When Harry met Harriet

Dear Harriet,

I’m going to come out and say it. 

It’s time we got to know each other better. 

Sure, we meet around the coffee machine every morning. I know you have an oat milk latte and you probably know I have a short black with a dollop of froth. I know you’re an Essendon supporter (why for the love of God?) and I’m a rusted on Crows fanatic. You wear a lot of black. I wear a lot of blue. I cycle to work. You walk.

But I don’t think you really understand me. I don’t think you value what I do.

You see Harriet, I’m in marketing. Just across the open space near the aspidistra. Hidden amongst all the black t-shirts and baseball caps. Yep, that’s me waving now. 

You probably think we sit around lighting farts all day. Yes, we do laugh a lot over here in marketing. We are naturally optimistic, positive people. 

But there is a serious side to what we do. When you see our advertisements on TV or our billboards at the airport or our digital ads popping up on Instagram it’s not just because we had a thought balloon in the shower. 

It is part of a well planned and consistent strategy to protect our greatest asset — our company brand

We make sure that every customer understands our point of difference.

If we do our job correctly then our sales team can convince our customers to keep buying our products over our competitor’s…and we all get paid.

As the company’s HR Manager, you seem to be having less fun than me. You sit amongst a lot of suits who look worried all the time. I presume your mission is to try to find the best people to fill the positions we have. And of course you try to make them stay with us for as long as possible. Unless of course they are unconscious incompetents…and then you try to ease them out the door as humanely as possible. Right?

What I have overheard in the morning coffee machine chats from all of you in HR is that it’s much harder to find good people than it used to be.

I read in the media only the other day that Australian businesses are crying out for more workers and we’re in the middle of one of our largest ever labour shortages. In fact, late last year, there were more than 400,000 job vacancies. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s unemployment rate sits at 3.9 per cent, a 48-year low, and the proportion of the adult population holding a job or actively looking for work has hit a record high 66.7 per cent.

I’d understand if there was just a shortage of aged care workers. But there aren’t enough teachers, nurses and GPs. There are never enough web developers or computer programmers (although Google and Twitter just freed up some desk space). I can’t get my bathroom re-tiled because there aren’t enough tradies.  And the bar staff at the local pub are so inexperienced, they don’t even know how to pour a decent beer (which you might think is their key skill).  

Where did all the trained staff go? I can understand a lot of backpackers went home to Europe and a lot of students went back to China during COVID. But what about everyone else? Are they all sitting around in Byron Bay sipping iced chai lattes and doing Wordle?

This must be a big worry for you Harriet. You hold the future of our company in your hands. We can’t grow without good people.  

Tell me if I’m wrong, but are you stirring the same old pot of talent around and around again? Are you still fishing from the same wharf using the same bait? Still relying on the tried and tested recruitment agencies? Seek.com? 

Can I make a suggestion? Why not sidle over to my aspidistra one day and have a chat. Isn’t it time to work together to build another brand for our company…an employer brand of choice.

While our marketing brand is all about our competitive value proposition, I imagine your employer brand is about employee value…what we deliver in terms of culture. A statistic I found from an article prior to COVID was revealing: 46 per cent of potential employees cite company culture as very important when choosing to apply to a company. 

I imagine that is a lot higher now as employees are seeking greater flexibility (such as working from home) and greater purpose (such as a chance to make a difference in areas such as climate change and reconciliation). 

I’d love to show you how we develop a brand strategy and how we could apply that to an employer brand. As well as identifying our big picture goal and our objectives I’d like to spend time getting to the core of our company story. What is our purpose? What gets us out of bed in the morning? What are our values and beliefs? What do we fight for?

I’d like to undertake some market research to find out more about the behaviours of the employees you want to attract.

Then we can develop messages that aren’t just a list of perks and benefits…like free parking and an annual Christmas party!  Shouldn’t we be telling our prospective employees that by working for us they get to change the world – or at least our small part of it – by working with others who share their values? Storytelling is what we are really good at, over here in aspidistra land. 

I’d like to show you how we use our marketing toolbox to engage our customers.

A great way to get started is to explore the features available on our LinkedIn company page. Like the new Company Commitments feature that highlights employer of choice benefits, from diversity and inclusion to environmental responsibility and work life balance. I’d also recommend using great content. When was the last time HR asked marketing to develop a video that told our employer brand story? We could add photographs and animation, original music and great design. We could even develop a podcast series. 

But we wouldn’t stop there. Our web people are just dying to make your employer brand portal so that our future employees can hook into our vibe. Then we would use data, algorithms and lots of other dark arts to communicate more directly with the precise type of employee we want to hire. We could even use outdoor and BVOD if we felt it was targeted enough, although we wouldn’t be recommending newspapers because who reads them?

What this all adds up to is catching the perfect whiting…using a fish finder and a carefully baited and sharpened hook; not a splash of burley in a restless ocean.

Precision is what marketing is all about these days. Together, we just have to start treating our employer brand the same as our company brand.

Imagine how we could make our culture feel simply irresistible. 

Tell you what Harriet. Why don’t we do lunch? 

Yours, Harry