How to Get C-Suite Backing For Your Employer Brand in 7 Steps

March 5, 2013

Steps at a Glance:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Listen to your leaders.
  3. Target one executive at a time.
  4. Bring the right information to the table.
  5. Have the guts to experiment.
  6. Build rapport with your colleagues.
  7. Keep up the dialogue.

Kara Yarnot is VP of the Talent Acquisition Center of Expertise at SAIC, a large aerospace and defense company.  When she joined in 2006, SAIC’s recruitment marketing consisted of – wait for it - newspaper ads. The company stayed under the radar, just like its government customers. Most top executives had never even heard of employer branding.

Fast forward to today: SAIC has a highly social talent brand at the heart of its talent acquisition efforts, fully supported by senior management. We sat down with Kara to learn how she and her team made it happen.

Kara Yarnot, VP/Director Talent Acquisition Center of Expertise, SAIC

How did your employer brand journey begin?

When I joined SAIC, we were losing talent to big-name competitors with strong employer and consumer brands.  We had to first get our conservative leaders more comfortable with talent acquisition-focused branding. Our 2007 campaign featured ads on buses and in movie theaters, and it grew our applicant pool. Whenever we heard a new hire credit our advertising, we made sure management knew about it. These small wins laid the foundation for expanding our branding efforts later.

How did you get buy-in on using social media?

We started by educating ourselves. We spent about a year understanding the landscape: what various products could do, and which social media channels were most effective in communicating with potential employees and job applicants. We then listened to our leaders and discovered that many were not aware of how social media platforms could be used for recruiting. We overcame their objections with the help of a little data.

What information did you bring to the table?

We educated our executives on digital options and showed them how our competitors were using social media to win talent. We presented specific data on each of the platforms and explained how they could enhance our visibility and improve our outreach – ultimately saving us time and money.

We showed them where candidates were going after turning us down, where we struggled to fill skill sets, and which companies had our target candidates. We used exit interviews and employee anecdotes to support our case before we had hard quantitative data.

How did adoption proceed from there?

It didn’t happen overnight – we had to keep at it. Once a few executives warmed to the idea, we approached each individually and suggested a pilot. We knew that good results would turn these early adopters into evangelists. We then motivated the more reluctant ones by showing them how their peers had succeeded.

On LinkedIn we started by posting some jobs, added more over time, and then began using a host of LinkedIn products together, in addition to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  My EVP and I meet quarterly to assess the impact we are having on metrics such as time-to-fill and quality of hire.

How did you partner with other functions to succeed?

We were on our own at first, but we joined forces with Corporate Communications and Marketing when they launched their corporate branding initiative. We used an external agency to help bridge our efforts, and to help educate everyone on the differences between our corporate and employer brands. We now work very closely together and rely on each other’s expertise to get things done.

What makes your partnership with Marketing and Communications successful?

Developing good personal relationships and being transparent are critical. We each have to make our goals and perspectives very clear, and be mindful that our priorities might differ.

Do you have any parting advice for getting leadership to back your efforts?

Keep supplying them with relevant data and success stories – it’s an ongoing process. They will be challenged when you’re not in the room, so make sure it’s easy for them to explain how investing X dollars achieves Y results.

SAIC’s 7 Steps to Getting Leadership Buy-in on Talent Brand

  1. Educate yourself. Go outside your organization to understand the landscape. Make sure your team understands the options well and can defend your proposal..
  2. Listen to your leaders. Understand their resistance on an individual basis and address it. Make sure everyone is on board with employer branding in general before confusing the issue with social media.
  3. Identify your champions. Target one or two executives who are the most receptive. Meet with them one-on-one and appeal to their specific concerns
  4. Bring the right information to the table. Once you know the specific objections you’re up against, choose the best way to handle them. For instance, share insights on what your competition is doing, or statistics on the rich talent pools available to you through social channels.
  5. Have the guts to experiment. As executives warm to the idea, invite them to do a pilot. Let them test tactics with little risk, and use their successes to get others on board.
  6. Build rapport with your Marketing and Communications colleagues. Spend time getting to know them, learn what they do, and understand their goals. A united front makes it easier for your leaders to buy in.
  7. Keep up the dialogue. Continue to supply your leaders with data and examples, to make it easy for them to justify and promote your branding efforts.

For more inspiration from Kara and other leaders on building a highly social talent brand, download our new Employer Brand Playbook.