Talent Brand vs. Employer Brand: THE DIFFERENCE

I have a very eclectic taste in music, mostly because I’m drawn equally to good lyrics as I am to a good beat. Somewhere in there lies a deep love for modern country music. One of my favorite songs right now is “The Difference” by Tyler Rich (click if you need a catchy listen). In it, Rich highlights how small changes in words or phrases actually have quite substantial difference in meaning. In Tyler’s case, his message was about relationships. Here, we’re talking about brand strategy.

So let’s explore the difference between employer branding and talent branding head on…

For a long time I’ve held titles with the phrase “Employer Brand” in them. I’ve also seen the search results behind this term rise exponentially from 0-<10 results on the average search to whole job boards and hashtags dedicated exclusively to #EBJobs. This is a fantastic trend to watch unfold, as it highlights how companies are becoming more conscious of their people strategy, and the value that an intentional brand and marketing capability within it can bring. What I’ve also observed, however, is that the term “employer brand” has driven very inside-out, self-focused approaches to how the work is done. The process behind this approach has typically included a company defining its offering in isolation, and then pushing its desired messages onto its target candidates and/or employees in a one-way direction, often with little corporate brand alignment or active listening to post-launch feedback. This approach fails to take into account a few things…

  • When it comes to jobs, every single employer in the world is selling the same product (a job with a variety or tangible and intangible benefits, which is secured after recruiting process and kept for an undefined amount of time).
  • If you focus your brand strategy on the actual product, your chances for differentiation are finite. Focus it on the perceived product and your options are infinite.
  • That a recruit and/or employee frequently experiences the brand as customers too. The isolated, vertical approach leads to a confusing, sometimes frustrating experience with the same person experiencing the same brand radically different depending on what task they are trying to accomplish with it.
  • Think through the candidate/customer journey horizontally and all of a sudden harmony and alignment becomes much easier to achieve.
  • That they are complex human beings that withhold commitment and energy until they feel heard and valued.
  • It’s like telling a 3 year old to put her toys away before going to bed or ordering a teenager to send only 3 texts per day, and seriously expecting it to magically happen after the first command. Ummmm, a 2-way dialogue that is grounded in respect and active listening is probably required before you get your desired outcome. Same principle applies here.

Enter our preferred term, “TALENT brand”…

A prominent belief behind the launch of Truist was that to REALLY be successful in today’s buyers-driven labor market, the traditional approach had to be flipped on its head. It’s no longer about the employer and his/her self-definition of identity. It’s about the truth-based relationship you build with the people who (like it or not) collectively create and express the identity of your brand.

A purposeful offshoot from “employer brand”, “talent brand” acknowledges that talent is a strategic investment vs. a commodity expense for a company. It uses this assumption as the basis from which to realize greater mutual value, competitive advantage and potential from the talent-employer union.

The approach to building a powerful talent brand begins with understanding the needs, wants and truths about the talent personas you wish to engage in a professional relationship with, and then builds a holistic brand strategy across all relevant recruit employee customer touch points in an agile, two-way continuous improvement cycle.

Lastly, the terms lends itself to broadening the positive impact of this profession. We use a variety of skills to help Corporations shape, align and express their brand’s truth, as a means to create marked competitive advantage:

  • Insights gathering
  • In-depth Interviewing
  • Strategy
  • Collaborative facilitation
  • Creative writing
  • Design
  • Verbal communications

The list goes on…

We can use these same skills to help individuals brand themselves as the coveted talent these Corporations need. While it’s the intent of Truist to do good for in-need individual populations while doing great for its Corporate clients, it’s important to realize that the two are not separate. They are actually mutually reinforcing – different sides of the same coin if you will.

In short, the difference between employer brand and talent brand is finite vs. infinite impact, its self-less vs. self-ish. Do you agree or do you think the terms used interchangeably is justified?

[Cue the music, Tyler…”IIIIIIIII want to be the difference.”]