What is a Talent Brand?
It used to be that it was enough to talk about your brand as a big monolithic thing that only communicated one way -- to customers. Then came the revolution in the way that we see brand relationship (mostly in the 1990s) which alerted companies to the fact that the brand conversation happens both ways: companies talk; and people talk back. And the people that brands talk to are not just customers but investors and, perhaps most importantly, employees. Ignore employees at your own peril as many companies and personal brands have found out the hard way (Uber, Ellen DeGeneres, and GameStop are recent examples). Today, that conversation has become more complex to manage with the advent of talent brands. According to TalentBrand.Org*, your talent brand is “the honest story of life as an employee inside your organization, as told by the employees in parallel with the company.” Most of this can be found in formal and informal channels from Glassdoor to social media. So, why should companies care? Because talent brands affect your ability to recruit people, engagement levels of employees, cost-per-hire, and turnover.
Ever hear companies tell you that their people are their “best asset”? Or one sandwich chain that referred to their employees as “artists”? These type of empty phrases don’t amount to branding. The real thing goes way beyond messaging. We believe that constructing effective employer and talent brands means recasting them as brand communities. In order for your employer/talent brands to be successful, they must exhibit the traditional features of a true community. Since anthropologist are the best resource for what makes a real community, I will use some of their terminology (but just a little, I promise). Communities have three features: consciousness of kind—the underlying sense of an identity shared by employees and the mutual sense of how they are different from people not in the community; rituals and traditions, which are the things employees do that deliver a community's meanings, history, and culture (everything from staff meetings to sports to social hours); and duty—a sense of responsibility towards the community as a whole and also to every individual’s well being. Bottom line, if it doesn’t hit these three benchmarks, your talent brand will feel inauthentic, or worse, completely out of touch. Think of e-tailers that drive their employees to “make rate” by boxing hundreds of products per hour but put them in strenuous working conditions or don’t give proper benefits. Or companies that put together value statements that are awash in banal phrasing (“transparency”, “accountability”) but don’t in any way interact with what’s happening in the world (the Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ or the pandemic, for example).
Ultimately, your employer/talent brand should be a purpose-driven dialogue where each informs the other. The employer component should be an organic outgrowth of the enterprise-level brand delivered through a powerful vision, mission and values. The talent component responds through informal conversations, social media posts, review site comments, and referrals. The test of a successful vision, mission, and values statement is whether it can rally those people to feel part of a true community.