What works there won’t work here

I’ve just gotten back from the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas – an amazing event with thousands of attendees, hundreds of products exhibited, and 65+ product launches and announcements.  There were some truly innovative new products there, including some very interesting takes on workforce planning… but that’s a topic for another post.

Between the exhibition, the conference sessions, and nearly getting mauled by a bear in the Sequoia, my very good friends Trevor and Kevin joined me at Coca-Cola world for a tasting of different Coke products from around the world.  The general consensus was that all but one of them were unpalatable – from the Chinese apple-flavoured one to the one from Djibouti that tasted like mouthwash, most of the drinks were at best very unusual to western tastes.


Of course, these products are best sellers in their home markets, because every country has its’ own culture, tastes, and preferences – a lot like organisations, really.  Coke gets differentiation.  They know that what works in one culture won’t work in another – so they tailor their product offering to their market.  Differentiation is at the heart of market strategy, and make no mistake – the talent market is a market too – yet organisations who want to win in the talent market often don’t differentiate.  That’s why we have so much “best practice” HR initiatives, and so few outstanding companies who understand their talent market, craft their practices to benefit those market segments, and validate their results continuously.  One size does not fit all – in fact, it fits no one.  Take a lesson from Coke – understand your market, and craft your offerings accordingly.

Talent Branding, or Talent Advertising?

Talent (comics)

Talent (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I’ve been working with a company who are great at attracting high-quality candidates.  Their “talent brand” is phenomenal – but they are facing significant problems with high early turnover in their organisation.

At its’ core, any kind of branding (including talent branding) is a promise, a statement of what makes you important and unique, and why you should be trusted.  In the consumer market, your brand might promise value, efficiency, exclusivity, or quality.  In the talent market, it might promise a collaborative, high-performance culture; opportunity; or innovation. Your brand is a set of principles that communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Allbusiness.com suggests a set of principles to use when developing a brand:

  1. “Think analytically. A brand should provide something that warrants attention on a consistent basis, something your audience wants and is not getting from your competitors.”  A “me too” strategy destroys value rather than creating it.  What’s unique about your workplace that appeals to your target (talent) market?  If you don’t know what that target market is yet, define it before you define your talent brand.
  2. “Maintain your brand. One rule of thumb is that when you start to become tired of your …branding efforts, that’s most likely when they are sinking in with customers.”  If you develop a strong value proposition that you truly believe in, then it shouldn’t be a problem sticking to it.
  3. “Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Typically, the best you can do is to focus on the niche market for your product.”  In the talent market, this means understanding the workforce that will lead your organisation to success.  A brand that speaks to you personally is much more powerful than a blanket approach – “we’re great to work for” doesn’t compel.
  4. “Know who you really are. Know your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis of what you do best.”  This is where your promise is kept or broken.  If you manage to hire top talent, but their experience as an employee is not what the talent brand promised, they’re likely to become disenfranchised and leave – or worse, become disenfranchised and stay.
  5. “Fully commit to branding. Treat all functions of the company, from product development to sales, as integral aspects of your brand.”  A talent brand needs to be integrated into the whole employee lifecycle, not just the attraction side.  If you look after your candidates but not your employees, you’ve got a recipe for employee dissatisfaction.

So what happens when the promise is broken?   In the consumer market, you “make the sale” and your customer becomes disenfranchised and leaves.  It’s the same in the talent market.  If you have high early turnover, take a look at your talent brand.  And consider using Strategic Workforce Planning to coordinate all of your talent initiatives, so you have a coherent strategy throughout the whole employee lifecycle.

Rockstar employees get riders too

Yesterday news broke about Beyonce’s rider including $900 drinking straws, hand-carved ice balls, and a new toilet seat for each show.  This reminded me of some of the ridiculous requests rock stars get to make in their riders, those contract additions for food, drink, and – well, pretty much anything really. Continue reading

What Google can teach you about Talent Brand

Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator)

Free food and drink – just one of the many employee benefits at Google (Photo credit: Aray Chen)

Talent Brand, why it matters, and what Google can teach you about how to improve yours…

Late last year, LinkedIn released the Talent Brand Index, along with a list of the most “InDemand” employers.  According to this whitepaper, The Talent Brand index ranks each company by the number of people interested in engaging with the company (researching your company and career pages, following your company, and viewing your jobs and applying), divided by the number of people who are aware of your company as an employer (by viewing company profiles, and being connected to your employees).

This matters to employers competing for top talent in a competitive industry, because if you have a strong Talent Brand, it’s easier to attract and retain top talent.

As you might expect, Google’s one of the stand-outs.  Google is ranked #1 overall in all geographies and functions; as well as being ranked:


  • #1 in the United States
  • #1 in the United Kingdom
  • #2 in Canada
  • #2 in Australia
  • #3 in France
  • #10 in India
  • not in the top 20 in Brazil
  • not in the top 20 in the Netherlands

By Industry:

  • #1 in Software Engineering;
  • #1 in Marketing;
  • #1 amongst students & recent graduates; and
  • #10 in Finance and Accounting

To me, the most impressive statistic here is this last one – Google has a talent brand in the top 10  for a very competitive industry that’s not its’ core business.

Google are renowned for some of their incredible perks, but they’re also a very data-driven organization, including in HR.  They don’t give people free food and valet parking without crunching the data to know that those things work for their organisation.  Laszlo Bock is the SVP of People Operations at Google, and in this interview, explains that all of the perks Google offers its’ employees achieve one or more of the following:

  • Creating a Community; 
  • Driving Innovation; and/or
  • Driving Efficiency.

More importantly, he feels that the company would be the same without the perks, because people don’t want to work for Google because of the perks – they want to work there because of the culture.

And how do Google gauge which programs will appeal to their employees and which ones won’t?  They ask them.

Some things to consider for employers:

  1. If you’re not already thinking about Talent Brand, you should.
  2. Your talent brand is not the same as your company brand, because the workforce you’re competing for is not the consumer you’re competing for.
  3. Ensure all your talent management strategies align to business objectives, and you can clearly articulate their benefit – even better if you can use workforce analytics to demonstrate their benefit.
  4. Ensure that the “benefits” you offer employees will actually attract and retain top employees; and
  5. Point 4 is much easier if you actually gauge what your employees and potential employees want, rather than relying on “best practice”.