integrating brand into your talent model

November 28, 2016 Steven Brand

There is a strong argument to be made that integrated talent management represents the future. It is a means to ensure that every role or task is undertaken by the very best resource and a solution that responds to the fact that more skilled workers are interested in working on a less permanent basis. Rather than assign any given role as a permanent, contractor or freelance position, the talent advisor/director within this delivery model considers only the right type of resource to fulfil the business requirement. That might well be a permanent person. It might equally be several contractors, two senior freelancers for short periods of time or a mix of the above.

By removing silos and labels around the types of resource and recruitment required— where permanent staff and contractors are often administered via separate systems, teams and processes —integrated talent brings the people function together, offering visibility to look holistically at immediate need and what might be needed moving forward.

Such efficiencies are among the reasons for Everest Group Research to suggest that a 10-12% cost saving might be achieved in successful adoption. Its attractiveness as an efficiency driver and a reflection of the new working world are compelling to many organizations, with more than two-thirds of human capital leaders we recently surveyed likely to adopt the model.

Brand readiness

The effectiveness of such a move is about much more than having the right systems in place. One key area for consideration is the employer brand.

It’s fair to say that traditional focus in the development of an Employer Value Proposition (EVP), or the ongoing management of the employer brand, has been on the permanent workforce which is seen as the most “valuable” and important workforce component. Changes around how we are able to work, how we want to work and how employers wish us to work have all meant that the strategic and operational importance of traditionally more marginalized elements of a workforce, such as contractors or freelancers, has shifted and continues to do so.

According to Randstad Sourceright’s 2016 Q4 Talent Intelligence Outlook, 69% of human capital leaders agree that the right resource for a role today could be permanent or contingent. Across many organizations and sectors, the new norm is likely to be something other than permanent employment for set hours at a single organization. Variety, flexibility and agility are rife, throwing up challenges and opportunities in, roughly, equal measure.

From a brand point of view, to be confident you have access to the very best people for every possible job, your brand needs to reach those looking for contracts or assignments, as well as those looking for careers. This requires recruitment marketing, content development, internal mobility, process and onboarding to take account of differing entry points, offer different experiences and set different expectations. It also results in needing to understand thoroughly what your organization means and offers to these audiences and how they match to their desires and aspirations. You should not assume it will be the same for permanent staff, or that it’s something you can intuit within the resourcing function.

The same, but different

From a brand management and articulation perspective, the challenge is managing the complexity these audiences add. What drives and motivates a freelance worker to accept an assignment could be very different from what drives and motivates a permanent worker. Depending on the nature of the task, your organization could look to engage with either – and needs to be confident you have something compelling to offer.

Good brand management has to be built on a foundation of robust, relevant research. The first and most important step is ensuring every audience is represented in your research, both internal and external. These include the freelancers and the contractors, every grade and every location, all genders, social backgrounds and personal experiences. If the brand is to be a genuine representation, it should include the views and ideas of as many people as possible.

What you’re then looking for are the things that unite us and the things that separate us. Both are valid and of equal importance. The things that unite such diverse audiences form the pillars of the overall employer brand — feelings, experiences, promises that an organization makes to every single employee, wherever they come from and whatever their role.

Beneath that framework, we look for the things that separate us, the things that make every audience group distinct and the things that matter most to specific groups of people. These things are, for example, what a freelancer prioritizes compared with a contractor.

It is at this layer of understanding that we can craft the targeted value propositions to reach highly specialized segments of our talent audience, especially those whose talent is relatively scarce. The underlying meaning of each pillar of your brand remains consistent, but can be expressed using language which offers its own context or finessed definition.

Do it, don’t say it

So far we’ve looked at research and articulation. This is vital to do and vital to get right, but it’s also only the beginning.

Every audience is now much harder to market to. We’re more cynical, reserved and harder to convince. We are less likely to trust the word of a corporation than that of a stranger. Your own website may not be as influential for your candidates as Glassdoor.

In this environment, telling people who and what you are carries little weight. Your challenge is twofold:

  • To show it in action
  • To have others independently verify your offer

If your research tells you that your freelance population and target market are driven more by the innovation of the project than by the organization offering it, you need to consider how to build visibility of the projects you’re most proud of and how to involve the freelancers who worked on them.

If you know that in-demand contractors are driven by networks and relationships, perhaps you make them a part of your alumni program to help connect your business.

These are just two examples of how well-conducted research can deliver actionable insights.

As Deliveroo and Uber are finding out, a lack of insight into the aspirations and expectations of a non-permanent workforce can have far-reaching implications – not just for the people strategy of the organization but on business performance and customer sentiment. As organizations look to an integrated talent approach to navigate increasingly complex labor markets, a solid understanding of all of your audiences and your own organization has never been more important.

About the Author

Steven Brand

Steven Brand is a leading authority on employer branding with Randstad Sourceright's Talent Innovation Center. He ensures clients and prospects have access to the very latest and most relevant thinking in employer brand practices, from compiling a compelling business case to writing strategy, driving delivery and reporting impact. Steven has more than 15 years' experience working in people marketing and employer branding, both in-house and with creative agencies for organizations as diverse as Deloitte, Carphone Warehouse, the MOD and RBS.

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