Takeaways from the Employment Branding Conference

As the spring conference season begins to wind down, and I’m almost done with the visits that make up April and May, I find myself in my stomping ground of New York City at the Employment Branding Conference held by Universum.

Here are some of the takeaways that I had from this employment branding and university recruiting centric get together.

1. You need to push for early identification of students that will be recruited for internships and direct hires. According to the career services organizations of Drexel, NYU, Purdue, MIT, and University of Delaware, identification should begin with the freshman and sophomore class. Having a four year plan, meaning looking at each of the 4 classes, seems to be a way for the corporation to strengthen its ties with the university and student body.

2. The strategy that you have at each university needs to be different based on the mechanics of that university. Universities have demographics such as public or private, rural or metro, land-grant or not. The combination requires some finesse as you engage those institutions, because the financial models of those organizations are very different. This seems to be an opportunity to understand more about financial mechanics of a university, and come up with a few processes to address those types.

3. Leadership development is again the hot topic. Organizations that showcase leadership development in freshman and sophomore classes are going to have increased resonance with the student population. Additionally organizations that are authentic with leadership development programs are going to win over those were not. I had a great conversation with a company that employs over 15,000 people in the Middle East, and less than 3000 here in the United States. What they’re doing with their leadership development program can be so much different than the traditional models that tend to be mirrored out of General Electric, Pepsi, and others.

4. Immediate feedback to students is absolutely critical. People have been talking about getting back to students after interviews within 24 to 48 hours, not a week or two later.

Now hear are a couple takeaways that are more employment branding centric, not university relations centric.

5. The employment brand is the brand that most people live with the most. We work 60 hours a week and are constantly bombarded with messaging from our employers. As consumers we experience a brand in short instances, so we need to spend a lot more time being authentic with our own employees about what work is about, and then crafting a message outwardly that represents that work. Don’t spend so much time selling – just talk about what’s it like, and if that message isn’t what you want, then start having the conversation on how you change that, not how you hide it.

6. Gamification and employment branding is not just about making a social media game like angry birds. It’s about having fun in expressing your employment brand in getting people involved. Everybody plays games. It’s better to do something fun and exciting and authentically engage with people. Don’t think that gamification means that you actually have to make a game, it’s more about making the engagement dynamic, fun, and playful.

7. Honest engagement with candidates is your number one weapon in the war for talent. Reaching out to candidates and telling them what it’s like, how it is, and being authentic is going to trump any logo, messaging, team, or tweet that you can execute. Even if you have all kinds of resources in social media and branding, you can really mess it up with poor engagement.

8. You have to experiment. Try stuff. I heard all kinds of interesting mechanics and methods around engaging students, financial rewards, contests, competitions, leadership development, and so much more. Go buy a T-shirt that says “that won’t work here” and put a big no smoking symbol through it and wear it around the office. It’s okay to try things and know that not all of them are going to work, but at least you try and you tried with passion. Realize if you use several different experiments at once, and one of them hits, the impact can be tremendous to a business or even just a person. Don’t be afraid of that.

Big shout out to the entire team at Universum that was so hospitable this week – Melissa Murray Bailey, Jonas Barck, John Flato and many others. Also great job to Jason Lauritsen (emcee) and Anna Brekka for herding the group and keeping the dialogue going.