It is time for Maine small business owners to distance themselves from their short-term, promotion based recruitment tactics. The practice of posting job openings as they happen is no longer productive.
The era for longer-term, recruitment branding strategies has begun. Portland radio can play an integral role in this necessary transition from promotion to branding to help ease a company's struggle to attract new hires.
Why Recruitment Strategies Need To Change
Listening to the news on WGAN radio this morning, I heard that the Maine unemployment rate fell to 3.0% in April. According to the Maine Department of Labor, during the previous April the rate was 3.8%. Good news?
When the unemployment rate falls below 4.4%, economists call this "full-employment." According to Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics, "A full-employment economy feels great after years of high unemployment, but for businesses it means an increasingly difficult time finding qualified workers."
Maine small business owners have felt the squeeze of the tight labor market. Debby Kieran of Union Farm Equipment recently told WCSH-TV, "If you go on the Maine job banks listing, there’s usually between 7,000 to 10,000 job listings. It's amazing." She said her company had recently hired two new mechanics after several years of searching.
Carl Ward, CEO of Nickerson & O’Day Construction, explained to the Bangor Daily News that his firm needs workers of all types and will provide training for some of the jobs. “I’m about 20 people short right now and I can’t find them,” he says. “The unemployment is now below four percent, we have had quite an economic renaissance in the last eight years, and skilled construction workers are pretty hard to find.”
Making The Transition From Help Wanted Ads To Recruitment Branding
The first step in transitioning from a promotion based recruitment tactics to a branding based strategy is understanding the difference. According to The Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising:
- Promotional Strategies are used when you want a candidate to take specific action. For instance, complete an application for a current or imminent job opening. Promotional strategies are meant to be short-term objectives to compel immediate action among current job seekers.
- Branding Strategies are used when you want a candidate to believe that your company is a better place to work than their current company. Branding strategies are meant to be long term objectives to nurture a desire for people to work for your company, whether or not you have current openings.
I asked Gerry Tabio, founder of Creative Resources and an expert at helping companies to define marketing objectives, to compare and contrast the two approaches.
Radio Results Blog: From a marketing perspective how would a branding campaign differ from the more tactical approach of posting current job openings?
Gerry Tabio: Most recruitment advertising assumes that the candidates reading or listening to the ad are looking for a job, so they get right to what we might call the "specs" the company is looking for, almost as if the candidate were a product. In the process, they miss an opportunity to position themselves as different from all the other companies that that same candidate might be considering.
RRB: How would the mechanics of a branding strategy differ from those of traditional promotional approaches?
GT: The key to any branding strategy is to communicate a clear valuable point of difference. The question that brand advertising has to answer is, "Why should we choose you over all the other companies I could work for?"
More specifically, companies that want to engage in a branding recruitment campaign need to illustrate - even prove - to their future candidates that they are different from all other companies in a very specific way that matters to those employees.
Which requires that the company be thoughtful about who they are trying to attract. Will their candidates value health benefits more than flexible hours? Will they be more interested in opportunities for advancement or in opportunities to learn? Do they want a collaborative environment where they work in teams? Or to make a lot of money?
Rather than limit themselves to the "specs" of the candidates they are seeking, they are going to need to write messaging that will persuade those same candidates that the company is deliberate about creating a culture in which those candidates will thrive.
RRB: What branding lessons can recruiters learn about effective branding from how companies use consumer branding?
GT: The handful of publications that publish annual lists of the best companies to work for (Forbes, Fortune, Glassdoor) give extra weight to the opinion of the company's current employees.
Yet, I can't remember the last time I saw a piece of advertising in which the current employees recorded testimonials inviting future employees to join the company
When you are branding your company as a great place to work, you should avail yourself of all the other tools that you would normally use in promoting any of your other profitable products. The fundamentals are the same. Effective tools that reach the target consumer and powerful messaging that will persuade.
RBB: Do you have any examples of companies who utilize branding objectives to fulfill their recruitment goals?
GT: While I have personally not worked for any company that has embarked on a branding recruitment campaign, I am aware of some very imaginative campaigns that have very effectively positioned the value of the company.
One example is Lego, which is an internationally recognized brand, but had never really communicated its values to prospective employees. They used their own product (Lego blocks) to illustrate some of the key benefits that prospective employees could expect from the company. To see the campaign click here.
One thing I like about the Lego campaign is that it demonstrates that recruitment advertising need not be dry or boring. It can be just as fun and imaginative as introducing a new product or planning a grand opening.
How To Use Portland Radio To Brand Your Company's Recruitment Effort
Each month, 98% of everyone in the southern Maine tunes into a Portland radio station. But, not everybody is a qualified to fill the opening that you have. With radio, you can determine which stations have the highest concentration of listeners who are most likely to have the employment attributes you are looking for. Some of the criteria might consider include:
- Current Employment Status. Examples: skilled workers, entry level workers, college graduates, laborers, managerial, etc.
- Educational Background. Examples: college graduate, post-graduate degree, vocational training, high school diploma etc.
- Current Income. Examples: $25,000-$50,000 per year; $75,000 or more; unemployed, etc.
- Residence, Examples: within 20 miles of your business; Cumberland County, Maine resident, etc.
Reputable radio station representatives will then be able to provide you with qualitative resources such as s Nielsen and MRI GfK. This research can be used to identify which Portland radio stations are most likely to have the listeners that fulfill the candidate profile you have created. Remember, when recruiting it is essential to find quality not quantity.
Once you identify the correct radio stations, then you need to invest in a campaign that will allow you the ability to develop your recruitment brand among your target candidates.
According to the Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising branding requires constant repetition of a message to the same, well-defined audience. To effectively execute this type of campaign, you should consider:
- Limit the campaign to only a few stations who have the highest concentration of the candidates you identify. Remember, to accomplish branding requires frequency of message. Each time you add a new radio station to your schedule, you are reaching more listeners but curtailing your ability to achieve the frequency of message to successfully brand. In this case quantity is the enemy of quality.
- Limit the campaign to the same general times every day. Radio is a habitual medium. Each person, tends to listen during the same time periods every day. Therefore, adding more parts of the day to your branding schedule will add reach but, like in the case above, will curtail the opportunity to build the repletion of message you will need.
Remember, branding takes time. Let's say you are a loyal Coca-Cola drinker, but Pepsi wants you to believe their product is better. No doubt Pepsi would have to make their case to you repeatedly over a long period of time. This is true in recruiting as well.
Suppose your company needs to hire experienced machinists. That means if they aren't already working for you, then they are probably working for a competitor. Like the Coke vs. Pepsi example, you will need to make your case repeatedly over a long period of time to instill your brand in the mind of your target candidates before they will consider making a move.
Tell Your Recruitment Story
The reason a recruitment ad sometimes falls flat comes down to content. Radio recruitment ads should not be an oral interpretation of your Monster or Indeed post. Dental plans, shift differentials, 401ks are nice, but they are not candidate magnets. In branding advertisements, you need to tell your company's story, not provide the laundry list of skills candidates must possess.
Think of it this way, which would you rather do:
1. Eat a bag full of Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil; less than 2% of: Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Colors (Titanium Dioxide, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, ed 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1), Sodium Citrate, and Carnauba Wax
2. "Taste the Rainbow" in every bag of Skittles
Of course, both choices are the same, but which option would be most likely to compel someone who loves M&Ms to make the change to Skittles?
With this in mind, which company do you think a machinist would rather work for:
1. A company where they would perform administrative tasks such as competing MRP and status of work in process, conduct safety meetings, order tools and supplies, etc.; Perform any aspect of work in assigned area to enhance personal development: Perform unrelated duties as may be necessary to support the needs of the facility; and Perform job in compliance with all environmental, health, and safety rules, procedures and policies.
2. A company where an employee is able to point at an airplane in the sky using an engine his or her company made and proudly say, "I helped put that up there."
Again, it's the same job. But, science tell us why candidates would be more receptive the second.
The Science Of Storytelling
In a recent article published in The Harvard Business, neuroscientist Paul Zak explains why our brains love good story telling. It turns out, unlike when we hear a laundry list of facts, when our brain hears a story our body produces a neurochemical called oxytocin.
"Oxytocin," says Zak, "is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing the sense of empathy, our ability to experience others’ emotions." Stories, it seems, are more likely to increase the levels of Oxytocin in our body, therefore, making us more receptive to receiving and responding to the storyteller's communication.
In the current environment of full-employment, traditional recruitment advertising does not work for Maine business owners. Many of them, however, are trapped in Einstein's insanity principle of repeatedly engaging in the same fruitless efforts but expecting different results each time. In this case, recruiting only when there are openings. Also, using language and tactics that do not produce results.
To engage and compel future employees, recruitment strategies need to take the longer-term approach of building recruitment brand through repetition of the hiring company's story.
Portland radio with its targetablity, affordability, and history of conveying story is the perfect medium to compel your best job candidates to come to work for your company.
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