When it comes to reputation and the war for talent, there is every indication that one size does not fit all.
McKinsey & Company claims to have coined the term “the war for talent” in 1997.1 The idea still resonates with managers because it reflects the fact that talented people are a critical driver of corporate success. For those involved in this “war,” the search continues for fresh ideas about: (a) how to make a company more attractive to a larger pool of potential employees, (b) how to make the recruiting process more appealing to job candidates, (c) what mix of organizational and job attributes will attract talented people, (d) how to develop more talented managers, and (e) how to design an attractive workplace environment that retains such people. Aspects of a company’s reputation have been shown to positively affect (a), (c) and (e).2 The social aspect of this reputation — one of the many manifestations of corporate social responsibility — is increasingly appearing on the agendas of many senior management teams, specifically because of its perceived role in influencing key stakeholders, particularly employees.3
To better understand these issues, academics and consultants routinely conduct surveys of talented employees.4 For example, in 2008 the public relations consultants Hill & Knowlton published “Reputation and the War for Talent,”5 a survey of 527 MBA students in 12 top business schools in the United States, Europe and Asia. The study found that 96% of these students said that reputation was an important factor in their choice of potential employer. A majority also said that career opportunity; corporate culture; compensation and benefits; the quality of the company’s products and services; its financial performance; growth potential; corporate governance; and ethics were also important.
Recently, the idea has emerged that the key to winning the talent war through recruitment is to place greater emphasis on the reputation of an organization for social responsibility, not just a company’s overall reputation or its reputation as a good employer.