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How Many Languages does your Employer Brand Speak?

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The issue of employee nationality has been much to the fore this week as the always entertaining football transfer window closed for the next few months. The preceding few weeks have witnessed both a feeding and a media frenzy. Which big players are moving to which big clubs for how much of a, presumably big, salary increase? Thereafter, in an apparent restraint of trade to my legally untutored mind, clubs have to concentrate on engagement rather than recruitment until January. Not for the first time, eye watering amounts of money were being invested or bet (depending on the relative levels of desperation demonstrated by each club) on new hires in order to enhance organisational performance and prolong the tenure of senior management.

New hires largely unencumbered with a British passport.

So here’s the question. Do the likes of Di Maria, Falcao, Balotelli, Sanchez and Costa help to bring on indigenous talent or do they squash its development? Are they good for the English game or is the English game simply good for their wallets? My personal take on this is that exposure to exceptional talent, regardless of their birthplace, helps to push and develop those around such stellar performers – and this applies as much in an office environment as a sporting one.

Whilst you’re pondering that one, there is a not dissimilar issue emerging from the imminent Scottish Referendum vote. As voting day edges closer, the prospect of an independent Scotland is no longer as far-fetched as it once appeared. Responses to the prospect clearly vary significantly from a cock-a-hoop Alex Salmond to many rather less enamoured within the local business community. The Scottish HE sector, for example, is already reacting with something approaching horror. Apparently, employment offers from Scottish higher education institutions are being met with candidate caution and prevarication, whilst universities based south of the border are seeking to target academics worried about the funding implications of a Scotland going it alone.

Nationality is a highly charged, highly political space. Last week saw the publication of ONS statistics which indicated that net migration into the UK to March this year was at 243,000, a chunky 40% year-on-year increase. This figure sees comfortably more than half a million people entering the UK and around 300,000 leaving the country. David Cameron’s desire to limit net migration by 2015 to 100,000 seems today more than fanciful.

What is depressing is the entirely predictable xenophobia from the likes of the Daily Mail and UKIP. With the UK performing as a positive outlier within an EU again experiencing an economic and output dip, the country acts as a talent magnet to professionals across the continent who are looking for growth and enterprise. What makes this outcry even more frustrating is that 177,000 of these migrants are overseas students, bringing with them healthy university fees and corresponding spending power.

A report from Lloyds Banking Group this week posits a different interpretation of the UK’s ability to attract talent. The number of working professionals in the country born overseas has risen from 7.3% to 15% over the 17 years to 2014. The economic impact – expressed as gross value added – of these professionals is an astronomical £210bn. This group are proportionally far more likely to have level four educational qualifications (and above) and to be employed within a senior position. Interestingly, London has the highest proportion of such employees – 41% of the overall total – and the north east just 4% – the respective economic performance of both regions is perhaps then no coincidence.

We live in an increasingly multi-cultural melting pot, which is increasingly successful at attracting overseas talent into the country, who make an incredibly positive managerial, technical and financial difference. Whether they are attempting to resurrect Manchester United’s moribund start to the season, leading the Bank of England or number any of the 47% of UK CEOs who were educated internationally, talent shouldn’t be judged by its passport but by its impact.

The UK labour market goes from strength to strength, with unemployment at 6.4% and falling, a record 283,000 new jobs created in the quarter ending June and another 656,000 vacancies waiting to be filled. And Apsco reports this week that the number of advertised vacancies are up a fifth on late summer 2013. A key part of this success story has been the contribution of overseas talent – stymieing this would stymie economic growth.

However, this success story is an employer branding fail.

The mention of foreign workers conjures up tabloid inspired, knee-jerk images of Polish plumbers, Bulgarian fruit pickers and the like. The UK rose a place in the league table of competitive economies, according to the World Economic Forum this week, driven by our harnessing of technology, our innovation but more specifically our efficient labour market. Great employees – whether they’re wearing sporting colours, a business suit or a lab coat – can increasingly work anywhere.

As the Economist noted last year ‘The world’s most valuable resource is talent. No country produces enough of it’.

Individual organisations have to ensure their employer brand speaks many languages and reaches beyond geographical boundaries. The employer brand of UK plc needs to make sure it similarly succeeds in articulating an open, accessible and engaging picture of the employment opportunities to be enjoyed within the country.

Do you want your brand to be reaching out to an Angel di Maria or a Tom Cleverley?

About the Author:

r2Neil Harrison | Employer Branding Advantage

Neil is the Head of Employer Branding and Insight at TMP and has worked in this field for the past 20+ years. He has delivered employer branding solutions for organisations as diverse as Santander, Heineken, the University of Sheffield, Aircelle, HSBC, GCHQ and Unilever over the past few years.

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