Corporate flypaper Featured

10:55am EDT July 21, 2004
Corporate leaders today understand the value of a strong market brand to attract loyal customers.

Likewise, supplying branding principles to attract and retain top talent -- commonly referred to as employment branding -- has gained considerable attention, and will continue to do so as the economy improves and employees become more selective in choosing employment opportunities.

Creating a strong employment brand

Many similarities exist between great market brands and great employment brands. Great market brands understand their ideal customer; great employment brands understand what motivates their ideal employee. Great market brands create customer advocacy, loyalty and profitability; a great employment brand creates excellent employee advocacy, retention and productivity.

Great brands evolve and grow with their customers. So, too, does a great employment brand grow with its talent and the organization.

The J.M. Smucker Co., for example, achieved its status of No. 1 on Fortune's list of best places to work not only because it brands the company well to customers, but because it successfully brands the employment experience. Companies that legitimately make employees feel welcomed, valued and challenged will hang onto their best workers.

To develop an employment brand, it's important to map out a plan that defines the talent being sought and then understands how to attract such talent.

A high-value talent:

* Is a proven performer or has high potential to become a proven performer

* Fills a critical job function

* Fulfills a gender or diversity role

On the flip side, talent seeks values that include:

* A boss they like -- the No. 1 reason employees stay

* Organizations that practice open and honest communication, listen to their employees and solicit feedback; organizations that share their vision with employees in a flexible work environment that offers freedom to solve problems

* An organizational culture of enthusiasm that encourages teamwork, creativity and innovation

* Organizational reward and recognition for a job done well, fair pay for performance and a good work/family balance

* A company with a sense of honest and genuine caring about employee well-being

* An organization with a strong, identifiable market brand, perceived as an industry leader that makes room for talent to excel and delivers on its promise of corporate quality and service.

Attracting and retaining top talent

Your organization already has an employment brand, defined by your employees, competitors for your talent and customers. If you do not have a strategy to shape it, your employment brand will continue to be circumscribed by others.

Or, you can build your employment brand based on your goals, as follows.

* Define your employment brand and drive it as part of your business strategy, connecting it with the values of your targeted talent.

* Declare an employment brand with consistent, distinct, memorable and relevant messages -- both internally and externally.

* Demonstrate an employment brand to the talent you wish to attract, with actions that are consistent with your message.

Finally, bear in mind that if you don't retain top talent, you can't grow and you can't sustain growth. Employment branding is not a "soft" issue. Rather, it helps build a solid company with a strong bottom line and creates an environment for retention of the best and brightest employees during lean years and prosperous ones. Jim Atkinson is managing principal of the Lake Erie Region of Right Management Consultants. He helps Greater Cleveland corporations, banks, manufacturers and service companies develop a strong employment brand strategy. He has also counseled companies on corporate restructuring and employee retention, career assistance, mergers and acquisitions, and succession planning. Reach him at (440) 746-3830 or