Employer brands: are you a fortune teller or a lion tamer?

Like any time of radical upheaval, the natural urge is to look into our crystal balls and like fortune tellers, try to predict coming changes to our lives. For employer brands, this is something that’s key to our strategies. However, in order to develop a direction of travel, we need to first understand the landscape.

Covid-19 has radically changed the landscape, from the labour market, to the way we work, to candidate experience and expectations. There are so many big shifts to watch out for that it can feel a little like taming lions. So, what does the crystal ball tell us the new normal will look like, and how do we prepare for it? 

The labour market

Unemployment is high, and whole industries have been shaken up. There are more candidates on the market and great Talent is suddenly open to new opportunities. This means a couple of things for employer brand strategies.

Firstly, the temptation might be to think that we can move back to an “employer’s choice” mindset, where we can take our pick of the best Talent, rather than “candidate’s choice” mindset where we must work to earn the attention of good Talent. But this is not the time to sit back and say, “come and get it.” We should instead be rethinking what our offer is. How do we reach that fantastic Talent and snap it up while we can?

The second thing is that we are going to see Talent looking to shift industries, particularly those looking to move away from failing or unstable industries. Now is the time to think about transferable skills, and where you could be taking advantage of them in your business. Retail is a great example of this – those customer service skills are invaluable in a world where your customers need more support than ever before. But we can’t expect this Talent to step through the door and begin performing from day one, so this also means thinking about your learning and development offering, and how you are going to upskill your new Talent. This is especially important to convey in your messaging – entice potential candidates by letting them know that you will nurture their learning.

Thirdly, we are going to start seeing new types of roles in the market, and equally your business should be thinking about their future workforce needs. Pandemic Specialists and Resilience Officers who know how to prepare for future crises and create resilient businesses and employees. What are your business needs, and what can you do now to secure this Talent while it is out there?

The way we work

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that the way we work has been changed forever, and that is especially true for working from home (WFH).

Take up of WFH opportunities have traditionally been stymied by productivity fears or technology costs. But Covid-19 has shown that WFH not only works, but there are a lot of upsides, such as more flexibility for families. If this sort of flexibility is something you’re going to continue to offer, then it’s absolutely something you should be sharing with your audience through your employer branding.

But keep in mind, WFH is no longer a bonus, it is hygiene – it is not something you can shout about anymore, but rather a key value proposition to reassure on.

Connected to the WFH revolution is dispersed workforces – if your workforce is working from home, it doesn’t really matter where that home is, right? There are wonderful positives here, like the ability to broaden your attraction and sourcing strategies beyond physical office limitations and being able to access Talent in regional locations.

But both scenarios mean thinking about things like logistics. Is your onboarding fully virtual? If not, will you pay to have your new employee visit head office to be onboarded in person? Will you let new employees expense screens and keyboards to ensure they have everything they need to do their job well? How will you embed culture and values when your employees are remote?

While it may not take a crystal ball to see that this will be a part of our future ways of working, it does take some lion taming to prepare for how these changes will impact your business.

Candidate experience and expectations

This may be the biggest and most persistent change of all, and the hardest one to predict. Think about the labour market again – what will it look like to your potential candidates if you haven’t opened your mind to transferrable skills? What will they think if they see you don’t have a Crisis Specialist to help mitigate the fallout of another pandemic? The change in the way we work isn’t just about the change itself, but the expectation of that change.

Think of companies like Twitter whose employees can now choose to work from home permanently. This is the new normal you are competing against. Just like when you buy a car, you expect air-conditioning as standard  30 years ago that was an optional extra. If you want to attract the best Talent, you will need to remember that the things that are important to candidates in the new world will continue to change, and our offers will need to adapt to meet these new expectations.

Your candidates will also change in another way: some of them are going to be your alumni. Many businesses have been faced with headcount reductions and when we look further ahead this might mean that the Talent you have needed to let go is also the Talent you need to reengage in the future. We have more contact with brands we have bought shoes from than we do from previous employers. Consumer-grade experience is always the goal for recruitment, but this is no longer a nice to have, it is a must. The candidate experience is not just about great UX or simplified candidate journeys.

During Covid-19, we have needed to think about something new: candidate empathy. Many businesses responded quickly at the beginning of the crisis, offering to get back to candidates within two days or less. This is vastly different to the experience for many candidates in the past, which was to throw their CV into the recruitment void that is Seek and LinkedIn and hopefully receive an automated response from your company.

But the crisis isn’t going to end when we are all able to go back into the office. The long-term economic effects will mean a slow recovery, so we need to think about sustainable recruitment processes that meet candidate’s expectations of speed, transparency and empathy.

Candidates expectations will be skewed from the first months of the pandemic – so it is on your business to do the work to manage those expectations. Let your candidates know what they are in for and communicate it clearly.

Like any good shake-up, there will be lasting ramifications that we will need to prepare for. It can be tempting to take what we are currently seeing and presume that is just how it is now. But Covid-19 has shattered any illusions that the ways we were working and living before were because it had to be that way.

It is a long road ahead, and we will likely be continuously adapting our strategies for years to come. While we can look into our crystal balls and make some best guesses about what the new normal will be, perhaps a better way to approach it is to continue to be adaptable.

Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to change quickly, to throw things at the wall and make them stick because they must. But now we are learning that many of these changes will need to change again, and maybe that is OK?

Let’s embrace the uncertainty, and perhaps in addition to fortune tellers, we will also become the lion tamers, orchestrating a grand production in a world that is frankly a bit of a circus right now.

Cover image: Shutterstock

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