The media are doing their usual job of over-hyping bad news stories to sell papers. If you haven't already, now’s a good time to think about how your employer brand does more than sell opportunities to candidates.
If you believe everything that you read in the papers/social/newsfeeds you’ll likely be pretty depressed at the moment. In the UK we have drought, strikes, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation and the very real cost of living crises that will explode in the autumn compounding rising energy bills with interest rate hikes. With one or two notable exceptions (French energy prices for example), these themes seem to be global.
So far though the labour market generally seems to be resisting these forces, but perhaps the first cracks have already begun to appear. Certainly, that's true in some areas of the Tech sector, where firings and redundancies are more common than they were, and even more common than news stories than those about growth and new fundraising rounds.
So, let's assume that if you work in recruitment, and that the buoyancy of the last 18 months is about to change, the work you're asked to do will more than likely start to shift too.
Hiring will still happen, of course, it never really stops, but it’s likely that some of the heat will come out of the market over the coming months as investment decisions become more cautious. This won’t be as pronounced in sectors with endemic skills shortages, but will still change the challenge. For some that will be a welcome change. I know many people who’ve been working at an unsustainably frenetic pace. But for others, it’s a problem.
If you do the hiring, and your business isn’t hiring… well, are you a necessary cost?
It’s equally a problem - perhaps more so - for those people in-house, responsible for managing employer brand programmes. If the focus of those programmes is exclusively on recruitment marketing, are you painting yourself into 'dispensable corner'?
For goodness knows how long, certainly for more than ten years, at Tonic, we’ve been working with clients who believe - as do we - that employer brand is more than just pumped-up recruitment advertising. That its true power as a business tool is to deliver business value in three main ways; Increasing candidate quality; Increasing engagement and productivity, and enhancing business reputation.
It may be already too late for some EB teams to pivot properly to re-position employer branding within their business in this way, but if you still have the opportunity, now is the time to make that move. It won’t be easy but it is still doable as you work through these tricky next few months.
This is what I’d be doing if I found myself in a position where change was still possible:
- Contribute to the broader corporate story. Assuming that you have an EVP in place, you know the themes that matter to the business, to the people already working in it, and to the people you need to hire. You know your culture and what’s great about the business, and you know that telling that story is important. I’d be working with my marketing team to understand what is planned - and then ensuring that the broader messaging about ESG, DE&I, and your contribution to society is clearly communicated in line with the EVP. You have the ability to influence the content that your business shares because you know what that story is.
- Focus internally to tell your story externally. Working with your internal comms colleagues (if you have them, alone if not), to keep your people engaged, motivated and productive is one of the biggest opportunities for any business, let alone an EB team, and one of the least developed. Your employer brand should be the guiding light for any experience you give as an employer, and for any content that circulates internally. If executed correctly, your EVP/EB will work to retain the talent you need, increasing engagement and productivity. It will also allow your people to be your true authentic voice. In combination, they have a broader reach than you do as a business, and so, from a marketing standpoint, advocacy and content amplification via your people are largely cost-neutral. There are a lot of upsides, and not really much risk to manage. But there is a lot of demonstrable business value to deliver.
- Keep the recruitment content ticking over. But focus on hiring futures rather than immediate hiring needs. Right now you may not be hiring, or you may be hiring less, but in a less crowded market, now’s the perfect time to gain the attention of interested people outside of the business who you can then keep engaged until the time is right - building brand loyalty. Any downturn that we experience will have an end, rebounds tend to be fast, and you need to be ready for that.
Maybe that’s helped, maybe it hasn’t. But as the world continues to change, so does employer branding. TA and EB teams need to be able to pivot to continue to show real business value, or they risk being left behind. If you want to know about any of our experiences in making this transition happen - just let me know.