Branding for Keeps: Using Your Brand to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

The perceptions a firm holds in the hearts and minds of its employees can play a critical role in the retention of the best and the brightest.
people at conference table with chat bubbles above their head

Professional services brands are built on reputation, relationships, and intellectual capital. That is to say, a professional services firm’s brand is largely based on its people. This is especially true in management consulting, where employees often act as the primary communication channel to customers and prospects.

It’s somewhat counter-intuitive then that the management consulting industry is known for its employee turnover. There are many reasons for this. As a piece in Consulting Magazine notes, some people “fail to develop the skills or lack the intellectual horsepower to be promoted.” Then there are the “up or out” policies, and still “other individuals decide that the lifestyle is not for them and opt for a job without the constant travel and long hours.” The challenge, and opportunity, for management consulting firms is to invest in top talent over several years: “in most firms [rising from analyst to partner] is an eight-to-ten-year journey with a success rate of less than five percent.”

In this high pressure dynamic, a firm’s brand – the perceptions the firm holds in the hearts and minds of its employees – can play a critical role in the retention of the best and the brightest. Employees that have a strong bond and a clear understanding of the corporate brand will feel more valued, and are more likely to stay with the firm longer-term. But to generate this type of enthusiasm and unity, employees must feel a sense of shared purpose, a fundamental connection to the company’s mission, vision and values, and an understanding of how they contribute to the company’s success. To achieve cohesion, a brand must be perpetually reinforced by managers, the C-suite, HR, as well as by each and every employee. Here are some strategies for success.

It’s important to note that these perceptions are often developed before an employee even steps foot in your doors. PwC points out that “the expectations of new employees are set by their experiences during the recruitment processes, and by their view of the employer brand.” A new recruit likely isn’t coming into contact with a firm’s brand for the first time when they shake hands with a recruiter before an interview. By the time you meet them in person, they have already interacted with your brand, whether via your website, thought leadership, social media channels, or even through discussions with current (and past) employees. Therefore, no matter where a recruit engages with you, they should be getting the right messages and experience: synchronizing your brand across all touchpoints is key to ensure a consistent voice.

If recruiters are increasingly thinking like marketers, then marketers must also recognize the role a firm’s brand can play in recruitment and retention. In an industry as competitive and talent-driven as management consulting, a brand that can be used as a tool for cultivating top talent is a powerful business asset.

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