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A content strategy for your talent brand: five steps to unlock your potential

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The role of content in today’s customer journey cannot be overstated. Thanks to the internet and social media, every company is now a publisher; and those organizations that invest strategically and execute efficiently are finding outsized success in their markets. One study, by the Aberdeen Group, found that website conversion rates are six times higher for companies that employ branded content compared to those that don’t. And more than three out of four buyers read a case study before making a purchasing decision in the past 12 months, according to the 2017 Demand Gen Report. Big brands are going all-in. For just one example, over the past six years Coca-Cola has shifted its core marketing strategy to a focus on content excellence.

But as much as great content matters in attracting customers and closing sales, it arguably matters even more when it comes to your talent strategy. Customers come and go every day; employees stick around a lot longer (hopefully!). If human talent matters in differentiating and sustaining your business — and we’ve yet to meet a company where it didn’t — then it’s critical that you develop a content strategy that helps you attract the right people and keep the best people productive and engaged.

Wait … Talent strategy?
Unfortunately, for a surprisingly large number of organizations “talent strategy” is an afterthought — if it is a thought at all. It’s not unusual for companies (even larger, regional and national ones) to think about recruitment marketing only in terms of job listings on LinkedIn or Indeed, or to leave talent recruitment to headhunters.

The problem with this approach is that it often attracts the exact wrong applicants: people who don’t care about a potential employer’s purpose or culture, or — worse yet — those whose personal goals, values and ways of working are fundamentally misaligned with the brand’s.

Without the right talent, it’s harder if not impossible to execute even the most inspired business strategy. When researchers from Harvard, MIT and Accenture Strategy looked closely at three “game-changing” companies, they found that in each case, purpose and performance certainly mattered. But a well-articulated and executed talent strategy was the true differentiator that led to success.

Content at the core
Impactful talent strategies involve a mix of internal and external initiatives. The internal part involves creating, maintaining and evolving a culture that inspires and rewards performance and nurtures professional development. The external part, of course, is about finding, attracting and hiring the right people in the first place.

We’ve helped a range of organizations, from small to large, develop talent brands and strategies aimed at these exact challenges. And what we’ve found, over and over, is that when it comes to executing talent strategies branded content always plays a critical role.

The talent recruitment work we at PartnersCreative do for Deloitte serves as a great example. The company’s talent needs are huge — it hires tens of thousands of professionals every year — and its ambitions are high: Deloitte aims to be the go-to partner when enterprises and governments need to solve their most complex challenges. Needless to say, Deloitte can’t accomplish that goal if the company can’t attract the top talent — and lots of it. Just as important, the company needs to help deflect candidates who are not a good fit.

Toward that end, we helped Deloitte develop an interactive web app called Explore Your Fit. The tool asks potential applicants a series of questions and then provides them with customized content that suggests best-fit career opportunities at Deloitte. It also provides links to profiles of employees in those areas, as well as videos and other content that provide a sense of the company’s internal culture. And, of course, through the tool potential candidates can link to internship opportunities and job listings.

In its first year Explore Your Fit attracted some 25,000 users; it has been cited in Forbes and Workforce as a key tool in Deloitte’s efforts to attract recent graduates and contract workers in particular.

In effect, what we’ve created is a kind of virtual recruiter — a resource that can provide perspective not only on what jobs are available at Deloitte, but also what it’s like to work there. But unlike the human recruiters who travel from campus to campus meeting with students in person, this recruiter is available 24/7, wherever talent resides.

That said, the human touch remains an important part of Deloitte’s recruitment; so we’ve also produced interactive content to support the company’s army of campus recruiters. For example, we created an augmented reality smartphone app that students at job fairs can use to explore a number of augmented reality experiences, such as a self-guided “walk” around a three-dimensional vehicle. Various triggers on the car allow the students to get a glimpse of the cutting-edge technology work that Deloitte professionals have contributed in the automotive industry — and to do so through the lenses of the different kinds of roles Deloitte offers. So, for example, what someone working in risk sees, what someone in consulting sees, or what someone in cybersecurity sees are all from different perspectives. And all of that aligns to Deloitte’s brand and its employer value proposition.

These are just two elements of Deloitte’s content-driven talent strategy, which addresses every stage of the employee experience — from initial recruitment to ongoing internal engagement, ongoing professional development and even post-employment “alumni” communications.

And if anyone would know what works when it comes to attracting and retaining the best employees, it’s Deloitte. Year after year, the company is recognized as a global leader in human capital consulting. The company rightly recognizes that engaging the best talent means giving them not just brochures or friendly emails, but also real experiences of Deloitte’s culture and workplace, and interactive content that implicitly demonstrates the company’s focus on individual engagement, development and excellence.

Find your own fit
Obviously not all companies can muster the resources necessary to build a tool like Explore Your Fit. But there are plenty of content tactics that are well within reach of smaller organizations. A great example is this goofy but effective recruitment video from the Hillsboro (Oregon) Police Department. Even just adding a video or a page to your website devoted to workplace culture, company values and the employee experience can have a powerful positive impact in helping you find the right people.

And it’s important not to overlook the importance of content in your internal talent strategy. The way your organization presents itself in the recruitment process needs to be reflected in the real experience of actually working there, lest employees become disillusioned. A key to that experience is providing content that keeps employees connected, engaged, inspired and on the same path.

Internal newsletters, message boards, social media groups and blogs can all help in this regard. The more interactive, the better. That said, care must be taken that your internal content strategy remains focused on and aligned with your employer brand and overarching business strategy. Much like pointless team-building exercises, content for the sake of content will get you nowhere and can even be a distraction from performance and strategy. Each content initiative and platform should be carefully scoped and executed with a focus on an intended business result.

Start small, starting now
Developing a talent brand that is consistent with your overarching business strategy can be daunting. So too can the prospect of producing the necessary content to support your brand and strategy across the entire recruitment and employment experience. When you’re holding steady or growing relatively slowly, as many small businesses do, it can be especially tempting to put off the effort or deprioritize it until you’ve grown bigger. But as plenty of business owners can attest, a single wrong hire or disengaged employee can be damaging or even disastrous when your organization is small.

Fortunately, your employer brand and content assets don’t have to be built in a day. You can get moving in the right direction with a few simple steps.

Look around: The right talent brand for your organization is often right in front of you. You can find it in the people in your office and the values and passions you share. Ask yourself: What makes us uniquely effective in our business and marketplace? What characteristics distinguish the employees who are happiest and most successful here — and what drove away those who turned out not to be a great long-term fit? While your employer brand should always involve an element of aspiration, it should never lose touch with who you really are as people. Toward that end, ask your experts — the employees across your organization — what they think. Even more important, talk with your clients or customers: What consistent attributes do they see in your company’s culture and people that sets you apart? If they were to recommend a friend for a position at your company, why would they say it’s a good place to work?

Write it down: Ideally, your talent brand should be articulated as clearly and thoroughly as your overarching organizational brand. But you can start with something as simple as a one-sentence employer value proposition, identifying your best-fit talent audience and what about your culture / offerings sets you apart from other employers and workplaces. As you’re working on this avoid generic language at all costs; if what you write down could be said by any other company in your industry, it’s not specific enough. Also, take care to ensure that your employer brand locks up tightly with your organizational brand; the two must always resonate with and complement one another.

Live it: Once you’ve articulated your talent brand, it’s important to start reflecting and validating it every day, just as you do with your organizational brand. Over time, your talent brand should be infused into every aspect of your operations — from your onboarding process and benefits structure to your facilities and décor. And it should be reinforced by an internal content strategy that helps employees feel engaged, informed and valued. It will take considerable time and effort to plan and execute all of that. But done right, every positive step in your internal talent strategy will lead toward a more aligned, efficient, energized and impactful organization.

Find your doppelgangers: When it comes to developing a recruitment content strategy, the key is to identify where your best-fit applicants lurk and what they’re looking for. Once again, your existing employees can offer great insights. What social networks are they on? What podcasts are they listening to? And key: When they were looking for a job, what kind of information convinced them that you were the right employer for them? The answers to those questions will likely tell you not only where to find good talent, but also what content and messaging to serve them.

Take care, though, that at the same time you’re looking for people who would fit your culture you’re doing so with a clear emphasis on building diversity. Beyond the ethical reasons for encouraging workplace diversity, study after study has shown that companies with high gender, age, cultural and ethnic diversity are more productive and more innovative and perform better financially.

Put it out there: By the time you’ve completed all those steps, you probably will have already thought up a few great ideas for content that will help engage your ideal future-hire talent. Don’t wait until you have a job opening. Now’s the time to start putting that content together and sharing it with the world. And don’t forget to review your existing recruitment materials — from your job descriptions to the photos you use in employment ads. The goal is to create a seamless experience in which every stage of the candidate journey feels consistent and leads to a logical next step.

No doubt, articulating and activating your employer brand and content strategy can be challenging and time-consuming. But managing an uninspired, poorly aligned workforce is ultimately much, much harder.

PHOTO by Austin Distel.