Selling themselves: How Telstra, Lion and others attract and retain the best staff

Language warning: this article contains the F-word.


No longer stuck away in windowless offices at the back of company headquarters and called ‘personnel’, recruiters at leading corporations have taken centre-stage as it becomes obvious just how important attracting and retaining high-calibre staff is.

In industries beset by poaching and a shortage of top staff, not surprisingly, it is all about marketing. And the crucial point of difference can be as simple as how a company’s recruitment process is perceived by potential executives.

Last month over six hundred talent acquisition leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region gathered at The Star in Sydney to learn best practices and hear stories of talent acquisition transformation at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect conference.



Heads of recruitment from Telstra, Lululemon, Atlassian, Lion and KinCare spoke about how a really good recruiter nowadays is also a really good marketer. And how the big corporations – and some not so big – are creating brand ambassadors out of all their employees. In the case of Telstra, the telco has taken it a step further, selecting a core group of employees across the company to be ‘official’ brand ambassadors.

Says Telstra’s employment brand manager Brie Mason: “Every company has an employment brand. It’s what people think, feel and share about you as an employer. The brand is a perception however, which evolves in every interaction”.

In research Telstra found that its perception as a company that was ‘a great place to work’ was agreed with internally by 81%, but that externally only 22% of people thought Telstra was a great place to work. Some of the more negative external perceptions of the company that Telstra needed to remedy were that it was ‘not progressive’, had ‘limited career opportunities’, was ‘human-less’, ‘monolithic’, ‘conservative’ and ‘a cube city’.



Amanda Smith, people potential manager of Lululemon Australia and New Zealand, says the international yoga-inspired athletic apparel company’s secret recruiting strategy and employer brand “lives in every hire we make.” The company’s three most important core values when recruiting are ‘culture fit’, ‘developing people from the inside out’ and ‘we have fun!’ (includes exclamation mark).



On a panel entitled ‘Creative Solutions to Proactive Recruitment Challenges’, Rebecca Jones, strategic lead of graduate and global campaigns at Atlassian, an award-winning enterprise software company, said of the company’s core values: “Six years ago the principals Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar wanted to state the company’s core values, and it’s a little bit controversial because they include swear words: ‘Open company’, ‘No bullshit’ and ‘Don’t fuck the customer’.”

Says Jones: “We recruit and talk to a lot of university students, get to know them when we go out to the campus, and they really connect with our core values. Recently we did a two-week campaign in New Zealand. I had a good gut feeling about that and it was a big success. Through various networking events we met about 300 individuals.”



Head of strategic sourcing at Lion, Daoud Edris, says employer branding should fall directly in the mandate of the resourcing recruiters. “Connect with people in a really emotional way; marketers are very good at that.

“At Lion, we’ve created a library of authentic stories from people within our organisation that really brings that brand to life. We ask our recruiters to share those stories externally. We also encourage our leaders to be more visible – externally and internally – writing blogs and being active in online communities,” Edris says.



So, it’s all well and good to ‘sell’ funky modern software companies like Atlassian and top food and beverage companies like Lion – by his own admission, Daoud Edris says his fridge is 80% full of Lion products such as James Squire and Little Creatures beers and King Island cheeses – but how do you attract staff to a company like KinCare, a provider of in-home health and well-being care?

Says Emma Pilcher, human resources manager at KinCare: “Our industry is not the most exciting to attract people to work for us. Aged care is not really up there with fashion and the media. But what we do is go out and educate people about the company. There is the opportunity for people to have a large scale of experience in their jobs with us.

“We also get people into our business and show them the potential and where we want to go and what we are doing and what they can expect in career development with us. For example, in the next five years, our organisation is going to become the biggest employment group in Australia. It will offer the most opportunities, the most exciting things to do. There is 75% growth predicted for the aged care sector. There’s an attractive opportunity here,” Pilcher says.

Although working in the aged care industry might be a decidedly ‘unsexy’ proposition now, that could actually change in the not-too-distant future.


BY Susi Banks ON 21 May 2014