Winning The War For Brain Power

As new technologies appear on the market and innovation becomes the best winning strategy, companies have to hire the right talent to stay on top of the game. The problem of talent shortage in technology sectors is becoming a major challenge to businesses around the world, as the surplus between graduates from technical programs and the number of IT vacancies grows. According to the European Union Commission there will be over 700 000 unfilled ITC positions within the EU by 2015. The USA and other major economies face the same challenge. Luxoft which has been building its success on highly qualified IT engineers, winning the war for brainpower is crucial. In 2011, we formulated an employer brand strategy which helps us attract and retain the best engineering talent in Central and Eastern Europe. Throughout this journey we have tested various theories, approaches and tactics that positioned us as regional leading developers in employer branding. The results of this work have been already appreciated by the professional Talent Management community. Our Business to Employee (B2E) marketing team has been awarded the ‘Employer Branding Stars’ award for the strategy and execution of introducing Luxoft brand on the Polish market. The concept of an employer brand is relatively new in the science of management. It was first introduced by academics of the London Business School in 1996. The popularity of the discipline has been growing since 2000, and has started to have more traction with the boost of new media. Global corporations in mature economies have been looking at employer branding for no more than 5-10 years. When Luxoft started looking at the issue of employer branding in late 2010, the discipline was relatively young and there was very little research on the topic. To quickly come to the cutting edge of the employer branding movement, we applied our past experiences, and innovative brains to develop our own Luxoft approach to employer branding The first observation we made of employer branding was that B2E marketing presents similar characteristics to classical business to consumer (B2C) marketing. The analogies were quite obvious. The company in B2E is what product is in B2C marketing. Candidates resemble consumers, and existing employees are similar to user of the product. Following that route we identified several building blocks of a successful employer brand strategy:

  • Defining target groups
  • Defining an employee value proposition
  • Building communication and an execution plan that delivers the message to a target group
Target Group Definition

HR and recruitment departments have been segmenting candidates for a long time. The typical profile focuses, however, on hard demographics, competencies and a candidate’s soft skills. Such a cookie-cutter approach helps to organize the recruitment process, and ensures a better match of candidates to the job field. Knowing the education, employment history, attended trainings or possessed skills, however, is not enough to effectively market the value proposition of the firm. In order to ensure the company’s message reaches the target audience, talent managers need to understand the target a bit better. While marketers start with a similar demographic profile, they utilize the understanding of a target audience differently. They seek insights that will help them to catch attention, and phrase the message in a way that it will be appealing. Such insights would look at the prospect from a perspective of their interests, behaviors, physiological profile etc. There are several techniques that allow B2E marketing teams to capture these insights. Data collection starts with interviews and focus groups, and goes as far as analyzing social media profiles or spending a ‘day in the life’ with a representative of the target audience. HR and Marketers should keep their eyes open, and ears tuned to insights at all times as surprising findings might come up in a chat over coffee.

Employee Value Proposition

Once target groups are well understood, firms must define the messages that will be delivered to them. As in consumer marketing where companies communicate benefits of a given product, employers have to define and communicate employee value proposition (EVP). EVP is a promise a firm gives to a candidate to what they can expect in return for their work, once they decide on employment. EVP can not only describe the hard benefits an organization offers to an employee, but needs also to cover emotional benefits that will describe the total work experience one should expect. What needs to be kept in mind while defining EVP is that it needs to be consistent with the DNA of the company. Additionally, components of EVP have to be unique, so our message stands out in the minds and hearts of the target audience.

Zero Moment Of Truth

Before we look into traditional and new ways of communicating the EVPs of a company, we have to understand the mental process that goes on in the mind of a candidate while considering new jobs. In the book entitled, ‘ZMOT Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” Jim Lecinski describes a traditional mental model that an average consumer used to follow when buying a product. In its traditional form, the journey followed by a buyer consisted of three stages:

  1. Stimulus – when the target was exposed to some kind of trigger that initiated the selection and buying process. This could include messages delivered via traditional advertising channels or word of mouth.
  2. First moment of Truth (FMOT) – which happened after the initial need was triggered at the shelf in the store. A consumer standing in front of different products meeting the need was exposed to another stage of a marketing battle, where packages, and in-shelf ads were screaming for attention.
  3. Second moment of Truth (SMOT) – where a selected product was used, and actual experience was validated, versus promised benefits.
Lecinski in his book argues that with the recent emergence of new technologies such as search engines and social media the buying pattern has changed. He believes that a new stage appeared between Stimuls and FMOT that he calls the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). That’s all the pre-shopping consumers do at home, on the internet to check reviews of the product, seek references from friends, and compare prices before they decide on the in-store purchase. events. We have been breaking traditional paradigms of recruitment communication that has resulted in positive reviews on the internet and press.

At Luxoft we believe this mental model, including all four stages applies to the journey a candidate goes through when deciding on changing jobs. Such as:

1. Stimulus is all the B2E marketing communication to which the candidate is exposed. It includes traditional job ads, print advertising but also ads on social media and below the line (BTL) activities.

2. ZMOT is all the information people share about an organization on blogs, twitter, Facebook and in professional communities. It also includes the word of mouth employees and candidates share at formal and informal venues.

3. FMOT is the moment when candidate experiences the interaction with the firm for the first time. It includes checking company’s website, looking at career section,analyzing profile of the firm on LinkedIn, but also talking to a recruiter.

4. SMOT is the experience an employee has once they join the company. Brand promise that was communicated in EVP needs to come across at every stage of this experience. It should be consistently delivered not only in giving an employee promised hard benefits, but should be visible in every other sphere of company’s operations. It includes interactions with direct managers and peers, office design and facilities, and processes etc.

Failure to deliver EVP in Second moment of truth, which were communicated at the moment of stimulus will result in negative reviews in ZMOT.

Delivering the message

In the world where an average consumer is exposed to nearly 3000 marketing messages a day, ensuring notice of the message is not easy. Highly competitive labor markets, where candidates are approached by companies on a daily basis with traditional job advertising techniques, force talent managers to be creative to make sure they stand out. Luxoft has been experimenting with new ways of communicating our company message in innovative ways for several years. We were one of the first firms three years ago in Central and Eastern Europe to launch a corporate profile on Facebook. We have also taken our messages offline, and have started throwing different types of events to have more direct interaction with our target audience. The events included sampling products and leaflets during the commute to work, flash mobs, as well as custom events. We have been breaking traditional paradigms of recruitment communication that has resulted in positive reviews on the internet and press.

Measuring Results

One may challenge how to measure results of all of the above business to employee marketing techniques. Traditionally, recruitment teams are measured on speed of recruitment, retention and match to profile. These measures are here to stay. However, to justify investments into B2E marketing extra measures can be implemented. Successful delivery of EVP across all four stages of the candidate journey will result in increased referral rate, higher scores in satisfaction surveys, as well as results of brand awareness analysis.

Marketing Is The New HR

The talent surplus and the growing demand for brain power forces companies to introduce innovation to talent acquisition. At Luxoft, we believe that HR department needs to invest into acquiring new skills, since the battle for attracting and retaining best people is here to stay. HR and recruitment professionals, have to understand fundamentals of marketing in order to succeed. The VP of Marketing needs to share harmonious objectives with the by creating a dedicated B2E team within the Marketing organization that works hand to hand with HR and Recruitment. This approach has proved successful for us, and has enabled us to sustain dynamic growth becoming a leading IT services provider in the region. It is important to remember that the responsibility for delivering the corporate brand promise lies, however, in the hands of every employee of the organization. With this mentality each employee becomes the quintessential marketing and talent acquisition channel.

This article was originally published in 5th issue of Luxoft Times Magazne

http://www.luxoft.com/executive/

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