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Attract, Retain, Repel - The New Approach to Employment Branding

(September 22, 2008)
I (Liz Pellet) have been assessing organizational culture for over 10 years. In that time, I have seen a significant number of organizations with very healthy cultures, some that are moderately healthy, and some that are unhealthy - yet successful - in spite of themselves.

In the past year, I noticed a new trend emerging. Organizations with very healthy cultures really know who they are. Their employees have a sense of belonging, identity, and Esprit de Corps. It's much like how Built to Last so prophetically pointed out - there is a "cult-like culture" within these organizations.

So naturally, I was intrigued. Is this a "Stepford Wife" situation in which the corporation stocks itself with pliant androids, perfect beyond belief? Had HR moved down into the basement, far behind the boilers, offering up the same employee in a different skin, over and over again? Or have these organizations really banding together, honoring diversity, creating a sense of community, indeed, an elitism above their competitors in today's war on talent?

Employment branding and diagnosing corporate culture
It became time to infuse a new element into my approach for assessing organizational culture. By weaving in questions about employment branding, I could get a better sense of whether the organizations with healthy cultures also had created a significant employment brand.

I set out to learn more about branding from a recruitment advertising perspective so I could incorporate those sound concepts, philosophies and methodologies into the diagnostic phase of cultural transformation.

I examined cultural assessment findings in a new way - from an employment branding perspective. As I reviewed the report data, I thought that if I was an employee of this company, these results would either - attract me to work at this company - retain me as a current employee, or repel me altogether.

So for the last eight months I've been standing on my soapbox, talking (or evangelizing, depending on your perspective) about the Attract, Retain and Repel concept. Sure, everyone understands the concept of attract and retain…but repel? Isn't repel a dirty word? I think it must be from the audible head snap I hear when I say it.

Now I've come across many HR professionals who say, "We want to invite everyone to apply! We don't want to exclude anyone! We have to let everyone apply we are a Union shop. Our doors are always open and anyone who thinks we are not in compliance with EEOC can check our records."

These may very well be true statements, but do you really want everyone to apply? Think about it. There are employees in every company that really just don't fit in. You know who I'm talking about. The ones that you wish you could gather around the water cooler and then bring in Jeff Probst from Survivor to say, "George, the tribe has spoken. It's time for you to go." And poof, out goes the torch.

And it's never the same "type" of person for every company because every organization has a different culture. The employee that sticks out like a sore thumb in Company A fits seamlessly in Company B. So the real goal here is to repel the employees who just don't fit from even applying at Company A in the first place. It would be much more economical if they just submitted their resume, directly or through any of the online job boards, right over to Company B. That's the beauty of a clear and definitive employment brand in the context of repel.

We all know what it can mean when you're not being crystal clear on your employment brand - everybody and their brother comes in to apply for a job. Your recruiter's time and energy turns from a strategic placement specialist and into a resume sorter. You've heard the statistics of a bad hire, right? Studies have shown that a typical "mis-hired" executive can cost a company up to 24 times their salary in missed business opportunities, severance pay and re-hiring costs. How's that for the potential cost of high turn over?

Another frightening statistic is from the Department of Labor. They found that one out of every four employees have been with their company less than one year. Less than one year? It takes 90 days to find your way around and gain entry into the formed social circles. Factor in another 90 days to figure out the 4 P's (process, procedures, protocol and politics) and you have about 4 months of steady and reliable productivity from one in every four workers in your company. Frightening….especially if you're a recruiter.

Why do we continue to put the new hires through this meat grinder process, weigh down our already over worked employees with the responsibility of being a mentor, preceptor, buddy or tour guide? It's getting a bit crazy to repeat the cycle of on-boarding employees who really shouldn't even be getting an offer, hand shake or the precious recruitment resources we tend to expend every day because they just don't fit into the culture in the first place!

The bottom line with Attract, Retain and Repel is that when you understand and embrace who you are and who you are not, as an organization, you will attract and retain the "right" employees and repel the ones who just won't fit. By incorporating this concept and repelling employees who don't fit into your culture, you can reduce your overall recruitment expenses significantly in real hard dollar costs.

By Lizz Pellet, CEO - EMERGE International

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