Stop Being Boring – Become The “Talked About” Company In Order To Build Your Employment Brand!

The best recruiting tool in the world is to become “the most talked about place” to work. Although many firms strive to become what is known as an “employer of choice,” it is a lofty, difficult, and probably an unnecessary goal for most firms. A better alternative is to do something extraordinary or innovative in the workplace that will be picked up by the media. Doing innovative things for your workers will not only get you mentioned in the media, but it will also build your products’ “brand” and give your employees something positive to “talk about” when friends ask them “what is it like to work there?” Companies are a lot like restaurants. The best way to build their image is not through buying ads but instead through “word-of-mouth” or “viral advertising.” This means your firm must consciously seek out innovative things to do so that it becomes the topic of conversation and it gets people to talk about what a great place at which our company is to work. For example, the retailer IKEA pulled off one of the greatest recruiting and retention “coups” in recent memory by offering to share the total receipts from one-day of store sales as a bonus for its employees. This practice was unique enough to get on both national and local newscasts as well as in newspapers. Each employee only got $1,500, but the impact on recruiting and retention will last for years. The strategy is simple but unfortunately it is seldom used. Do unique or fun things in the workplace in order to get PR and to build your employment and product “brand” and to become the “talked about place.” HOW TO BECOME A “TALKED ABOUT PLACE!”

Most of the stories about business that gain widespread circulation are about layoffs, mergers, and changes in the stock price. These are hardly positive stories that can appeal to a wide audience. Editors are constantly looking for positive stories that are of interest to a wider audience. And since there are far more employees than there are managers and executives, stories about great employee practices and work features that relate to the common employee are of high interest to editors. Something to talk about might be something as simple as special treatment for a sick worker, free soft drinks at work, an innovative web feature, or even a unique approach to flexible work hours. The important thing is to continually provide employees with some feature in the workplace to talk and/or brag about! Even if the employee benefit or practice you offer doesn’t make it to the news, it’s equally as important for your employees have something to talk/brag about. Unfortunately, manager “mis-cues” are often the only thing employees have to talk about when someone asks “what is it like to work there?” Managers must realize that family and friends frequently ask employees about their work. The more they have to be proud of and to brag about also means that they are less likely to be retention problem as friends and family “reinforce” the notion that they work at a great place. EXAMPLES OF COMPANY PRACTICES THAT HAVE GOTTEN WIDESPREAD NEWS COVERAGE

  • An IT firm offering free BMWs to all of its employees
  • A software firm renting an entire theater so its employees could see Star Wars
  • A networking firm wraps Christmas packages at the mall and donates the proceeds to charity
  • A delivery firm helped sponsor one of its employees to train for the Olympics
  • A software firm allows employees to bring their dogs to work
  • A consulting firm develops a special retention program for women that includes job sharing and part-time work
  • An Internet firm helped organize a worldwide “feed the poor” charity Web concert
  • A major computer firm allows its employees to visit the elderly on work time
  • A software firm offers sabbaticals to its long-term employees
  • An Internet firm flies a banner over their competitors job site
  • A law firm provides free limousine rides home for all employees who stay late and miss there rides
  • An airline offers domestic partner benefits to its employees
  • A power company opened an on-site childcare center in a downtown building
  • A firm giving each of its employees a $75,000 bonus to say thank you


The “talked about” strategy involves offering what I call “WOW” benefits or job features. These are unique offerings to employees that make others think “I wish I had that.” The “talked about” feature generally falls into these basic categories:

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  • A flextime or work at home opportunity
  • A unique way to pay or reward employees
  • A public “event” worthy of press coverage
  • A donation or help to a charity
  • An innovative use of employees or technology
  • A visit by a major news figure or celebrity
  • Special treatment given to an individual employee
  • A unique employee benefit

Of course recruiters do not have the authority to change a firms’ benefits, but they certainly can demonstrate to management the recruiting and retention value of giving both employees and the news media something to talk about. Recruiters need to work closely with their firms’ PR department in order to determine if there are company events or features that might interest the press. Recruiting needs to search newspaper and media coverage and benchmark “talked about” firms to determine which features and events have previously received coverage. WHAT DO THEY SAY ABOUT US NOW?

Recruiters also needs to work with market research in order to determine exactly what employees currently say when they are asked by outsiders “what is it like to work there?” This is especially true if you’re relying on employee referrals because referral programs increased the frequency in which employees have an opportunity to talk about their firm. The message employees send must be consistent and clear. And we need to provide them with a great message to deliver! CONCLUSION

Recruiting is just marketing and sales with a crummy budget! No matter how hard an individual recruiter tries, they can only have a minimal impact on bringing in recruits. Placing want ads and attending job fairs can also only bring in a relative trickle of applicants. Even great Web pages tend to have only a marginal impact compared to the most powerful recruiting tool available to the company. That tool is getting your company mentioned on TV, in the paper, or in widely read magazines as the “great place to work.” If recruiters are to increase their effectiveness they also need to work with both PR and marketing to develop an employment “brand” as a great place to work. Uniqueness and innovation are the key to success. Once you become the “talked about place” your only recruiting problem will be sorting through the large volume of resumes you’ll get everyday!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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