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

Back in the late 1990s, Clayton Christensen popularized the “Jobs To Be Done” theory. He used a milkshake to explain how consumers hire various products or services to get jobs done.

At the time, McDonalds was trying to increase sales of milkshakes. The thinking at the time was that people bought milkshakes as a treat or to fill their tummies. But the marketing team at headquarters missed an important insight.

While doing some research, Christensen and his team realized that there was a large group of customers who bought their milkshakes in the morning – on the way to work. For them, the “job” of the milkshakes was to be a travel buddy or something “fun”. The team found a different group of customers who bought their milkshakes in the afternoon – but for an entirely different reason. These consumers primarily bought milkshakes as a special treat for their kids.

As Theodore Levitt said, “people do not want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”

The milkshake in the morning was purchased to help the morning traveler stay awake, or to help make their commute more fun. These milkshakes were made thick and required more time to finish.

Whereas the morning milkshake was comparable to a travel buddy, the one in the afternoon was viewed more as a replacement for something else – in this case, “stopping at the toy store”. Afternoon milkshakes were made thin and could be finished fast. With a thinner milkshake, parents were able to give their children an inexpensive and special treat that finished quickly so they could get home fast.

The job of the thick milkshake was to keep the commuter busy and awake. The job of the thin milkshake was to reward, appease, sooth, or calm a bunch of rowdy kids. The same item but for two very different reasons.

Before doing their research, Christensen and his team might have been led to believe a milkshake was simply a milkshake. But by reframing the issue – by asking “what job are you trying to hire this milkshake for” – they improved their own understanding and were able to make recommendations on how to modify the ingredients, communicate the value, and promote the milkshake as a “niche” solution.

Thinking about our challenges through a "jobs to be done" lens allows us to reframe it. It provides a new - and maybe even better - way to think about what's in front of us.

Establishing an authentic, strong employer brand is one of the most challenging problems talent acquisition leaders face.

Set correctly, and it can be an incredibly valuable tool to help attract, engage, and retain our best people. It can serve as confirmation to employees that our company is the right place for people to work at right now. It can be your beacon – something to explain why or how our company will develop new skills and set people on the right career path. It acts to support our “true north” messages, corporate aspirations, company culture, or any combination of desired performances, behaviors, and other talent criteria. For many, it serves as the cornerstone for a successful talent marketing initiative.

An authentic and strong employer brand can also help to lower recruiting costs, improve pre-hire completion rates (forms, assessments, surveys, applications), reduce turnover rates, boost employee morale, strengthen overall company reputation, and so much more.

But uncovering your best employer brand is tricky stuff. A great employer brand can become a real competitive advantage, but share and advertise a signal that is slightly off-note, and all you get back is noise and confusion.

So, how’s your own employer brand coming along? Not sure how to articulate it correctly so it resonates with employees and potential candidates? Struggling to translate data into insights you can use or not sure where to start? Maybe it’s time to reframe the issue around its jobs-to-be-done.

Six questions to consider when rethinking your employer brand:

  • What profile or personas do we want to target for growth?
  • What “job” is the candidate trying to get done?
  • What are all the steps that comprise the candidate’s job-to-be-done?
  • What are all the associated emotional jobs the candidate might have?
  • What is the candidate’s most desired outcome?
  • What are the other acceptable outcomes?

To help your company navigate change and lead the shift to modern talent acquisition get in touch, or to join TalentSum as a colleague and do rewarding work that integrates with your life, visit careers to learn more about the profiles we seek.

Continue reading

Our newsletter

Get insights and tips to build on.

Subscribe and we'll send our content directly to your inbox.
No spam!