In the battle to find and retain talented employees in China’s competitive labor market, one company recommends a creative approach: branding and marketing your workplace as if it were a product or service.
That strategy, called “employer branding,” is advocated by The House of Marketing, a Belgium-based marketing consulting company that opened its first China office in Shanghai last year. With 100 employees in Belgium, The House of Marketing is that nation’s number one marketing consulting company, and also operates elsewhere in Europe.
“Employer branding is designed to recruit and retain employees by showing them that the company is a “great place to work,” explained Catherine Crevels, a consultant for The House of Marketing in Shanghai. “You attract and retain talent the same way you attract and retain customers: Instead of Business-to-Business or Business-to-Consumer, we talk about Business-to-Recruit.”
Employee vs. customer
China’s talent shortage makes it necessary for employers to use such innovative approaches. China has only a fraction of the qualified candidates it needs to fill thousands of top-level positions. And those with the right credentials often don’t stay put.
In Shanghai, employees under 30 stay at a job an average of 17 months, and 41% of the entire workforce is actively looking new work.
One marketing technique that can be used in employer branding is taking the same steps you would to acquire new customers. The strategy involves making the customer (or employee) aware that you exist, show how you are relevant, get them to try your product and then make them a loyal customer.
One way to make potential employees aware of your company and its job opportunities is by posting interviews with CEOs and employees on company blogs, she said.
Segmentation and targeting should also be used, just as when marketing a product or service. Whether you’re seeking factory workers or lawyers, you must first determine the size of the market. For example, companies need to know the number of people who have relevant experience and where they are likely to search for jobs.
A company should use both external and internal communications to build its employer brand. For example, communicating internally on other company benefits such as training opportunities and a clear view on the career path could encourage your employees to stay.
A couple of years ago, The House of Marketing’s partners were brainstorming their next five-year plan. Noting an increasingly saturated European market, they decided to look elsewhere.
As Veerle T’jampens, The House of Marketing’s country manager in China explained, they all had China on the top of their minds. They later sent a delegation to China to interview some 50 experts and academics about the market before deciding to open a Shanghai office.
The huge potential of China became clear to them, and studies indicate that by 2012 the country will be the biggest consulting market in the world.
A proven track record and pragmatic approach bode well for the House of Marketing’s China chances.
The company’s broad-base of clients in consumer goods, financial services, healthcare, media and utilities, business-to-business services and information and communication technology is a definite strength. Among the major companies using its services are Unilever, Procter & Gamble, IBM and HP.
“Our strength lies in our ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice,” said managing partner Marc De Reu at the company’s China office opening in June 2007. “It is precisely this approach Chinese companies appreciate.”