Why is it that some towns have a steady stream of quality individuals who want to work for them? In large part, these towns have created and fostered a positive brand. When communities find it impossible to fill open positions or get volunteers to step forward, it is likely a result of having a negative brand.
So what is a recruitment brand? Quite simply, it is the magnet that draws candidates to you. It’s the message you convey about what it is like to work for your town. Every organization has a brand, whether you know it or not. You communicate it every day to and through your employees, the actions you and they take or don’t take, the words spoken or the silence delivered, and even through your physical appearance. Your brand is communicated through your values, beliefs, and your core mission and ideally, from a recruitment standpoint, your brand sends a strong and loud message out to the community that “you’re a great place to work.”
I recently conducted two high-level executive recruitment searches: one for a sewer district and the other for a picturesque municipality. While on the surface, the notion of leading a sewer district would not be a major draw, finding candidates was easy. This organization had a reputation for being a first rate, well- run organization with a supportive board, engaged staff, appreciative ratepayers, and being technologically advanced. Its brand was positive and candidates were seeking me out as opposed to my having to find them. On the other hand, recruiting for the municipality was challenging. It was known as a difficult place that churned out staff, suffered from disengaged employees, and had a dysfunctional board with residents that attend board meetings thinking they were watching the “tributes” fight each other at the Hunger Games. Two organizations, two polar opposite brands, making recruitment easy for one and nearly impossible for the other.
To understand your recruitment brand, ask three basic questions:
- Why would anyone want to work for you?
- What makes you attractive? Not so attractive?
- What differentiates you from other municipalities? Other area organizations?
Get your department heads, employees, board and residents involved in addressing each of these. Your critical (and honest) responses to these three probing questions will paint a clear picture of your brand. Happy with what you see? If not, it is time for repair, and repairing a damaged brand takes time, work and money. At the same time, if you’re pleased with the results, build on this. Integrate it into your recruitment initiatives.
Remember, the purpose of a recruitment brand is to attract quality candidates to your town from a target group: those individuals who share the values of your town and who come from your industry segment. For example, LL Bean is likely to attract applicants who enjoy all things outdoors (skiing, fishing, hiking, hunting). You get the picture.
To attract the right candidates to your municipality, there must be three things in place: 1) awareness, 2) differentiation and 3) recognition that you are a good place to work. Without awareness, you’ll be a well-kept secret, so measuring applicant flow is critical. Potential candidates will compare you to other municipalities. There must be something positive about you that distinguish you from others. Part of the differentiation is demonstrating that you’re among the best places to work.
So how do you know if your brand is working? Here are 6 ways:
- Applicant flow: look at the quality, quantity and diversity of your labor pool, applicants and hires.
- Conversion rate: measure the number of applicants that accept your job offer.
- Cost and time to hire: is your cost per hire and time to hire increasing or decreasing?
- Existing employees: are your employee engagement surveys tracking positive or negative? Is retention up or down?
- Performance: which way are existing employee performance and productivity tracking?
- Referrals: are your current employees and even your residents referring applicants to you?
Measuring the effectiveness of your recruitment brand is an important component of the process. Obviously the most difficult part is understanding and developing your brand. If you are unable to effectively attract, hire and retain quality candidates, then your brand is not working.
Recruiting the right people is critical to your success. It provides you a competitive advantage. Your brand differentiates you, attracts the better candidates, the right candidates: those that share your values and mission. Strong brands lower turnover and reduce recruitment costs.
When candidates are begging to get in rather than running in the opposite direction faster than the running of the bulls in Pamplona, you’ll suddenly find your job as a town manager just got a whole lot easier.
Rick Dacri is a workforce expert, management consultant, and author of the book “Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.” Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped municipalities achieve dramatic improvements in individual and organizational performance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.dacri.com
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