Six Weeks Paid Holiday Before Starting a New Job?

Australian businesses must think innovatively to win the war for talent.

Recently we commenced advertising for several recruitment consultants with the aim of attracting high performers to our firm in Canberra.  Included in our advertising is the offer to enjoy a six week paid holiday to new hires before starting in the job.  The idea reeks of a gimmick, doesn’t it?

In today’s job market, the list of catchy perks being offered by businesses seems to go on, and get progressively more ridiculous. In-house baristas, treadmill meeting rooms, personal chefs and meditation rooms are just a few of the recently advertised ‘extras’ used to try and catch potential employee’s eyes.  But do “perks” make a meaningful difference to attracting star performers? Do top people really move jobs for better perks?  Well, not really, but they do serve a purpose.

Talented recruitment consultants are incredibly hard to come by. In fact, our industry is in many ways a classical case study for industry sectors that experience extreme challenges when attracting high performers.  HorizonOne’s story will sound very familiar to many companies out there, especially those that demand highly-specialised skill sets, and recruit to high standards.  This has led to our significant investment in Employer Brand, and we believe our story serves as an analogy for the problems more employers will inevitably face in the future.

What is Employer Branding

In 1997, Steve Hankin and his team at global consulting leaders McKinsey and Company predicted the success of companies will rely on how well they compete in a ‘war for talent’. They predicted employers would need unique and progressive profiles, or ‘Employer Brands’.  The underlying assumption is that for knowledge intensive industries, there is an increasingly competitive landscape to recruit and retain the very best. That ultimately, it is talent in your organisation that drives your success.

Fast forward to today, and Employer Branding is a huge area for business investment where companies of all sizes compete for the best people in candidate or skill-short markets.  Employer Branding and budgets to attract talent are growing.

  • 79% of Managers/Leaders consider talent attraction as the major priority for their business (LinkedIn, 2017)
  • Over 57% of Australian recruitment leaders would invest more in Employer Branding if given more budget leeway (LinkedIn, 2017)
  • Over 66% of recruitment leaders consider talent shortages in the top three challenges their business faces (BullHorn, 2017)

Investment in Employer Brand is also yielding results:

  • Employers with strong Employer Branding see a 43% decrease in cost per hire (LinkedIn, 2015)
  • Employer Branding can increase your stock prices by 36%. (Lippincott via LinkedIn, 2013)


Your Employer Brand can’t be manufactured. It needs be genuine, and portray the culture, values and benefits that speak to the exact kind of person you want to attract.

“We decided to examine businesses like ours with more advanced Employer Brands and much bigger budgets.  Global consulting firms are leaders in the war for talent.  The efforts by firms like PWC or Deloitte in employer branding and talent attraction are market leading,” says David Harrington, Co-director of HorizonOne.

“Companies must identify what high performing employees really value. They need to think deeply, and really understand who their target people are – inhabit who they are, understand how they behave, and zero in on Employer Branding to pinpoint their motivators.” says Simon Cox, Co-director of HorizonOne.

Deloitte deliver a great example of Employer Branding in this award-winning Graduate attraction video:

Deloitte Graduate Recruitment video

And, because it never gets old, the Department of Finance remind us what it looks like when things don’t go so well:

Department of Finance Graduate Recruitment video

We wanted to see what approach would deliver success for a small to medium-sized business based in a regional city that is experiencing a major skills shortage.

So, six weeks paid holiday is Employer Branding?

Well, kind of.

By far the toughest recruitment assignments we undertake are for ourselves. Despite the Australian recruitment industry growing and evolving rapidly from a standing start about 50 years ago, recruitment firms really struggle to attract new employees. Currently, there are as many as 10,000 advertised positions for recruiters in Australia.  Things are getting harder, with the abolition of the 457 Visa and the inclusion of recruitment and HR advisers on the removal list.  This poses a problem for the Canberra market as it takes, on average, nine months to recruit a high performing consultant. This is one of the reasons why HorizonOne is sourcing talented and experienced consultants from outside of Canberra.    

HorizonOne has an established Employer Brand, having invested in continuously sharing who we are with the market.  We have invested time, money and energy into making it easier to understand who we are, what we do and what we stand for.  We also offer employees a host of benefits, which are appealing to high performers. But we still don’t attract enough talented people to our growing Canberra business.

Canberra struggles to compete with the “sexier” cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. A lot of high performers focus their attention where they believe the biggest markets are. But Canberra shouldn’t be low on the corporate recruiter’s agenda. We have:

  • the lowest unemployment rate in Australia – 3.7%
  • Consistently ranks as having the highest levels of candidate shortages in Australia for large recruitment markets such as ICT (#1) and Finance (#2)
  • in a number of ways, a ‘softer’ market for competition

A savvy consultant can set themselves up for life.  Lifestyle-wise, the culture of the Nation’s Capital is progressing with a veritable explosion of dining, nightlife and social precincts throughout the city. Culture and outdoor pursuits have always been a key feature, and remain so. Affordability-wise, you can’t compare it to the astronomical house prices and costs of living in cities like Sydney.  Canberra is regularly named one of the most liveable cities in the world, and has really stepped onto the front foot with ‘Brand Canberra’.

Therefore, we see the challenge as a marketing or communications issue, which is why our marketing material really focuses on spelling out what it is really like to work in our firm in this truly unique employment market.

Six weeks holiday cuts through the noise

The big challenge for us is that successful recruitment consultants are usually in well-paid, secure jobs where they are highly valued and exceptionally busy.

“Relocating to Canberra, and potentially with family, is a big change.  I know from personal experience, as I moved my family from London to Canberra.” says Mr Harrington.

We understand that finding the time to even contemplate such a move can be challenging and often falls into the ‘too hard’ basket.

Naturally, the idea of a six week paid holiday will capture people’s attention because it seems counterintuitive.  A holiday for someone that has not earned it yet? That’s mental!!  But it should also appeal to those experienced consultants that are yearning for something different – those that want to escape the race of congested CBD living, and that welcome the opportunity for a better, more affordable and healthier lifestyle.

“The six week paid holiday is about creating a good headspace. Space to allow the idea of change to grow a little.  We believe once given even this small chance, the idea of a successful recruitment career in Canberra is incredibly appealing,” says Mr Cox. “Once we’ve peaked interest and cut through the noise, we can engage with top candidates in a more meaningful and personal way.”

Successful talent attraction is not about throwing gimmicks at people. It’s about coming up with innovative ways to get the attention of high performers, and then attracting them to engage with your business in a meaningful way.

“We make our living helping our clients hire unique talent.  Our job is to think laterally and creatively to solve challenging recruitment problems in markets where talent is incredibly scarce,“ says Mr Cox.

“It was about time that we got serious about our own challenges attracting top talent.  We are sick of being the plumbers with the leaky taps, so we are getting proactive about finding the best people.”

As a result, this is what we came up with:

So, is it about time your organisation got serious about your Employer Brand?