Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Employment Brand I Love to Hate

I hate the Yankees - with a passion.

Born and raised a Mets fan, I have to hate the Yankees. That's just part of the deal. It burns me that they are on the verge of another World Series appearance.

But as a recruiting professional I have to admire their employment brand. Sure the Yankees pay well (the average Yankee salary is 50% more than the average of the next closest team). But the biggest reason that the Yankees payroll is so large is because is that when the best players in the game have the choice to play anywhere, more times than not they choose to play in pinstripes.

Last off season, the Yankees landed top free agent slugger Mark Teixeira. Teixeira had at least 5 other competitive offers including perennial playoff teams Bostson and Anaheim, as well as his hometown teams - Baltimore and Washington. Teixeira choose to play in New York, despite having to change his preferred number (23) which he had previously worn in honor of his boyhood idol, New York Yankee legend Don Mattingly. This might seem trivial, but many professional locker rooms have had battles over players' numbers.

Ace pitcher CC Sabathia recently choose the Yankees over other offers that would have kept him closer to his family and home in California. Alex Rodriguez re-signed with the Yankees in 2007 despite long battles with the New York fans/media, and the fact that A-Rod will always be second banana to Derek Jeter, who's status as Mr. Yankee forced A-Rod to switch positions from Shortstop to 3rd Base. And all Yankee players have to deal with playing under the unrelenting scrutiny of the New York media, for an ownership family that at times has been overbearing and counterproductive to the team's success.

Why do top players, who have their choice of places to play and will make gobs of money wherever they land, choose to play in the Bronx? Because the Yankee organization has a long and storied history of winning - and great players want to be around winners. 26 World Championships, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Berra - all winners, all icons, all Yankees. The winning culture and history of the Yankees helps them attract and retain great talent.

I hear a lot of buzz about employment branding, and I'm a fan. Organizations need to figure out what makes them unique, and do a great job of conveying that value to potential hires. But the best employment branding starts with committing the time and resources required to hire and retain great people, building a culture of winning, and then leveraging your success to attract other great people. The rest is just fluff.

Go Phillies.