Hi, my name is Georgiana. I am the CEO and founder of Beaglecat, and soon you will be listening to Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. In this podcast, I regularly talk to employer branding managers and acquisition managers, and human resources managers in tech companies in Germany, Romania, and the US. For more content on employer branding-related themes, go to employerbranding.tech or beaglecat.com. Stay tuned!
In the 5th episode of #EmployerBranding: The Inside Podcast (season 6), we had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Puncher, CEO of Employer Branding Australia. That’s right! We crossed yet another ocean to get a sneak peek at how #employerbranding is done in Australia.
We talked with Mark about #authenticity, #storytelling, predictions for 2023, and how #imperfections reveal the genuine side of every employer brand.
What you’ll learn by listening
- Employer branding in Australia vs Europe vs US
- How authenticity is the key to building genuine employer branding campaigns
- Imperfection – the trump card every company needs to build an authentic employer brand
- Job descriptions mistakes to avoid
- How authentic storytelling brings our an authentic EVP
- Employer branding predictions for 2023
- Laying people off without losing your brand reputation
About Employer Branding Australia
Employer Branding Australia helps fantastic, imperfect employers attract fantastic, imperfect people… and keep them engaged. Founded by Mark Puncher, who has spent much of the last 20 years with one foot in talent attraction and the other in marketing, Employer Branding Australia delivers better recruitment, employee engagement, and performance results through:
- Real company values that shape culture, performance & contribution
- Unique, authentic EVPs that attract the right people, with open eyes
- Incredible people content that converts to great hires and proud, connected teams
- Deep insights and actionable strategies that help you win, through your people
Podcast link – Enjoy listening on Spotify!
Podcast transcription – Employer Branding T.I.P S06Ep.05
Good morning, everyone! Good evening, Mark. This is Georgiana now with the Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast, a new episode. I haven’t done any new episodes in quite a long time, because I’ve embarked on a new work journey. But I’m starting again, strong, and this time with a guest from Australia. I’ve never spoken to anyone from Australia about Employer Branding before. So I’m really curious to see what the differences are if there are any. In any case, his name is Mark Puncher. Good evening. I say good evening because it’s evening in Australia. Welcome! And thank you so much for doing this.
Thank you very much, Georgiana. It’s really great to join you.
Just to give you a bit of an introduction. And then, of course, Mark can add some info to everything I’m saying. He is the founder of Employer Branding Australia, which correct me, Mark, if I’m wrong, is an employer branding consulting company. Is that it? Yeah. That’s right. And you’ve worked quite a bit in employer branding for public administration, which I have to say is something very unusual for us here in Europe.
Not so much public administration. It was a company called Employment Office, which is actually a corporate recruitment business. What I will say to you is I’ve done an awful lot of employer branding in the last five years for the public sector, for government and not-for-profit as well.
Got it. Got it. So something is moving. I’m happy to hear that. And as I was saying, since you’re the first person from Australia, that is joining us on this podcast. I’m wondering, I hope my question is not far-fetched. Are there any differences that you could observe between how Employer Branding is done in Europe and how it is done in the US or Australia?
Yeah, you know, I think I’d say two things. The first is that the market in Australia is a lot more nascent, it’s a lot earlier on than it is in many countries in Europe, and certainly in the US, and to a degree, the UK where I’m from originally. But don’t be fooled. People are moving quite fast in this space. I think the thing that Australia does very well, based on how Australia wants to be and wants to behave, is authenticity. There’s plenty of PR and gloss and hype here as well as there is in every country.
But I think Australians and people in Australia tend to reject too much hyperbole, too much marketing, and PR gloss. So I think what certainly what we’ve done over the last five years, we focus very, very clearly and unapologetically on truth and authenticity; telling candidates, here’s why we think we’re a great choice. Here’s why we might not be or here’s why you’ll probably want to run a mile. We do videos and storytelling through video, with no actors, no scripts, and no stock images. So I think Australia, you know, certainly through the clients we’re working with, and some others are standing a bit of march around that because I think some of the more developed markets. My view, it’s a bit controversial, but my view is we’ve gone way too far down the brand agency high gloss route. Yeah.
I agree. I agree. And although many of the people I’ve spoken to on this podcast, advocate authenticity, they don’t really do it as out loud as you do it. So now let’s talk a little bit about imperfect organizations and people of course. How can imperfection and authenticity be a trump card for companies looking to build their employer brand?
Well, you know, what Georgiana? How could it not be that? First of all, okay, we need to understand and I see where you’ve got this from, we’re very clear. We help fantastic imperfect organizations attract fantastic imperfect people and keep them engaged. When somebody decides to join an organization when an organization decides to offer somebody a job. This is not just a purchase, it’s certainly not a transactional purchase. So we know about the importance of customer experience and selling and inspiring people of course. But it’s the start of an extremely important relationship and collaboration. So we’re very clear.
And I’m very clear. When I go to work every day, I know that I am helping to make people’s lives better and to make their children’s life better, and their loved ones’ lives better. Why? Because how we feel at work massively impacts how we are away from work, which obviously impacts our children and our loved ones, our friends. So when you start that relationship with an employer, you’re making a decision, yes, they’re paying you to do a job. And that’s the foundation.
But the impact that going wrong can have on you as a person in your life, the impact that can have on the employer and the company is absolutely huge. So how could you not start with authenticity? It’s not about selling them the dream, and then you know, hope you live up to some of it. The worst result of a recruitment campaign is not failing to hire someone; it’s hiring the wrong person. And the wrong person isn’t a bad person. It could be someone for whom you’re not a great choice in terms of what matters to them. And the worst result of hiring the wrong person is not if they quit quickly, it’s if they stay.
So we keep seeing cultures rotting, and eroding away based on apathy, and people are disconnected or people who feel oversold or disconnected from the employer that used to work for. And we wonder why. So number one, I’ll be super sharp with this last bit. Number one, if you oversell to a candidate, let’s say you have a toxic team, that they’re joining a team with some people who are really negative right now, maybe they’re exhausted from lots of change, or whatever. Why would you hide that during the recruitment process, when they’re going to see it straightaway when they arrive. But the second thing that is super important, and you named it as a trump card, is when you showcase talent in the advertising, and the recruitment marketing in the employer branding, and during the candidate experience, when you showcase to them the work in progress, the challenges, the stuff that isn’t so good, the stuff that you want your people to help you solve, whether it’s cultural, or processes and systems or whatever it is; when you showcase that for the people who can’t handle that, of course, there’ll be put off, that’s a great result.
You don’t want to hire someone, for an organization, if you’re going through a lot of change, maybe you’ve had a big restructuring, and everybody’s very uncertain. If somebody can’t cope with that environment, they’ll make the problem worse. When you showcase that to the right people, they will see it as part of the attraction. But what I’m seeing a lot of, I love that you said everybody talks about authenticity, but nobody’s doing it. There’s a lot of curated authenticity. So yeah, we don’t give people scripts. And we don’t tell them what to say. But we do brief them within an inch of their life before we turn the camera on. And so they just sound rehearsed anyway, if somebody on your careers video looks like it’s a hostage video, and they’re being forced to say things, you should never have done one in the first place. It’s worse than not having anything. So authenticity is super powerful. And I’ve seen that it consistently drives better results.
I personally think that the most important thing about what you’re saying is that the moment one of the two parties breaks the chain of inauthenticity, then the other might do so. And of course, it’s usually up to the company and may be easier for the company to do it first. And then during the interview, maybe the candidate is going to be more honest, because like James Ellis told me once everybody lies, both parties lie.
You’ve made a really, really great point there about interviews. You know, we’re very, I’m very clear. Unless you’re trying to hire professional interviewees, why would you treat an interview like a test where you’re trying to catch someone out or see who answers the question the best? We are delivering interviews. And you know what, this is absolutely relevant to employer branding.
Anybody who’s thinking this isn’t Employer Branding has missed the point entirely. Employer Branding is not about a campaign. An EVP is not a campaign. Your EVP should flow through your entire recruitment process, your onboarding, a new employee lifecycle, all the way through to exit. But in those interviews, you’re absolutely right. When I’m hiring into my own team, it’s essential for me that I create an environment where I can have honest conversations with the person. So if I’m asking them, the classic thing is, Oh, tell me about your greatest weakness or your area for development. And that’s a rubbish question. And they’ll give me a rubbish answer.
They’ll all tell me, oh sometimes I work too hard. Or sometimes I care too much. And we all know we’re doing this dance full of lies. And actually, I’d rather say to people, Hey, let me tell you my biggest failings, then I want you to tell me yours. You know, what are the things that you hate about yourself or that you struggle with? You know, if this role doesn’t work out, if you join us and it doesn’t work, what’s gone wrong? And we create these incredibly open conversations, where my people can explore that with us. But it starts with really believing genuinely, no one I’m employing is perfect. We’re not perfect. Let’s figure out whether the problems we’re trying to solve in our own lives and in our company, whether that collaboration can help us move forward in that space.
Absolutely. And we’ve covered already the key components of employer branding done right. So then I’m going to jump to our next topic, which is maybe a little bit overused or overspoken about, but still, always actual, because I still see a lot of mistakes being made. And that is job descriptions. And I’m wondering, what would you say are the top three mistakes that companies make when writing a job description?
I think that the point I make from an English perspective is I’ll say the difference between a job ad and a job description or position description. So one of the mistakes people make is they take the job description, and put it all in the ad. And we need to understand the difference. A job description or position description is a legal document that protects the employee and protects the employer.
For example, if you’re going to make someone redundant, or if you’re going to performance manage someone, the first thing you do is you pull out the job description and you talk about do we still need this role or not? Is this person what people tend to do is they take the job description, and they plunk that in the job ad. The job ad is not a legal document. Now, I know that there is some legal ramifications. If you’ve put it out there. It’s part of the legal contract. But realistically, everyone says a job as a sales tool and it is. But I would rather see it as a magnetic mirror. Your job ad is designed that the top talent, the people that you believe will thrive in your organization, that they see themselves in your organization, and they are attracted to take action. So that’s the first thing trying to cover every single thing.
The next thing that people get wrong, and it is a really easy one to solve is they make it all about themselves. If you want to inspire somebody to take action, if you want to influence somebody which we tried to do with a job ad, you absolutely need to start by making it about them. Now there’s two things there. One is if your job ad starts with two paragraphs all about you: “We are Australia’s leading manufacturer of XYZ,” nobody really cares. And the mentality, well, if they care enough about working for us, they’ll take an interest. Not true. The best people in your organization today, at some point never cared about you. So the first thing is stop talking about yourself so much tell them what they need to know, but fundamentally talk about them. But the next one, which is very tactical, is count how many times you say “we, our, us” in your job ads, and how many times you say “you, your or yours”. And it will probably be 85% “us” and “we”. So switch over.
It’s a very easy linguistic switch, which is when you’re saying “we offer”, change it to “you’ll find”. When it says, you know, a lot of times we’ll say we’re looking for someone who can or we need the successful candidate, what about “Here’s what you’ll bring”, or “Here’s what you’ll get up to every day”. So it’s those linguistic shifts that actually make the difference. The next thing I’d say that’s really important is what people often do is they leave the “what you’ll get” and “why you should apply”. Either they leave it out completely basic error, or they put it all at the end. And what they’re thinking is that they’re thinking that the candidate will read through every single thing. So they think that the world is waiting for the advertiser role. And when they do, they’ll punch the air, and they’ll take the day off work, or they’ll stop everything to spend some time reading all the way through.
So we need to sell what you get early, we don’t want to go ridiculously in-depth because we need to have the functional stuff of what you’re going to have to do and what you’re going to get and so on what do you learn and so on. But actually, sell it early, inspire people, and then later on really go into detail around the “why you should join us”. And it’s combining the functional benefits, the functional elements of the EVP with the cultural, social and emotional elements.
Indeed, and what I would add to this is that sometimes jobs and job responsibilities are so dynamic, and I don’t know where I read this at some point, but it said something like why don’t you get a person who’s actually working on a job to tell you what they’re doing on a day to day basis, because they might be doing other things than the ones they were hired for. And then you’d get the perspective, the complete, transparent and, you know, actual perspective of someone doing that. And you’d get transparency and you’d get authenticity and the person interviewing would know the entire part of the story. So I found that really, really relevant.
Yeah, it’s a big challenge. And, you know, we’re always thinking about tactical things right in the job ad. But strategically, I’ll tell you what we do consistently with our clients. First of all, in classic employer branding and recruitment marketing, don’t just think of one role or the next role you’re trying to hire. Look at your recruitment over the next 18 months. Where are you going to be consistently hiring? Whether you and by the way, many of our clients have 50, 100, 200 people, these are not all massive organizations. But let’s say you have a role that you’re reasonably consistently recruiting for, whether it’s for a week or whether it’s for a year. But it’s a majority role for you. What we do is we put the hiring manager, the people who are hiring into that role, plus people who are doing that job, plus recruiters or people in culture, folks, plus marketers in a room. But not once a quarter sit down, don’t say how are we going to fill this role? We know that we’re going to regularly recruit for this role.
Who are we targeting? What do we need? What matters to them? What is our pitch to those people? If we’ve got an EVP how does that cascade to this audience? And then, how are we going to go out there and find them? And all of the answers are in that room. When I look at job ad briefs, so let’s say you’ve got a recruiter in house, and they’re going to a hiring manager to do a brief. All of the questions that the recruiter asks. So basically saying, Who do you want? So the hiring manager is the client. They’re saying, Who do you want me to get for you? What do they have to have? How many years of experience? It’s completely the wrong mentality. Of course, we’ll say who you’re looking for, but critically, and tell me about those people. What matters to them, as far as you know, and why should they apply? And not just what, you know, we’ve got this EVP, or we know that typically, let’s say it’s social workers, or maybe it’s retail assistance, maybe it’s project managers, software engineers.
We have this idea, and we’ve built up this info bank on why people should join us in this role. Well, what about right now? What are you doing in the next 3, 6, or 9 months that this person is going to be able to be a part of. Oh, you’ve got a new manager, you’re trying out new software, or you’ve developed a new process, or you’ve got a new strategy that you’re deploying. That’s the stuff that makes this relevant and meaningful. And that gets you away from the generic cliche.
Exactly. Mark, is there any employer branding project that you were, that you are, or you were super proud of?
Honestly, I’m proud of every single thing we’ve done. We’ve probably worked with about 70 clients over the last few years, and I’m super proud. We’ve worked with some really big organizations. The ones that I’m proud of and the ones who broke the mold. I actually think smaller businesses and organizations have the advantage over the bigger players because they’re much more agile, not only in their employer branding, and their advertising, and so on, but in their culture, shaping and changing and improving the organization. So the big companies I’m proud of, and the big brands I’m proud of are the ones that cut through the bureaucracy and the many layers of approval and sign-off and the global cons stuff. And they did something different. If you have a look at Shine Lawyers, here in Australia, they’re global now.
But based in Australia, originally HQ in Australia, I’m really happy that they’ve broken the mold on legal careers. The idea of what a law career needs to be a legal career needs to be, they’ve done something much more meaningful, and we’ve helped them showcase their culture and not just in the EVP in the messaging. But in open storytelling. One example – we did their EVP we found loads of amazing stuff. But we also found some stuff that was more contentious, that was more problematic for their people. And so, when we played it back to their leaders, these brilliant executives grabbed this and loved this and said, these are the conversations we need to have. We’re too polite, we don’t have these conversations. So we did a load of storytelling, I facilitated some, you know, warts and all video panel discussions, where I was essentially challenging them about the problem stuff and getting their views. We did the same as some of their people. So the best stuff with those bigger organizations is opening up the conversations.
Again, authentic strategic development, whereby we’re becoming a better place to work with our people. I’ll give you a specific when it comes to the smaller ones. If you pick an organization like the Benevolent Society. They are a disability services organization, that do aged care, they do lots of Human Services. They didn’t have the funds or the space through an EVP yet, and really struggling to recruit allied health practitioners into disability. And so all they did with us is they commissioned us to plan and deliver some really great content, some short videos, and some written content about people in these roles. And of course, anyone who does this for a living and does this well knows it’s not just the point of all let’s make some nice content. You know, you have to plan strategically, you have to look at personas, you have to think about what is our key message.
A great question that very few people seem to ask is once we’ve thought about our key target audiences, why would they hesitate to apply? Why would they not click? Why would they not submit that application? That’s the stuff you have to attack. So we did all of that and we produce these stories very, very simple stuff. And they achieved incredible results, they’d hired zero people three months previously, in the three months that followed, they hide 44. They saved an awful lot of money on recruitment agency fees and temp agency fees. They had a groundswell of connection with their people and employee advocacy, more referrals they’d ever had to their employees and so on. So that got great results. But I’ve also seen very ordinary day-to-day, unrecognized employers do this stuff consistently well over time. So we’ve helped an aged care provider called SwanCare in Perth, you know, check them out their websites not glossy at all, the messaging, the content is pretty, you know, it’s not super clever or sophisticated.
It doesn’t need to be. In fact, when you’re talking to aged care employees, or people going into it, the more authentic and real, the better. So we did that. And what they say is, you know, long period, even though a lot of challenges, their turnover has been the lowest it’s ever been. Their attraction has been better than it’s ever been. It’s still hard for some roles, but they’re consistently outperforming their competitors. And when people get there, they’re saying, This is what you promised, this is what I expected. I’ve seen your culture, I’ve been following you on social media for a while now. And here I am, and I’m proud to be here, and I’m ready to help you grow. And I think that they’re the ones that I’m really proud of.
You know, as a digital marketer at heart, it’s very gratifying for me to see that many people such as you in employer branding, sometimes tackle their projects with a marketing approach; thinking of personas and thinking of the main objections the candidate would have, and how we would tackle that and then cascade all the messages from that downwards. thing. This is the way we also do it. And the way I would think of it, I’m happy to see it confirmed.
And that’s wonderful Georgiana. It’s interesting when you look at the awards, employer of choice, or brand awards that are given, it’s always the gloss, the expensive, the very clever website where UX has been absolutely nailed. And I get that. But most people on this planet don’t work for those big brands. They work for everyday organizations and smaller businesses; they work for organizations that are not sexy and glamorous, I get super excited. Organizations and it made again, it’s not about videos, or, or websites or things like that.
There shouldn’t be an advert for me and my agency; there should be an advert for the client that speaks to the people they’re trying to recruit and retain. And what we’ve consistently seen when our clients do this properly, good EVP in a good ad strategy will help you attract good talent; a really great EVP and a really great strategy will help you retain people for the right reasons. You improve as a place to work and as a commercial organization, with your people and through your people. And that’s what employer branding should be.
Yes. And I firmly believe that people work for people, not for organizations. So once you’ve understood this, I think you get a completely different perspective on your employer branding, or you should, at least. And now we are close to the end of this episode. And I’m wondering if you have a few predictions for employer branding in 2023.
Well, look, I think the biggest one is linked to what’s going to happen in the world. Many of your listeners will be quite familiar with a global recession with a downturn. We have a war, an extremely unjust war, we have some really fundamental challenges ahead of us. Here in Australia, very few people here are really switched on to the fact that these financial challenges are ahead because we are very different and moved away. But I believe that in Australia, and of course, in many other countries, we’re going to see that change. What’s super interesting there is the classic responses, and unfortunately, I believe we are going to see hiring freezes. We are going to see people lose their jobs. Certainly in some countries, we’re not seeing it look, right. Interestingly, though, the tech industry, we’re aggressively hiring people at any cost at pace, because their investors were saying we’ll only invest in you if you’re growing.
And then those investors changed their tune. And now, the same organizations that are aggressively hiring people are now removing those people. I don’t think it will be as extreme as that in all industries, but that’s coming. The point for me is it’s not just about okay, talent attraction will slow and there will be challenges there. I don’t think your employer branding challenges needs to go away. You know, for a start, let’s start talking about how do we drive cultures where people stay with us not just because they’re afraid to quit their job or because they need a job, but because they want to be here and perform. There’s a very big difference between retention and performance and cultural contribution. So that’s one.
Another one is, you know, if you’re laying off people, or if there are big changes, or there’s fear and anxiety, what about the people left behind? How are those people feeling? How do we drive the right engagement? And I’m telling you right now that PR campaigns and glossy campaigns are not going to do the trick. It’s about deep connection and truth with your people and open conversations. So I think that’s a big one. We know, everyone’s talked about user-generated content for a long time. And we’re getting much better at that, and doing that, and scaling that. I think there are more and more tools on the market. Again, you know, I come back down to my real concern is that the better we get or the more sophisticated we get at automating with AI, process and systems and, you know, user-generated content automatically crowdsourced?
You know, we’ve just got to be super careful, because the first thing that goes out the window is personalization, true personalization and authenticity. And I’m not a naysayer of wonderful tech. And I think, I’m not gonna say this year, but the next two years will be the years where we see user-generated content, much more automated strategy content coming to the, but I think we’re gonna see some big falls before we see the big wins.
Okay. I realize now that I actually skipped one of my questions, and it’s one that’s very dear and important to me. And that regards laying people off and not losing your brand reputation, your employer brand reputation, is that possible?
100%. Here’s the thing. I’m a business owner of a small business, I now employ 18 – 19, I think. We were five a couple of years ago. So things have changed a lot. But as a manager, as a leader, as an owner of a business, I’m very clear with my people. We work very hard, we invest in them, we support them. We really are building an incredible culture. And I’m very clear with people, they often think thank you so much. I love working, I’m so grateful.
For me, I’ll always say the same thing. Thank you, I’m glad. I’m doing this because it’s my business. And it’s reminding them, I think I’m a decent person. We’re good people, right? And we want to do the right thing. But it’s important to remember that the relationship that we have is based on an employment relationship. And the reason I say that is, they need to know that there will be times when they’ll have to make a hard decision. The companies that pretend they’re everyone’s best friend that we’re you know, the ones saying we’re like a family and so on. Frankly, a lot of those people are not like that anyway. And that’s not the employee experience. But if you haven’t set the boundaries, right, and shape the relationship, right, of course, if you’re going out there based on a big old loving forever, and then you lay people off, people will feel wrong.
But the biggest one for me, and this is the biggest tip I have for anyone, and it’s leadership advice and culture advice, not just employer brand advice. Treat people with respect and kindness and dignity. Having to make a hard decision does not make you a bad person. But it’s how you approach it. Just don’t fire people by text, you know, all that stuff. It’s obvious, right? But if you are communicating bad news, if you’re laying people off, look at your leaders. Who is delivering that message? If you’ve got somebody who’s a really good person, but isn’t very good at that message and isn’t, you know, struggles with that. It’s too high risk. Don’t have them delivering that message. So take this extremely seriously. Do it with sincerity, do it with the person’s interest truly at heart and figure out how you can help them make the transition away. And don’t do it through the employer brand.
Do it because it’s the right thing to do. And everything else will take care of itself. I see a lot of organizations breaking a lot of sweat trying to retain a brand and public perception and show that they’re doing the right thing. What I really care about is if I asked your people one to one in confidence, how do you feel about this employee you’re leaving, it’s what they say. That’s what matters most. And I’ve met many people who have been made redundant. And given a lot of money and given a lot of tangible stuff who leave as massive detractors from their employer. They are very anti because of the way it was handled overall, and how they felt. I’ve seen others who didn’t take a lot away. The company couldn’t afford to give them much. But they left us huge advocates because they felt they were treated with dignity and respect. And that’s the fundamental piece.
Honesty and empathy, in the end.
There you go, who would have thought it?
Okay, and as we’ve reached the end of this episode, a very important question. I wouldn’t say the most important question, but one of the most important ones. As a gin lover myself, I’m wondering, are there any Australian brands of gin that you could recommend? I usually ask for book recommendations from my guests.
Thank you. Well, I can give you both a book and a gin. So I am a gin enthusiast, so I say on my signature and on my LinkedIn. I’m a dad, a CEO and a gin enthusiast in that order. And the gin that I would absolutely jump to, right now is Applewood. Applewood is doing a huge amount of great stuff and have many, many varietals. I would also have a look at Malfy Rosa, with a sprig of rosemary and a wedge of grapefruit. So that’s well worth it as well. I believe that might actually be European in origin. In terms of a book, I’ll tell you right now, read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenidess. It’s a big read it takes a while to get into.
I did. Oh my god, right. I love absolutely adored that book. Thank you for this recommendation.
It was a pleasure talking to you, Georgiana. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Mark, and let’s stay in touch.