Are You Marketing the Wrong Recruiting Message?

“Mr. Ron, my problem is that I do not understand how my offer does not cause people to want to work for my agency.”

My follow up question was, “What is your offer?

He boldly said, “We offer you the opportunity to work here for your entire career and retire after so many years… I think that is a great offer. However people do not seem to get excited. And when we do hire people from university, the tenure is about 1 to 2 years and then they leave.”

Well I lost him after “working here for your entire career.” Was he serious? Unfortunately, he was.

I was working with a governmental agency in the Asia/Pacific region which is where this conversation came up. The gentleman with whom I was having this conversation appeared to be in his early 50s and had worked for this agency since his university days.

As my mind tried to wrap around his comments, I was thinking how should I respectfully respond? I was just imagining a career fair or interviewing a recent college grad and I’m telling them, “Sign on with me and you can have a job for life. You can work with us and retire from here. So if you are 23 years old you can stay her for the next 37 years.”

The person on the other end of that conversation would have walked away from me so fast.

Repackaging for today

Where do I begin on this one? I started asking him about the DNA of his organization: average age, tenure, workforce segmentation. My line of questioning was intended to have a conversation around multi-generational workforces, value proposition, turnover analysis, engagement, etc.

He could not really understand the point of my line of questioning as to what that would have to do with his recruiting difficulties.

Offering lifetime employment, while being a great perk in another era, today is the kiss of death. Even having a conversation and alluding to that fact. However framing it in terms of a career lattice model allowing workers to drive their career over a period of years, that would be more attractive. A worker would own their career.

As we move into this new era of work, which no one has yet figured out, we must seek our new recruits in new ways. Messaging plays a huge role in that, and lifetime employment is NOT a perk.

Think like marketers

The reality is we must figure out a new way to market ourselves. What was at once considered a strong benefit is now a kiss of death. We now have to compete with ever growing opportunities. Your organization is just one in a pool of opportunity.

So, I told him, yes, you do have a lot to offer, but it needs better packaging. The product as listed will not sell. You are trying to sell a product that was possibly a favorite in years past, but it can’t compete in today’s climate for talent.

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We have to realize that we have to think more in marketing terms: how can we sell our product to today’s buyers. If we are trying to sell a package with an old design or version 1.0 without the analysis needed for a new approach, we will lose. That is why his agency was losing.

Our organization is a product in that sense; you are competing against other products for shelf space. So analyze from that perspective and think of how you can reach a new audience.

In reality, you do not have a choice. Without a new approach you could end up in the dust bins of organizational cluelessness, if that is a word.

I think you get my drift. Find you organizational purpose and tell your story.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.