What every leader can learn from McKinsey about employer branding


As their companies compete for an increasingly limited talent pool, an increasing number of executives are quickly discovering the value of the employer brand. In 2021, it’s still a relatively new topic of conversation on most boards, although in the world’s largest companies building an employer brand has been a focus for much longer – and the benefits are obvious.

Take McKinsey & Co., for example. The firm which is almost universally regarded as the most prestigious consulting firm in the world did not achieve this reputation by accident. For most of its existence, it has made investing in talent its No.1 priority, and those investments have paid off. Top undergraduates, MBAs, and career changers from around the world flock to the company every year, and nearly all see it as a stepping stone to professional greatness. It is not by chance either.

A case study on the employer brand

McKinsey executives know that a strong employer brand starts internally. The company has a clear value proposition for employees: Work here, and when you leave you can work wherever you want. And, more importantly, he has a long history in the matter. At one point in the early 2000s, more than 70 current and former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were McKinsey alumni.

But the strength of its employer brand goes far beyond a reputation for launching incredible careers and fostering the growth of the most phenomenal talent. At the heart of it is, well, the heart. Everything McKinsey does is aimed at reinforcing the history and essence of the company, and the place of employees in it. A good example of this is McKinsey’s “Find Your Fit” quiz for potential employees, which asks nuanced and compelling questions and suggests positions candidates might like based on their results. Beyond that, the company shares videos highlighting its commitment (and action to) foster diversity, sustainability, purpose and impact. It also does an intentional recruiting of graduates by showing graduates why the McKinsey employer brand might be right for them.

While the business has its flaws, the overwhelming evidence suggests that its employer brand remains effective. Talented people always want to work at McKinsey, and the firm continues to advise the most influential organizations on the planet.

Building an employer brand like McKinsey’s

A strong employer brand cannot compensate for a poor product, disengaged employees, or a bad company culture. However, it can help you prevent these things and ensure that you have the skills and expertise you need to achieve your goals. And the more ambitious these goals, the more important the investment in your employer brand becomes.

That said, what if you’re a business leader with big dreams and a great need for talent but don’t have the McKinsey draw? Good news: you don’t have to. But you should take a few lessons from the business.

In my company, we encourage and advise our clients in employer branding strategies and practices similar to those of McKinsey. Here are some tips to help you do this in your own organization:

1. Invest in your recruiters. Like most other McKinsey employees, the company’s recruiters are some of the best at what they do. She knows her people are her product, and while this is especially true in consulting, it is arguably true of any business. Your success is largely determined by the talent you are able to attract.

As the business landscape becomes increasingly digital, McKinsey has deliberately sought recruiters with experience in sourcing top tech talent (often on behalf of the world’s largest tech companies). Its recruiters represent nearly 1.5% of its total workforce, three times more than its closest competitor.

2. Develop your alumni network. Many modern employer branding initiatives focus on improving retention measures at all costs. The reality is that there isn’t much you can do to influence the career choices of your valued employees, and as the younger generations seek more professional mobility, it will become more and more difficult.

Instead of bemoaning this fact, McKinsey celebrates the successes of former employees and strives to cultivate a network of alumni that will help them attract even more talent. According to the company’s own data, its alumni website accounts for about 10% of all web traffic, and it’s not just because it’s a global business. Executives understand that former employees, whether they have been with the company for two or twenty years, are among its most valuable assets as they become brand ambassadors who validate its value proposition for employees. They are social proof that the story McKinsey tells is genuine and substantial.

3. Create an authentic story for your public. Take a survey of former McKinsey consultants, and most will likely tell you that working at the firm has been a defining experience for your career and a stepping stone to even bigger and better opportunities. This is exactly how McKinsey would have done it. For decades, the firm has positioned itself not as the ultimate career destination, but as the ultimate career catalyst.

McKinsey knows the kind of people it needs to attract and has crafted a simple yet powerful employee value proposition that appeals to them directly. She cultivates a culture of unabashed performance, in which all employees are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to advance their careers. If these opportunities present themselves internally through promotion or high-level engagement, great. But if the internal trajectory of an employee in the company stagnates, that is not a bad thing. There are only a limited number of desirable leadership positions in an organization, regardless of its size, and if McKinsey employees are not on track to land one, they are encouraged to seek opportunities. somewhere else. To some people it might seem cold, but for the ultra-competitive and successful candidates McKinsey must attract in order to maintain its position as a global leader in consulting, this is an ideal place to work.

The company, known to insiders as “The Firm,” didn’t build its employer brand overnight, and neither do you. It will take strategic planning and execution, often over the course of many years, to build a reputation that attracts the best candidates on its own merits. However, start with the tips above and you can start building the foundation for a stronger employer brand right now.