Ever since OPM’s unveiled its End-to-End hiring initiative in September 2008, “employer branding” has been in the air. But even after attending workshops and seminars, many agencies have yet to make branding a priority. In 2010, that could change. Many agencies may feel it’s time to put branding onto the front burner. The reason is simple.
Economists are predicting that the current economic downturn will cause the private sector to shrink while creating unprecedented opportunities within the federal sector in 2010 and beyond. The federal government’s new role as a choice employer begs the question: Is your agency prepared for the upcoming surge in applications from talented, qualified candidates?
Being prepared means your agency will need proper employer branding. Employer branding conveys the intrinsic value and reward of joining your agency and the candidates’ contribution to furthering its mission.
Consider that the federal hiring process usually takes nearly double the time in the private sector, requiring a significant investment of the candidate’s time and patience to submit an application in the required format. Many times job announcements posted on the federal job board USAJOBS lose their luster and appeal by not accurately conveying the contributions and rewards associated with the position. Improving hiring processes will help, of course, but how you can incentivize the candidate to hang in?
First, brands are an important decision-making tool for the job candidate. Once they’ve decided to go after a government position, their imagination will likely run to the best-known agencies … the ones they know from TV and movies. These familiar names have a head start in the candidate’s mind. The vast majority of agencies, on the other hand, must begin with a low baseline of awareness and image.
That’s where employer branding can help: projecting the drawing power of the position, while setting them apart in the in the prospect’s mind.
Branding professionals describe common product features shared by all players in a market as “table stakes.” All federal agencies have both table stakes and differentiators. All can promise a relatively secure job with attractive employee benefits. Thus, if a job candidate wanted only security along with a comprehensive benefit package, they could work anywhere.
To attract and retain talent, an employer must then look for a competitive edge, based on understanding what motivates and fulfils a candidate’s “higher needs.” Job seekers and employees are attracted by more than the simple table stakes: functional (e.g., basic job description) and economic (e.g., compensation, health insurance) benefits. Qualified candidates want a job that provides emotional satisfaction through self esteem, learning and service.
The most qualified job seekers with higher aspirations will seek self-expressive benefits, an organization that furthers an alignment of personal identity and objectives with your mission. Such employees can become very high performers, thoroughly dedicated to growing with your agency’s structure. In short, to get your share of the hiring surge, you need to tell your story, emphasizing those elements that are both relevant and unique.