Marketing to the People

With the market for talent picking up around the world, employers are having to revisit the impression they make on potential new recruits in order to compete for the very best future employees. It’s interesting how different organisations seek to do this and undoubtedly some are doing it much better than others.

Given that one of the main reasons that employer/employee relationships fail is due to a poor cultural fit between the two, it’s surprising to me that more thought doesn’t go into the marketing pitch that employers put out there to attract the people who will be right for them. Too often I see bland statements such as “our people are our greatest assets” or “we value our people”. Frankly these statements mean nothing to me in terms of describing an organisation’s uniqueness because I cannot imagine any organisation saying the opposite. No business would say “we don’t care about our employees” so why waste time on some generic statement about how you do in fact value them? We take that for granted.

So, how do you come up with something better, something that truly appeals to the type of person who will thrive in your business and frankly doesn’t ring any bells for those who wouldn’t. No easy answers I’m afraid but here’s a few pointers that may help.

Firstly, not only should you avoid the dull and predictable examples above but you should also avoid the management-speak that so frequently creeps into business life. People tend not to speak in jargon, so why appeal to them in jargon? Say it how you would say it in real life. Management-speak has actually created a name for what we are trying to write here – it’s known as an Employee Value Proposition or EVP. Don’t let that put you off though. Think of it as a description of why your business is the right place for the type of people who succeed there, and nobody else.

Secondly, ask your own people why they chose to join you. You may be surprised at what sent them your way in the first place.

Thirdly, make sure your statement reflects reality. You want people who are attracted by what you say and find it’s true when they get there. These days, discrepancies get found out and emblazoned publicly on a multitude of social media sites. It’s so easy to check employees’ personal experiences on sites such as Glassdoor, so don’t run the risk of saying one thing and delivering another. People will write about it if you do and others will find it and be put off by it.

Finally, your organisation is unique. It may make the same products or provide the same services as your competitors but it’s unique in it’s own way. Identify what that is and how it will appeal to the people you want and then write that down in as simple a statement as possible. There may be universal truths that all employees will buy into. There may also be specific points tailored to the type of role you are recruiting for, so you may need to tailor it for different audiences. That’s fine, but keep working on it until you have something that neatly describes your own business and not those of your competitors too. People are unique, businesses are unique, so why shouldn’t your marketing messages be unique?

Granted, it’s not easy to land on something that really works. It may take hours or it may take weeks. It’s worth sleeping on though until you get it right and you’ll know when you have because it will say something unique and authentic. After all, we spend a huge amount of time and effort getting the messages right to our customers so why shouldn’t we do the same to the people who we want to join us?

Alistair Cox
About the author: 

Alistair Cox is the Chief Executive Officer at Hays plc, and is a Chartered Engineer with an MBA from Stanford University. Alistair worked for Mckinsey & Company before joining Blue Circle Industries, where he was the Group Strategy Director and then the Director for Asia. Prior to joining Hays plc, Alistair was Chief Executive of Xansa plc. Mr. Cox is currently a Non-Executive Director of 3i Group plc. Follow him on LinkedIn, where he is an “Influencer”.