What GE Does Right on Employer Branding (and who they look up to)

I had the great fortune of sitting down recently with Shaunda Zilich, who is the Global Employment Brand Leader at GE. GE has been the name on everybody’s lips lately, for their amazing series of “Owen” videos that have turned the traditionally industrial brand on its head. With nary a work boot in sight, the young, passionate, and tech-oriented Owen is completely jazzed about his work at GE, helping to develop the software and technologies that will help hospitals, research facilities, and the energy sector (among others) change how they work.

These videos are a great example of how marketing and talent acquisition can join up to create the kind of employer branding that gets the right candidates beating a path to your door, and Shaunda agrees that it’s an exciting “perfect storm” that’s currently taking place in the industry.

“With traditional marketing, we’re trying to sell a product or solution. With employer branding, we’re selling an experience. People have a lot more information at their fingertips now, and will research you. It’s not like before, when you would walk into a store and just buy the first thing you saw. Everybody shops around now for their products and they’re doing the same thing for potential employers. So that transparency is needed, and so are those stories that tell people what it’s really like to work for you.”

A big focus, Shaunda says, is for companies to stop and ask themselves why they are doing what they do, and to make sure that the “why” is communicated effectively to potential candidates.

So, how to do that? A few things that GE is nailing:

    • Get Your People to Spread the Word: GE has an employee advocacy program, where it ensures that its people get regular updates about all of the cool things and team successes that have taken place. By formatting this information in a way that makes it easy to share on LinkedIn or other social media, GE is making is effortless for its own employees to share its culture with the world.
    • Appreciate Each Other’s Strengths: Marketing tends to get a bigger budget than HR, and has great creative ideas about how to tell stories and build a brand. But HR knows the company’s people, its challenges, its strengths, and the recruiting process. Each side has to understand and respect each other, no matter who “owns” the responsibility of employer branding.
    • Embrace the Data: Data is ruling the day, and helping companies catch stuff they’ve been missing. At GE, they discovered that a huge amount of their web traffic was on their careers page, a page which is often badly neglected by companies. By putting real effort into their careers page (sharing the Owen videos, featuring quotes from employees about the amazing things they get to work on), GE paints a crystal-clear and very enticing picture of their corporate culture.
    • Think Local AND Global: If you’re in a large multinational corporation, it’s vital to have a strong employer brand that transcends borders. But, it’s vital to look at who your employees and candidates are in each region, and to tailor your employee branding initiatives and messaging for those particular people.

And Something Shaunda thinks another company did better?

“Ernst & Young has their employer branding sitting in Marketing, and they treat talent acquisition as a customer, which is a really cool concept. They had a triathlete (Gwen Jorgensen), an EY employee, and even in her Olympic interviews, she was talking about her experience at EY and how they encouraged her, and that’s huge!” While GE has had Olympic athletes, that same storytelling did not happen, which is something that could be used as a learning experience.

So, where will employer branding evolve in the next five years? Shaunda’s making a bold prediction (and a steak dinner rests on this): Because of increased data and the increased ability to precisely tailor content to each website visitor, the “search” function will go by the wayside. She says this laughingly, but does state that because of the huge amount of information that people are swamped with, companies do need to tailor their content and make sure that they are offering experiences to their talent, not just reams of information. She says that a good way to do this is for HR to just step back, pretend they have a blank canvas, and with the help of Marketing, get creative with their recruitment instead of just trying to re-work existing processes.

Here’s our full conversation:

GE is definitely making other companies, large and small, think about their employer branding and how they can get their own stories out there. In five years, we will likely see this become the normal way of doing things (and we’ll also likely see me collecting on that steak dinner).

Phil Strazzulla

Founder at NextWave Hire
Phil is a founder of NextWave Hire.Previously, he was a VC at Bessemer, and has a MBA from Harvard, and studied finance at NYU.

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