Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Wind Power

Employment Branding Leads to Top Talent Retention and Acquisition

Name any company in the world (outside of your own) that you immediately perceive as a great place to work. Google? Google might well be the most talked about firm in recent history. And that’s probably because no other firm has built and managed a more successful employment brand (e-brand) initiative.

An e-brand is an emerging and collaborative strategic marketing and human resources initiative. Whereas corporate or product branding cultivates and puts forth an image that stresses those products and activities that your organization uniquely does best, e-branding strategies are deployed for the primary objective of attracting, recruiting and retaining skilled leadership and top talent to your organization.

The net benefit of successful employment branding is that your organization’s exposure and favorable reputation increases, creating consensus among your employees and the outside world that your organization is a great place to work. Additionally, employment brand management efforts reduce the turnover rate among top performers and increase overall workforce satisfaction and productivity.

According to Sunny Gettinger, Global Communications & Public Affairs Manager at Google, “We do really focus on what it’s like to work here. During the interview process, it goes both ways, candidates meet with many people; they need to understand the culture and what it would be like to work here. We thrive on the exchanging of ideas and since our organization is very flat, we have conversations with folks throughout the entire organization about what makes Google authentic.”

Within the Renewable Energy business, very few firms have finely mastered the art of crafting an e-brand image for talent acquisition purposes and quite a vast majority have yet to consider its benefits. The renewable energy and green tech industry is obviously not alone in its quest for qualified talent at all levels of an organization and so as demand for renewable energy increases, firms will need to develop, deploy and refine talent acquisition strategies to support that growing demand.

Historically, most actions in recruiting are designed for short-term gain and have centered on recruiters responding to job requisitions, writing job descriptions, placing ads, visiting job boards, attending job fairs and mining social networking sites in an effort to fill job openings. Employment branding, on the contrary, is a long-term recruiting strategy that attracts and retains teams of top-talent management and staff and discourages those who might not be an appropriate for an organization.

As a result of the ensuing retirement of many engineers within the Baby Boomer generation and the importance of employment culture to the Generation Y population, it is imperative that renewable energy firms begin to seriously consider their e-branding strategies if they intend to survive.

Neal Lurie, Director of Marketing at the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) stresses the fact that there is and will continue to be intense competition for top talent. “Your company’s products may compete within the renewable energy industry, but when it comes to attracting top talent you are competing with all industries. Effective branding to attract talented employees seeks to answer one basic question: why should someone choose your organization over your competitor?”

Jyl Safier, Marketing Operations Manager at Conergy offers an explanation as to why renewable energy and green tech firms have not yet adopted such strategic branding initiatives. When she started renewable energy firms weren’t doing very much marketing at all, whereas now she is increasingly starting “to see specialization in terms of employment,” she says.

Once funding is secured, Green Tech organizations spend considerable time and capital to build and refine technology. Over time, firms differentiate themselves from competing organizations and develop the means to effectively communicate those unique differences and perceived advantages. Employment branding is next in the evolutionary process.

To start, employers need to understand and communicate their unique employment value proposition.

Renewable Choice Energy in Boulder, CO works with companies to promote clean energy programs and increase their green corporate and employment brands. Ted Rose, Vice President of Business Development at Renewable Choice Energy believes that environmental commitment resonates with employees that show up to work every day.

“For corporations supporting sustainability, there’s a great investment in improving their overall brand and connection with employees.” Rose offers Burt’s Bees as an example of a firm that has recently implemented several employment initiatives that will better attract and retain its most valued employees. The firm has offered its employees a host of new “green” employee benefits including subsidizing hybrid car purchases.

Employment branding practices should be deployed at each phase and by every participant of the recruitment process: from the moment a candidate learns of your organization to their initial contact through the interview process to their eventual on-boarding process. It’s wonderful to enjoy a sustainable culture, have generous and sustainable green employee benefits and great management practices, but it is also important that the message about your firm’s success is continually communicated. Make sure that candidates are aware of these achievements. Trey Taylor, President of Verdant Power states, “while the old adage held that knowledge is power, the fact is that sharing knowledge is much more powerful.”

Creating an e-brand is a massive undertaking that involves crafting the initiative with the help of individuals both inside and outside of the organization and then disseminating the message to the outside world. Below are some tips that firms can use to get started.

At the outset:

  • Choose a leader. The process should be lead by someone inside or outside the organization who possesses significant leadership abilities, strategic marketing, communications and recruitment experience.

  • Think long-term. This strategic initiative will require someone more heavily weighted in marketing than human resources or candidate sourcing recruitment.

  • Develop a budget. Remember that this initiative will touch upon the activities of individuals throughout various departments and at all levels including, marketing, communications, human resources, public relations, media & investor relations, C-level leadership and focus groups.

  • Make a commitment. Building an organization that truly values people, social responsibility, ethics, diversity and respect for the sharing of ideas is what’s at stake.

In order to figure out what the message of the e-brand initiative should be, firms must engage in discussions about their unique value proposition, perhaps even looking beyond sustainability initiatives (what else makes the firm so special?). To do this:

  • Gather input from top performing employees about what they believe is unique about the firm and outstanding about their career.

  • Gather input from the firm’s CEO and various C-level leadership to learn how they perceive the present and desired employment experience.

  • Hold focus groups with staff at all levels and attempt to uncover what really attracted them to your organization and what really encourages them to stay.

Once the employment brand message has been hammered out, firms must disseminate it over and over again.

  • Train every stakeholder and every person in the hiring process to be consistent and “passionate brand ambassadors” to the firm. This includes all external vendors and external recruiters.

  • Develop attractive and easily accessed employment marketing materials.

  • Develop a career website that expresses your employment brand and is user friendly.

  • Learn how to deal with, get to know, respect and develop relationships with various members of the press. An attributed comment or third party endorsement is far more powerful than any advertisement and is certainly a lot less expensive.

  • Boldly share with prospects, candidates, internal and outsourced recruiters, consultants and vendors the firm’s unique employment proposition. Share with top prospects the CEO’s vision for the company, renewable energy and the industry segment.

  • Be polite and respectful to everyone who calls or writes inquiring about job opportunities or business. The folks at Google and Goldman Sachs often pick up their phone when it rings and they return voice mails and emails. Provide honest and timely feedback to all candidates, at all levels. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated or simply treat everyone as though they are a customer — some of them are!

Dawn E. Dzurilla is Founder and President of Gaia Human Capital Consultants, an Executive Search Consulting firm solely dedicated to providing recruitment solutions and employment branding solutions to green tech, renewable energy, environmental and corporate sustainability organizations and non-profits clients. She has twenty years of recruitment experience and approximately ten years of environmental & corporate sustainability experience, including Co-Founding an innovative Socially Responsible Investment Management (SRI) firm, which integrates personal, societal values and environmental concerns with individual investment decisions. She is a resident of Naples, FL and New York City. Dawn Dzurilla can be reached at [email protected].

This is the fourth article in our series on Human Resource Management in Renewable Energy firms.