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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Recruitment & Talent, “Interview with Kristen Harcourt - Attracting Top Talent: Creating An Amazing Employer Brand”
Aug 21, 2017 | Canadian Professional Sales Association, Recruitment & Talent Series lock

Kevin W. Grossman: In this CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast episode, we'll talk about attracting top talent and how to create an amazing employer brand. Today's job market is highly competitive and top sales candidates are looking for a transparency, autonomy and an overall winning culture.

According to the Talent Board Candidate Experience Research over 75% of job seekers today are doing their own career research and company values continue to be very important to them. A company's employer brand matters quite a lot. Every single encounter a job seeker has with an organization offline and online creates an ultimate impression of the organization's brand and could potentially determine whether they decide to even apply for a role or not. Sales is no exception.

Because potential applicants will research a company, whether setting the career site or consuming other's experiences on social media, it's important the information provided to the marketplace support the company's core messages. By understanding the existing perceptions of the people you want to attract you can also create a more compelling case for you as an employer. Company leadership is also critical to creating an attractive employer brand and should live up to the company's culture and values as well as communicating them effectively to key stakeholders, perspective sales recruits, customers, and current employees.

Our guest today is Kristen Harcourt. Kristen is a senior solutions expert with the McQuaig Institute, a global organization with a suite of scientifically validated assessment tools, which enable top talent acquisition, eliminate the high cost of bad hires, and demonstrates a deep layer of predictive job performance and employee engagement. She is passionate about creating positive workplaces for both the organization and the employees thrive.

Kristen, thank you so much for being on the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, why don't you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do today?


Kristen Harcourt: Sure, sounds great Kevin. I work with a company called The McQuaig Institute. We're a global organization working with companies across industries and I'm helping companies with our scientifically proven, behavioral assessment tools, to really use it to help with all the people-functions of the organizations. Helping companies do better hiring, helping them on-board more attractively and then internally, if you think about the different areas of talent management, helping with leadership development, helping with coaching and developing employees, team effectiveness; so, everything around understanding employees better, their natural personality styles and everything an organization can do to equip them to hire the right people and develop and coach them most effectively to retain them.

Kevin W. Grossman: Since most job seekers today, Kristen, they're doing their own research and this is even validated by my own organization that I work for, the Talent Board and the research that we do about candid experience and recruiting, that over 75%, according to our research, are doing their own career search. There's a lot of us, we do our own, we manage it all, when it comes to doing research of other companies that we may be interested in and want to eventually apply to and hopefully work for. Company values are always very important, at least that's what candidates tell us in the researching, but we see again and again out there. Kristen, tell us what makes for a powerful employment brand today. What does that consist of?

Kristen Harcourt: Yeah, I 100% agree with you and I've had the same findings in working with organizations over the last nine years and how things have evolved. I think when you think of an employer brand and what their values stand for, I think the first thing I always like to emphasize is authenticity. When you think about your organization, your employer brand, and your values, it's who you are as an organization, what your values are, and not trying to be somebody else. I think that some companies don't necessarily spend enough time to take a step back and get that clarity around who they are and who they're not. Once you get a really good understanding of what those values are, to make sure everything you're putting out there is very consistent with that brand message so that, as you mentioned, especially if you look at those top performers, most of those individuals who are doing that career research are passive candidates and they're looking at all of the different social media platforms, or wherever your brand is out there, to make sure that messaging is getting whatever your values are and that it's consistent.

I think, one of the things I really do like to emphasize, is that there's not this whole one size fits all around values, but it's around your organization's values. Definitely things that you see in general that people are looking for in terms of what that organization is, I see a big shift to people wanting to really understand your organization's mission and your overall purpose, more around social responsibility, so anything that's going out there around your employer brand, you really want to make it so that your potential candidates, people who are doing that career research are really going to emotionally connect with your organization at that level and really understand your overall mission and purpose, and why you do what you do.

One of the things I think is so fascinating is that, and I talk to organizations about this a lot, is we need more of HR and marketing working really well together. If you think about marketing and what you're doing in terms of your brand and customers, and understanding what the buyer brand is, you know, it's the same thing. You need to make sure that you've got that consistent messaging around those values and your mission and your purpose for your candidates as well.

Kevin W. Grossman:Couldn't agree more Kristen. Based on a few of the things that you outlined in answering that question, we both know, and many of us in HR and recruiting know first hand, that every single encounter that job seekers come across about an organization, and we're talking either online or offline, that ultimately creates that impression of what that employer brand is and what it might be like to work there, right? Potentially, it's going to determine whether or not they decide to apply for a role or not in that organization. All those things make up, at least what the perception of what that potential brand is. That said, specifically about sales professionals themselves, what do you think that they're looking for that differ from other positions when it comes to what's being served up on the front end?

Kristen Harcourt: Yeah, I mean, I think if you look at sales professionals, and I'm going to focus here on top performing sales professionals, and some of the values that they're looking for in organizations, and A-level talents, I'm going to go off some of the information from, I don't know if you're familiar with Dr. John Sullivan, but he's done a lot of work around values and he actually created a list of kind of those top 14 values that individuals tend to be looking for in organizations ...

Kevin W. Grossman: Yes, yes indeed.

Kristen Harcourt:Yeah, it's good work and I really agree with it. First of all, you don't want your organization to be like, "Oh yeah, we have all 14 of these values" because again, going back to that authenticity, that's not true; but if you're looking at some of the things that salespeople are looking for, I mean why are they going to leave the organization that they're working at now and coming to your organization? Well, they want to be able to do their best work. They want to feel like they're coming to your organization and they're going to be able to do their best work. They want to be able to make an impact. They want to have a great manager. I'd love to talk to you later on a little bit more about the leadership piece, but they want to be able to have a manager who's gonna really help them grow and who's going to challenge them.

I hear a lot around innovation as well. They want to be with an organization that gives them an opportunity for either themselves to be able to innovate or that they are going to be innovating. A lot of times they like environments where it's rapidly changing. That I would say also about the individual. It depends on the industry and some salespeople might thrive in one culture more than another culture, so I think that is unique too. If you are a salesperson, more specifically in a particular industry, and I think within industries you definitely see cultural differences.

You always see with salespeople in general, they want to be able to set their own schedules, so don't hire someone who are the type of people who want to have that self-directed type of role and then all of a sudden micromanage them. Definitely don't be talking about those kind of values.

Kevin W. Grossman: Exactly. Right.

Kristen Harcourt: Really performance driven organizations and where they're really going to be able to get out there and do their thing and feel like they're being challenged and shaking things up as well. If they were doing something in a certain environment, they want to come to you and be able to try different things, new things, work with awesome people who are also top performers in your organization.

Kevin W. Grossman: We tested this a little bit already, but transparency also makes a big difference today, right? Especially in convincing top candidates in general, and sales candidates to be very specific, to come on board for organizations today. Again, candidates, like we talked about, they're sharing their good and bad experiences with their inner circles and online. What role, specifically should HR and talent acquisition and recruiting professionals be applying in fulfilling the promises of projecting that specific employer brand? What's the role that HR should be filling?

Kristen Harcourt: Well, I think one of the big things HR should be doing is making sure that people are walking the talk. If you're seeing that these are our values, this is our culture, this is what we tell you we are, make sure that that's actually what's happening internally and that starts from the top down and all the way across. You can't say that you're one thing and having your senior executives and leadership team not actually aligned with those types of values. I would say HR really has the responsibility, whatever that culture and those values that you're putting out there, as your culture and your employer brand, make sure that that's actually what's happening internally. When it's not, there needs to be accountability. If people are not walking the talk, if people are not being part of that consistent employer brand that you're saying you are, and you want to continue to be, that's when there has to start to be accountability and part of that accountability is also perhaps supporting and helping people with changing where they need to make change, because sometimes cultures evolve and what they used to be is not what they are now and you're wanting to make those changes.

I think the other piece, and I know we're not going to talk too much about that today, but also making sure that you're creating a positive candidate experience. We could talk for a long time about that one.

Kevin W. Grossman: Yes we could.

Kristen Harcourt: Where there are some shortcomings, but making sure that there is that positive candidate experience, because you're absolutely right, just because that person doesn't ... Let's say they hear about the role, they learn about, and they start to decide, you know what, it wasn't the right fit for me, but I had a really positive experience as a candidate. Well, I'm more likely to refer other people in my network who also might be salespeople or top performing individuals. Make sure that you are treating people positively as part of that candidate experience.

Kevin W. Grossman: Not only the leaders in HR and talent acquisition, as well as their teams, need to be a big, big force behind creating and driving the employment brand, and getting it shared and marketed, in conjunction with the other groups in the organization, big and small, sales leadership is also a very critical component when it comes to helping to create and promote an attractive employer brand for those top sales people they're trying to target, and live up to the company's cultures and values. How do you recommend that sales leadership do this as well when it comes to communicating employer brand effectively for those sales recruits they're looking for?

Kristen Harcourt: Yeah, so first of all, definitely coming back to authenticity again, but also coaching them. They shouldn't have to even be coached, they should be very clear about that employer brand and what it looks like to work there. With all of their interactions with the candidate, they should be communicating that. I want to be really transparent when we talk about employer brand and you know, you're putting this stuff out there, there's good and bad. There's going to be amazing things about working at your organization and there's going to be some things, you know some people might perceive as being a bit more challenging, but, realistically, that's what it looks like, right?

A company could say, we have a work hard, play hard philosophy. Okay, that's authentic, that's what you are. I would make sure that leaders, when they're having any of those conversations with candidates, are being consistent around how they are positioning the brand and talking about what it really is gonna be like to work there. The other piece is when we're thinking about leaders as well, is, do you have the right people in leadership as well? If you've got these people who are gonna be talking bout the employer brands, well, they're also an extension of those values and what the organization is all about. Are those leaders the right leaders? Are those leaders who are demonstrating those values? All of those interviews and all of those interactions with those candidates, that's what those individuals are seeing.

If there's a misalignment and those leaders are not really demonstrating those values, that's a disconnect because they're not really communicating the employer brand effectively because they're not walking the talk. It's not really who they are, and then making sure that you're even putting leaders into leadership roles who are those types of leaders, right? Because I see so often, amazing individual contributors get moved into leadership and they're supposed to be sales leaders supporting these amazing top performing sales reps and they can't really support them properly because they don't really have the values, the cultural stuff that is required to be really successful in that role. Let's make sure that we're also getting the right leaders.

Kevin W. Grossman: There's the opportunity to lose them as well. One of the things that I talk about, again and again, even though again, this wasn't a lot about candidate experience although it truly is at the end of the day, when it comes to conveying an authentic appointment brand overall what it's like to work there. There's good and bad in every organization, but the fact is, that we're all perpetual candidates all the time, even if we're gainfully employed, or happily employed. That at any given point, this is where I think that there's a misnomer of calling someone active versus passive, because I think at any given time, your head can turn, my head can turn, we could also have a devastating layoff, we could be let go, something dramatic that we didn't know that was coming. We could be in transition, we could be under employed, all those things. Even as employees we're still continually having to be re-recruited to remain in our organizations. That's the way that it works.

Kristen, thank you so much, this has been a great, informative CPSA Podcast. Where can we find more information about The McQuaig Institute and what you're doing today?

Kristen Harcourt: Thanks so much for asking Kevin. You can check us out online, we're at and I'm very active on social media, so you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, all under @KristenHarcourt.

Kevin W. Grossman:Thanks again and I look forward to meeting for you real and in person some day.

Kristen Harcourt: Thank you Kevin.

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