Without a strong brand, Irish companies are at risk of losing out on top talent to multinationals

How can Irish companies stand out amid fierce competition for skilled people?

By Richard Mosley Universum

From a recruitment perspective, Ireland stands out as one of Europe’s most intriguing labour markets.

The physical presence of the European or global headquarters of many of the world’s most attractive employers means that the competition for skilled professionals is particularly fierce.

This challenge is further exacerbated by the dramatic swing in employment trends in the last five years.

In 2014, the employer held all the cards; today, due to the economic upturn, that power sits firmly with the candidate, and that’s not set to change any time soon.

This creates a difficult situation for employers looking to recruit from the Irish talent pool.

For companies who still have the same employer brand proposition and recruitment strategy as they had five years ago, or even two years ago, it is no longer fit for purpose.

Change is now essential for Irish companies to compete for top talent.

A competitive talent market

In a recent PwC survey, 80% of CEOs expressed concern over the availability of professionals with the key skills they need to meet their business objectives.

Talk to any recruiter, and they will tell you that in today’s labour market the competition for talent between companies is high, with the candidate, not the employer, in the driving seat.

The companies that are succeeding in meeting their recruitment and retention goals are those that see the bigger picture beyond salaries and job titles.

Instead, they’re looking at the overall ‘employer brand’—how the company is seen in the outside world and how this image can be used to win over a target talent group.

It’s a complex balance of demonstrating the company culture and communicating the benefits in a way that attracts the desired people to your company, while also creating long-term, committed advocates among your current team.

A recent Universum study of the graduate talent pool in Ireland showed that young professionals are looking at more than money when they consider potential employers: work-life balance, a friendly work environment, and professional training and development are all among the top criteria.

The research also identified 23 companies where graduates in Ireland would like to work. Within the top ten most desirable employers, just one Irish company, Bank of Ireland, features. The top 20 isn’t much better, with just five Irish companies on the list.

How to stand out

Despite ups and downs in the global economy, the competition for talent is here to stay.

Demography will win out. Forecasters tell us that by 2023, Ireland will need to deliver on the CSO’s most aggressive population growth forecasts if it is to supply a sufficient volume and calibre of workers to meet Ireland’s projected jobs growth.

From experience, many Irish employers are reluctant to engage with the concept of employer branding and feel defeated before they even begin.

They see it as the preserve of major multinationals with pockets deep enough to fund free lunches and big-budget summer parties.

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However, employer branding shouldn’t be viewed in such narrow terms. The reality is that it can function effectively without any complication, fuss, or great expense and still deliver compelling results. 

Your employer brand should complement your company’s strategic objectives.By projecting where the company will be in the next two, five and even ten years, you will identify the critical skills needed to achieve success.

Look also at your current workforce – what skills do you currently have, and what do you need more or less of? Only when you know the type of talent that you need can you develop a compelling employer brand.

An internal survey is a good place to start. Identifying why your current employees have chosen to work and stay with your company is a strong indicator of the shared behaviours, values and personalities that make up the type of people who will work well and feel fulfilled at your company.

It will also highlight the culture and benefits that your target talent pool likes and is attracted to in an employer.

Armed with this information, you can ensure that what you’re offering is attractive to the type of people you’re trying to recruit and, most importantly, that it is distinct compared to your competitors.

If you can do this effectively, then you will have laid down the foundation for constructive employer branding work.

Richard Moseley is the Global Vice President of Strategy at Universum.

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