Saturday, July 01, 2006

Recruitment Marketing - More Than Just ‘On-Site Espresso Machines’

In the good old days, a steady paycheck, reasonable salary and job security meant the chance to live happily until it was time to bail out and collect our pensions. Today, such assurances are barely enough incentive for a job candidate to get out of bed, let alone turn off the mobile and attend an interview. As such, what's an employer to do?

They say that ‘organisations that present themselves best hire the best candidates.’ Looks good on paper, but achievable? Perhaps during SARS or when the SE Asian market slumped and the unemployment rate in our base of Hong Kong was at 8.3%, its highest rate ever.

However, the markets have recovered and in the resulting tight employment market, firms must now compete for talent on a more aggressive basis. To succeed, companies now need to recognise, respond and market to the overall needs of employees and not just their professional requirements. Today's employee wants more than a paycheck or benefits; they want also to grow as individuals and, as such, firms must provide staff with overall life skills and not simply for the task they are paying them for.

In the future world of work, employers will not be able to sing that they are ‘employers of choice’ or ‘great places to work’ they will actually have to become them. As for staff, the good and the gifted will not put up with an average workplace or a Stalinist manager; they will know who the superior and inferior companies are and move to companies that offer the kind of ‘internal brand’ or mission, values and opportunities that satiates them.

Unfortunately, when promoting career opportunities, many companies rely too heavily on pushing the job, while relegating the advantages of working for the company to a few clichéd lines at the end of an advertisement, generally along the lines of ‘fast growing’ (compared to what?), ‘challenging and demanding’ (or was that thorny and unpleasant?) or ‘competitive salary and benefits’ (in regard to the local university or Microsoft?). Therefore, a company’s internal brand needs to be clearly defined.

To convey properly and successfully an internal brand to the employment marketplace, firms must devise a strategy for ‘recruitment marketing.’ In a nutshell, recruitment marketing is about promoting the employment opportunities of your company and telling the market, ‘why they should come and work for you.’

In a more complex form, it is identifying, living and promoting the unique characteristics, such as work environment, corporate history and values that will attract, stimulate and retain high-quality people.

So, what are some key elements required for companies to build upon and include in their future recruitment marketing strategies?

Better Work - Life Balance for Staff
Time spent on the job is on the increase, which means, by extension, that leisure time away from work is dwindling. This needs to be addressed as, during the course of our candidate recruitment interviews, many Manpower applicants identify a burgeoning need for a more balanced work-life environment. Items cited most include extended leave or the option to take sabbaticals as a workplace benefit. However, other examples of work-life balance include: home and part-time work, job sharing, and reduced and flexible hours. Leave options include leave without pay for a short period of time, phased return to work after sickness or maternity leave, career breaks, and paternity and maternity leave.

Endorse the Significance of Corporate Citizenry
Today's workers demand to be motivated by more than a company's financial results. Firms that make an effort to be good corporate citizens, or have mission statements that incorporate a deeper sense of commitment to the environment or the community (679 companies in Hong Kong, at last count) will have the distinct advantage.

For example, the mission statement of Mary Kay Cosmetics is “to enrich women’s lives," while pharmaceutical firm, Merck seeks “a culture that values honesty, integrity and transparency in all that we do.” Hewlett-Packard is “committed to the development and provision of environmentally sustainable products and services.” The list goes on.

On the employee side, an effective engagement strategy here is allowing staff to conduct related environmental or volunteer work on company time… sometimes even on company budget.

Professional Growth and Development
Mobile by nature, disenfranchised from a sense of job security and living in a generation of personal growth, Hong Kong workers look for personal and professional sustenance. Here, the new currency is career building skills, and firms that fail to provide will undoubtedly lose out. Mentoring is common, as Manpower studies have shown that approximately two-thirds of all employee knowledge is gained on the job through informal channels.

Employees to be treated as Partners
While most senior management would have staff believe that corporate hierarchies have been dismantled, employees don’t share in the opinion that today’s management consider employees as business partners. Top talent wants true ownership; they are no longer satisfied with basic empowerment. This concept entails the following:

  1. Two-Way Communication and Ongoing Feedback: contribution of suggestions regardless of age or seniority; staff who feel their opinions count are more likely to contribute overall;
  2. Transparency: staff requires a true understanding of the business, which means providing them with a free-flow of, in some cases, critically confidential information;
  3. Diversity of Leadership: more leaders trained in a less rigid style of management are paramount to staff retention, engagement and corporate survival; and
  4. Performance-based pay: real ownership means profit-sharing plans and team bonuses.

Communicating the Message
For most companies, recruitment marketing is based around four approaches: internet, outside recruiters, print and referrals. However, regardless of strength of internal brand, to survive companies should exercise two or more to be truly effective in communicating the mission, values and opportunities message.

Start with the referral process (if you don't have one; establish one). If you do have such a program, inform staff of it, how it works and the values you wish to convey to potential new talent.

In the absence of referrals, consider if recruitment marketing on open positions would be best filled through recruiters or agencies, internet or print advertising. A lot of vacancies can be filled through the internet, however don’t expect one job board to meet all needs (or there wouldn’t be hundreds of recruitment sites on the net), as they all have a place for attracting qualified candidates.

External recruiters can be incredibly efficient and are acutely aware of who are, and where are, the market’s top ‘players.’

Recruitment marketing is not easy, particularly in a tight employment market, however by determining your company’s mission, values and opportunities; then creating a recruitment marketing program that incorporates, referrals, internet presence, recruiters and print will generate hires that, over the long-term, will make your firm profitable and, indeed, stronger.

Oh, and don’t forget to include the job description.


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