Thursday, March 17, 2005

'Top company to work for' lists

Way back in the history of time I took over the reins of a corporate's employment branding function. My predecessor had spent a lot of time and budget getting onto 'best company to work for' lists and as I had a tight budget and was targeted on everything but where we placed on these lists I thought that this some of this spend could be better allocated elsewhere.

In the first year I scaled back some of the spend, cleaned up our communications messages and focused the brand message. We held our position + or - a position or two. Managers were still impressed as we were placed alongside firms with promotional spend multiples of ours.

I'm not exactly sure what caused the change - probably some long beer-lubricated evening in a London pub discussing how people behave in organisations. (I'm not usually that boring... OK, not always.) That and every board member asking about how we ranked whenever I met them.

I'm still not of the opinion that these things make a huge difference in recruitment marketing, at least not for major brands. They might do a bit to existing staff who want to 'validate' their choice and they might give you a bit of brand recognition if you're small or not a household name. They're probably good if you are in an industry with a poor employment reputation where you can demonstrate you're not like the norm. However they certainly matter for senior execs and in that way can give you the license to do the stuff that really makes a difference.

There are typically two types of these surveys - ones that question a bunch of your people, picked at random and the other which question external people, typically at university of business school.

Both are relatively easy to manage, at low cost, for a focused recruitment branding team. I will stick my neck out and say the external ones are the easiest, as it is easier to persuade someone with a limited amount of knowledge what you're about than someone who meets you every day.

Here is the simple process:

1) Talk to the survey company, find out what they are looking for, when they are surveying etc. Many of them will also do other similar company-specific surveys which you might want to use so having the conversation is pretty easy

2) Plan a targeted marketing campaign. Use all your normal channels, especially the ones like email that you can alter and judge results quickly (because you measure those 'click-throughs' on everything you do online don't you). This marketing campaign will begin probably 4-5 weeks before survey date and pull out your strengths in the areas that are going to be surveyed. Make sure they are strengths or you'll end up with little integrity. Focus the messages to those being surveyed so to reduce 'noise' to the others.

3) Wow, somehow when the survey comes around the 'things that your great at' are fresh in respondees minds and you go to the top of the class.

4) Talk to internal comms and make sure that everyone in the firm knows about the success - especially senior execs.

We're not talking about brand recognition tools like those that companies such as Millward Brown produce for your corporate marketing departments, these 'best company to work for' surveys are pretty easy to manipulate and it should be in every recruitment marketers year-plan to do just that.