How can your organisation harness the world’s largest professional network to attract talent? The answer lies in employer branding, or talent branding as the folks at LinkedIn prefer to call it. We’ve had a chat with Chris Brown who is the Director of UK Talent Solutions at LinkedIn to get some answers.
You can listen to the episode below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
My background is tech. I studied computer science and artificial intelligence back in the ’90s. From there, I ended up into a sales career which ended up in the travel industry, hence the role at Air Mauritius. And while I was there, I was in the reserve forces and I was young and fit then, I became a physical training instructor. And from there, I moved to a tech company in the travel business. And it was there that I started using LinkedIn as a member in 2006, which in those days was quite early. LinkedIn started in 2003. And I was getting value as a member of LinkedIn by connecting to my customers. I had a profile and I just found it easier to stay in touch with my customers there through social than I did by tracking them down using phone numbers and e-mails. That was my first value as a member, but obviously I’d built a profile which was good enough to get noticed and LinkedIn found me. I wasn’t looking for a job. And I think my presence on social media helped, and I was asked to come and have a chat to see if I’d be interested in exploring how LinkedIn might work and LinkedIn Talent Solutions in the UK. So that’s the short version of my background.
I now lead the Talent Solutions business for the UK market. Essentially what that means is myself and the team are dedicated to organisations based in the UK on helping them find their future talent through LinkedIn.
There’s lots of research out there already externally and from us explaining the power of a positive employer brand and how that can affect positively the way organisations attract talent and retain talent. But this research we did to highlight how a negative brand might impact, so what we did, we researched loads of people in the UK and asked them what convinces them to work at a company when they’re looking for a job. And the five things which came up as positive factors were about job security, around development opportunities, the way they can work with new teams and also companies sharing their own values. That much is there, that kind of purpose, and also just positive perceptions about the company which they’ve heard in other places.
I’ve seen so many of the exact opposite, so concerns about job security is one. Poor leadership, bad teams or dysfunctional teams, and then negative impressions that they have or perceptions they’ve heard elsewhere, and a bad reputation among that industry. So they’re the five things that put us off those types of employers.
Read more at The Importance of Combatting a Negative Talent Brand.
We tried to put a figure on it, and we worked out that the cost of attrition, if you like, or the percentage additional that companies would have to pay is 10% to find and attract talent to replace those people that were leaving. And we worked out, for a company of 10,000 employees, that can add up to more than £4 million a year. So we’ve actually put a figure on the cost of a bad reputation.
Further reading at A Poor Employer Brand Can Hinder Talent Attraction.
This is a question we’re asked a lot, so this is based on my experience and based on all the companies we are working with in the UK. First one I’d say is having a strong presence. What I mean there is having your company and your brand presence built. Having a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, any other social media, building out that content so it’s interesting, sharing updates through social and through LinkedIn that aren’t just about talent but about all sorts of things that your company might be doing. So that’s the basics, in fact, just having that presence.
The second piece is about involving everybody. The companies we’re working with that seemed to be doing this the best or seemed to be having the most progress with their employer brand are getting their employees – that’s right from CEOs right down to every single employee in their organisation – engaged as well. And what I mean by engaged is companies writing about their experiences, sharing news about their own company. And by doing that, that helps companies amplify the brand and in some respects, accelerates the network effect.
And then the third thing is to be authentic. Over the years at LinkedIn, talking about employer brand, we’ve seen lots of organisations start to build their brand – that presence I talked about. But often, I’m sure you’ve seen it, Jorgen, you can see some companies that are awfully generic. And it’s very easy for all of us to spot authentic content, so you can tell it’s been written by an employee rather than buy, for example, a marketing or commerce team. That authenticity, I think, gives those potential candidates real insight into what you can offer.
A couple that spring to mind, we’ve been working with Harrods here in London for a while. They spoke an event for us and talked about how they generated followers on LinkedIn. At that time, they had a recruitment team, but they didn’t necessarily have a big team or the resources or knowhow, particularly, on how to develop their brand. And they decided that generating followers on LinkedIn could be a good strategy, because some of the research we’ve done shows that a good 70% of the followers on LinkedIn are potentially interested in career opportunities. So Harrods had a deliberate effort just to, like I talked about sharing, they started engaging all their employees on sharing content on LinkedIn and other social platforms. And what I mean by content in that case is sometimes it’s a job, that we have this job opening at Harrods, sometimes it was just news about what interns were doing or news about products they were selling. And I think it took them about two years to get to 20,000 followers. And within the next few months, because of that strategy, we built up at 50,000 followers. And there’s a knock-on effect from that was that they found their recruiting efforts with the same resources are a lot more effective, because they had that reach and network effect.
Another one related to followers was actually Diageo who reached a milestone of a quarter million followers. And if you think about their brand, as an employer, a lot of people may not have heard of Diageo as such, but will associate the actual drinks brands a lot more strongly. So as Diageo, they did a video which they put online which was around a mixologist mixing drinks in that bar. That video went viral and it just had a huge effect upon their brand as an employer. Something very simple.
There’s lots of different ways. Harrods just engaged their employees. So Harrods, and what we see this quite often, is recruitment teams, for example, would have the internal communications around the fact that we’re now using social media to recruit. This is a big part of our hiring efforts this year, for example, and we value your input as employees and we invite you to share the news that we’re posting. And that’s right up by CEOs. If senior executives are starting to share, build profiles, write blog posts, they start to encourage all their employees to do the same. So at that volume of engagement, this is where the effects really start to show.
There are other ways too. You can put ads around the network. You can direct people to the LinkedIn company page whatever the source is. There’s lots of different ways of doing it.
Yes, the CEO of Sage, Stephen Kelly. I think he’s one of the most socially active CEOs in the UK. They’ve had a lot of traction from all the posts in LinkedIn and elsewhere. So that’s one good example. I think there’s lots of research out there which shows that socially engaged CEOs are having a big effect on their brand.
Talking to our customers in the UK, they helped us understand that they valued that content strategy, but perhaps in certain organisations, there was a slight intimidation or risk of sharing the wrong kind of information. And so this is the product that you mentioned. LinkedIn Elevate essentially allows companies to curate that content and distribute it to their employees. So as an employee, using Elevate on my mobile phone, I can see this content which is being curated by my peers in our marketing or commerce team, for example, and then I’m free to share anything on there without any risk of saying the wrong thing about my company. So the idea was it would help generate that volume of activity and also that advocacy from employees.
Talent Brand Index is a really good tool. We’ve talked about the power of employer brand or talent brand for years and we’ve been talking about it for the last 10, 15 minutes or so. The question we’re often asked in the past is, “It’s all very well, but it’s very intangible. How can I measure it?” and the Talent Brand Index is one of the first ways that we’ve developed, but more broadly could be that anyone’s developed, which actually allows companies to measure it – to measure the impact of their talent brand, and see how it progresses every time. So how it works is we can measure the reach that a company has on social media or LinkedIn by looking at certain activity, in aggregate, in the background. And that activity would be, how big a reach a company has is essentially based on how many employees they have and how many people are connected to those employees. X thousand people are aware of that company is an employer, so we have this number, and then we also look at engagement within that reach.
Of that pool of people that are aware of the company as an employer, how many are engaging with them? And the engagement means are they looking at jobs, are they looking at the assets, the company pages, and so forth, or are they connecting with their employees or viewing their profiles? And then from those two numbers, we divide one by the other and we create an index which essentially is that brand index.
The number in itself isn’t that insightful. When we start to benchmark that figure, that’s where it gets interesting. So your own company Talent Brand Index, on its own, could be interesting. You can get the correlation between reach and engagement. And you can see that track every time. Of that pool that’s aware of your company, are more and more people engaging with it? Can it be trusted? So taking 24 and doubling that in a couple of years is a good movement. Where the index gets really interesting to our customers is where they can benchmark against the competitors, so we don’t share that data specifically but we give them the benchmark within their industry. And we can also break that down by certain other relevant metrics which they might be interested in like, how is it benchmarked in a particular function or in a particular location. So your company might be an HQ company in the UK. and have quite a high Talent Brand Index here, but overseas, it’d be lower, and it allows you to think about how you approach your brand in different locations.
I’d say the fact that we can measure brand from all our customers is actually really powerful. That’s the main point. In fact, we’ve done some other research which shows over 80% of employees believe that brand has a significant impact on their ability to hire key talent, but only about one third measure it. So because of that discrepancy, most of our customers find it really powerful. And like I said to you, your figure of 24% on returns isn’t actually very interesting.
The 380 million profiles we have give us loads of insights on particular markets. Another thing we do, we produce for free what we call Talent Pool Reports, and anyone can access these online, which, for example, you can access data from LinkedIn, aggregate data about a particular talent poll you might be interested in. So for me, I look at the Talent Pool Report which is about sales professionals in London, and it gives me some snapshots on how in demand that talent poll is in that particular location and what drivers are interesting to those types of people in finding a job like we talked about earlier. So that kind of data, we allow outside members and not just existing customers have access to it.
So this is my blog. This isn’t an official LinkedIn blog. This is mine. We talked about employees generating content. This is something I did myself. One of our values as a company is relationships matter and last year we talked about that a lot internally, relationships with our customers, relationships with our colleagues. And I was interested to explore how relationships matter internally at this point because we’re growing quite quickly as an organisation. And one of the things I learnt about writing, I’m still very amateur at this, from some of my mentors and so forth, is to keep a story simple. So I was thinking about what’s the most basic form or the most basic element of maintaining a relationship and I realised quite clear it is to know someone’s name.
A personal goal of mine is to actually get to know as many people as I can internally. And so I do spend quite a lot of time in my office walking around and meeting new people. It’s only a smallish office, it’s about 200, but it’s still just about small enough to get to know everybody. And I just found that it was a great litmus test on company culture around how many people you know. So the research didn’t go beyond that, the appeal in my blog was ask yourself how many people in your office you know the first name of. Maybe ask your colleagues, and that will give you a good idea of how well connected people are which should tell you something about the culture.
We talked about authenticity earlier. And you know, we’re lucky at LinkedIn, we do have a good recruiting team that have produced content and blogs and videos and so forth. What I felt we needed was something a bit more authentic about London particularly. And I didn’t necessarily have the time or the resources to engage in a professional video company at that stage, because I wanted to do something quickly, because I had quite a steep hiring need at that point. So I literally walked around the office with my smart phone and asked as many people as I could what’s the best thing about working at LinkedIn London. And I sneaked up behind and asked them about that without any planning or prep. And the reason I did that was to capture their first reaction, that authenticity.
It literally took me an hour to do the filming, and it took me probably about four hours to edit it, while I was on a delayed flight or waiting for a delayed flight. It just took me a little bit of time and I produced that very amateurishly and put it online. And the resulting effect has been really powerful actually. That blog post and video had thousands and thousands of views, and most of the people I hired last year when I had this particular hiring need, at some point in that recruitment process, have watched the video, either the early point of being contacted by a recruiter or referral or in that decision making process. And I think anecdotally, they are telling me that authenticity that they saw in the video gave them a lot more insight towards what it’s like to work here than perhaps an official video would do.
I’ve done a lot of reading about leadership and you may have seen a lot being talked about the importance of generating followers. And in my experience as a leader, that’s partly true, but it has connotations that a follower just execute on perhaps your strategy or your direction. And at LinkedIn particularly, and my style of leadership, is we expect and we support leadership in any job function, irrelevant of the job title. So we promote and we encourage individual contributors to show leadership in their day-to-day role. So my role as a leader is to generate that kind of environment where they can display leadership and learn leadership but also finding the future leaders for our company.
I certainly believe healthy employees are more productive for sure. You may have seen these desks which allow you to stand. They go down and again, that’s a great perk which allows you to stay on your feet. I’d recommend a couple of things based on experience is walking meetings. I’m often found walking around the square down here or down to Covent Garden. I think being offsite, being in the fresh air can add a different kind of dynamic when you’re having a one-to-one, which is useful and it keeps you fit. And going back to the social office culture, I genuinely invest reserve time in my day to actually walk around the office and get to know people in different departments, and just that in itself makes me walk more which is always a good thing.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Brown_UK and don’t forget to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast..
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