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9 Essential Branding Messages Candidates Want To Hear

Brand: A five-letter word that prompts many people to picture images of cereal boxes, soup cans, and automobiles. While marketers have long been preoccupied with branding products and services, in a tightening labor market, talent acquisition professionals are increasingly recognizing the importance of being able to articulate an employment or talent brand that is designed to resonate with prospective candidates. Because talented job seekers have more employment options than ever, effective employment or talent branding has seemingly taken on greater degree of significance than ever.

Every organization should be regularly asking themselves, “What are we conveying to applicants and prospective candidates about the merits of affiliating with our organization?” “What messaging are we using and do they connect with the intended audience?” What are some messaging areas worth paying attention to? I would argue that recruiters of every persuasion (in-house, or 3rd party) should be trying to build selling messages around the following 9 themes:

  1. Growth Potential-Meritocracy
  2. Organizational Competence/Professionalism
  3. Opportunity for Diverse Experiences
  4. Development Opportunities
  5. Work/Life Balance
  6. Likeable Peers/Managers
  7. Innovation/Excellence
  8. Fulfillment/Job Satisfaction/Recognition
  9. Equitable Compensation and Benefits

Now, if you look at this list in its entirety, you will see that it forms the acronym “Good Work Life,” which at its very essence is the message that we are trying to convey – affiliate with our company and you can have a tremendous career experience. And, what the heck, I’ll throw in a 10th theme, which is: Market Reputation. It’s been well documented that people assign great value to what others think about their employer. Companies with great reputations tend to have a much easier time hiring the best talent. Companies with questionable reputations have a much more challenging time.

In my experience, just about every candidate will assign a reasonable degree of importance to the characteristics that I referenced earlier, regardless of whether they have consciously considered these attributes or not. I would argue that if you put my list in front of a candidate and asked them which two or three attributes they could live without, I expect it would be a very difficult decision-making process. What are they going to say? “No, I don’t need to actually like the people that I work with,” or, “You know, work/life balance is something that I regard to be way overrated,” or, “I would prefer not to be developed – growing my skills just isn’t that important.” I think not.

Now, in advocating that firms should craft selling messages around the themes that I referenced earlier I’m not suggesting that we want to stretch or sugar-coat the truth about our organization’s brand – naturally, we don’t want to embellish.

My list is intended to serve as a rough guide on potential selling messages that might be worth considering and that might serve to burnish your firm or client firm’s employment brand. If you can build great messaging that speaks to each of the themes that I’ve referenced, and then get comfortable articulating these to candidates, you will find that it really makes a difference relative to how your firm is perceived.

Again, in a talent constrained marketplace where people have more employment options that ever, it’s only natural that candidates are going to formulate a decision-making hierarchy that helps them to identify the very best employer and job opportunity. This fact is ultimately why employment or talent branding has never been more important.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing success.

How Low Can Unemployment Go? 4 Near-Term Impacts to Employers

On Friday, June 2nd, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that American companies had created approximately 138,000 new jobs and that the Unemployment Rate had dropped to 4.3%, a level not seen since May 2001. Unbeknownst to many is that the U.S. was in the early stages of a recession back in the Spring of 2001. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), what many commonly refer to as the dot-Bomb recession started in March of 2001 and ended in November of 2001.

I remember that timeframe well. Sales at a variety of firms whipsawed over the course of the Summer. Good months were intermingled with rough months. Getting traction was challenging and the general business climate felt slippery. Many companies put the brakes on spending. Tragically, 911 unfolded, and further inhibited an already wobbly economy.

In our current economic climate, the 4.3% unemployment rate has yielded a general sentiment among many economists that hiring demand is going to slow for several reasons: 1) A general lack of quality workers, 2) Scaled back corporate growth goals (attributable to a basic lack of talent), and 3) an unsettled political climate where the likelihood of growth being fueled by government stimulus programs looks less realistic, at least in the near-term.

In considering the 4.3% Unemployment Rate, I started to wonder, “How low can it go?” After all, unemployment was 9.9% in 2010, and has been trending downward for over seven years. Has the unemployment rate hit rock bottom? I’m taking a contrarian view – barring something unforeseen, I believe that the overall rate can still trend a bit lower even though some economists argue we are now at “full employment.” On Tuesday, June 6th, the Business Roundtable released its Q2 economic outlook for CEOs, which reflected heightened confidence regarding the outlook for both sales and capital spending. While there was a modest dip in sentiment regarding new hiring, firm’s that anticipated a decreasing their workforce also dropped.  Beyond questioning whether the unemployment rate can go lower, I think it’s valuable to understand what a progressively tightening employment market may mean for recruitment in the near-term. I expect that we are likely to see some semblance of these four near-term impacts:

  1. Companies will do more to focus on talent retention. The cost of turnover (losing an experienced employee and hiring/training a replacement) is only getting more expensive. Smart companies will increasingly adopt practices (i.e.: sign-on and retention bonuses, mentoring and career development programs, and other incentives) to lock in talent and make the process of departing more challenging.
  2. Companies will work harder to further streamline and enhance their talent brand and the overall recruitment process. The recruitment experience will become an increasingly better choreographed affair, with firms striving to distinguish and differentiate themselves to prospective candidates.
  3. For those skill sets that are in acute demand, expect to see ongoing wage inflation and more counter-offers. In an era of specialization and sub-specialization, mission-critical talent is just that: mission-critical. Companies will be forced to pay more for key players.
  4. Finally, I think that more companies will begin to invest, or increase their investment in growing and developing their own talent reservoirs, if only as a means of more reliable source of talent. Internal training programs may also serve as a retention mechanism and could help to reduce attrition.

In summary, I believe that unemployment can go lower than 4.3%. As a result, employers will have to get ever more creative – not only with respect to their pursuit of talent to fill new positions created by growth, but also in terms of how they hold onto and preserve existing talent. The firms that figure out how to accomplish these objectives are likely to enjoy a true competitive advantage in both acquiring and sustaining a dynamic and responsive workforce.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing success.

The H-1B Visa Debacle

In every recruiter training program that I facilitate, time is allocated to better understanding economic and legislative trends that are inevitably impacting the broader employment marketplace, which brings me to the topic of this particular post. In the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle, there’s been a great deal of controversy swirling around the H-1B Visa program. Of all the visa types that allow individuals to work in the United States. (F-1, L-1, O-1), H-1B’s are utilized to legally employ most foreign nationals. H-1B visas allow companies to hire skilled foreign workers who, at minimum, have obtained a college degree. These visas are most frequently leveraged by the high tech, healthcare, scientific, and engineering industries.

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Buy American, Hire American,” calling for an overall review of the H-1B system, with the goal of protecting the American worker. While the sentiment of protecting American jobs resonates with many, according to a May 2017 Time Magazine article, the reality is that many American’s lack the essential skills needed to fill many specialized positions, and from a performance perspective, U.S. students trail their foreign counterparts in practically every subject area.

While there is no disputing the fact that Americans may lack the skills to perform some of these specialized jobs, the H1-B issue is perhaps more contentious due to the assertion that companies outsource specific positions principally out of a desire to hire cheap foreign labor. While immigration laws require companies to provide equal compensation to foreign workers, it is difficult to determine whether this requirement is being followed, and even more difficult to enforce.  Over the past few years, controversies have emerged as American workers have reported being laid off as employers turn to cheaper foreign labor. According to a May 4, 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review, matters have been made worse when some individuals being laid off have been required to train their foreign replacement. Also, there are those that allege that the H-1B visa system is being gamed by Indian and Chinese companies that are engaged in their own form of high-tech human trafficking to meet the hiring demands of the companies they support.

One emerging bill, H.R. 170, proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), would establish a new H-1B visa minimum salary requirement of $100,000 to discourage companies from hiring or exploiting cheap foreign labor. The current minimum salary requirement for H-1B visa workers is $60,000. It’s highly logical that this disparity in minimum starting salaries for workers holding an H-1B visa would have a significant impact on firms who have traditionally leveraged the H-1B visa program as a means of securing cheap foreign labor. Additionally, there must be a tipping point where the cost of employing an H-1B visa holder is less appealing than investing in training American workers.

There is likely a middle ground of truth between the need for high-skilled foreign labor to fill specialized positions, and the fear of Americans losing their jobs to cheap foreign labor, but in theory this House Resolution could protect all parties. This bi-partisan bill could potentially ensure American workers receive the advantage they deserve, while also providing high-skilled foreigners with fair compensation for their work. Will our incredibly dysfunctional congress get this bill passed? Who knows – Only time will tell. To view H.R. 170, go to: