Your branding and talent attraction strategy is as important for potential employees as it is for potential students and others. This element of branding can often be overlooked or underutilised and this can make it more difficult to hire the best.
Build your brand
First, you need to decide on exactly what your brand is and what you would like it to say about you. What do you want people to think of or associate with the name of your college or training provider? Do you want to be known as a college or training provider which cares about the wellbeing of its students, seeing them as people and not just possible achievement figures? Do you want to be known as an employer where the staff are as important as the students? As somewhere a teacher will have the support and encouragement they need to continue to develop their skills and become the best they can?
Once you have made sure your branding, your values, mission and ethos statements are all as clear and relevant as you wish, it’s a good idea to get your brand known. This means promoting it. There are many of ways to do this.
One of the best places to start building and promoting your brand is in-house. Every member of staff, from manager to cleaner, should know who you are and what your values are. The aim is for them to know them, believe in them and promote them for you. It needs to be more than a points gaining exercise or another tick-box exercise for meetings and observations. It should start with senior managers and leaders promoting the brand values by using them as a guide for their own professional behaviour. You should then find that this filters down through your staff as they start using the wording of them, referring to them and also using them as a guideline because if they are treated in a positive way because of these, and they see others using them in a positive way, then they will too. And then, when talking about their work/ employer, they will refer to your branding without even realising it and promote it among their friends, acquaintances and family.
Think about the images, decorations and furniture you have – does it match your branding? Is your branding clear as soon as you enter the premises, both external and internal? Will visitors and learners be able to see your brand and recognise your values? The aim is for visitors and learners to be able to leave knowing what you stand for. It can be explicitly stated in posters and images around, as well as in brochures and leaflets etc., and also implicitly through layout, classroom design and decoration, and the way they and others are treated and relate to each other. Visitors and students could be a useful promotion team through word of mouth. If they have had positive experiences of visiting or studying with you, and they have seen your brand values around and in action, then they are likely to recommend you and discuss your branding with others.
Your website is going to be the first port of call for many, even if it is just as a result of Googling you for contact details. Your presence online therefore needs to make your branding clear – both to current and potential learners and staff. It’s well worth putting some time and money into thinking about how you want to appear in a Google search and what you want people to see and understand from looking at your website, and then design and arrange accordingly.
On Google, I would recommend a favourable image, your logo, a few sentences summarising you and your branding, as well as the most relevant details such as times, address and contact details, and a link to your home page. Make sure all details and information are up to date. If someone gets annoyed or confused or struggles to find out where you are and how to get in touch because of inaccurate information or broken links, then it will have a negative impact.
For your website, it is incredibly important that the information there is up to date, and that it is easily navigable and clear. You want your branding and values to be clear as well, through its design, the header bar and also the welcome message/home screen. It needs to be equal in terms of detail, branding and usefulness for both learners, visitors and staff. If you have a separate staff intranet, then you want the same things there too. Your staff will think favourably of you if their intranet is clear, easy to use, useful and they can quickly find out information or complete their tasks.
In today’s world, it pays to utilise social media. While there are many issues regarding using it (safeguarding, trolls, privacy, hacking, and so on), having a presence on social media can be a fantastic way to build and promote your brand to the public. It can be a brilliant way to keep students informed of what’s happening, attract potential learners and promote yourself to potential or prospective candidates. As with Google search and your website, it is vital that the information is updated regularly, that someone posts with regularity and responds efficiently and effectively to replies and enquiries.
Getting staff and students involved in your social media accounts can be a great way of promoting your brand and demonstrating that your values aren’t just empty statements but the way you operate. Many schools and colleges link their Twitter or Facebook page to their website, post links to newsletters, celebrate recent successes, keep everyone informed with up to date news and some also have blogs. All of these are great ways of building and sharing your brand.
Your job advert may be the first time a prospective candidate comes across you and you naturally want to give them a positive opinion of you. Your advert is a great place to start promoting yourself and your brand.
First things first, you want to avoid just summarising the job description and giving the bare bones. You want to demonstrate why someone would want to work for you so your advert needs to be interesting. This means giving details and making sure the benefits of working for you are clear.
Where you display vacancies on your website, and in any social media posts about vacancies, you want to make sure your branding is clear. Celebrate your successes, state the positives and advantages gained by working for you, and include feedback and testimonials from your staff about why they enjoy working for you.
Communicate with candidates
Throughout the application process, make sure you communicate with your candidates. By keeping them ‘in the loop’, you keep them feeling positive about you as an employer and gives them an insight into what it may be like working for you. Even if they are unsuccessful, they will remember the experience as encouraging and be more likely to apply for future vacancies and to speak favourably about you to others. Therefore, you should find you become the employer of choice and your prospective employees wait for your interviews and feedback, rather than taking counter offers from other providers.
It is also very important to stick to the deadlines you gave about when you will accept applications by, when they will hear from you, when the interviews are scheduled and so on, as this also builds trust and confidence in your brand.
Retain the talent
As well as building a successful brand in order to attract talent in both staff and students, it’s useful to consider how you’re going to keep the talent once you have acquired it.
A lot of what has been discussed already should help you retain a lot of talent without too much extra effort. Making the environment fit your brand so both staff and students are aware of your values and know what they should expect is one way. Promoting and using your brand values as a way to treat others and behave professionally, will go a long way to ensure they feel valued and welcomed and therefore encourage people to stay. Effective websites and intranet sites for both staff and students, also shows you value them and encourage them to succeed. A positive social media presence keeping everyone up to date and celebrating success is also a useful tool for retention.
However, at the heart of using your brand to help with retention of staff and students you need branding and values which place staff and students equally in your focus and helping both staff and students develop and grow. Regardless of how well your brand is promoted nor what benefits are offered, if people don’t feel they are wanted, valued or given the opportunity to move forward and achieve, they won’t stay. Having students, and more importantly staff, who want to stay, who are happy and have been there for a number of years, can benefit your talent attraction strategy as some prospective candidates may be put off an employer with low retention rates, while they will be attracted to ones with high figures, as this suggests they will find a great place to work.
An effective brand and talent attraction strategy can take some time to set up and get into place, but once it is up and running and the word is out there about you and your brand, then you can reap the rewards. Remember, your brand is like your reputation and it will need looking after.