It takes more than a great job to motivate workers to join your business; it takes a great brand too. In this article we examine the new realities of talent attraction and the influence of brand marketing

When talent is in short supply – and has a choice

There are 7.53 billion people in the world, and many of them don’t have employment. A large proportion of those that do aren’t earning as much as they’d like, or they’re doing jobs not best-suited to their interests and skills. So why is it difficult for organizations to find the talent they need? 

The digital and scientific age we live in has transformed the skills demanded of talent markets. It’s not people that are in short supply, it’s the talents needed to get modern work roles done.

According to the latest research conducted by Manpower69% of U.S. employers are struggling to find skilled workers. In technology subjects alone, Korn Ferry projects that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them (that’s roughly equivalent to the population of Germany!). They conclude, ‘It’s not that robots are taking all the jobs—it’s that there aren’t enough humans to take them.’ There is a huge economic impact resulting from such talent shortfalls: Left unchecked, Korn Ferry suggests that, by 2030, that talent shortage could result in about $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues

Speak to many business leaders, as I do, and they say their biggest challenge is the best people are already employed. Organizations are fighting for a handful of experienced and qualified people. 

The message is simple: If you want to get the best people for your organization, either train them, or seduce them!

What sort of talent is in shortest supply?

Demands for talent pivot very quickly; and they’re event-driven. Almost every industry has been impacted on transformations in technology, or worldwide market impacts including the rise of social networking, the consequences of climate change, and the shockwaves of epidemics. For example:

  • The COVID-19 epidemic has transformed the landscape of healthcare professionals and care workers. 
  • Advances in big data and cloud computing led to a seismic growth in demand for analytical skills, and not just in IT but in managerial roles too. 
  • The emergence of customer science and data analysis tools has re-shaped the KIND of managers organizations need. 

In the office equipment industry, Service Directors were typically aging engineers with plenty of on-the-job know-how. Today, companies are employing data analysts as Service Directors because the job is all about interpreting asset performance and re-shaping service teams and work schedules accordingly.

Most shortfalls for talent exist in science, technology and healthcare industries, although with almost 10,000 baby boomers turning sixty-five every day, some traditional roles – like engineering – are suffering from the consequences of the baby-boomer generation reaching retirement age and taking their deep tacit knowledge into retirement.

A new type of brand marketing

‘There’s a great video I keep returning to created by Steve Jobs of Apple in 1997. In it, he describes the (then) purpose of the Apple brand and its commitment to re-shape its advertising agenda to focus on it. For me, it was a moment in history that re-defined attitudes towards brand marketing, evidenced by a business (and an individual) that really understood it. It kick-started a decade of self-analysis by brand executives on the importance of PURPOSE in brand marketing. It was to be crowned by Simon Sinek, in October 2009, who wrote a book called Start With Why on the importance of shaping strategy (and brand marketing) on a motivational purpose that helped humans (and customers) understand why they should commit to a brand.

It’s no coincidence that the evolution of Brand Purpose happened at a time when online business has scaled beyond anything anyone could imagine. Perhaps, that is, with the single exception of a man called Jeff Bezos, who gave up his cushy financial sector job to start-up a business called Amazon. Bezos saw the ‘mathematics’ of how many people were going online and realized very quickly the impact it would have on business, particularly those industries with high logistics costs.

If you want talented to join your enterprise today, you need to give them more than a financial incentive and a heady perks package to shift from their existing role to join you. You will need to pluck at their heartstrings and give them a purpose beyond financial gain. We live in the era of ‘PURPOSE.’ 

‘Purpose’ has become the new brand imperative.  Ernst and Young teamed up with Harvard Business School in 2015 to better understand ‘where the world of business was’ on the importance of purpose. They reported, ‘A global survey of 474 executives found that although there is near-unanimity in the business community about the value of purpose in driving performance, less than half of the executives surveyed said their company had actually articulated a strong sense of purpose and used it as a way to make decisions and strengthen motivation.’

Beyond attraction, think seduction!

To excel at attracting talent in short supply, organizations must be world-class at portraying their brand ‘as a purpose’ that people can believe in, and want to commit to; that suggests a purpose with a human reward more tuned to a cause that people feel drawn to. 

On the face of it, ‘brand’ and recruitment’ don’t come across as obvious bed-fellows. That said, in an era where talent is short and the majority of workers are looking to commit their work-life to a cause, it makes sense for teams responsible for attracting talent to know how to do it by possessing skills around brand marketing and advertising. Consider the routes to attracting talent these days. Of them all, social media is king. And in the world of social media, you need to entertain in order to attract attention. All of the skills that advertisers know only too well, talent acquisition professionals need to obey.

Perhaps the best list of must-do well’s for talent seduction originate from an unfamiliar source for recruitment executives, namely the book ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ written by the so-called father of advertising, David Ogilvy in 1983. In it, Ogilvy summarizes the ‘Advertising Commandments; he adopted to underpin the success of his agency. Apart from the sexist language of the era, they remain highly relevant and appropriate today:

  1. Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.
  2. Clearly define your positioning: What and for Who?
  3. Do your homework. Study your consumer in detail.
  4. Think of the consumer as a woman, she wants all the information you can give her.
  5. Talk to them in the language they use every day.
  6. Write great headlines and you’ll have successfully invested 80% of your money.
  7. Highlight the product by making it the hero.

Final thoughts – Designing a compelling brand purpose

Not all enterprises can claim to be saving the planet or were created to champion and game-changing cause to save the planet. Shareholders might not be too impressed by suggestions of becoming social enterprises and forgoing dividends either!

So, how do you create a powerful motivator that will seduce talent to join your brand if you’ve not already got a cause-based-purpose? There’s no easy answer to this – it will vary for every enterprise, but it pays to do some research. For example, as the majority of the global workforce will be Millennials within a year or so, it pays to consider what they care about. The latest Deloitte Global Millennial Survey (2019) found that Millennials:

  • Have less trust in employers because so many of their parents lost their jobs when times got tough
  • Aspire to travel and help their communities more than starting families or their own businesses.
  • Are skeptical of business’s motives and–out of the blocks–they have a low opinion of business leaders’ impact on society, their commitment to improving the world, or their trustworthiness.
  • Patronize and support companies that align with their values–and vote with their wallets!

Your purpose, as with all other aspects of your brand promise, has to be genuine.  Authenticity is one of the bigger watch-words in brand marketing. It’s the first thing that your target audience thinks about. Nobody likes to be lied to. Today, there are many ways people can leave reviews and comments about their experiences. Organizations that present themselves as something they’re not will quickly fall foul of social media communities. The online world is different from the days when buyers and workers had nowhere else to go, and news would travel slowly. If you’re not being authentic – YOU WILL BE FOUND OUT.

If you REALLY want to seduce the talent you need, you’ll need to create a compelling purpose, be authentic in doing what you say you do – and adopt ‘advertising’ techniques to ‘whisper your beliefs in the ears of your audience.

About the Author

Ian Tomlin is a management consultant for Workspend Inc., specializing in workforce management, digital transformation and organizational design.  His business books about organizational agility (‘Agilization’), social cloud computing (‘Cloud Coffee House’), and the future of enterprise computing (‘Social Operating Systems’) can be found on Amazon and iBooks. Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.