Connecting the Tactical to the Strategy in Talent Attraction

While there are lots of posts around how to tactically implement your recruiting strategies, there seems to be less of a focus on really strategically approaching these things (save those articles on employer branding). Connecting the tactical to the strategic is something that I’ve seen very little of and IMHO, it’s time for some things to change around here.

Employer Branding, Meet Recruitment Marketing

Recently, I was at the the Employer Branding Conference and I heard a lot of lines being drawn between branding and marketing. Not for nothing, of course, they are two different things, but when the campaigns are that disconnected from the strategy, it seems ripe for things to go awry. Here’s how it goes when we go in:

  • Audit informs the team.
  • Team creates the EVP.
  • EVP informs the EB strategy.
  • EB strategy begets the RM implementation guide.

Maybe it’s a little too simplistic to do it that way, but I don’t know any other way to do it. Informal and totally anecdotal stats speak to around 80 percent of EB projects languishing due to no budget, no plan, or no buy-in. I think one of the reasons we can’t get to any of those things are because we find ourselves failing to connect the strategic to the tactical. Basically, we give people a lot of graphs and charts and no plan. That sucks.

One person who really connected the dots for me was Tisha Leslie, the Director for HR Social Media for T-Mobile. She went “conference commando,” meaning she spoke without a slide deck (ballsy) but did have mockups and examples of a lot of her campaigns in action. While she took the audience through the overall changes to the employer brand promise, she showed how that translated into design, social media, and content. This is what employer brand should look like. Not just why (because duh), how.

Recruiter, Meet Hiring Manager

It’s pretty tough to see dividends from your work when you have no direct line to the hiring manager. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with enough tech vendors to know there’s really no excuse for this. Between online collaboration software, company wide chats, and intranets, video interviewing and conferencing, and countless ATS additions to make it look even more like a CRM, it’s tough to make the case that recruiters and managers cannot get together and share thoughts. But much of that sharing is reactive.

When we bring it down to proactive sharing (y’know before the candidate walks in the door for the interview) we can pull in talent acquisition and retention models and give the hiring manager an inside look at the long-term goals.

Chances are you’ve implemented all sorts of goodies to make your candidate experience and talent acquisition process just aces. Things like assessments, skills tests, psychographic tests, gamification, etc. etc. (okay, maybe you haven’t, but you’ve probably at least sat through sessions and demos on all this stuff and thought, “hey maybe I should do that,” but I digress). One of the most overlooked key skills to a great experience and TA function is training your hiring managers (and recruiters, I guess, if they are green) on how to interview and more importantly, what to look for.

How are you gauging the propensity of the candidate to do the work? Obviously, assessments can show you part of this, but there is a deeper core of skills that needs to be addressed. While someone might have the skills of a coder or a great writer or benefits administrator, that doesn’t mean it’s what they want to do forever, or even that they like it. This can impact retention especially if you …

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… Are not actively practicing and modeling reskilling and retraining in your organization. This is one of the largest missed opportunities in TA and management today. You let talented people go because they have no desire to stay in the same job for five years. Newsflash! No one wants to. During the interview, train your managers to show where they job could lead and build out options outside the company. Sweeten the pot by letting them know when other hiring managers do this, you’ll have a better internal talent pool and a stronger, more balanced company.

Are you assessing for learning and development? This is another area where it seems recruiting is ready and willing to leave on the doorstep of broader HR, but it’s a mistake and not just because we’re increasingly tasked with retention numbers, whether corporate or agency. It’s a mistake because as your hiring managers may be marginally aware, the workforce is changing and changing rapidly. You probably know this because you see the numbers and articles daily but the average hiring manager doesn’t. Not cluing her in when you prep her for the interview is doing her and you a disservice.

Rubber, Meet Road

Be realistic. Nothing is worse than creating a stellar employer brand, a great candidate experience, and an incredible interview process … only to have it derail with the actual employee experience. This is why so many employer brand advocates recommend honesty when it comes to the job description, hiring manager brief, team breakdown, and job advertisement. It’s another reason I believe so many branding projects waste away during the survey phase. It’s because once companies realize they might have to tell the truth and/or shift the way they treat their employees in order to come in alignment with the brand story they want to tell, people lose interest. This is where the implementation guides and audits come into play. If you know right up front where your brand sits in terms of the competition, from compensation and benefits down to culture and work-flex arrangements, you can craft an honest employer brand that is possible. In addition to measuring retweets and applications, you can look at succession plan and employee engagement scores as indicators of a successful employer brand.

Of course, there are a thousand other ways to tie strategy to tactical implementation. What are yours?

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, a consultancy offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, she has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the recruitment and talent space. Find her at RedBranchMedia.com or on Twitter -- @marenhogan.

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