Smiling work team during break time in bright officeA rebounding economy carries one major downside for recruiters: a deepening shortage of top talent as companies increase hiring and conduct fewer lay-offs.  As competition grows fiercer, talent branding will become increasingly important as a tool to attract and retain highly qualified employees.  LinkedIn has defined a talent brand as “the highly social, totally public version of [an organization’s] employer brand that incorporates what talent thinks, feels, and shares about the company as a place to work.”
The concept of employer branding, or the cultivation of an appealing image of a company as an employer, rose to prominence as a focus for HR departments in the mid-1990s.  Talent branding seeks to achieve essentially the same goal, while taking into account the vast impact that social media has on an employer’s reputation.  The transparent, interactive nature of social media has created a landscape where a company’s brand may be easily influenced by nearly anyone with some degree of familiarity with it, including current and former employees, unsuccessful applicants, and independent contractors.  As a result, fostering an engaged workforce full of happy employees who will publicly vouch for their employer is key to establishing a strong talent brand.
As many organizations have already realized, the investment in talent branding is worthwhile.  According to a LinkedIn study, a strong talent brand can yield a savings of up to 50 percent of the costs associated with each new hire, and companies with strong talent brands enjoy, on average, a 28 percent lower turnover rate than those with weaker brands.  While the solid foundation of a satisfied workforce must be in place before talent branding efforts will succeed, here are some strategies that will help the process:
1)      Clearly define the organization’s mission and goals and communicate them to employees at all levels so that the entire team understands what they are working for and what the organization represents.  Similarly define and communicate the image that you want to present as an employer, thus enabling employees to advance your desired talent brand in their interactions with the public.
2)      Fortify the foundation of your talent brand by taking active measures to improve the employee experience.  Use exit interviews, as well as dialogue with current employees, to determine the drivers behind employees’ decisions to stay with or depart from your company.  Armed with this information, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your organization as an employer.  Promote your strengths and improve upon the weaknesses.  Bolster employee engagement by emphasizing work-life balance, investing in training and development opportunities, and granting workers a reasonable degree of autonomy over how they perform their duties.  Think of each employee as an ambassador for your talent brand: what message about your merits as an employer do you want them to convey?
3)      Monitor social media and career sites, such as Glassdoor and Indeed, to gain insight into how your organization is being portrayed.  Consider any criticism as a possible area for improvement, and engage with users to clarify information when necessary.  Remember that unlike the more one-sided process of employer branding, talent branding is an ongoing dialogue including current and former employees and anyone else who comes into contact with your brand.
4)      Post videos on your website and other recruiting channels to show potential hires a glimpse of everyday life for your employees.   Consider including interviews with or testimonials from employees.
5)      Ensure that your talent brand is in sync with your corporate brand, or the image that you present to consumers.  For instance, if your corporate brand casts the organization as fun, quirky, and light-hearted, people may be skeptical if your talent brand seems staid and formal.  Individuals who are aware of one brand are likely aware of the other, and consistency between the two will strengthen both.
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