Considering ‘brand’ as a recruitment and retention tool

Editor’s note: BankBeat explores “recruitment marketing” this month with Tiffany Beitler and her guest, marketing intern Lindsey Maschler, a senior at Kansas State University. See previous entries in the On Brand series of conversations.


Q: Bankers often think of the word “brand” in terms of customer acquisition, but when competition for talent is fierce, should recruitment branding be on their radar?

Tiffany Beitler: Recruitment marketing is an extension of the employer brand. It’s the process and the tools bankers use for attracting talent.

Brand is all-encompassing. It’s the way you feel when you walk in for an interview. It’s how people greet you. It’s what you see on social media. It’s what employees have told you about working at the bank. There are so many aspects of it, and they really do need to have the brand front and center. We have a client whose sole purpose for posting on social media is to attract talent, not customers. 

Q: That bank client, what content are they posting?

T.B.: How they’re getting into the communities to serve. How they are honoring employees. They’re in a parade or showing that employees have more of a purpose than just collecting a paycheck. They’re actually making a difference in the communities they serve.

Q: A survey by Glassdoor found that 79 percent of job seekers use social media as a job search tool. What should a community banker be doing or thinking about as they try to fill positions?

T.B.: You need to show the culture, which is a part of your brand. What does a typical day look like in your office or bank? Is the culture fun? If so, make sure your social reflects this. Is it really flexible? Post some pictures of your employees on a Zoom call waving to show flexibility is allowed at the bank. I think anything you can do to show what “a day in the life” is like on social media is really important.

Q: Lindsey, what about you and your peers? Are you on social media looking at prospective employers?

Lindsey Maschler: Social media is not the first place I go. When I was looking for an internship this summer, the first place I went to was the company’s website. I think you can see a lot about a business’s brand from its website, as well as its talent. As I got closer to deciding between places, social media became a huge thing. Like Tiffany said, you can see the relationships people have through social media. 

As a college student, flexibility is my biggest thing and I think it is that way for a lot of people coming out of a pandemic. Being in school during this time, we had to learn how to be online and efficient. It really showed me that you can do a lot more with your time and manage it well. So I think flexibility in work is really important for my generation and that’s something I would look for in a job.

T.B.: A bank website is not just a customer’s first impression; it’s your potential hires who are seeing your website as a first impression. We really stress doing a revamp or at least modernizing the homepage so that the first impression is forward-thinking and innovative.

Q: Half of all job candidates say they will not work for a company that has a bad reputation. During the Great Recession, community banks were tarnished even though it was Wall Street banks that got into trouble. Do you think community banks need to do a better job distinguishing themselves in the marketplace to attract talent?

T.B.: I think we’ve started doing that. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from all of those things that happened, and I think a lot of people do. For my community bank clients, that was the perfect opportunity to do campaigns around the fact that we are community banks. Your money is right here. We’re your neighbors. We’re not going to cheat our neighbors out of their money or we’re not gonna do anything shady behind their backs. That was a really great opportunity for us. I think that there still needs to be more of that messaging. 

Q: Lindsey, you come from a banking family in Kansas so you understand what a community bank offers. But what do your peers think about banking as a career path? 

L.M.: When I told my friends about my internship and how I was doing bank marketing, they asked: “Is that something you’re interested in? Are you sure?” I’m a very creative person, so I think they didn’t see beyond the face of it. With community banks, there’s a lot more character and a lot more fun that people don’t often see.

Q: What can a community bank do to become an employer of choice?

T.B.: Community banks have been slower to incorporate flexible work schedules. It’s important to me and it’s important to Lindsey and her age group too. I think that’s something that they should really focus on trying to make happen for employees. With some positions, it’s not possible. If you’re a teller, you need to be at the bank. But for some positions, they might not have to be physically in the office every day. 

Celebrating employees and making employees feel appreciated is huge. The culture of a bank bleeds out into the community and its brand. We always say you don’t get to choose your brand; it’s what your customers say about you. And if they’re hearing that it’s a terrible place to work, that’s gonna tarnish their view of the bank. Lindsey, what do you think? 

L.M.: Back to the flexible work schedule. I think really getting to know your employees to know what they want and how you can best serve them. You and your employees represent your company. They’re out in the world just as much as your brand is. So having them say good things and being genuinely happy is a really great thing.

T.B.: A third thing, and one of my priorities, is giving back to the community. Not to make a generalization, but that’s important to younger people too. Showing how community banks help local organizations, how they are literally rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, is key. Whereas the big banks might write a check, they’re not actually getting out there in the community and doing those things. People love to see this kind of thing. And if they make it okay for employees to do some of these things during work hours, that’s an amazing thing too.

Q: What’s an obstacle to becoming an employer of choice? 

T.B.: Honestly, it’s the image of banks as a whole. They are often seen as stodgy, stuffy, not a lot of fun. As Lindsey said, she’s doing bank marketing and her friends are like, “Really?” 

My dad was in bank marketing his whole career. For a long time, I thought, “How boring.” Obviously now that I’m involved in it, it’s not boring. There’s so many things you can do. But the image of banks as a whole really needs to change to be an employer of choice.

Q: Maybe bankers need to embrace their softer side, maybe their zany side?

T.B.: Yes. They need to personify their brand. The word “bank” makes you think of something cold. But if you humanize it, you make the bank feel approachable. It’s really about putting your people out there and that’s how you make it approachable. It’s about the people inside the bank. That’s what we do with our clients. We feature the bankers because that’s who people are going to walk in to see.