Xref staff playing ping pong in the office
min read

Employer Brand - Beyond The Champagne And Ping-Pong



Employer branding and candidate experience - what does it mean and how do industry leaders get it right?

Our expert panel recently shared their thoughts at Xref's; Disclose. Discuss. Discover in Sydney.

Here is part one of our Q&A with Keryn Paviour-Smith, Head of Talent Acquisition at News Corp Australia, Mahesh Muralidhar, Head Of People Operations at Airtasker and Deborah Grace, Head of Operations & Engagement, Human Capital at Laing O’Rourke.

Q: What does the candidate experience mean to you and why is it important?

Deborah: Candidate experience is about every touch point a candidate has with your business. It’s how you influence your candidates before they’ve even decided to apply and how you interact with them all the way through the recruitment process. Employer brand is the perception candidates have of your company.

Mahesh: I think you have to think about candidate and employee experience as a product, then consider the recruitment and onboarding piece as a journey; a customer journey.

You’re setting people up for success so you need to think about the journey early on, even stating ‘this is where onboarding starts’ in your initial conversation. You can be really creative in the way you think about things.

Q: What employer brand or engagement strategies have stood out to you?

Mahesh: What Google did really well - after nailing the search engine algorithm - was positioning their brand as the best and most innovative place for engineers.

One initiative was announcing that Google engineers could spend 20% of their time on whatever they wanted - from an employee experience and employee branding perspective... brilliant.

Deborah: Sticking with the tech theme, Atlassian have done some amazing things:

They've set up a talent tracker, which they are using to engage with university students not just as a talent database but for inviting the students to events and sending them content. They might not be the right candidates now, but they could be in ten years’ time, so, they are actively engaging with them in the meantime.

They have apparently abolished job descriptions and are focusing on deliverables. I love this as I find job descriptions really constricting, and support the approach of setting 3 or 4 deliverables that companies can expect of the employee over the next 12 months.

This approach also really supports the flexible work model.

Mahesh: We recently met a senior candidate and we were competing with a variety of other companies. He said he really enjoyed the experience with us, and that he made a note of us and the fact that we’d phrased our first interaction as a ‘conversation’, rather than a ‘first interview’ or a ‘screening meeting’.

Just that small consideration made a big difference. I think it’s important to think about who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them and what kind of experience you want them to have.

Keryn: It is a conversation. The candidates are interviewing you, as much as you’re interviewing them. We often position it as ‘I’m interviewing the candidate to see if I would like them to join this organisation’, but it’s reciprocal.


"At the end of the day, people want to work with great people"

Keryn Paviour-Smith

Q: Is it all champagne and ping pong or are there other things that are important to candidates?

Deborah: Employees are often time poor and if you’re in an environment where you can offer employees better use and control of their time, flexible work is probably the most valuable benefit. Not just offering part-time or flexible start and finish times, but offering flexibility in how they work, where and when they work.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution doesn’t work; companies need to consider the varied demographics of their company and consider what is important to each.

At Laing O’Rourke there is a department of engineers, and their job is research, design and innovation, so to put them in a corporate office just wouldn’t work. We’ve taken great care considering their work environment and what would work for this team. They have a modern office and they can work whatever hours they like.

We don’t control when they work because their best ideas don’t always come between 9 and 5.

With all the technology available, a flexible environment is definitely doable for a lot of companies. I guess the number one thing that often fails these flexible work opportunities is trust. You have to build the trust from the top, leaders and managers need to show that they support it.

Mahesh: I completely agreeing with Deborah, but I’ll also share a slightly different way of looking at it.

I think it’s really important that hiring managers are aware of what the business model is. You really have to understand what kind of business you’re hiring for, to hire the right talent.

Top talent looks different business to business. It is dependant on the business model and a few other conditions. If you are creating a high performance organisation, your people want to work with other great people.

So, the acquisition team has a huge impact on engagement, regardless of Ping Pong tables. Recently at Airtasker, I’ve been emphasising being part of a meaningful work environment. I would like for all our team mates to come in and be able to say ‘I’m here to do this’.

Keryn: Once you get past the glitz and the glamour of the free food and the scooters round the office, at the end of the day people want to work with great people and they want to do interesting and challenging work.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of our Q&A, where our panellists discuss creating a strong brand on a low budget and real-world examples of how NOT to do it!

Thanks again to our panelists for another fantastic session. If you missed the last event, or aren’t based in Sydney, check out our events page for details of upcoming Disclose. Discuss. Discover dates in Sydney, Auckland and Toronto.

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