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Marketing for Talent Pt. 2: Bring Your Culture to Life

12 min read2023-04-04

Don’t miss part one of our marketing for talent series! In this installment, we’ll talk about how to identify your company culture, leverage it in your hiring language and execute the right mix of marketing tactics.

What exactly is “company culture”?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, company culture is the foundation of every organization. And it’s a crucial part of attracting and retaining the right kind of talent for your company—if you understand your culture.

Let’s clear that up first.

What company culture is: The shared values and characteristics of an organization as exhibited in day-to-day life. It shapes the way people feel about the work they do, how they do it, how they interact with each other and what they believe in.

What company culture is not: A list of company values plastered on the office wall. Or ping-pong tables and free beer.

As a leader, you may have a set of values that embody your vision for the company. But if those values aren’t turned into real action at all levels of the organization, they’re not defining your culture.

Company culture comes through in many areas, from the work environment to the company mission to the goals and expectations of leaders and staff. Here are a few examples of what corporate culture looks like in the manufacturing/industrial space:

Otter Products: Fast-paced and Fun

Take a look at Otter Products’ HR marketing, and you’ll see, “We work hard and play hard.” This company aims to build a playful, creative environment where employees contribute meaningfully to the company and their communities.

Ford: Playing to Win

Underlying nearly every aspect of Ford’s company culture is a drive toward excellence. Ford prioritizes high performance and teamwork, aiming to become an industry leader through collective courage, competitive strength and resilience. After all, they’re Built Ford Tough.

SpaceX: Pushing the Envelope

Fast growth and big wins are a hallmark of SpaceX. That’s why the company hires people who can not only keep up but lead the way. High expectations and long work hours (as in, 60-70 hour weeks) are the norm, but the payoff is being part of exciting, historic achievements.

Do you know what your culture really is?

When companies try to implement culture from the top down, it often leads to misalignment between what leaders think their culture is and what workers experience every day. And if your HR marketing doesn’t match the reality on your work floor, it can create many problems when you bring new people on board.

You need to know what your company culture is—and what it isn’t—so you can address any misalignment between your culture and your hiring efforts. At the bare minimum, conduct a simple human audit to explore what matters to your team and what they think matters to your company. You can get started with our easy-to-use company culture survey template. We recommend making it anonymous, so people feel more comfortable giving you honest answers.

Digging deeper

If you have more resources and time, you can take it a step further with in-depth culture assessments. A few ideas we’ve seen work:

  • Culture surveys: As an alternative to the quick audit above, use a more-depth survey for diving into employees’ views of your company and its leadership, how they feel treated and valued (or not) and how they perceive their role and effectiveness in the organization.
  • Culture walks: Take a walk around your facility and look for physical signs of culture. How is common space utilized? What do people post on bulletin boards or walls? What kinds of interactions do you see between employees?
  • Culture interviews: Talk to employees in small groups, asking indirect questions like “What would you tell someone who’s about to start working here?”, “What’s one thing you would change about the company?” or “What would you ask a job candidate in an interview?”.

A word of caution

In today’s politically polarized world, asking employees about values can be a bit like navigating a minefield where personal attributes get automatically labelled as “conservative” or “progressive.” But the differences aren’t usually black-and-white.

In reality, most people’s values fall on a spectrum. That’s why we suggest using neutral language and a sliding response scale when asking employees what they value in the workplace. It might look like this:

Your goal is to avoid making employees feel like they can only be one way or another and that maybe there’s a right and wrong choice. If you want honest answers, give people a gentler, more human way to express themselves.

Bear in mind; you may not always like what you find in an audit. But you need to understand your company culture before you can do anything about it, let alone incorporate it into your hiring marketing. So take a deep breath, keep an open mind, and get ready for a genuinely valuable knowledge bomb.

Hone your hiring messaging…

Okay. It’s time to turn all this information into compelling messaging for prospective hires.

Remember that job seekers are going to evaluate your company as much as you assess them, asking themselves, “Do I see myself working there?” Your messaging needs to grab their attention and highlight the real culture of your organization and the benefits that come with working for you.

Showcasing your culture also lets people evaluate whether your company’s values align with their own, a concept that’s become increasingly important to today’s job seekers. Plus, providing potential employees with a better understanding of your company can help filter in candidates who are a good fit, making the hiring process smoother.

Here are some keys to crafting messaging that resonates with the people you want to hire:

  • Use language they would use. Drop the corporate-speak. Write with the kind of language we use in everyday conversations. In other words, write like a human being talking to another human being.
  • Make your values shine through. Don’t just talk about what you do as a company, talk about who you are. Using what you learned in your company culture assessment, highlight what makes your company a great place to work.
  • Involve the roles that need to be involved. Don’t leave messaging in the hands of your HR department alone. Get input from the staff who will be working closely with new employees. What are they looking for? What would they say to attract the right kind of person?
  • Run your ad through a gender decoder. Yes, there is such a thing that can save you from inadvertently alienating people with insensitive language. Use this tool to test your job ads for gender bias.

…Then spread the word!

There are a ton of ways to market to prospective hires today, and successful employers are leveraging every platform they can to reach fresh talent. Fortunately, you don’t need a big budget to market job openings effectively—you just need to get the right message to the right people in the places they’re looking for it.

Here are a few different scenarios for your hiring marketing, depending on your available resources.

Good: Low cost, High impact

Define your target audience. As we explained in Part 1, be crystal-clear on whom you want to reach and what they’re looking for from an employer, and create a few key messaging points.
Post on at least a few platforms. We’ve seen companies put a job posting on LinkedIn and call it a day. But one platform alone won’t cut it. With just a bit more time and effort (and not much money), you can replicate your postings on Indeed, Glassdoor, Google for Jobs and others.
Brush up your digital profiles. Be sure to complete your profile on any job listing platform. A bare-bones profile gives the impression that you don’t care much about your listings…which, to many prospects, means you don’t care much about hiring them.
Don’t diss the near-miss. Looking at your job description, can you scale back the requirements to broaden your eligible prospects? Consider training a new hire to grow into some aspects of the role instead of finding someone experienced right out of the gate.

Better: Motivating Messaging

Do everything in the Good scenario, plus:

  • Do a culture refresh. Conduct a human audit to make sure your hiring marketing materials are truly in line with your company culture. This is an excellent time to focus your team on the shared values and practices that make your company what it is.
  • Update your career page—or build one. Nearly every prospective employee will look for a career page on your site to get a sense of what working at your company is like. This page should be more than just a series of job listings; it’s a key opportunity to sell your workplace.
  • Polish your messaging. Some companies hire a copywriter to create compelling, targeted marketing language. Be sure to audit and update your messaging across all channels (website, social media, job listings, flyers, etc.).
  • Get social on social media. Post photos of your people, not just your products and equipment. Give prospects a taste of day-to-day life at your company, and you’ll not only get their attention, you’ll also show that you value your employees.

Best: The complete package

On top of everything in the Better scenario, add these:

  • Do a company-wide culture and values exercise. If you’re serious about hiring the best-fit talent for your organization, you need to understand what makes your company tick truly. Start with in-depth culture assessments to get a picture of where you’re at and determine whether you need to address any misalignment between expectations and reality.
  • Built a sub-site for recruitment. A standalone careers website lets you provide more features and information than a single page on your main site. It also shows that you prioritize investing in employees and recruiting qualified candidates.
  • Showcase employee testimonials. Customer reviews and testimonials tend to be the strongest selling point for products, and the same goes for employers. Job candidates are likely to put the most stock in what employees say about your company, so collect those testimonials and incorporate them into your hiring marketing materials.
  • Invest in “employer” campaigns. Like a shy bachelor on Tinder, sometimes you need just to put yourself out there. Build advertising campaigns around your attractiveness as an employer, using the audience-specific messaging you’ve developed. Boost posts and launch targeted ads on social media, and consider using the promotional tools on job posting platforms.

Stay one step ahead

Hiring was never easy, to begin with, and the post-pandemic labor market has made it more challenging than ever to attract and retain employees. But if you follow the guidelines we’ve offered in this two-part series on marketing for talent, you’ll have a leg up on all the companies currently competing for prospects.

The key is to remember and implement these four things:

Be clear about who you’re talking to

Generic job ads are going to fall on deaf ears. Today’s job seekers are looking for companies that speak to their values and needs. So define your target audience, find areas of alignment between what they want and what you offer, and create messaging that directly addresses what they’re looking for.

Qualify your prospects

Given the current labor shortage, most companies don’t have time to cast a wide net and spend months hiring someone. (“Hire slow and fire fast?” Not right now.) By being crystal-clear about your audience and crafting a targeted message, you’ll be qualifying leads before you even hold an interview.

Make it a two-way transaction

Hiring is no longer a one-way relationship where you’re doing people the courtesy of offering them a job. Companies can’t expect to just take, take, take from candidates; you have to offer them something of value in return. Look at it from a prospect’s perspective: why is your company worth their time to look into?

Offer a future

Whether people are recent job losers or job leavers, most are looking for a sense of stability and a path towards growth. Your hiring materials could talk about promoting within the company, career path options or continuous learning opportunities (like tuition reimbursement). If your firm was given essential worker status during the pandemic, be sure to let people know you’re a bit more protected against fluctuations.

Remember, too, that many younger workers are looking for continual challenges and professional development. To address that, some companies include phrases like “input welcome” or “open to feedback” in their job postings. Above all, make it clear that your employees are valued and supported and that (if this is the case) you’re investing in people for the long haul.

In the end, whether you can draw in all those folks sitting on the employment sidelines largely depends on how well your marketing speaks to their needs. Want more guidance on fine-tuning your messaging and marketing to reach the people you want to hire? We’d love to help. Contact us today to learn more.

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