Eighteen months ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Worldwide Head of Talent Strategy Erin Pierpoint began looking at how her team could realign the company’s employer brand and recruitment strategy to promote diverse talent and build an inclusive workforce.
“From a recruiting perspective, we were struggling to take our enterprise brand and translate it into a sentiment that resonated across all candidate populations,” recalled Erin. “Many candidates didn’t know the BMS brand and our focus on patients.”
The first thing Erin and her team did as part of the recruitment brand revamp was to conduct an in-depth assessment of the talent BMS would require in the future. “Rather than focus on today’s open roles, we examined the type of talent needed in the next three to five years for the organization to prosper,” explained Erin.
As part of their new brand strategy, they also wanted to tell the story around BMS’ commitment to shaping a culture where all voices and perspectives are valued and welcomed.
That meant creating an inclusive workforce that truly drives innovation, collaboration and business results.
“When I joined the company in 2017 and since then, I’ve been committed to the company’s focus on workplace inclusion as a business priority,” said Erin. “The same is true with our employer brand campaigns. We must be thoughtful about the messages we’re conveying and ensure that we are bringing to life the story of what it’s like to work here.”
They shifted their employment brand focus to support workforce trends that would impact their future ability to attract and retain talent.
The resulting strategy has been wildly successful.
Part of the approach begun a year ago was to build pathways to better engage with their critical talent pools.
“We leveraged sentiment data to better understand how potential candidates perceive the BMS brand. We built campaigns to speak to the exact talent we need to recruit, focusing on messages of inclusion, which is so critical to our workforce.”
That effort alone has resulted in more hires. Candidates are proactively seeking us out, where in the past, they weren’t familiar with BMS. We’ve been able to hire top talent for significantly less than the industry benchmark cost per hire.
As part of the solution, Erin and her team set the stage so they could tell the BMS story across social channels.
“Like so many companies, we did not have the most robust visual representation of images that reflected the full range of the demographics we wanted to meet,” she said. “We used internal photographers to capture images of our employees at various events to create a compelling library of images that are representative of what it’s like to work here.”
They also worked with the company’s Business Analytics department and GD&I teams to understand external labor markets and to identify key gaps for women and under-represented ethnic groups, such as African American/Black, Latinx and Pan Asian populations across all levels of the organization.
“We wanted to understand where there were opportunities for improvement and to strategically focus our resources and time to these talent imperatives,” said Erin.
As a brand in a regulated industry, Erin’s team must take social media policies into consideration as they launch campaigns.
“As part of our enterprise social media policy, we don’t encourage our employees to share on their own social accounts,” Erin explained.
“We’ve started to leverage our employee resource groups — which we call People and Business Resource Groups (PBRGs) as brand ambassadors, who tell the story about why BMS is a great place to work.”
Erin said the BMS model for PBRGs — developed by Global Diversity & Inclusion — is truly a transformative business model.
Each PBRG has an executive sponsor and member of the BMS Leadership team providing strategic oversight. However, in a departure from how other companies organize resource groups, each PBRG has full time leader who develops business plans and is responsible for driving business results for their respective diverse constituency.
She said the second piece of their PBRG model that makes them unique is their different pillars: talent management, diversity in clinical trials, corporate reputation and community responsibility.
“Our PBRGs are not social networks; they are responsible for driving employee engagement and supporting our business objectives,” said Erin. “Through LinkedIn, we use their voices because they’re so powerful. When we’re telling our stories through the voice of these leaders, we see a significant return on that investment. We’ve taken that feedback and are looking at how we can replicate that success through LinkedIn specifically.”
Recently, Erin and her team have also started a pilot campaign with LinkedIn Elevate.
They gave employees content to help boost the brand and tell stories of inclusion, business trends and insights and open roles.
“This has been something new for us, but we are starting to, within a controlled environment, encourage our employees to share why they love working here,” said Erin. “Over the course of a few weeks, we reached more than a million people with content engagement.”
She said they’re looking to continue to push themselves to be more progressive on their social media channels — and they recently launched an Instagram channel to start extending into that space.
According to Erin, whenever they launch new campaigns, they look closely at opportunities for improvement.
One such opportunity was presented as part of an effort to increase diverse representation in manufacturing. Leveraging Black History Month as a platform to celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of leaders of African ancestry at BMS, Erin and her team featured some of their African American leaders talking about career development and linked this content to a campaign-specific landing page on their BMS careers page.
“Within two weeks, we had double digit hires from that campaign,” said Erin. “We were very pleased to see that amount of traction. But it really drove home the merits of speaking to a target audience in a geographic area for a specific background.”
BMS will continue to connect its recruitment campaigns to a strategic workforce plan.
“That’s something that’s unique to BMS, and that won’t change,” Erin confirmed. “What may change is a heightened focus on more segmentation of the workforce. We’re trying to make the brand experiential to all of our applicants.”
It’s important not to assume people have heard about the brand or know what it means.
“Taking our brand to our target audiences with intent is a big learning,” she said. “We want every touchpoint with the brand to feel consistent. That is what I’m focused on for 2020.”
She also advised to seek constructive debates over the constraints of your social media parameters.
“We need to help critical stakeholders who aren’t involved with talent and recruitment understand why having a strong employment brand is so critical,” Erin said. “When my team started our campaigns, I didn’t have data to share with our internal stakeholders like corporate communications, corporate affairs and legal, so the story of ROI was weak. But as we pushed ourselves to be more focused on insights, we started to tease out followers, engagement, cost per click and hires.”
“In the future,” said Erin, “Recruitment is going to be all about marketing. The days of posting and praying are over. To adapt, you’ve got to have a strong employment brand, you’ve got to focus on the right channels, and you must have the means to connect with your target audiences and resonate with them.”
Erin Pierpoint has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2017. You can follow her on LinkedIn.