Why attracting talent is a thorny issue

Thorny RoseA rose by any other name would smell as sweet, according to Romeo at least. But it seems a name or brand change does heavily impact on how candidates view potential employers.

Specialist recruiter and governance expert Anne Elliott of ema consultancy Limited has noted a significant shift in what attracts or repels someone from a role.

“With pay and benefit packages often similar for roles on the same level, I’m seeing more and more that what candidates are looking for is purpose, and an articulation of how their work will fit in with the bigger picture”, she said.

“Our survey of the housing sector showed that around 50% of providers are using such things as health club membership, time off for voluntary work, professional fees paid and flexible home working, but as such perks become the norm, often it’s the culture that makes the difference. In fact, to be accurate, it’s the perception of the culture that makes the difference – and that perception is built long before the job advert is out.”

One organisation tackling this perception challenge, is Futures Housing Group. The team, which provides more than 9,100 homes across the East Midlands, recently looked at how it appears to potential employers and how it could better get across its culture as part of the recruitment process. The result? Some 40 applications for its new director of customer experience vacancy, and a successful candidate who otherwise wouldn’t have applied at all.

Lindsey Williams, Chief Executive, said: “Our IIP Gold status and employee satisfaction surveys tell us we’re doing well as an employer, but we want to keep improving and ensure that our brand matches the pace of change we’re delivering.

“To address that we’re revamping the type of language we use, focussing on how the role we’re recruiting to will impact on our corporate plan and customers, and how their skills will matter to our success.

“We’ve also articulated our Futures Rewards package more clearly and have honed in our adverts our offer to applicants. We’re looking more widely at how our brand influences our ability to attract and retain talent. We need to be honest about what we’re competing against, and play to our strengths.”

The work at Futures continues under a project group, which is now tasked with capitalising on the likes of Glassdoor and indeed.com to further improve the candidate pool.

Accent is another organisation that’s changed its approach. The group has recently refreshed its brand, including tone of voice, to better reflect its internal culture. This now applies to all job adverts and the recruitment process.

And with some 150 candidates recently applying for a recent non-exec role, then it seems the tactic is working well.

Paul Dolan, Chief Executive of Accent Group said: “We’ve found perceptions of our organisation to be vital when trying to attract talent. To attract the best, we know that we need to be seen not only as a great employer, but also as innovative and ambitious. People need to believe that working with us will provide ongoing initiatives which keep them engaged and motivated throughout their journey with us.

“Organisational culture is critical – your brand is people’s perception of that culture. If you want to attract people who strive to deliver the best performance and contribution, they need to have the space to develop ideas make some manageable mistakes and most importantly foster a culture of continuous improvement. So we’ve worked hard at getting that across in how we communicate.”

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but a final word of warning from Anne: “There is a skill shortage in the sector, and it is organisations that are prepared to stand out and be clear about their culture and offer that are attracting talent. Millennials and younger entering the workforce are proven to be driven by a sense of purpose and contribution rather than traditional perks, so the need to address brand perceptions will only increase.”

Anne Elliot EMA Consultancy

Anne Elliott

Managing Director

01926 887272