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Key Trends in Employer Branding

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Key Trends in Employer Branding

Ruben van den Boer is a Principal Consultant at VMA GROUP focusing on interim and permanent communications, digital and marketing recruitment across mainland Europe.

Being able to attract the right talent is crucial for every single business, disregarding which sector you work in or which part of the world you come from. Especially in today’s fast changing global reality. Employer Branding helps you to build a reputation in the labour market, to engage with your target talent pool and, eventually, to attract the talent that fits the bill.  

The art of Employer Branding is multidisciplinary; involving Human Resources, Talent Acquisition, Communications and Marketing. At VMA GROUP, we speak with senior professionals and experts from all of these disciplines on a daily basis. How do they see Employer Branding now and in the (near) future?  

Work together

Employer Branding requires a close collaboration between Human Resources and Communications. We are happy to see that in most companies there is already a strong cooperation between Human Resources and Communications, especially for Employee Engagement and Employer Branding. More importantly, we see that the two functions have been growing closer together over the years. We are seeing more mutual respect for each other’s expertise and corporate value, and a better understanding that working together is much more rewarding than fighting over the same resources.

This all sounds very logical, though many Communications professionals we speak to admit that the cooperation with Human Resources is developing in a much more friendly manner than the relationship between Communications and Marketing. Employer Branding has been key in showing both Human Resources and Communications that they need each other’s expertise, and cooperation is the only road to success. 

Brand alignment

The employer brand must be aligned with the overall corporate brand, especially with the increasing transparency in today’s digital age. Like your employees, your target talent might as well be your customer, your advocate or your critic. There are e-retailers which are reluctant in publicly posting their job ads, as they are uneasy with the high number of applications, which all but one they have to “reject”. In actuality, there are already mathematical calculations out there that, quite accurately, define the correlation between a company’s recruitment activities and its sales revenue.   

Overall, we are seeing an increasing understanding that companies need to synchronise corporate and employer messaging, and should have only one integrated brand, one corporate reputation.

Work it out

The issue of development and implementation is part of the never-ending discussion around centralization vs decentralization. Of course, there is no universal right answer. The common pitfall is to spend a lot of time, resources, energy and enthusiasm into the development of the employer brand, but the actual execution, measurement, improvement and maintenance is often looked over due to other upcoming priorities. It’s a bit like learning a new language: you sign up for a course, spend money, spend a lot of time studying, pass the exam, get the certificate, lose interest, and find a new hobby. And then a few years later, you decide to refresh your language skills and sign up for the exact same course.

True story

You might want to argue whether “Employer Branding” is actually the right term. Perhaps “Employer Communications” is better or “Employer Reputation Building”. Employer Branding is not about creating the most beautiful picture of your company, it is about telling your story in an attractive but transparent and realistic way. The best Employer Branding projects start with an honest self-reflection. For example, I recently spoke to a Communications Director working in a company where the senior management was very proud of the international career development opportunities available. They wanted this element to be the USP of the employer brand. After doing a reality check, they found that the international career path over the past 10 years was open for only 5% of all employees, and particular to those working in the bigger regional offices. What if the company had actually made international mobility the centre of their employer brand? What if the other 95% raised questions through Glassdoor or Linkedin when they can expect to be sent on an international assignment? Again, honesty is the best policy.

Changing times

We can’t deny that Employer Branding has been blessed over the last few years with a relatively rising economy, labour shortage and a consequent war of talent. Organisations want to attract sufficient high-end talent has been a top priority for companies, which is why resources became available to invest in the employer brand. It was not a long time ago that Linkedin was still full of “work for us” videos.

I am an optimist by nature, but I think we can’t deny that in the next years we are facing a lower economy with very different challenges. Attracting talent, and Employer Branding, is likely to fall on the priority lists of those in the board room. That doesn’t mean that Employer Branding should pause, or even becomes less important. On the contrary, having the best people on board, with the skills you are currently missing, to face the fast-changing reality will become more important than ever. The challenge of both Human Resources and Communications professionals will be to keep Employer Branding on the table, to be prepared to fight harder for their (financial) resources, and probably, to be ready to do more with less.

These key themes were discussed in our third annual Employer Branding event (June 2020). If you are interested in a further discussion of Employer Branding, especially how it relates to Communications & Marketing, please contact Ruben van den Boer.

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