How do you build an authentic employer brand? It’s all about getting a genuine understanding of what makes your business attractive, what roles are most critical to your success and truly examining the perceptions, characteristics, and attributes of current and potential employees.
We speak to Ana Harris Padley, the International People Services Lead at Houzz where she looks after all things people-related outside the US, to find out what the building blocks for employer brand are and how she activates a ‘family’ and ‘home’ feel at the company.
Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
Tell us about Houzz!
It is the world’s biggest online home design platform. We’re looking to enable our users to make the experience of going through home design, remodeling, renovation, whatever it is, as easy, as simple as straightforward as possible. Bringing what’s traditionally been a very offline market, magazines, homewares, things like that, online basically.
What sort of talent challenges are you faced with?
Probably the same ones as most startups. I mean, so our biggest area of focus is sales talent. We look for account executives who are working with our professionals, so selling them localized advertising services and not as a very tough industry to compete in. Every startup is looking for account executives, business development managers, people to help build their brand, to help build their business.
Also in tough markets like London, Berlin, Sydney, where some of our biggest offices are. Those are very competitive landscapes. You’ve got lots of startups looking for the same thing. I think our biggest thing is trying to differentiate ourselves and make people feel like, we’re a brand that they’re excited about and want to work for and know about at the end of the day.
How does your employer brand help to address this challenge?
I think a lot of what Houzz is about, is about home, right? And I think for us one of the big things that, we always say is Houzz is like a family and that resonates back with home. So when we try and recruit people, we really try and help them think about Houzz as a family, and Houzz as a place where they can be themselves, they can relax, it’s a great place to grow your career and be professional. But also you can feel like you’re friends with your colleagues and you can have a great time at work and be comfortable where you are. So I think that really connects with what we try and do in the marketplace.
What would you say is your best source of hire?
Oh, I would say it’s a mix, probably between passive candidates or going out and finding candidates ourselves. Just because we aren’t necessarily a well-known employment brand or a well-known consumer brand, people don’t necessarily think of us as a great place to work. I think when we go out and find those candidates and tell them a little bit about our story and who we are, I think we can get them excited about the proposition. I think the other thing is just referring other people who are excited about working at Houzz. We love what they do and who want to bring their friends into that fold.
Do you have a referral program in place?
We do have a referral program in place. We do not pay anything near Shazam, so I can’t say that we compete with them. We pay between £500 and £1,000 or €500 to €1,000, depending on location role, etc. But yeah, we find that the financial piece isn’t the incentive. It’s much more the feeling of bringing your friends to the office, of being proud of where you work and also the experience those referrals have in the process;
- Are we treating them with kindness?
- Are we getting back to them?
- Are we following up?
- Are we showing them what a great place Houzz is to work?
To me, that’s what’s important. The bonus is a nice thing that you get at the end.
What would be the USP of working for Houzz?
Yeah, so I think it is about being a family. We’re a company where we care about each other, where we want to do the right thing, where for better or for worse, whether we’re speaking to professionals or to our user community, we’re talking about something that’s really important to people, their home, their life. That’s where you come home to at the end of the day.
I think if people can connect with helping an interior design business grow, that’s something that’s really important to those people. They’re small business owners. That’s their livelihood.
Somebody improving their home, whether it’s a modest budget, whether it’s a huge budget, that’s a really important part of their life. So I think people that really connect to that will find a good experience at Houzz because they are really helping people affect something that’s a big part of their lives every day.
How would you communicate and activate this message to prospective talents?
We’ve actually worked with Jobbio on a few content campaigns and we did a campaign around “Make Houzz Your Home,” where people talked about what home means to them and how that resonates with the workplace. So again, I think just being authentic to your brand, tying what you do as a company back to what’s intrinsic to people and their values. I think also just helping people bring themselves to work.
You are a salesperson at the end of the day. You can be a salesperson for something that you’re passionate about or that makes you feel like you’re helping people. Whether that’s in home design or some other industry, that’s something that I think is really important to people and really matters to them.
Are there any particular initiatives that you’re proud of?
I really like our Open Houzz initiative. So one of the things that we do very early on in the recruitment process, especially not being necessarily a well-known brand where people know us or think about it as an employer is we’ll bring people into the office and we’ll have them meet with the sales leadership, meet with the team leads, meet even with other candidates, and other people that are interviewing.
So they can not only see our environment and get a feeling for what it’s like but also meet the people they’re gonna be working with every day. I think that’s an opportunity where, very early on in the process, not only can we assess for, are these people good culture fit and this what we’re looking for, but they can also see what we have to offer and in a very real kind of environment-based experience, whereas, it’s not them coming in for a formal, kind of, hard-hitting interview. It’s, “Come in and have a chat with us and meet some of the people here and who they are and learn a little bit more.”
Any mistakes that you’ve learned along the journey to share with us?
Oh, boy. I think you have to remember that every candidate is just as much a user as they are a consumer as they are maybe somebody who knows somebody and so the lessons of making sure you follow up, making sure you get back to people, making sure you give every candidate the best experience you can. If I think about the days where I go home and kind of cringe, it’s because either we haven’t done a great job of handling a candidate or of rejecting a candidate, or even of offering a candidate the process that they go through.
I think if we’re always striving to do something a little bit better around our process and improving it, and making sure we’re treating people with kindness and respect and the way that you would want to be treated if you were a candidate in the process. That’s how we’ll always continually improve.
How do you calculate ROI on employer brand?
That is an extremely difficult one. What are the things that I would think about? For me, I look at things like:
- The number of candidates that are actually applying for our jobs. Is it increasing over time?
- What are the outgoing fees and expenses for recruitment, whether that’s internal, external, whatever systems you’re using?
- And you have to try and balance those two things.
I think if your employer brand awareness is increasing, you’ll have other more tangible things that will increase with that, right? Whether it’s application volumes or offer-acceptance rates. Because I think part of people being bought into accepting an offer at the end of the day is being brought in to your company and the way that you from the process sold it to them etc. I don’t think you ever want to sell something that isn’t what you can actually deliver at the end of the day.
What are your top three tips for employer branding managers?
- Get yourself out there, so any events you can go to you’d be amazed at the amount of free events and meetups. As long as people are seeing your name, your business card, whatever it is, that’s one more person who knows your brand, your company.
- Be really aware of your job description. Know what you’re advertising, post the open roles, take down the closed one, and be really on top of how you’re presenting the career side of your business. Because I think that matters a lot to candidates in the job market.
- Just be authentic, like be true to what your brand is. If you try and put out an image on social media that’s what you think candidates want, rather than who you are, you’re never gonna end up attracting the right type of candidate anyway.
What companies beyond Houzz inspire you in terms of employer brand?
Yeah, I think companies that are doing just interesting things in the marketplace, right? I think about like a change.org or something, right, where they’re doing, something that’s completely authentic to themselves. I’ve heard the CEO [Ben Rattray] speak and he absolutely loves it. He’s really passionate about what he does. I think when you take something, such as returns from something that you just love to do every day and you can turn that into a business. I think that’s really inspiring.
What do you think is next up for Houzz’s employer brand?
Our big focus is just making sure that the audience that we’re looking for thinks of us as an employer brand. So whether that’s getting out there in front of your audiences, improving our social media or whatever it is, I think it’s actually getting people to think of us as a great place to work. And for us that’s visibility.
In terms of what other people should be thinking about, obviously online presence is a huge thing. But I think what people don’t think about is the potential negative consequences of online presence, right? So, like I said earlier like if you’re gonna have a social channel, manage your social channel and make sure it’s authentic. If you’re gonna put yourself out there in a way, like, actually invest the time and the resource. Don’t just do it because every other company is doing it. The potential pitfall is the excessive noise relative to actually finding what you’re really looking for.