Attracting top talent requires creative employer branding

by Sioux Falls Development Foundation
Published 08/19/2019
Originally Published by Sioux Falls.Business

As a human resources executive at Sanford Health, Darren Walker has bought in to his organization’s hiring motto: “See yourself at Sanford.”

It’s part of a broader effort in employer branding – a best practice for organizations trying to land top talent in an increasingly competitive environment.

“I think it’s all about what are we as an employer doing to stand out. Our goal is to be the employer of choice,” said Walker, vice president of human resources.

“We recognize that individuals spend just as much time at work as they do at home or other activities, and we want to create a brand and environment that’s welcoming and that people want to be a part of.”

Walker will be part of a panel around employer branding at Thursday’s WIN in Workforce Summit presented by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. Moderated by Shelly Johnson, Walker will be joined by panelists Patti Hawkey of Midco and Valerie Loudenback of Grand Prairie Foods.

It’s one of several sessions designed to share strategies around talent attraction. The summit also will cover talent development, business partnerships and other workforce development resources.

We spoke with Walker for early insight into his organization’s approach to employer branding.

How does an employer determine what its brand actually is?

I think you have to get back to what’s at your root, what’s at your core. When we look at Sanford Health, we look at what it is we do and that’s take care of patients and families and the communities we serve. So identify what it is you do, develop your vision and mission around it, and execute on that.

And then we do a lot of polling, a lot of assessments, to see how are we perceived and are we delivering on that brand, both internally and externally, to make sure we’re always improving. 

Why is branding important in the context of workforce development?

I think it boils down to the level of competition there is for good talent. In our economy here and in the communities we operate, unemployment is so low that we’re competing for that top talent. It gets back to the differentiation – what makes us different from any other organization. What makes you want to come to Sanford because of who we are and what we what do.

Can you give us examples of things businesses might do or not do that affect their employer brand?

One thing we’re doing and that I see others doing is that you have to create an inclusive environment. We have spent a lot of energy in the last couple years attracting people. We have done a lot of work around our military and veterans recruitment and made great strides there and been recognized nationally. We’ve done a lot of work on diversity and inclusion efforts, and we do a really great job with our internship programs. This summer alone, we had over 500 non-clinical interns and another 300 clinical interns, and we’re now attracting students from all over the country because of our programs.

And quite honestly, the area when I see organizations don’t do well is when they portray one thing and belief, and deliver in a different way. They may portray a brand and culture, but when people come in and it’s not that, you see a high degree of failure.

The WIN Summit runs from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.