Branding is key to recruiting top talent

I like to walk down Park Avenue in the morning on my way to work for a number of reasons, but walking past the JP Morgan building always seems to be the highlight. Every morning, security is outside the building greeting everyone that comes through their doorway, as well as the other pedestrians on the street.  What a way to embrace your employees and set a positive tone for the day. Gestures like this always remind me that it is the little things that companies do that create loyalty among their employees, as well as interest from prospective talent in joining a firm.

I am convinced that branding for companies starts at the top and that having true commitment from executives is crucial to successful firm engagement, not only with current and former employees, but also with potential future ones. In this particular example with JP Morgan and its morning greeters, I have little doubt that senior executives at the firm had an integral hand in setting that priority. Especially now that the hiring markets are heating up, firms need to think about employer branding and employee experience.

The way firms retain their employees starts in the recruiting process. Treating them warmly when they walk in the door for an interview will stay with them even if they choose another path in their career. We all understand that HR has been under tremendous pressure over the past few years, especially as head count reduction has been omnipresent throughout most firms and on most headlines, but now that trend is changing.  Firms really need to rethink how they interact to potential and future candidates, as well as existing employees.  It’s the small things that can always make a difference.

There is a CEO of a company I know who has instituted a truly wonderful tradition at the annual Holiday Party. Every year at the firm’s end of year celebration, he recognizes a professional at the firm who is not a driver of revenue, but a worker bee. Whether they come out of the mail room or back office, the person’s clout or seniority is not the driving factor in selection. The CEO picks the person whom he thinks throughout the year had best interacted with his or her peers to raise morale at the company. To thank this person for his or her critical contributions, the CEO finds out what the employee enjoys or does as a hobby, and presents them with an appropriate gift at the party. One year, it was Super Bowl tickets with travel included.  It creates a culture of giving back and respecting your colleagues, no matter their level or title.  It also makes everyone feel good about being a part of an organization that really pays attention to its employees and recognizes the impact they have. It is not only about recruiting the right candidates but retaining them that matters, and this is one example of a tradition that came directly from the top and has had a huge impact on employee morale and creating a sense of goodwill at throughout the firm.

This commitment to thoughtfulness and respect should not be limited to current employees. When firms recruit, they sometimes forget to show a level of civility toward candidates during the interview process. Simple things, like thanking candidates for taking the time to interview, can go a long way toward creating goodwill with both the candidates you hire and the candidate you don’t hire.  Turning candidates down for a role is a necessary step during the recruiting process, but I have seen it mishandled by employers more often than I’ve seen it done well.  When a firm is turning down a candidate for a job, the goal should be to do it in such a way that, if the firm ever decides to revisit that candidate for a future opportunity, that candidate would still pick up the phone and consider the job. Years of recruiting have taught me that honesty and respect go a long way in helping ensure a positive experience for all candidates in the process. If you know that a candidate is not right for a role, it is better to be transparent and to take him or her out of an interview process early on, rather than misleading them into thinking they have a shot at the opportunity. Being transparent will help the candidate move on more quickly, while minimizing the risk that they will feel misled or that they wasted their time. For time-strapped hiring teams, technology or auto-generated emails can be used to help in this process.

Branding begins with how a firm connects with and treats their employees, as well as future and former employees.  The greeting at the door is just the beginning. In these markets, where the tides are shifting towards favoring the candidate, it behooves employers to be thoughtful and strategic about how they treat every person who comes in contact with their firm. The little things do make a huge difference.

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