• Vladimir Benic

Talent Competitiveness and Employer Branding

In this article you can read about the context of market and talent landscape on national level and how to position your employer brand with respect to country's strengths and weaknesses


The whole purpose of employer brand management is to offer unique and differentiating benefits relative to the company's strategy, target group needs (employees you wish to retain and hire) and talent market landscape. On the basis of Global Talent Competitiveness Index, this article is proposing an approach which you can apply to evaluate your employer branding efforts in order to thrive on the market and exploit market weaknesses and on the other side to build on market strengths and talent expectations.


Within one market or country employees have similar expectations, experiences, beliefs, often share similar work values, approaches and behaviors. Research suggests that national culture has a greater effect on employees than the culture of their organization. Similarly, national cultures affect managerial functions such as communication, motivation, organizational design, people’s expectations of work design, and reward systems [Nicholas CE, Lane HW, Brecha MB. Taking self-managed teams to Mexico. The Academy of Management Executive. 1999]. This is very complex topic, however this article is not about Hofstede's landmark research or national/corporate culture. We are mentioning this topic as it can explain a lot of research findings from the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) which is the basis of this article and we're mentioning this topic as we strongly believe that the CULTURE can be a barrier in managing your employer brands.


What is talent competitiveness?

In the context of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019 (GTCI), talent competitiveness refers to the set of policies and practices that enable a country to develop, attract, and empower the human capital that contributes to productivity and prosperity. The GTCI is an Input-Output model - it combines an assessment of what countries do to produce and acquire talents (Input: Enable, Attract, Grow, Retain) and the kind of skills that are available to them as a result (Output: VT skills, GK skills). See Figure 1.


On that note, employer branding can be seen as similar input-output model which consists of inputs - which are pillars of value propositions targeted to your workforce; and outputs - which are measurable experiences aimed at delivering employer brand desired outcomes. For example - if the goal of your employer branding is to attract and retain innovative individuals, then the input would be a set of activities aimed at addressing the needs of innovative individuals in a workplace and creating experiences which contribute to innovative individuals' perceptions, and the output would be new innovative product launches in your organisation (as one indicator of output). Employer branding is a tool which should be used to improve your workplace - from it's very foundations to more advanced applications of addressing talent needs and delivering business strategy.


A few details on the index itself. The GTCI 2019 model includes 68 variables, which fall within the following categories:

1. Hard/quantitative data (25 variables)

2. Index/composite indicator data (15 variables)

3. Survey/qualitative data (28 variables)


GTCI addresses the topic of Entrepreneurial Talent and Global Competitiveness and attempts to identify the ways in which large and small firms, nations, and cities can foster entrepreneurial talent in the era of digital transformation. More info and entire report you can find here.


Figure 1. GTCI MODEL

The GTCI is a model developed by INSEAD, the Adecco Group and Tata Communications


Regarding Output, the GTCI differentiates between two levels of talent, which can be broadly thought of as mid-level and high-level skills.


  • Mid-level skills, labelled Vocational and Technical Skills (or VT Skills), describes skills that have a technical or professional base acquired through vocational or professional training and experience. The impact of VT Skills is measured by the degree of employability to which they lead. Employability is measured by indicators of skills gaps and labour market mismatches and by the adequacy of educational systems.

  • High-level skills, labelled Global Knowledge Skills (or GK Skills), deal with knowledge workers in professional, managerial, or leadership roles that require creativity and problem solving. Their economic impact is evaluated by indicators of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the development of high-value industries.


Together, VT Skills and GK Skills constitute the two Output pillars of the GTCI model.



Is our talent competitive and where is our place on a global scale?


First let's observe the differences on selected categories in our region - categories are selected as being one of the most lower scored (ranked) for these countries.

We label them as talent weaknesses and they represent a great starting point for consideration about your employer brand positioning.


Figure 2. Comparison of Croatia, BiH, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro on selected GTCI areas

Figures represent RANK of each country on selected area. There are 125 countries in report, which means that areas with higher rank are "weaknesses" in terms of talent competitiveness compared to other countries, GTCI report 2019.



Why is employer branding so important for our market? It is not about having the employer brand management practices, it is about activating them in organisations and creating better employee experiences


When developing employer branding guidelines and strategy, market landscape has an important role in understanding current trends and weaknesses. These weaknesses can be the basis for doing internal audit and establishing is there a differentiation between your organisation and the talent experiences and needs on the market.


If we use typical Attract - Grow - Retain talent management model and build our company's employer branding strategy on the pillars of talent attraction, development and retention - we should be aware of the market specifics. Therefore, GTCI model gives an extensive overview which strategies can be successful when addressing talent needs.


If we look at Croatia and Slovenia for example, these are areas with most significant gaps:

  • the biggest gap is between rank on leadership opportunities for women: Croatia ranks 105., Slovenia ranks 28. This means that your EVP can highlight women opportunities in Croatia as something valuable for women, but in Slovenia might be something which is regarded as already present and weak differentiator,

  • employee development rank has the second biggest gap (75 places) in favor of Slovenia - with similar logic, there is obviously the need to find different approaches to employee development, as value proposition on these two markets will be evaluated differently,

  • collaboration within companies has rank gap (71 places) in favor of Slovenia - this means Slovenian employees have much stronger collaboration internally within their organisations compared to Croatian employees,

  • significant gap (65 places) occurs on labour-employer collaboration - meaning relationship between employees and companies is generally confrontational in Croatia, while it is much more cooperative in Slovenia.


What are the implications for your employer branding efforts?


There are several important areas which can be implemented in order to build / redefine feasible strategic employer branding initiatives:


  • Relevance of your EVP on different markets - If you have operations in both countries there are direct implications on the EVP and attraction and retention activities. While in Croatia - employer branding could be built around employee development and women leadership opportunities, in Slovenia this will be perceived as something very usual and not that much distinctive (in broad terms, it can still work on a case-by-case basis).

  • Evaluation of your EVP and employer branding strategy with respect to market strengths and weaknesses - Important implication to stay competitive is to analyse the gap between your organisation and market landscape. Employer brand needs to be managed internally, have relevance and authenticity to a segment which is most relevant for - your employees. Having good understanding of your company vs market can help you to deep dive in perceptions and workforce needs, leading to a stronger value proposition and more success in results of your employer branding efforts.

  • Competitiveness benchmark - Meaning - if the market offers strong employee development, there is a higher bar to be reached only to be competitive and not lag behind the competition. This can mean more advanced practices and activities should be implemented just to be at par with the market. This analysis should be done for your main competitors and it should be evaluated what are priorities and needs of your target workforce.



When market is complacent and we have weak fundamentals, we need stronger role of companies to improve talent competitiveness, especially market leaders


As we can see on Figure 2, there are several categories which have long-term effect on negative outlook of talent competitiveness in Croatia:

  • we have very negative Brain gain (attraction of talent) - out of 125 countries Croatia is at 123. place, only 2 countries have worse brain gain, those are: BiH and Venezuela,

  • on top of that we have significant brain drain (people leaving Croatia for work) which diminishes our talent pool and makes it very hard to ensure talent competitiveness, availability of skills companies need to operate, grow, etc.

  • this leads to having very low score on Ease of finding skilled employees,

  • we have one of the worst scores on labour-employer relations - which needs years of different management approach to be reversed,

  • we have very low score on collaboration within companies,

  • employee development and delegating authority are barriers for growth happening

This all leads to lower than needed employee investments, less growth opportunities, less diversity, lower innovation and entrepreneurial efforts and causes the brain drain while being unattractive for brain gain.



Figure 3. Croatia - rank and scores on Enable pillar


Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments


One of the most shocking ranks is the one associated with labour-employer cooperation (123.) and collaboration within organisations (112.)

Labour-employer cooperation is a survey based data which answers the question: In your country, how do you characterize labour-employer relations?

[1 = generally confrontational; 7 = generally cooperative].

Croatia has a score of 9.65 (scores are in a range 1 to 100), which ranks us as one of the worst countries on this category. This is a very disturbing problem especially if you are working in service industries or people-intensive sectors where employee capabilities are the main source of competitiveness.


Collaboration within organisation has a score of 16.72 and this answers the question: In your country, to what extent do people collaborate and share ideas within a company?

[1 = not at all; 7 = to a great extent]


The whole purpose of modern human resources management is to help companies to win on the market (D. Ulrich), and to activate and measure processes which lead to increase in employee's competences, development, collaboration, engagement and performance. As we can see, our "input" is obviously not sufficient to make as a talent competitive market (in general). Despite of certain positive examples and market leaders which are making a difference in our country, we are lagging behind with the fundamental elements of building a productive workforce (or talent). These findings require a systematic approach to the topic of talent management and practices we apply in our organisations. The goal of a systematic approach is to identify the most efficient means to generate consistent, optimum results.


Figure 4. Croatia - ranks and scores on Attract pillar


Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments

Selected areas are highlighted as weaknesses and due to low brain gain and economic migrations we are witnessing in the last few years. These areas will be even worse in the next reporting period. These are certain structural puzzles which can not be changed in the short-term or with some quick wins.


Figure 5. Croatia - ranks and scores on Grow pillar


Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments

What are our challenges in terms of growth of our talents? We have high vocational enrolment relative to all enrolment (which is not a good indicator), and we have satisfactory tertiary enrolment - but then we will see on the output side that those programs are not producing relevant market skills for their students and graduates.


When discussing employer branding efforts, many companies hope to position as places with "growth opportunities" however, there should be good understanding at what level are their empowerment and collaboration capabilities. It is very hard to position your organisation as growth "power house" without professional management being ready to delegate authority, freedom of expression, collaboration within departments as important enablers of learning and development. Collaboration with other companies can provide strong learning opportunities as well. To start building your employer branding strategy around growth - try to evaluate and create experiences which will enable these areas to shine having in mind country specifics.


Figure 6. Croatia - ranks and scores on Retain pillar

Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments


There are obvious environmental, safety and lifestyle advantages of living in Croatia. This is a segment which is the least relevant for modelling employer branding strategies as it only covers Quality of life areas. It is not that specific to your organisation as you are competing for talent with other companies on the market on other value proposition variables relevant for retention. Retention in companies is influenced with main factors addresses in enable, attract, grow pillars.


Figure 7. Croatia - ranks and scores on Vocational and technical skills - output

Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments


As we are constantly saying about the role of companies in skills development - if we want to strengthen our talent pool there should be much higher investments in employee development and professional skills development to minimize the gap between skills which market (companies) needs and skills which are a product of formal education (schooling).



Figure 8. Croatia - ranks and scores on Global knowledge skills - output

Source: GTCI 2019 report, authors comments



What can be the better approach? Play to market strengths or weaknesses?

In short, you should always play to your organisations' strengths, choose one or two purpose-driven projects where the market is lagging the most (weakness) and which will have the biggest impact and relevance on your business strategy and goals. Regarding market strengths - you should be competitive and not lag behind, have good understanding of talent needs and their short-term expectations. Do not forget, that in terms of creating great workplaces - the future holds what we create ourselves - you have the possibility to steer entire nations in that context.


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If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail or have certain employer branding challenges, feel free to contact me at vlado@careercentar.com


If you have successful employer branding practices you would like to share - consider apply to Croatia's Best Employer Brand Awards 2020

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