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Božena Petikonis-Šabanienė: Every Second Company Struggles to Fill Open Positions

Božena Petikonis-Sabaniene is an innovative leader with over 15 year’s experience in HR business solutions. She has been leading the global HR company ManpowerGroup branch in Lithuania for 10 years and currently holds the position of Head of HR in the international group of companies Ignitis Renewables. Božena often shares her insights and vision of the future of work on Lithuanian media, international conferences and personal LinkedIn account, recognized as one of the most prestigious employer branding channels in Lithuania. Božena will be covering employer branding at our upcoming B2B marketing and sales seminar in Vilnius.

It is safe to say, that in most European markets, we are witnessing a situation where it’s more difficult to attract talent than to sell products to consumers. PR agencies have recognised this trend as a superb opportunity for new business. How is the situation in Lithuania?

We are experiencing a record high talent shortage all over the world. In some locations, we haven’t seen anything like it for 10-15 years and Lithuania is not an exception here: every second company has trouble filling open positions. That goes for all industries and all types of companies. Combined, this is the driver behind increasing interest in employer branding.

We are also faced with a situation where there are no active candidates for almost any positions, which means attracting attention of passive candidates who are not looking into job ads. Thus, other means are implemented. According to surveys, they are twice likely to accept your cold message if they have already heard about your company. Employer branding is of the same importance as the overall awareness of the brand and that’s probably the reason why PR agencies are getting more orders nowadays.

However, it’s important to recognise that employer branding is more than just spreading your message – it’s part of a complex mix where all activities should go in combination with the company’s business goals, culture and benefits structure.

If you evaluate the overall quality of employer branding today – what’s your verdict? How are we doing?

According to my observations, the employer branding boom started some 3-5 years ago with the arrival of international companies who were setting up their local competency centres in Lithuania. The employer branding phenomena was then spread among the locals. But it seems that the latter regard it as something that must be done, as opposed to having a clear image of the purpose behind these activities: the key elements, the KPIs. Employer branding should be measured like any other business activity. As a result, we see beautiful visuals with empty messages and there is no authenticity to that. It’s also sometimes seen as a pure PR function and not aligned with other strategies. And finally, employer branding is not just about attracting talent – it should be aligned with every step on the employee journey.

What would be the relevant KPIs for employer branding?

It depends on the stage of the employee’s journey. If we talk about retention or how long employees are staying with your company then it’s probably the retention rate: the number of people that are coming back after parental leaves or after leaving the company for another employer. You look at the KPIs that are directly related to the area towards which you are implementing employer branding activities.

Interested in learning more about employer branding? Join us in Vilnius on November 29th.

It’s rather easy for consumer brands like LIDL, Rimi or IKEA to attract employees because the awareness is very high and employer branding is easily mixed with other branding activities. It’s very different with unknown B2B companies. What are your recommendations for these companies?

Employer branding should always focus on the audience. The goal is not to cover as many people as possible, but to reach the people you need, your dream employees. For example, in Lithuania there is a small city called Alytus and let’s say they have a factory which is looking for employees. We should focus on the channels that are relevant for the people living in Alytus, not the whole country of Lithuania. These could be community Facebook accounts, traditional local media, face-to-face community meetings, schools, etc.

What are the most common channels for employer branding overall?

If we’re talking about so-called white-collars or intellectual professionals, the number one channel is social media and LinkedIn in particular. Facebook (Meta), Instagram and TikTok work for younger audiences. Traditional media is still very effective in more rural areas where LinkedIn is not highly recognised. And finally, schools and universities are a great place for doing employer branding activities.

In the startup world, we often see employees sharing moments from their work life. It is not clear whether this is a voluntary action or there are some bonuses in place, but it looks very organic nevertheless. A corporate message could never compete. How do you turn employees into brand advocates?

Advocate programs are very much trending right now. The Baltic states are no exception. The most important factor is to lead by example – the leadership should be involved in that process. Otherwise it gets very difficult to create movement within the teams. I’ve seen examples where the initiative has been taken by not necessarily executive level managers, but leaders of different functions (from marketing to HR). Step by step other employees just joined in. You need to inspire and explain why it’s necessary. At the end of the day, it works because people trust people.

What would be your top three recommendations for B2B companies that are looking into employer branding?

1. Employer branding is not a marketing or a PR activity. Define a clear purpose and strategy. Why are you doing it?

2. Set you KPIs in the very beginning. It drives motivation.

3. Strive for consistency, otherwise your message will be lost.

Photo source: VERSLO ŽINIOS


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