While some employers are only just beginning to embrace the world of talent branding, Lisa Colella is a veteran in the space. Early in her career, she began applying her creative problem solving skills to work through complex HR challenges at top agencies like TMP and Alexander Mann Solutions. She then moved over to Philips, where she built the company’s employer brand and marketing department from the ground up. Now, inspired by her own experiences as a coach and mentor, she’s launched her own Talent Brand Coaching Program.
Colella shared with Fairygodboss what prompted her to launch this program, her take on how technology is affecting the talent branding space, and the No. 1 reason she believes investing in this kind of coaching is a no-brainer.
Tell us a bit about your career path. What are you doing currently, and what did some of your prior experiences look like?
I began my career in consumer advertising/Marketing/PR and then got introduced to the field of Recruitment Marketing when TMP Worldwide reached out to recruit me into an Account Manager role in 2007. At the time, the space was extremely new (classified ads and jobs boards, mainly). I saw an opportunity to apply my strategy and creative skills to solve complex HR challenges for client brands at a more sophisticated level, and evolve this niche profession at large.
From there, I fulfilled several agency/consulting roles for TMP Worldwide up until 2010 when I was recruited by Alexander Mann Solutions to launch the Employer Brand & Marketing practice in North America. Once established, a Philips recruiter phone call triggered a curiosity to go in-house and really empathize with the complexities of a global, multi-national brand. Once there, I built the entire employer brand and marketing team capability for Philips from the ground up, first in North America and then globally, which took me all around the world and included 2.5 years living abroad in Amsterdam.
I’m now excited to be able to share my experiences, hard lessons and learnings with other fellow practitioners and brand representatives who are striving for success while grappling with the same emotional and intellectual issues I’ve had to work through while wearing many different hats over the years.
How and why did you decide to start the Talent Brand Coaching Program?
A few drivers have contributed to my calling to start the program.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of coaching and the growth mindset it drives on both sides of the relationship. As I’ve grown up in this space, though, I have found that I’ve either had to choose a general life coach or a general leadership coach. I’ve not been able to find anyone able to do both, not to mention offer useful technical insights, tips and tools specific to my profession. This proved there is/was a gap in the market.
Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve also started to have an abundance of Talent Brand Managers reach out to me in search of coaching, guidance and mentorship. Given the increase in demand for skills in this space, it makes total sense. Many are new to the profession entirely, in new roles at a new company, or facing new challenges they’ve never had to navigate before. They are wise to seek support and partnership from others like myself who have been in the space longer, and seen a lot of different situations play out. I’ve always loved the opportunity to work with these passionate people, but the ad hoc, 1x sessions always seemed to leave both sides wanting more.
Lastly, I’ve observed many senior Talent Acquisition or HR leaders want to build a talent brand capability for their organization, but not able to afford a senior, experienced person to lead it long term. Many times I’ve seen job descriptions that would appeal to seasoned executives only to discover that the salary price tag is really meant for someone with less than 5 years of experience. Their filling the role hasn’t always led to expectations from either party being met.
All of these factors considered, I realized a focused, 1:1 coaching program was missing in the market and could significantly benefit all sides. I’m really excited to work with individuals, witness their progressive growth, and drive a community of support when there is overlap in challenges or desired focus areas!
Can you share a case study of someone you’ve worked with?
One great example would be someone I coached on my team at Philips. I hired her for her intellectual potential and character even though she had zero talent branding experience. What I didn’t realize at the time of hire was that she had fairly low self-confidence in general, and a desire to become more influential in her communication skills. She presented herself so well during the interview process, I felt for sure she was as confident in her abilities as I was in her.
While it wasn’t labeled as formally at the time, I focused my ongoing coaching with her with the “triple threat” approach — Mindset, Knowledge and Influence. Within 12-18 months she went from not knowing what an EVP was and not confident to admit that, to someone who our talent branding team looked up to as a thought leader and collaborative role model. The best part was that we took learnings and inspiration from her background in consumer marketing along the way, and her humble, teamwork-oriented nature actually set a great tone for our broader team culture: all around win-win!
What do you think the most pressing issues are today for a talent brand professional?
Many that I have encountered and see brought up time and time again in online forums I am a part of include:
Getting buy-in for enough funding and earning enough credibility with senior stakeholders to be able to have the impact desired in the role.
Establishing a balanced, collaborative partnership with Corp. Comms / Marketing, or other internal teams that have the ability to either enable or hinder successful outcomes.
Keeping up with the pace of change in the job market and technology landscape: new online channels, social media platforms, generational insights, workforce strategy changes, etc.
Prioritization and differentiation. Talent brand professionals are constantly having to face the reality that they can’t be everything to everybody despite many leadership teams’ belief that they should try. Having a bulletproof, persona-driven strategy and the confidence to stick to it in the face of pressure is a challenge many encounter.
Underlying a lot of the internal struggles is the right mindset and belief in one’s self and team that they deserve to have a seat at the table and that they bring a tremendous amount of value to the organization. Many struggle to embody that position of power and articulate that value.
Are there any issues that you think women in talent branding face due to gender bias or other discrimination issues?
I don’t think there are issues specific to the talent branding space, but I think female talent brand professionals aren’t immune to the broader issues in play. I think in the professional space, we women are constantly scrutinized, and judged without consideration of context much more frequently and intensely than men. This, coupled with the fact that these roles usually sit in an enabling function “cost center” of a business, just means that women may need to work a little smarter, consciously operate from a place of confidence, and surround themselves with more support to be successful.
Many workplaces have also valued, celebrated and thrived off of “male dominant” traits for centuries, so it is an uphill battle for women to prove that there actually can be a different, more graceful, [maybe even better] path to success by infusing more “female dominant” traits into teams and cultures. I’ve found that it is often very scary to do this when you are in the minority, but afterwards many people are thankful because it has given them the platform for more transparency, greater expression of their own tendencies and further personal growth as well.
Talk about the state of technology in talent brand. What tools do you think talent branders should be on the lookout for? And what’s the best way to stay in the know?
Technology in this space is a whirlwind right now. Lots of options, lots of startup / acquisition cycles, lots of experiments with AI happening. In my opinion, HR tech at large is still behind eCommerce and Consumer Marketing tech so candidates are still largely dissatisfied. My advice to talent branders is not to get too caught up in all of it. At the end of the day, a tool or technology is only as good as the strategy it supports and the creative content that gets delivered through it. In many cases, talent brand managers have little say in the enterprise level technology choices anyways.
So set your strategy in alignment with higher level business and brand objectives. Get a really strong, insights-driven positioning and creative identity in place to unify your talent branding efforts, map your holistic candidate experience journey and then see what tech stack is best suited to bring it all to life in the best way possible. Within the stack should be a personalized careers platform, dynamic CRM and applicant tracking system with the “best possible” front-end UX for candidates. There are some good video and employee advocacy platforms out there as well, but those need to be part of a more holistic strategy to be worth the investment in the long run.
What’s the no. 1 reason that you believe women should consider the Talent Brand Coaching Program?
Because investments in self and self-support ALWAYS have positive ROI.
It’s a little bit like the age-old saying about education: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” In this case, it is more than just knowledge. It is about investing in your personal and professional growth holistically across the spectrum of intellectual and emotional levels from which you need to operate to be successful in this challenging profession.
Brag! What’s something you’re very good at?
Creative problem solving. It sounds somewhat vague, but others have told me that I have an uncanny ability to find a way to piece together different options and derive great outcomes from situations that others might give up or be lost in. I also give really thoughtful, unique gifts. (Christmas is coming!!! :) )
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I’ve done some good duets to “Picture” by Sheryl Crowe and Kid Rock, but have always wanted to take voice lessons to improve my performance. One day (maybe after I’m done changing diapers), I will invest in that coaching program for myself ;)