With 12 million job vacancies currently unfilled in the US alone, all businesses face one of the most challenging, disrupted labor markets in modern history. The advertising and marketing profession has been particularly hard hit by ‘The Great Resignation’ and B2B brands may have an even greater challenge in attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent. At the recent B2B World Fest, marketing leaders addressed the challenge and the strategies they are using to overcome it.
While the business-to-business (B2B) sector is thriving, there is no lack of options or opportunities for job seekers. And many B2B brands on the surface may lack the awareness and cachet of consumer brand counterparts. In partnership with global B2B agency Stein IAS, The Drum convened a panel of senior B2B marketers from Korn Ferry, Dell Technologies and HCL Technologies at the recent B2B World Fest to tackle a topic that has never been more pressing.
Their main takeaways were that purpose, culture and the potential for personal fulfilment are the key attributes that organizations need demonstrate to potential candidates. Into that mix, they added the need to look beyond traditional recruitment and “profile fit” to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Further, and as never before, ensuring that employees are being “seen and heard” while providing clear career pathways is vital in securing the talent required for success.
“[Recruitment is about] purpose,” said Jill Wiltfong, chief marketing officer at global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. “The last 24 months have changed absolutely everything for businesses, for leaders, for employees. As the dust settles, one thing has become really clear: the power has shifted. It's moved from organizations to people; from profit to mutual prosperity; from me to we. If you're going to focus on anything, purpose is the name of the game,” she stated.
Rachel Henke, senior director, brand & B2B campaigns + talent attraction at Dell Technologies, added that culture comes a close second: “Team members want to be less transactional and more ‘human first’. It's making sure we're taking care of the whole team member, versus just giving them a paycheck. How do we take care of their work-life balance? Where and how do they want to work? And how can we make sure they can show up as themselves? We're taking a holistic view of the team member versus ‘hey, just do this job.’”
Jill Kouri, global chief marketing officer at HCL Technologies, shifted jobs several months ago. She had been soul-searching about what she really wanted from an employer. Kouri landed on fulfilment, stating: “I was even considering fulfilment over financials. Because pay is irrelevant if you're not completely fulfilled and challenged with what you're doing. I certainly wanted to go to an organization where I felt like the culture was right for me.”
Diversifying the talent pool
All three B2B World Fest panellists addressed going beyond traditional B2B talent pools to recruit more diverse talent.
“We are starting to recruit recent high-school graduates or even high-school seniors,” Kouri said. “We've realized that this population has a lot to offer and when we are able to train them on site in an apprenticeship program, they can be very valuable members of our workforce. We're going to be announcing soon that we’re offering to pay college tuition for these high school graduates.”
Henke said Dell was doing something slightly different: “We are really looking at the profiles that we hire. Traditionally, from a corporate standpoint, we wanted someone with an MBA pedigree, someone who checked all the traditional boxes. When we aim for a more diverse workplace, we need to seek and attract individuals from different backgrounds. So, we had to take a look at what types of candidates we are screening. Are we leaving out good talent that doesn't have that traditional background?” Dell as a result has now eliminated its college degree requirement.
Wiltfong commented that Korn Ferry has started a leadership program for diverse candidates from non-traditional backgrounds: a “prep school for business” called Leadership for Humanity. Henke added that Dell “traditionally wanted someone who had sales experience and was ingrained into B2B. Now, we're realizing if you look at the customer funnel for B2B, you're marketing to humans, not to businesses or robots. So, we're seeking some consumer talent to add energy into our B2B marketing organization.”
Kouri talked about the need to better articulate what B2B marketing’s “cool factor” is. Henke said Dell is exploring recruitment via social platforms like TikTok. Wiltfong cautioned that maintaining “authenticity” is key. Kouri agreed, stating that marketers and recruiters need “to paint honest pictures of their organizations.”
Henke also focused on the importance of retention: the need for flexibility as an employer as well as the need for clear career paths. All three concurred that the roles of HR and marketing in recruitment and retention were increasingly symbiotic. Kouri said: “Today, I’m putting an equal focus on employee engagement and employer brand development and recruitment marketing as I do on external marketing.”
So, what is the most actionable takeaway to make B2B brand talent magnets in 2022? According to Henke, “it boils down to that human aspect of what we do; recognizing that team members aren't just transactional employees. They're humans with lives and we need to be able to nurture people for who they are and make sure that they feel seen at work; that they feel fully appreciated.”
Watch the full B2B World Fest session, How B2B brands become talent magnets, on demand here.