The employer influence
By Jackie Grisdale
There’s no denying it, when it comes to influencing career decisions, employers play a key role. A strong employer brand that is authentic and relevant for the youth market is essential. In fact, people and culture was listed as THE most important factor when choosing a graduate role in the recent Bright Network survey. So, for my second blog on influencers (the first is here if you missed it), I am not going to talk about employer brand (take a look at Sarah’s blog on that subject, she is the true expert in that area), but I am going to talk about your employees.
There is huge investment by graduate and apprentice employers in attracting top talent. But all this effort can still mean you come up short if you ignore your most credible advocates - your own employees. After all, who knows the company better?
We’re all aware of the power of word of mouth
Employee advocacy is proven to be a high-powered recruiting tool - the Aberdeen Group found that 44.5% of respondents felt more likely to apply for a job if they saw that a friend of theirs had shared the information on social media.
With significant potential to improve your candidate attraction efforts, surely it is a missed opportunity if you don’t harness the potential of your existing employees. That’s probably why 70% of ISE members state they still rely on word of mouth when it comes to school leaver and apprentice recruitment and 93% of them use campus ambassadors/reps as part of their on-campus promotions.
Candidates want to meet your people too - 80% of students said it was quite or very important to meet a company's representatives before applying (Bright Network). And your people do have a big influence. Seeing staff at recruitment events was stated as the 3rd most influential promotion method when choosing an employer according to High Fliers, only falling behind the influence of work experience and parents/friends/relatives. So, ensuring employee ambassadors are part of your attraction strategy is fundamental when looking to give an authentic view.
Ambassador networks can present a challenge
With such a big influence, the outcome of meeting your employees might not be as positive as you’d hoped. Often the first (or only) impression of your employer brand is as the student approaches your careers stand or sits to watch a career talk. Therefore, your ambassador needs to make a good first impression. Too many times have I turned up at events to see ambassadors that are disinterested, engaged in conversation with other stand staff, busy working/answering emails/texting or eating. Not a good look and not appealing or inviting for a candidate. On the flip side, there are often well-intentioned ambassadors from the business, or campus ambassadors who just aren’t the right type of people to represent you on-campus or in-schools.
It is essential you get it right
Your ambassadors need to be enthusiastic, reflect the culture and values of their employer and most importantly, be someone who can help inform and inspire. They will give your potential candidate a real view of the employer and help them to decide, ultimately, if the employer is a good fit for them. The benefit? An increased chance of a good quality application from a candidate that is more likely to be the right cultural fit.
So, when it comes to thinking about using ambassadors as part of your attraction strategy, do. They will be hugely influential. They can assess intent and accurately deliver the information a student needs to make a decision. But help them to do the best possible job for you.
Consider the role that you want your ambassadors to play (to spread the word on campus and provide you with insight, represent you at events, to be a mentor or buddy, or perhaps something different) then plan out carefully how you are going to recruit, support and manage them. Make sure you choose the right type of people to represent you - understand their drivers and motivators for wanting to get involved and match them to the most appropriate opportunities. Consider your potential audience and what they want to hear and who the right person is to engage with them; is it a campus ambassador, a previous intern, a current apprentice, a graduate, or someone who is a little further on in their career? And don’t assume your employee ambassadors know everything about the roles and opportunities on offer, or what your latest messaging is. And when it comes to campus ambassadors, ensure you give them clear objectives and guidelines for delivering and reporting on activity. An absolutely essential element is to invest in training to provide the information they need through training days, briefings, toolkits and other resources. Essentially, help them to understand how to best represent you. Get this right and you will get an advocate that will represent your employer brand in the right way and have the right kind of influence on a young person’s career decision.
Next time I’ll be looking at the role of schools, colleges and universities and the part they play in influencing the career decisions in young people.