely to become an engaged employee. At this stage, it’s critical that you identify what that special sauce is that makes someone a great employee – a pinch of technical skills, a dash of underlying motivation, mixed with a healthy portion of aligned values and shared vision with your corporate mission.

Simple, right? Of course not. If it were simple, everyone would make great hires every time.

Building an employment brand that delivers long-term recruiting success requires focus, effort and engagement by you and your managers. Many companies start this process and few complete it. Those that do make better hires that stay with them longer and give them greater flexibility to innovate and grow.

With the average cost of turnover somewhere between one and a half to three times the employee’s salary, your ability to retain engaged employees longer could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. An effective employment brand is one of the most sustainable profitability initiatives that your company can implement. Build your brand. Make better hires. Increase your profits.

<font size=1>Jason Blais, director of business development for, among whose sites is, also is a regular contributing blogger to the NHBR Network (</font size>