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Remember when Super Bowl ads were all about dancing babies, beer, and cars?

I guess they still are — with puppies, horses, and monkeys mixed in. But earlier this month, ERE reported that one company will buck all of those trends. In fact, the company — 84 Lumber — won’t use its 90-seconds of fame to market its products or services at all.

Instead, it’ll sell the promise of a career. And it’ll reportedly spend $15 million to do it.

Let that sink in for a second. One company will invest what some companies budget for an entire year’s worth of recruiting advertising on one 90-second commercial. All in the name of appealing to men — ideally, those in the 20-29 age bracket — who might be interested in the 400 new jobs 84 Lumber hopes to fill in 2017. (Think about that cost-per-hire…)

Now, I’m not here to debate 84 Lumber’s strategy or to suggest its gamble will ignite some new trend in talent acquisition. I can’t see employer branding folks suddenly running to their VPs to beg for multi-million dollar line items for next year’s Super Bowl.

But I do think 84 Lumber’s approach says something about the state of talent acquisition.

Namely: That it’s time to admit we aren’t waging some amorphous war for “talent.” Instead, we’re engaged in a no-holds-barred street fight for the right people — one in which multi-billion dollar companies are apparently willing to bet $15 million on one ad to elevate the quality of candidates they attract.

It’s that important.


What Does This Mean for Your Business?

For talent acquisition leaders, I think this begs an important question: How will this fight — and the broader TA evolution it’s igniting — impact your company’s future?

That’s not a question I’m equipped to answer, but having lived through the marketing world’s consumer-centric, Web 2.0 revolution, I do know this: Opting for status quo — that warm, comfortable place where you continue doing the things the way you’ve always done them — won’t cut it.

Look, I understand. Most TA leaders are tired of being lectured about change. Many know that their proverbial baby isn’t destined to end up on the TA equivalent of a Gerber jar. And it seems widely accepted that the legacy technology TA teams have been saddled with (namely, the ATS) was never designed to build relationships with the right people, or generate meaningful intelligence across all aspects of sourcing, recruiting, and hiring strategy.

But here’s the problem: Bemoaning those challenges and seeking temporary workarounds for them won’t get you anywhere.

Not when companies like 84 Lumber are dropping $15 million on one ad and Fortune 500 businesses like Thermo Fisher Scientific, GE, and CH2M are investing heavily in evolving how they connect with, engage, and retain the right people. And not when every workforce trend suggests we’re moving toward a fundamental transformation of talent supply and demand.


Consider these numbers:

  • Pew Research Center data shows that Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age at a rate of 10,000 per day — a trend that will continue through 2030 when 18% of the population will reach that milestone.
  • Data from one recent survey showed that 63% of the 55 million Americans entering the Gig Economy are doing so by choice, rather than by necessity. This includes growing numbers of highly skilled professionals — a trend the Harvard Business Review termed “The Rise of the Supertemp.”
  • A nationwide survey of more than 1,000 HR managers and recruiters found that 53% of companies have hired people who weren’t qualified simply because they needed to fill the position immediately. Not surprisingly, 83% say doing so hurt their business — either from lost revenue, slower product development, or increased employee burnout.

And this is just the beginning.

If the world’s best analysts and researchers are to be believed, talent supply and demand will continue to shift — and not in a direction that’s favorable for those on the demand side of the hiring equation. As that happens, a line will be drawn in the sand between the organizations that choose to proactively transform their TA strategy, and those that opt to remain in the friendly confines of status quo.


You Have Two Choices: Disrupt or Be Disrupted

Now, you might be thinking that the companies you compete against would never spend $15 million on one recruiting ad. Or that your business won’t be directly impacted by Baby Boomers retiring. Or that the trend toward more flexible employment isn’t an immediate threat to your talent acquisition strategy.

And all of that might be true — for now.

But these trends will eventually impact every bucket in the talent pool. And as competition for the right people escalates, you’ll be forced to deal with an uncomfortable reality: Will the companies you compete against adapt before you do? And if so, how will the ripple effects of professional Darwinism impact your company’s ability to execute, innovate, grow, and, survive? Will it be too late for you to start building and nurturing relationships with the right people?

That’s the real threat of status quo.

Just as Blackberry, Polaroid, and Blockbuster crashed because they refused to accept a future their competitors found so obvious, businesses will fail because they were too slow to accept the modern realities of talent acquisition.

Which brings me to Recruitment Marketing.

This isn’t a fad or a trend. It’s an opportunity to control your organization’s future. It’s a mechanism to build better, invest smarter, and innovate faster through the connections your company makes and the people it hires. And, when it’s done right, it’s the only way to see — with true clarity — where your hiring strategy’s working and where it needs work.

In short: It’s a way to finally make sense of all the nonsense you’ve been dealing with for so long. And it’s your chance to choose: Will you disrupt or be disrupted?


Did you know: 34% of the Fortune 500 have fully embraced recruitment marketing? To find out more about what those companies are doing and how it’s helping them create a competitive advantage, download SmashFly’s Recruitment Marketing Report Card for the 2016 Fortune 500.

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