employer brand

How to speak to your CEO about employer brand

I’ve attended so many HR events where HR leaders talk about the importance of building a great employer brand, treating your employees right, and about investing in attracting Gen Y. At the end of the event, everyone feels so inspired, people are patting each others’ backs, telling them what great ideas they have, and what an amazing job they are doing.

And then these HR folks go back to the office, to share some of these ideas with your CEO, and guess what? Their CEO doesn’t care.

To their CEO, all this sounds like HR fluff to them. “Just try to hire the right person with the least costs”. That’s all the CEO cares about.

So while it’s great we are talking about these things at HR events, it’s important to realise that we don’t want to be in this little bubble that we have created for ourselves, talking about the importance of a good employer brand, when their CEOs are not even listening.

Will my CEO care about employer brand?

So now I am going to attempt to answer a question I get asked most commonly – “How do I get my CEO to care?”

As someone who is running his own business, and also passionate about having great talent, I can share with you some ideas on what your CEO might care about and how you can position this in a way that he or she can relate to.

1) Money

How does this help us make or save money?

Let’s face it, the main objective of businesses is to increase revenue and ultimately profit, so let’s start with money. Does building a great employer brand help your business make money?

Well, if the nature of your business requires a strong sales and marketing team, then you could say attracting the best talent in sales and marketing helps the company make money, but that might feel like a bit of stretch for a CEO.

But building a great employer brand would definitely save your business money.

With a clear process and guidelines on who to attract and how to screen for specific talent (not just the best), and also create an environment that these talents will thrive in and be fulfilled, you’ll improve your staff retention significantly.

What happens when staff retention improves? You’ll spend less time and money on recruitment, less money on headhunters, and less on training and onboarding new employees.

And the “returns” you get on your employees will improve immensely the longer they stay with you. Employees that stay long will start to have a sense of belonging, become more dedicated, and their familiarity with the job and the business will mean that they spend less time learning, and more time contributing back to the business.

They spend less time learning, and more time contributing back to the business

2) Competitive advantage

How does this give us an advantage over our competitors?

Some companies greatly rely on the quality of their talent to succeed, and creating a company with great culture will give you such a huge competitive edge. This is especially true in these situations:

  1. When you work in an industry where there are only a handful of key competitors. In situations like this, companies aggressively compete with each other for the best talent, and so it makes sense to build a great culture to attract the best talent.
  2. If you’re in a service based industry, then there is a direct correlation between the quality of your talent and the service your customers receive. This is also an industry where customers don’t choose companies, they choose the people they want to work with. This includes audit firms, law firms, management consulting firms etc.
  3. If you’re in the creative industry where having the best creative talent helps generate great ideas and is key to your company securing customers and projects.
  4. If you’re in innovation and technology, where your products are intangible and you rely on your talent to design, develop and deploy your products. Having the best people will translate directly to the quality and innovation of your products.
  5. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry with complex products, such as financial services, where you need great talent who understand these products and also keep the company compliant.

In many cases, your CEO may be able to relate to how building the right employer brand to attract great talent will give your company a competitive edge.

3) Organisational transformation

How do we get our people to be more productive?

There are also situations where the CEO is frustrated at the productivity of the existing team, and is constantly trying to drive this productivity with the existing workforce, with little results. Some will soon realise that organizational transformation is what is needed, and that will involve flooding rebuilding the team from scratch and hiring the right people, while allowing some of their existing poor performing staff to leave.

For this to succeed, the CEO may realise that having a clear employer brand and building the right culture, is the key ingredient as the company goes through this painful but much needed organisational transformation process.

4) Fear of failure

How do we future-proof our company?

There are many companies out there who have been in business for many years, had a core group of people that successfully built the business with them. They never used to have talent issues, but for some reason, are noticing that they struggle to attract and retain new younger talent.

And this is a huge concern for some CEOs because they are starting to notice their aging workforce and realise they need fresh blood to keep their company going and that business will fail if they do not resolve this soon.

This is a huge concern for some CEOs because they start to notice their aging workforce and realise they need fresh blood

Not every CEO can relate to this, perhaps largely because they themselves are a lot older now, are just thinking about stability and keeping things as they are. This is clearly a mistake though.

Some of these companies are run as family businesses, and when their next generation start getting involved, typically they know that the business has no future if they can’t bring in new talent. So if you’re a HR person, perhaps you can engage in this next generation of the company’s leaders.

What you can do now

Often, because these CEOs or business owners achieved their success without having to think about talent too much in the past, some may not understand why this is important now.

So I hope this post can help make your job easier, by giving you ideas about what your CEO cares about the most, and how you can relate this back to the importance of investing in employer brand and work culture, which will ultimately help you attract and retain the best talent.