interview rund um social media und employer branding mit michal kalinowski, ceo von universum

universum dürfte jedem saatkorn. leser (weibliche form stets mitdenken) bestens bekannt sein. einerseits, da die universum studien rund um arbeitgeberattraktivität neben trendence die bekanntesten am markt sind, andererseits, da universum bereits seit jahren international sehr stark mit diesem thema unterwegs ist. ich freue mich daher sehr darüber, ein interview mit michal kalinowski, ceo von universum bekommen zu haben. und erwartungsgemäß hat kalinowski eine menge interessantes zu erzählen. auf geht’s:

michal has a msc in business and economics from stockholm school of economics and london school of economics. he began his professional career at universum. he started up the international business of the company and was appointed ceo of universum international between 1995 and 1997. in the beginning of 1998 he moved to london to work as assistant director of corporate finance at pricewaterhousecoopers for five years. he then returned to sweden and by the end of 2003 he returned to universum and was appointed ceo for universum group.

saatkorn.: how would you describe the world of employer branding in 2011? what are the main challenges for your customers?
there are 4 main themes for this and the coming years: employer branding has become strategic, securing a diverse workplace is crucial for business success, communications integration and efficiency are crucial for impact and lifelong relations with talent becoming the norm. let me explain:

1.  employer branding becomes strategic
coming out of the recession a large number of companies start to develop long term strategies and targets for the strength of the employer brand to support the business objectives set out in their business plans. through this they create a strategic roadmap for their work to make less volatile and prone to annual changes.

2. diversity is crucial
there is obviously a consensus that a diverse workplace makes better business sence. however, the challenges are still overwhelming even in developed markets.  as the number of women worldwide outnumbers men and, perhaps more importantly, more women are getting higher degrees than men, we will start to have to pay more attention to diversity than ever before. as a result we’re seeing a significant interest from clients for our publications on diversity. see below for two different views on gender diversity – now and in the future. women in german business:

  • 49% of all university graduates,
  • 27% of all managers,
  • 1% of ceos in the german top 100 companies
    or the end of men?

3. communications integration and efficiency crucial for impact
young people today consume more media than any generation before. a recent study showed that they consume almost 10 hours of media in 6 hours of real time (by using several media outlets and any given time). this of course poses a huge challenge to companies as they struggle with making an impression on talent. to make an impression will require creating engagement – externally and internally. to sum up this point: 2011 will be all about building engagement. next week i am holding a workshop for the leadership team of global pharmaceutical  multinational where the topic is just that: building a high-engagement culture in the organization. with the advent and rise of social media another challenge is definitely to integrate sm into the eb mix without sacrificing roi and at the same time staying true to the employer brand. for eb the choice of channel is also crucial – what we are seeing in our talent research is that many students are still wary of companies using facebook for recruitment purposes. something that is less of an issue with xing or linkedin for example. one more result of using social media is the ubiquity of information on individuals, opening up new frontiers to segmentation and personality targeting. we have just launched springboardr in response to this, allowing employers to go beyond degrees to ensure that the personality of the student or young professional is in line what they need. in this area we are still only seeing the very beginning.

4. lifelong relations becoming a norm
companies cannot longer fulfill their talent needs just by traditional recruitment. now everyone who wants to get their fair share of the market among students needs to engage in relations with them early. this trend continues with some companies even targeting pre-university populations (in the uk 26% of employers state to have school-leaver programmes). on the other end of the relationship we see an increasing number of employers focusing on developing professional pools of alumni looking at them as pool of boomerang hires as well as referral networks. also, with the baby boomers retiring en masse, we are going to have to adjust our short term sourcing as well as long term employer branding efforts to address the resulting brain drain and rejuvenation of our organizations. in some countries there is even talk of a ‘reverse pyramid structure’ as the demographics make societies as the japanese extremely top heavy. in addition we will see a short term effect of the increased economic prosperity on the levels of attrition that always go up in a recovery. the implication is of course that with better times retention will become more difficult. we’re seeing many individuals who did not want to ‘rock the boat’ during the tough times who are now itching for new challenges. as always, the top performers are the ones who we should be keeping an eye on. our own research from the fall of 2010 showed that 80% of clients work with talent attraction but that in order to be successful in this area there is no way around strong brand awareness as well as brand esteem. interestingly, the top two reasons stars leave their companies were 1. to pursue new opportunities and 2. to get a better package

saatkorn.: given the fact, that you have several years of professional experience in this field, what have been the most interesting challenges universum had to face since 1995?
if i just look at the financial journey that universum has completed in these years i believe this also shows how the employer branding industry has fared. we spent the first five years in the red but have now posted seven consecutive years of black figures. to me this shows that the concept of employer branding is being accepted as standard fare in many organizations today. the question is not whether to work with employer branding anymore but rather how to do it. i believe it is fair to say that many of the smaller outfits consulting with employer branding would not have been around today had it not been for global players such as universum leading the way in educating the business world about the benefits of strategic employer branding.

saatkorn.: do you think that social media lives up to the hype? is social media really such an important topic for employer branding?
as in all situations where we have disruptive technologies change the way we do business the question is always when to board the train. at universum we are still finding our way with social media still using it mostly for b2b purposes although the new springboardr platform has many social elements to it.naturally there is certain hype to social media: in certain situations it makes more sense to talk to somebody face to face rather than use twitter for example. like i said before it is important to understand the implicit limitations of these channels. at the same time it could be costly to be overly cautious and stay away from social tools altogether: we have started offering a web chatter listening service and are getting lots of interest from clients for this.

going forward twitter, facebook (or possibly the tools that they will morph into) will be indispensable for raising awareness and communicating directly with talent but there will still be a need for a personal interaction to get talent to sign on social media is not a silver bullet in that regard. i would rather say that a successful way to use social media is the one that takes a company to that personal meeting at the lowest cost. as a result, we are seeing companies investigating the creation of proprietary communities, trying to lock in the relationships to talent. one challenge is definitely how to go about promoting the material that is put online. less-known employers need to figure out how to ‘break through’ in this new space. it may still be possible to buy banners etc but this is not truly social media. naturally what companies should be looking for are ways collaborating with them. this indeed is the holy grail! we’re currently involved in a global communications project for a french tech multinational where we’re building a global case competition to achieve just that. at the same time i think it would be foolhardy to ignore the threat to the brand of engaging talent online. we have a number of clients who are currently in ‘wait and see’ mode whereas others are experimenting. this general development within social media will furthermore test the strength of companies’ employer brands since the foundation of all social media is whether it is “talk worthy” or not – so an employer will quickly find out whether people think that the core messages that are communicated are interesting or not.

saatkorn.: what are the main challenges for employer branding experts during the next 2-3 years? – do you think that employer branding becomes more important? do you see any specific countries, regions or industries that face a real urgency for the implementation of employer branding strategies? what are the key findings of this year’s universum employer branding survey?
we are seeing the rise of a new global talent elite who seem to be attractive regardless of financial conditions (flexible, digital nomads, excellent academic background etc.). going forward, it will be important for fortune 500 companies to grasp how to attract these people. as eb becomes more established in the corporate set-up one challenge is to get a firm grip on all different eb measures within the organization. as a response to this universum now offers ‘dashboards’ to many global clients as a means of keeping track. eb becoming more established also means that this discipline needs to find its anchor within the organization: how should eb relate to marketing, to corporate communications etc.? of course this also ties in to efforts to measure the value of the human capital. a big 4 company for example will see a substantial part of the value leave the office every night.

with eb still being a new concept in some parts of the globe the challenge for us is to continue on the journey of spreading the word about its benefits. as an example, universum now establishes ideal employer rankings in brazil etc.

on a global level a big challenge will involve the growing clout of china. just look at the difference in mindsets as evidenced by amy chua’s recent column in the wall street journal – we are really seeing the clash of two cultures. the question is whether chinese companies will be successful not just in increasing productivity and quality but also to excel in creativity and design. interestingly, this was the first year that we were able to add a chinese company, lenovo, to the universum global employer rankings. the development going forward within china will determine whether we will see more additions such as this one. if the chinese manage to adapt to the west they will probably not only be successful in attracting western talent but also contribute to a better image for china in the west as well. but looking at the way western governments view chinese acquisitions in their home markets we are not there yet.

moreover, for western companies it is vital to understand china but also find the right channels within china in order to be able to both recruit and profile themselves locally. at universum we struggled in china until we managed to set up a cooperation with a local partner. now we have access to 36 million young people in mainland china.

saatkorn.: what is universum’s objective in this field? what do you want to achieve?
universum’s focus has always been about connecting talent and companies. recent developments within social media make this work both easier and more complex. but the journey of educating and spreading the word about employer branding goes on. as such, it is immensely rewarding to hear the ceo of coca-cola referring to our global ranking as crucial when evaluating their success in attracting talent.

saatkorn.: mr. kalinowski, thank you very much for the interview – and a lot of success with universum in the future!

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