Wingmen in Times of War for Talents: Why Successful Employer Branding Requires a Targeted Approach

Employer branding is a vital part of any successful business today. Generation Z in particular – but increasingly other generations as well – are looking for employers with a clear purpose, vision and compelling values that align with their own. The fact that a strong employer brand helps to attract the best talents has definitely found its way into the senior management game plan.

After countless workshops with external agencies and heated discussions about the employee experience in the dedicated project team, it is finally there: the employee value proposition – which is to be shared as quickly as possible in a video on social networks to show how “cool” the company is after all. But is this the only way to go? What if the experienced senior project managers you are looking for are not on Instagram or TikTok and do not follow your company on LinkedIn? If companies don’t use the right communication channels or don’t engage their target audience effectively, all their efforts will be in vain. So how do you put your company in the right light outside of social media?

With the energetic help of a good friend – the wingman. Because, to put it bluntly, attracting new talent is a lot like finding a significant other. Who hasn’t been there before: You’re in a club for the first time in ages your hair is in place, the hours of body-pumping are slowly but surely paying off and you feel ready to convince that sympathetic person at the bar of your merits. But what if the chosen one is with someone else? What if you’re suddenly too shy or not a pro at making a move? This is where the wingman comes in. A social butterfly, he is not afraid to interrupt an obviously bad conversation to pave the way for a better one. He also knows his friend’s values and strengths and knows how to bring them to the fore. 

The wingman of the working world is none other than today’s popular “headhunter”. He too is well-connected, experienced and direct – and cares deeply about the long-term success of his business friend. Like the trusted wingman, his priority is to fully understand the specific requirements and capabilities of his friend’s new potential talent. Once this is achieved, he begins to analyse, scan, search and ultimately address and disseminate the Employee Value Proposition in a targeted manner. Discretion is a paramount. Instead of shouting into a megaphone “My friend is looking for a new partner because he unfortunately had to say goodbye to his old one! But he’s worked really hard on himself and he‘s a great guy!”, a good wingman knows how to sound out the situation first, to find out if the other person is at all open to exchanging with others and if there’s a possible match. Unpleasant confrontations can be avioded in this way. But perhaps the greatest advantage is his independence. As a “neutral” third party, he can check how the company is perceived as an employer (brand) or to what extent the company already has a reputation. 

The headhunter’s role as a source of information and feedback is not to be underestimated. And like a best friend, he does not refrain from passing on this information. Likewise, he sees it as his job to bring his business partner back down to earth if his demands are simply too high. 

Companies often focus only on the perfect candidate. But now that agility, flexibility and development opportunities are being touted as USPs, companies should rethink their strategies and possibly also consider candidates who do not quite fit the required profile (yet), but who have the right mindset and potential,” says Lukas Kühne, Managing Partner of Meister Executive Search AG.

To compete for the most talented people, companies today need to do more than just build a strong employer brand. It is about targeted communication and continuous monitoring of the employee value proposition. While employer branding and headhunting may seem different at first sight, it is time to break out of the “either/or” mindset and engage professional wingmen as strategic partners so that nothing stands in the way of a lasting Happy Ever After.

Article written by Lara Aebischer, Business Development Specialist, CFR Global Executive Search Switzerland
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