Attract new hires with an authentic brand identity, Part 1

Allison Vail – No Comments

All I remember about the first day of my first real job out of college is being scared about screwing up, terrified I had broken the camera card reader and totally confused about the phone system. It was a Saturday morning, and I was the only reporter on shift. Orientation the day before had included a quick intro around the office and being shown how to turn the alarm on and off. Then, I was told to arrive at 9 a.m. the next day and get to work.

What I didn’t know far outweighed what I learned in school. Sure, I knew how to ask questions, write articles and take photos, but I didn’t know how to do my job within the functional restrictions of the new office space. Actual performance expectations were unknown. Specific reporting structure, a new computer, a different filing structure and unexplained equipment — these were confusing. My schedule meant I was only in the office with my colleagues three days a week. I wasn’t given an explanation of the office structure, performance expectations or reasonable guidelines for producing work. Heck, in six months the only feedback I got was from an angry reader who didn’t like my movie review of a boxing film. At age 19, working 14 hour days, I burned out in 6 months.

It’s not particularly reassuring, but I’m basically a statistic. Like many others entering a competitive workforce in a challenging area of work, like that done by AEC firms, the odds weren’t in my favour. They weren’t in favour of my employer either.

Do you want your AEC firm to draw in the best new hires and graduates and keep them over the long term? A solid training program and a well communicated brand identity aren’t optional.

A report called Help New Hires Succeed: Beat the Statistics, by Caela Farren, shares startling statistics about what really makes an employee stick and the washout rate on new hires—and how to keep them instead. New employees decide whether they feel at home in the first three weeks in a company; some leave after the first day and almost half of rookies, according to a study in the report, wash out in the first 18 months.

What this suggests is companies are going to fail to retain the best and brightest talent, especially if that talent falls into the Millennial age bracket (born between 1982 and 2004).  This is expensive for businesses, who are faced with new hiring and training costs on very short cycles. Even if you can hire Millennials in the first place what you need to do with them once you’ve got them?

Repeatedly, we hear from our clients that employee hiring and retention is the number one issue AEC firms are facing. This need is driving clients to update websites, engage in social media and create all those amazing perks we hear about in the news. Yoga classes, office snacks, and team building events are great — but they are not the whole solution for Millennials.

With perks, you might be able to get new hires in the door, but keeping them is where your corporate identity and internal brand positioning becomes crucial. The evidence suggests it’s in the details: forms management, tasks management, and socialization in the company corporate culture. It’s making sure new employees understand their job, responsibility, company, and opportunities. And it requires a conscientious, deliberate approach, not just by a human resources professional but from everything and everyone in the organization.

How can you keep talented Millennials on your team?

  1. Establish an onboarding process
    For most organizations, this is going to be the first step. Ask your recent hires what would have helped them. Ask long timers what has kept them on the team. Check in with an HR professional who has the latest research on employee retention. Find out what is important to share about your company and what you need to change internally to support new hires. Craft a plan around what you find out. Your research in this phase is going to pay off.(We will talk more about the onboarding process in part two of this post, coming soon.)
  2. Create an onboarding document or digital platform that outlines expectations
    Recently, we designed an employee handbook for an architectural firm that shared information about the organization, the corporate identity and went so far as to explain the company’s brand to new hires. Your onboarding process will be unique to you but there are some specifics Millennials are going to look for and benefit from. Millennials blossom when they understand an organization, its brand identity and their place in it.
  3. Meet expectations and stick to your onboarding process
    We get it. You’re busy. It’s easy to cut corners with new hires in a frantic rush to meet a deadline. But by not meeting the commitments you outlined in your onboarding process, you’re creating a disconnect between a new hire and their expectations, making it easier for them to become disillusioned and move on. Make the onboarding process a key part of your corporate culture and have everyone, new and old, embrace its value by sharing the positive impact it has.
  4. Show Millennials how they can succeed and offer challenging work
    New grads rank companies better if a company offers them job specific responsibilities, learning opportunities and a chance to prove themselves. Millennials are keen to learn and advance their careers. Jobs that aren’t challenging or don’t offer increased responsibilities as an employee gains experience quickly become boring and the hire starts looking for new opportunities. Offer ongoing job training to everyone — employees don’t want to stagnate.
  5. Explain the corporate culture and make it real
    Employees who are told one thing about the corporate culture and then fail to have an experience that lines up with what they’ve been told are going to be quick to start looking for something else. This means your brand positioning and identity need to be authentic and incorporated into daily business and interactions. If you’re calling yourself a fun place to work, you can’t just have a barbecue once a year and be done with it. For example, If your firm prides itself on environmental initiatives, give employees a way to participate in a meaningful way and don’t waste paper.

One of the most important things you do is ensure your brand identity is lived in the culture. Are you implementing the initiatives above?