Employer branding is an area that is generally accepted to add value, but like many activities in the last ten years it has suffered from a drop in investment. Recruitment still seems to be viewed by businesses as a process, something that just happens and that needs little investment. Although employer branding is still seen as the sexier end of the recruitment funnel by many, it hasn’t been immune to cost-cutting.
Trust - vital to business success
Trust - vital to business success
It’s an odd situation. In PwC’s annual CEO survey this year, a staggering 80% of CEOs said they were worried about the availability of key skills. That percentage has risen every year since 2012 (when it was a much lower but still-substantial 53%). You’d think that would translate into more investment in this space, not less.
What interests me, however, is another dimension that has a huge bearing on talent sourcing today: trust.
In 2017, EY surveyed 2,500 consumers to understand how trust would impact buying decisions. 81% agreed that the behaviour of a company is as important as the product it sells, while 74% said that they would boycott brands that they no longer trust.
So, there’s a massive headache for CEOs in finding the right skills, while a massive driver for consumers (and therefore potential talent) is trust. It’s a powerful story for those of us working in the employer brand space. Creating a trustworthy employer brand will in the long term be fundamental to attracting and retaining top talent.
In an era of fake news, increasing societal division, inequality and mistrust, employers need to build holistic brands that start to build trust with their audiences both now and in five, 10 or 20 years from now. You can’t do this without knowing – and acknowledging – who you are. Gone are the days of pretty pictures and an unrealistic, aspirational message; trust can only be built by being honest and open, positive about the good stuff, humble about the bad. As you build trust in your audiences, so your reputation will start to take on a life of its own and your activation will start to produce extraordinary results.
Of course, the key to skills availability isn’t just about creating a powerful employer brand. As businesses get more heavily involved in the long-term skills agenda – influencing educational curricula, investing in apprenticeships, driving social mobility – they also need to ensure that they are maximising their opportunity to source great talent from existing talent pools today. Employer brand is central to this, but so are campaigns and more tactical activation.
A brand – employer, consumer or corporate – cannot just be window-dressing. It has to be meaningful, and be able to simply and powerfully communicate your values to your audiences.
If you don’t know who your audiences are, their values, the media they engage with, the challenges and opportunities in their lives, then how do you connect with them to help them trust you?
Spoiler: you can’t.
So if you want to hire lots of digital talent, for example (and many employers really need to, right now), but you have no idea about who you are targeting, then you’ll spend a lot of money on an ineffective, spray-and-pray campaign.
The short answer seems to be that investment in employer branding right now is a business imperative, bringing with it three key benefits: easier hiring of the right people; better engagement with your existing people; and crucially a better corporate reputation, with all the opportunities that brings.
I’ve been at MSL for six months now and it’s been fascinating. Our heritage is in PR, but I am lucky enough to run our Employee business, focussing on Employer Brand, Employee Engagement and Change Management. The PR element brings us an intrinsic understanding of how to help organisations build their reputations, and right now this feels like the perfect place to explore the relationship between employer brand and trust. If you’d like to chat to me about this, please get in touch – I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s a big subject, and our research is telling us quite clearly that it is set to be the biggest issue in our space in the coming years.