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Employer Branding Case Study

Macy’s Employer Branding

Multi-channel Recruiting Solution

Creating connections that make Macy’s the employer of choice across a wide range of hiring needs.

Macy’s talent is a driving force behind its success, and key to the company’s future, according to Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren. With more than 150,000 associates across its nationwide organization ranging from corporate offices to merchandising to technology to seasonal hourly associates, the company has a wide range of target audiences – and each has its own specific needs.

Macy’s also has a massive seasonal hiring effort, hiring more than 80,000 associates for stores, distribution centers and warehouses, and call centers. Moreover, it competes with every other retailer for those seasonal workers.

A large percentage of its audience was utilizing mobile devices to search for jobs, so Macy’s needed to create a competitive advantage in this space as well, ensuring candidates could seamlessly search and apply for jobs regardless of platform. Macy’s uses the Taleo applicant tracking system (ATS), and while immensely powerful and flexible, it lacked a mobile solution.

On the corporate side, Macy’s competes with other top employers, including Google, Ernst & Young, Facebook, Apple, and Disney. The company needed a way to differentiate itself and connect with all these varied audiences in a meaningful way, attracting and retaining the top talent that has a measurable impact on business results.

Macy’s needed an employer brand strategy that attracts and retains that talent across the full spectrum of roles – a candidate-centric candidate experience  that makes candidates feel respected, appreciated, and engaged – and creates a strong affinity for the company as the employer of choice.

To effectively communicate and engage with these disparate audiences, Sanger & Eby and Macy’s partnered to develop an employer brand that clearly differentiates the Macy’s organization as a whole while communicating targeted messaging and aspects of the company’s culture that resonated with each segment of its widely varied audience.

Primary and secondary research, including focus groups and stakeholder interviews, a competitive survey, and detailed habits and practices research provided a 360-degree view of Macy's targeted talent pool. Synthesizing our research findings, we developed detailed insights into each audience segment, identifying their needs, priorities, questions, and what they most sought in an employer – insights that led to the company’s talent acquisition marketing strategy and served as the foundation of its employer brand.

In an earlier iteration of the brand, we created microsites for priority target segments, including technology, beauty, college, military, new stores, and holiday, with each microsite driving back to the overall website. In 2016, we revised the strategy to consolidate most hiring needs under a single website that still communicated targeted, audience-specific content and culture based on the candidate’s needs and interests.  (College recruiting and technology recruiting retain their own microsites based on audience needs revealed in research findings.)

Strategically developed content designed to resonate with each segment, including the aspects of culture, perks, work environment, and career development most relevant to each. Knowing that “showing” is often more powerful than “telling,” we extensively utilized video and custom photography to give candidates a sense of the company and answer the key questions every candidate has, regardless of level or focus: What’s the culture like? Who will I be working with? What’s the job really like? What will I be doing every day?

A large percentage of Macy’s hiring is focused on hourly associates, for stores, distribution centers and warehouses, and call centers. Hourly associates typically focus on jobs in their immediate area, so quickly getting them to jobs located near them was key. Sanger & Eby created a site that pinpoints the user’s location and automatically delivers jobs nearest them on the site’s home page, without even requiring a search. Users can of course also still search based on their own criteria and filter job results to find the role that’s optimal for them.

Sanger & Eby pioneered the mobile job search and apply experience for Taleo, enabling candidates to not only search for jobs on a mobile device, but also apply – streamlining the process and opening up a whole new channel for attracting and recruiting top talent.

Social recruiting is another key element of the Macy’s employer brand strategy, and Sanger & Eby developed an overarching social media strategy outlining the “big picture” for the company’s employer brand in the social mediasphere, with targeted sub-strategies for college and technology recruiting. Each uses its own mix of strategic platforms, messaging, and voice. Execution included design and development of one of the first LinkedIn career pages – one LinkedIn often used as an example of great career page execution on its platform.

Successful recruiting goes beyond talent acquisition to include retention, as replacing talent in any organization is a tremendous drain on resources, and making a bad hire is costly. Macy’s needed to convey a strong reason to believe that encouraged people to stay with the company as they develop their careers. We created a talent development positioning strategy including key communication points, central brand messaging, and key brand behaviors to drive building Macy’s internal talent brand.

More than 9.4 million candidates visit the Macy’s family of recruiting websites each year, resulting in Macy’s meeting its aggressive hiring targets successfully. Macy’s was ranked by BusinessWeek as one of the “50 Best Places to Launch a Career” based upon responses from college career advisors and students, and its success continues to grow. 

The sites feature a fully responsive job search and application, making Macy’s one of only 3% of companies that offer a mobile application, and 50% of applications now come through mobile – meaning Macy’s is connecting with a tech-savvy, talent-rich candidate market – the talent that will make a difference for the company for decades to come.

Macy’s has been recognized as  a front runner in mobile employment applications amongst Fortune 500 companies by the Wall Street Journal and won the Technical Innovation Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2015 (the second time the company has won this award during its partnership with Sanger & Eby.)

Macy’s social recruiting program shines as well – with more than 266,000 followers on LinkedIn and 5,000+ members in its LinkedIn talent community, the company is seeing measurable results from the social sphere.

Beyond the inspiring success of their recruiting program, we partner with Macy’s on the development of their employment branding and creation of their print and electronic employment advertising nationwide. By any measure, our work has been a key driver in their ability to attract, develop and retain one of the most talented teams in retailing today. 

Find out what Sanger & Eby can do to help your company attract and retain top talent through a strategic, well-articulated employer brand.

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In its 2016 report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, Gallup found that 60% of millennials were open to a different job opportunity. With reputations as serial job-hoppers, millennials are likely to change jobs an average of 4 times before the age of 32 � but Gallup argues part of the blame lies with employers.

Millennials want a job that feels worthwhile: and they will keep looking until they find it. The answer to attracting and retaining this slippery demographic, it seems, may lie in employer branding.

Employer branding vs. employer brand

The concept of employer branding has risen in the B2B sphere since the 1990s, with 59% of organizations planning to invest more in their employer brand in 2016 compared to 2015, according to LinkedIn. At the simplest level, an employer brand is an organization�s reputation as an employer � as distinct from their brand as a corporate entity.

However, employer brand � the way an organization is perceived as an employer � is different to employer branding � that is, the strategy and actions an organization takes to influence internal and external perceptions. Unlike a company brand, which is defined and controlled internally, an employer brand doesn�t strictly belong to the employer: it is shaped and driven by its employees and other stakeholders. For this reason, every employer has a �brand�: regardless of whether they have consciously developed it or not.

What�s more, while a strong overall company brand can support organizations in attracting talent, that alone is not enough � employer brand is a stand-alone driver that can prove a great deal more effective, as LinkedIn research found:

A strong employer brand � as indicated by an individual having a positive impression of your company as a place to work – is twice as likely to be linked to job consideration as a strong company brand.

Despite the apparent lack of control over its brand as an employer, an organization can define the perception it wishes to project and in doing so, influence the quantity and quality of talent it attracts.

Employer branding begins with the process of researching and building an understanding of its target employee profile: identifying their needs and wants, their pain points and drivers. Next, these need aligning to the existing company values, culture and business needs. Questions often include, �what can we offer? What makes working for us different? How can we make the lives of our employees better?� Given that your employer brand already exists in the minds of employees, they can provide a particularly valuable resource at this stage � providing insights and feedback that can help define and modify an employer�s approach.

The resulting Employer Value Proposition (EVP), like any value proposition, is designed to define the unique offerings of the business that will make it appealing to its desired demographic of talent.

Communication is central to employer branding strategy

Defining an Employer Value Proposition alone is not enough: in order to translate and embed this as part of the employer brand, it must be effectively communicated and continually evolved.

In a technology-driven age where information is widely accessible and reviews freely offered, would-be employees are able to scrutinize and vet their future employers in all areas of reputation; from interviewing and hiring practices via platforms such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn, through to their values, demonstration of corporate social responsibility or even internal culture.

Transparency is valued in the same way consumers seek out companies that are shown to be ethical, and shun those reported to have poor business practices. According to Careerealism, 80% of jobseekers will research an employer online before deciding to apply; if there isn�t enough information to convince them, they�ll simply pass on the opportunity.

The resulting perceptions can make or break an employer in terms of its ability to attract and retain top talent: making employer branding a long-term strategy that is rising on the management agenda. However, investment into the process of not only establishing a Millennial-friendly culture but communicating and embedding it into the digital landscape continues to lag.

Growing recognition of the role of social media, mobile apps or responsive sites, a variety of media and personalization of messaging are all increasing in consumer branding and marketing. The same approach should be applied when communicating employer branding. Of those campaigns that are the most successful, there are a few key themes:

  1. They utilize a multitude of channels and mediums to engage their audience: from videos on YouTube to photos on Instagram, great content on purpose-built Careers sites through to employee reviews and testimonials on third-party sites
  2. They draw on their own employees as brand ambassadors, showcasing �on the ground� experiences through case studies, testimonials, videos and encouraging employees to promote their lives at work on social media
  3. They connect directly to the pain points, wants, attitudes and concerns of the target demographic, answering questions and providing solutions
  4. They are �employee centric�; following a trend towards �consumer-centric� marketing, these brands include a notable focus on �You� (Your training and development; your career) as opposed to exclusively focusing on �Our� (Our business, our success)
  5. They go beyond the job, including insights into social events and culture, CSR, values and areas in which they can offer work-life balance, flexibility or investment into employee development outside their core role responsibilities

The following organizations have maximized on the strategies above to produce strong employer brands that ensure they both attract and retain leading Millennial talent.

1. PwC: Addressing �wants� using first-hand testimonials and brand ambassadors

As a global brand, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) arguably has the resource and backing to produce a first-rate employer branding campaign. However, it isn�t the investment so much as the approach that makes PWC rank as a leader in the field. The careers pages of the professional services giant are innovative and comprehensive in their approach, building a 365-degree overview of the Employer Value Proposition.

According to research, Millennials outrank training and development over financial remuneration as a workplace benefit; PwC place this at the heart of their employer ethos, defined on the careers site as follows:

This employee-centric approach connects with the millennial desire to shape their own futures; empowering the individual with purpose and development, a key desire highlighted by Gallup.

Capitalizing on the trend of reviews and first-hand experiences as a trusted source, every stage of the employer branding process is underpinned by employee reviews, case studies or videos. The �Our People� section explores individuals in more detail, with a focus on their progression and development through use of timelines � showing the potential career paths of would-be employees.

Pages on Corporate Responsibility and Our Culture explore life working for the organization, presenting values with which its prospective employees can identify and measure themselves against. In doing so, PwC not only succeeds in communicating its brand as an employer, but ensures it attracts talent in line with its vision � reducing employee churn due to a lack of integration with the culture.

2. E.on: understanding candidate concerns and values

Shortlisted in two different categories at the Employer Brand Management Awards (2016), E.on � as an energy supplier � may seem a controversial choice as an employer for the �CSR-conscious� Millennial generation. However, it is exactly their recognition and understanding of the stigma surrounding their industry, and their approach to overcome prejudice, that marks the brand out for recognition.

Partnering with brand consultants Blackbridge, E.on produced an on-campus campaign to attract graduate talent for its 2014 intake that sought to shift perceptions and prejudices. The employer branding positioned with would-be candidates that they would play an important role in the solution to growing concerns over energy use and global warming.

The �If not you, then who?� campaign presented two alternative scenarios; one in which global warming went unchecked, resulting in civil unrest, panic buying and climate change issues; the second, an alternate reality in which energy saving initiatives produced a better climate. The messaging was clear: innovation, sustainability and a focus on corporate responsibility to address issues of global importance.

A reported increase of applications by 25% YoY demonstrated the value of the campaign. By taking the time to understand the underlying concerns and conceptions of their target audience, E.on were able to address concerns head-on and communicate their role in resolving these.

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3. Deloitte, Adobe, Salesforce: Use of social media

Use of social media as part of employer branding strategy, particularly for graduate or Millennial demographic candidates, is no longer a novel concept. However, there are a few notable examples of organizations who have truly capitalized on this medium and set themselves apart; for that reason, we have a few names falling into this particular category.

Deloitte�s @LifeatDeloitte campaign is a prime example of the role social media can play in communicating real-life employee experiences. This dedicated Twitter account shows the need to establish a distinct brand as an employer, separate from a corporate image that the organization may project to consumers. This is echoed by the Life at Deloitte careers site, which sits independently of its corporate site.

Access to the account shifts to different employees, leaning the account to a personable, friendly and multi-personality approach. The feed is a combination of updates, events, roles, retweets, polls and pushing out of content � making for a continually engaging feed for both existing and prospective candidates.

Adobe�s #AdobeLife hashtag takes the concept one step further; placing the role of brand advocacy right into the hands of its employees, who can tweet from their independent accounts and afford the brand authenticity. The resulting tweets speak for themselves.

The spectrum of feedback is vast; including indications of investment in training and development, recognition for loyalty or success, and a strong social, integrated culture.

Cloud computing company Salesforce currently ranks 23rd on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For � and as part of its employer branding campaign, has taken strongly to Instagram and Snapchat, two mediums growing in popularity amongst millennials and Gen Y. Originally utilizing the hashtag #dreamjob, the account showcases the 365-degree experience of life as a Salesforce employee � including views of the offices, events, charity initiatives and its values and culture.

4. Qualcomm: Focusing on �You� and going above and beyond

As a �telecommunications equipment� organization, Qualcomm�s industry doesn�t immediately present an exciting image for would-be employees. However, its standing on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in recent years shows there�s more to this tech organization than first meets the eye.

A visit to its careers site immediately shows considerable investment and a millennial-pleasing approach with clean-cut, interactive and engaging design. The site is highly visual and easy to navigate. However, the key stand-out approach to this employer branding strategy is the focus on the �consumer�: in this instance, it�s employees.

Direct use of �you�, �your� in its language addresses the target audience. There is in-depth consideration given to the well-being, work-life balance and needs of employees, with Qualcomm going above and beyond its role as an employer to become a facilitator of a complete lifestyle; matching a concept identified by Gallup:

For millennials, a job is no longer just a job � it�s their life as well

What�s more, the Qualcomm Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is clearly and comprehensively defined, utilizing it�s �Qualcomm Total Rewards� microsite; broken into the sections �Health�, �Wealth�, �Living� and �Achieving�, the site offers a holistic approach to answering the desires of employees for purpose, development and well-being.

Why invest in employer branding?

The research and reasoning behind the value of employer branding is extensive, covered in reports by the likes of Gallup, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and many more. The key returns for those organizations who invest in employer branding include:

  • Attraction of more talent: organizations that prioritize employer brand are 250% more likely to rate their overall talent acquisition efforts as highly effective, according to Glassdoor
  • Attract better quality candidates: in its 2014 report, CEB states that employers that invested in employer branding for influence reported a 54% increase in the quality of the candidate pool
  • Higher levels of employee engagement: those who invest are 130% more likely to see increases in employee engagement
  • 67% of Job seekers said they�d accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online. (Careerbuilder)
  • Lower cost per hire: Employers with strong employment brands see a43%�decrease in cost per hire
  • Strong employer brand discourages early departures: New hires are�40%�less likely to leave after the first 6 months

�and many more!

As Gallup reports that just 41% of employees feel they know what their company stands for, it�s clear the communication of employer brand requires as much focus internally as externally. Deploying an intranet and using that as a communication platform to define values, obtain employee feedback and set out the Employee Value Proposition with information about benefits, events and initiatives can prove tremendously valuable � particularly when striving to build brand ambassadors within your existing staff.

The value of employer branding: not just for employees

Employer branding has traditionally been positioned and valued for supporting the attraction and retention of employees. However, conscious consumers are now looking to an organization�s treatment of its stakeholders � including suppliers, distributers and employees � as a demonstration of its ethical and socially responsible standing.

For this reason, employer branding is increasingly recognized as part of the total value proposition for consumers � and a key differential or �USP� that can help organizations stand out in a crowded marketplace. Those holding a bad reputation or subject to scandals around working conditions, ill-treatment, unfair dismissal or inequality will quickly find themselves shunned by would-be customers, at a potentially huge cost to the company bottom line.

Employer branding, therefore, is not simply a HR initiative in the drive to attract talent. It should be recognized as a business-wide strategy to support long-term growth, improve employee retention and build upon the overall company brand � and can offer tremendous returns for those who invest.