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Will 2022 be more than just a bad sequel?

Between Christmas and this New Year, we took a step back to look at trends for brands, people communications and talent acquisition that we think will be important in ’22. See if you agree.

Retrospectively 2021 was very interesting from an employer brand point of view.

The year started with 2020’s Covid hangover of course, and a lockdown at the start of the year, but it also saw labour market confidence widely return with an acute and immediate need for more people. This return to business confidence was exacerbated by a fast release of VC funding that had been held back for nearly 12 months - suddenly injecting even more growth into an already warm employment market. 

The REC’s recovery report makes for chilling reading in that respect. Very quickly the number of vacancies outstripped the number of people out of work. These changes transformed an employer-driven market into a candidates market almost overnight. Skills shortages appeared around the world in key areas, tech (of course), but also sales, engineering, HGV driving and many others. Talent acquisition was equally affected - with people out of place, out of role, out of love with TA, and TA teams generally under-resourced as a result.

With this power shift emerged the Great Resignation (or Great Awakening/Reset/Re-evaluation depending on whether you read Forbes, LinkedIn or others). People had taken stock of what mattered to them for work and for life - and were now looking for a closer fit to their preference to re-invent their way of working, or to simply return to their pre-Covid way of life as quickly as they could. 

As the pent up investment, renewed business confidence and hope for a ‘better’ job began to unwind, we saw employer brands evolving too. Changing the way that they interacted with their people. A shift from a recruitment only focus for employer branding, to a broader view over retention and advocacy as a prime objective, the most mature brands then utilised culture and advocacy as a means to differentiate their offer in the recruitment market. EB is now working across more of the employee experience/lifecycle than ever before.

So. a lot has changed in the last 12 months. But looking ahead, we thought we’d take off the perfect hindsight of the retrospective goggles, and look ahead at what might happen in 2022. We'll probably be as surprised as you by what does change, but for now, this is what a small selection of the Tonic team think is on the near-term horizon.


Nothing will change apart from everything that does

Marcus Body - Head of Brand & Insight

Tom asked me for my predictions on Employer Branding in 2022, and after much deliberation, I’ve decided the best advice I can give you comes from one of two pre-Socratic philosophers.

From Parmenides, we get the strong view that nothing really changes, only superficial perceptions. I couldn’t agree more. The likelihood is that loads of what happens in employer branding in 2022 will be pretty similar to what happened in 2021. And indeed an awful lot of it hasn’t changed in a very long time. Being a good employer will attract and retain talent; Being a crap employer will repel talent and increase turnover. People will talk about wherever you are on that spectrum. Good communication is more important than many people think. Brevity is good. Key insight: keep focused on the fundamentals, and don’t get distracted by change.

From Heraclitus, however, we learn that everything is in flux, and that the only constant is change. Quite right. There will be things that occur in 2022 that nobody saw coming - whether negative external events, or opportunities to do something new. There will be new channels to try, new creative ideas to explore, new trends in candidate expectation to adapt to and upheavals in the talent landscape. Whatever was “best practice” in 2020 probably isn’t the best idea in 2022, and anything older than that almost certainly isn’t. Be braver, bolder and think differently. Key insight: keep your eyes peeled on the horizon, and don’t get stuck in the day-to-day.

So my advice to you is to decide which of those two paragraphs you basically already agree with, and then pay much more attention to the other one.


The return of #NoFilter

Emma McCormack - Senior Copywriter

In recent years employee stories as a failsafe for advocacy, or employer brand authenticity have started to feel very unoriginal. Stories that sound like they could be anyone working anywhere, and immediately place doubt in our audience’s mind about the authenticity of the story they’re being told. They can feel scripted, non-committal and impersonal. I see 2022 as the year where employees are trusted to share their ‘unfiltered’ views with our audience, whether that be giving them more flexibility to record and share their perspective, or encouraging employees to start sharing their voice on their personal networks (but without the blueprint of ‘you could say something like this’).  

It may be a daunting move for some, but in 2022 all good brands will be built on trust, and without it, they’ll fall flat. I can’t wait to see what this movement looks like… but I’m sure there’ll be some blips on the way. 


The increasing importance of relevance over authenticity

Tom Chesterton - Chief Executive

For a number of years now the watchword for employer brand has been ‘authenticity’. When you boil it down, it’s just a shorthand for ‘we’re going to tell you the truth’. A bit of a no brainer, you’d really hope by now.

Why would you fabricate what it’s like to work for your organisation? Why would aspiring to tell the truth be such a beacon for employer branders? Especially when those employers that lie about their culture, working conditions and offer are so likely to be exposed socially quite quickly and end up paying the reputation price. Nevertheless, I hear it all the time at conferences - and I shudder - because as it’s so one-sided.

Let’s assume that if you’re bothered enough about how people perceive your employment offer in the '20's to build an EVP and an EB, then it’s fair to say that you probably aren’t going to begin deployment by telling porkies about what it’s really like to work at your place. So authenticity - at best - simply becomes a one-way, shallow communication form, talking from an employers perspective about what matters to them. No different to recruitment advertising of old - and probably less than relevant to the human you’re talking with. Quite dull then, and the exact opposite of engaging.

What I’d love to hear more of, and I hope I will see increasingly in 2022, is employer brands talking from a position of relevance. Not only does this mean that a dialogue is being encouraged, but also that brands are paying real attention to what matters to the people they are trying to influence, and then engaging on that basis. As we work through the Great Re-set/Resignation/Awakening your brand will have to fight harder to be heard by the people you’re trying to reach - particularly as newly entrenched behaviours learned in the pandemic are tested, and skills shortages become worse before they get better.

In this noisy, crowded market, relevant brands will stand out and cut through. They will become vital, meaningful and indispensable because they add value.

In other words, and from an employer brand point of view, they become employers of choice.

Want that? Become brand relevant in 2022. 


The battle for dominance in the audio-only space will continue.

Stephanie Smith - Head of Social

Although new platforms like Clubhouse, have emerged, and major players like Twitter have launched their own audio-only functions, none have become the platform to make audio-only gain mass traction.

Dating app Hinge has come close, providing users with the option to add audio to their dating profile. This adds a new dimension to how users convey personality on their profile, making for better matches, or going viral on TikTok.

With rumours abound that LinkedIn are about to launch their own audio-only space, will it be the world of employer brand that finally cracks the code?


Content will get more strategic and have more layers.

Ruth Faulkner - Head of Content

In response to content having been busy but all over the place through 2020-2021 - quick response UGC, Zoom videos and other new formats - 2022 will be the year we say ‘Let’s make our content smart and effective’. Well, we might have said it before, but I have hopes this year will crack it.

We’ll build business and hiring need focused content strategies, or completely re-do old ones to address the much-changed content landscape. These strategies will incorporate longer-form content, working as supplementary to short-form content. Podcasts and video won’t go anywhere but content production will also be more strategic. With every production opportunity, we’re thinking of how we can capture content for multiple purposes and make the most of the time.

Employer brand content strategies will look at how to use targeted content at every stage of the employee lifecycle, not just in recruitment as we work harder to compete for the top talent in this highly competitive market.

Personally, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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About Author

Tom Chesterton
Tom Chesterton

Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Tonic. Brand geek, dislikes charlatans.

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