How to Build a Strong Internal Brand For Your Recruiting Team

January 23, 2017

Have you heard the story of the cobbler’s children? Well, it’s one that’s very relevant for talent acquisition professionals. In the story, the cobbler is so busy making shoes for everybody else that he has forgotten to take care of his own kids' feet and they are walking around barefoot.

“I find in talent acquisition, we do this to ourselves all the time,” said Kara Yarnot, founder at talent acquisition consulting firm Meritage Talent Solutions, in a recent talk for LinkedIn Talent Connect. “We are so busy facing externally that we forget about ourselves. We’ve been talking about branding now for a really long time, but we do not focus on what our own brand is inside of our own company, and how we as talent acquisition are perceived. We are those cobbler's kids with no shoes, walking around in the dirt,” she says.

Instead, it’s key for talent acquisition teams to make time to invest in their brand and share results in order to secure budgets and build enthusiasm among stakeholders in the C-suite.

“For some reason, our [own company] leaders think that we’re scattered, and we’re all over the place, and our brand as a crucial business function is suffering”, explains Kara. “We need to take the skills and techniques that we apply to building our employer brand and use them to create our internal talent acquisition team brand.”

Here’s a simple 3-step process for building a talent acquisition brand, nicknamed “ACT,” that Kara shared at Talent Connect Las Vegas:

1. Align your talent acquisition goals to your business goals

One of the most important things you can do as a talent acquisition leader is to take the time to understand your company’s key business goals and then align your team’s goals to those overarching company objectives.

“[Doing this] makes you look like a partner, makes you look like you are putting the business first, which we know we always are,” explains Yarnot. Ultimately, this will help your team’s work be more impactful and a lot easier to recognize.

For example, say one of your company’s top priorities is growing its business in China. As a talent acquisition leader, you can take this information and start thinking about how to support that growth. One idea may be to select and implement an RPO in China. From there, you will start thinking about what technology you need and what people you need to hire to lead that RPO. All of a sudden, your recruiting team has a solid new project to focus on which also directly helps the business grow.

If you’re not sure exactly what your company’s goals are, there are a few ways that you can find out. If you’re part of a public company, look through your company’s annual reports. If your company has a PR or marketing team, take a look at the blog posts and press releases that they’re publishing.

However, one of the most effective ways is if you open a more direct line of communication with your company’s leadership team. Ask an executive to host a lunch and learn for your organization’s recruiting function: it’s essential that every team member understands the bigger picture of your organization.

“Take those business goals, make sure you understand them, ask the questions of your key leaders around what’s behind those goals, why are we going that route?” says Yarnot.

2. Communicate with key stakeholders the value your team is bringing to the business

Once you have a clear plan for how your team’s goals ladder up to the business objectives, take the time to communicate this alignment to your key stakeholders. And arguably, the most important stakeholders you have are the recruiters on your own team.

“You’ve got to make sure that every recruiter, every coordinator, every member of your team fully  understands what the goals are of talent acquisition, and how they align,” explains Yarnot. “Because they are your internal brand ambassadors for your organization, and are going to have the biggest impact on how your organization is viewed internally. "

In order for everybody on your team to know these goals inside and out, make sure you present and repeat them in your team’s all-hands meetings and hold information sessions. Do some Q&As, do some one-on-ones. Ask them what they don’t understand.

The eventual goal is that your recruiting team will go out and spread this information to the many hiring managers they talk to every day and across the whole company (talk about communicating at scale).

“Your recruiters are the key to communicating with your hiring managers,” says Yarnot. “They’re talking to them much more regularly than TA leaders and they need to be explaining to them how things align, and why your goals are what they are, because they’re supporting the business.”

Yarnot advises to role play with your team and walk through situations when the hiring managers are pushing back on recruiting priorities, and give them the opportunity to represent your brand as business-aligned.

For example, a hiring manager comes to your team and says that she needs recruiters dedicated to sourcing talent in South America. As a recruiting leader, you know that your company is focusing on growing the business in China and not South America and supporting this hiring manager will be a huge strain on your team and won’t be as important to the business. Take this opportunity to pause and explain how your team aligns to business goals and ask if the business goals have shifted. This will both make you and your team look very strategic and business-aligned, but also save you long hours of low-impact work.

3. Tell your team’s brand story

You have aligned to the business goals and communicated that alignment to key stakeholders. Now it’s time for the last step -- telling your success story to the business and shaping your brand perception.

“If you don’t tell your story internally, all that alignment and communication will be good, but you won’t be owning your brand,” says Yarnot. “There’s so many things you can do here. Use what works at your company for sharing things internally. My number one piece of advice to my clients is leverage your internal communications department.”

How? By going to the comms team office, calling them up, emailing them, and telling them what you’re doing talent acquisition. Go to them and say “Let me show you how we’ve aligned our business. Let me show you the results. Look at how we’re saving costs while still filling the positions, by still supporting that business in China,” says Yarnot.

In addition, put together weekly, monthly or quarterly reports on what your recruiting team is doing or try to snag time to present in front of your C-suite. Use these opportunities to tell your story, and show how you are aligned, what you are doing and what are your results. Proudly show off your metrics and accomplishments.

“As you continue to remind hiring managers and executives that your team is aligned with the business, you will start to build that brand of being true partners inside the business, and you will be telling your story on a regular basis.”

The bottom line

If you follow only one of the three steps here, then Yarnot advises that you focus your time on building alignment between your team and the business goals. This simple shift in thinking will put you ahead of many other talent acquisition teams.

“Make sure you understand your business goals, make sure you can explain how what you’re doing in TA on a day-to-day basis aligns to those goals,” says Yarnot. “And if there are things you’re spending a lot of time in TA on, that don’t align to business goals, rethink what you’re doing. Communicate. Start with those recruiters. Empower them to explain what’s going on inside TA. Help them communicate to the hiring managers. Help them communicate to executives. You communicate to executives. And then tell your story.”

Yarnot emphasizes that you want to tell your own story in the ways that make the most sense for your organization to continues to build the brand of your talent acquisitions team being clearly aligned to your business goals.

“This is really, really important so that you are no longer walking around as those barefoot kids through the neighborhood, and you actually are wearing really, really awesome shoes.”

*Image from David Newberger

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