Apply Jobs-to-be-Done Thinking To Employer Brands

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Back in the late 1990s, Clayton Christensen brought the "Jobs To Be Done" theory into the limelight, using a milkshake to demonstrate how consumers engage with various products or services to accomplish specific tasks.

At that time, McDonald's aimed to boost their milkshake sales. The prevailing belief was that milkshakes were purchased either as a treat or for satiety. However, a key insight was overlooked by the marketing team at headquarters.

During their research, Christensen and his team uncovered a significant number of customers purchasing milkshakes in the morning, en route to work. For these customers, the milkshake served as a commuting companion or a source of enjoyment. Conversely, a different customer group bought milkshakes in the afternoon primarily as treats for their children.

Theodore Levitt famously stated, "People don't want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole." This concept was mirrored in the milkshake study. Morning milkshakes, thick and time-consuming to consume, served to keep travelers awake and make their commute enjoyable. In contrast, afternoon milkshakes, thinner and quicker to finish, were akin to a quick stop at the toy store, offering parents a fast, affordable treat for their children.

The thick morning milkshake served to engage and energize commuters, while the thin afternoon variant was designed to quickly gratify, pacify, or calm energetic children. Thus, the same product served distinctly different purposes.

Before this research, Christensen and his team might have assumed that a milkshake was just a milkshake. However, by asking "What job is this milkshake being hired for?" they gained deeper insights, enabling them to suggest modifications in ingredients, marketing strategies, and positioning the milkshake as a targeted solution.

When executed effectively, a strong employer brand becomes a potent force multiplier for the business.

Viewing challenges through the "Jobs To Be Done" lens allows us to rethink and potentially discover more effective solutions. This approach is particularly relevant in establishing a robust and authentic employer brand, a significant challenge for talent acquisition leaders. When done well, a strong employer brand is a powerful tool to attract, engage, and retain top talent.

It serves as a testament to current employees that the company is the right place for them. It acts as a beacon, guiding the development of new skills and career paths, and supports the company's overarching messages, culture, and talent aspirations. An effective employer brand can also reduce recruitment costs, improve pre-hire processes, lower turnover rates, enhance employee morale, and bolster the company's overall reputation.

However, developing a compelling employer brand is complex. A great employer brand can provide a competitive edge, but a misaligned message can lead to confusion and dissonance.

So, how is your employer brand shaping up? Unsure how to articulate it effectively to resonate with employees and potential candidates? Struggling to convert data into actionable insights or don't know where to start? Perhaps it's time to reevaluate your approach by considering the "Jobs To Be Done" framework.

Here are 10 questions to guide your thinking about your employer brand:

  1. Primary Job of the Employer Brand: "What is the fundamental job we are hiring our employer brand to accomplish for the company? Is it to attract top talent, enhance our market reputation, or something else?"
  2. Employer Brand and Talent Attraction: "How does our employer brand help in attracting the right profiles or personas for our company's growth? What specific aspects of the brand make it effective in this 'job'?"
  3. Retention and Engagement: "What job is the employer brand doing in terms of retaining and engaging current employees? How does it contribute to job satisfaction and company loyalty?"
  4. Alignment with Company Goals: "In what ways does the employer brand support our overarching company goals and objectives? How does it align with and promote our corporate culture and values?"
  5. Impact on Candidate Perception: "How does the employer brand influence a candidate's decision-making process? What 'job' is it performing in shaping their perception of our company as a potential employer?"
  6. Differentiation in the Market: "What unique 'job' does our employer brand do in differentiating us from competitors in the eyes of potential employees and candidates?"
  7. Feedback and Adaptation: "How do we assess if the employer brand is effectively doing its job? What feedback mechanisms are in place from both internal employees and external candidates?"
  8. Brand Evolution for Future Needs: "As our company evolves, what new 'jobs' might we need our employer brand to fulfill? How adaptable is our brand to future market and internal changes?"
  9. Communicating the Brand's Value: "How do we communicate the 'jobs-to-be-done' by our employer brand internally to employees and externally to potential candidates?"
  10. Measuring Success: "What metrics or indicators will we use to measure the success of our employer brand in fulfilling its intended 'job' for the company?"

Focusing on these questions allows you to understand and articulate the specific roles and responsibilities of your employer brand from the company's perspective, and how this translates into tangible benefits for both employees and potential candidates.


Take your talent acquisition and recruitment efforts from routine to remarkable with TalentSum 360. For more information on how TalentSum 360 can unlock the full potential of your talent function, get in touch with our team today.

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