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IBM Exemplifies the Benefits of Employer Branding with Strong Client Results


Employer branding has become an integral component of an effective talent strategy. It is synonymous with a company’s reputation as an employer, portraying the image of what the company is like to work for. The purpose of properly conveying and clearly communicating an employer’s brand is essential to attract, engage, develop, and retain the best talent for an organization. Here I take a look at an example of employer branding that has worked well, producing quantitative results: IBM and its real estate client Waypoint Homes.

Employer branding is already evident in ~48% of RPO contracts today, and NelsonHall’s recently published RPO market analysis reveals that employer branding is increasing in future importance to clients by 10%.

RPO critical success factors include providing consulting services that include talent pool development and employment branding, and convincing clients of better results through candidate engagement, including developing employer brand messaging to attract candidates with cultural fit and improved retention.

Waypoint’s Decision to Outsource

Prior to outsourcing to IBM Kenexa, Waypoint Homes used internal recruiters, contract recruiters, search firms, and placement agencies, which Waypoint found to be ineffective. The principle reasons for deciding to outsource were to:

  • Reduce costs
  • Attract top talent
  • Improve the recruiting and hiring process
  • Reduce screening and interviewing time by hiring managers, and focus on its core business
  • Grow from a small to mid-sized public company, be able to rapidly scale up as well as down (given the uncertainty of a start-up), and not have to worry about hiring recruiters and downsizing them should a reduction in staff be required.

Services In-Scope

IBM Kenexa was chosen from among four potential RPO providers, with employer branding in-scope, which includes:

  • Culture research 
  • Employee value proposition creation
  • Career website development, replacing an inadequate career site.

One of IBM Kenexa’s first projects completed was quantitative and qualitative research to assess Waypoint’s organizational culture. An IBM Kenexa Organizational Cultural Insight Survey was conducted, as well as stakeholder interviews and a review of company data. In eight weeks, Waypoint realized benefits from using IBM Kenexa Recruitment Services and IBM Kenexa Employment Branding, including being able to more clearly articulate company culture, and to provide input to the development of a new career website to help candidates better understand what it’s like to work at Waypoint.

Also delivered early on, IBM Kenexa rewrote existing job descriptions to be better suited for external job postings, with clearer language, and including a description of the impact these jobs have on the company.

Managers were trained in behavior-based interviewing skills, and interview guides were created for all common job types, including guidance for managers on how to assess candidates for cultural fit.

In addition, the IBM Kenexa recruitment manager was located at the client site to better understand Waypoint’s culture and to build effective relationships with hiring managers.

According to Andrew Bartlow, VP HR at Waypoint Homes, “the cultural work provided by employment branding was a huge value-add that IBM Kenexa brought to the table, in a very short time; their support helped us to more effectively source and select the kind of talent we need to be successful.”

Results Achieved

Tangible results arising from the outsourcing arrangement were:

  • Cost Per Hire reduced by ~20%
  • Within seven months, reduced ‘time to fill’ by ~35%
  • Reduced turnover by ~22%
  • IBM Kenexa RPO was able to immediately source 100% of Waypoint’s targeted hiring needs in year one, scaling up and down as needed
  • Reduced administrative burden. Bartlow commented, “From IBM, we’re getting candidates with a higher hit ratio. When a candidate is presented, they are more likely to be hired than they used to be, and they’re much more likely to stay with us, and we are getting great quality candidates now. Our managers used to spend a lot of time screening and onboarding new people, when we really want them to be servicing our residents”.

NelsonHall’s RPO NEAT client survey reveals that, overall, vendors are doing well regarding clients’ employer branding expectations: satisfaction with improved employer branding exceeds current importance by 8%. In the case of IBM’s own client ratings, satisfaction exceeded importance by 20%, confirming IBM’s ability to add value in this area.

Given that future importance of employer branding is increasing, I expect employer branding to be included in ~60% of RPO contracts within three years.

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