2021 Advice for Employer Brand Leaders

As employer brand strategy grows in its importance and scope, it can be hard for leaders in the space to be certain of where to focus. As many practitioners in the employer brand and experience space know, it is quite easy to battle competing stakeholder priorities and as a result get pulled into several disparate directions. 

We sat with the leadership and consulting team at Blu Ivy to get advice on where they feel experienced employer brand leaders should focus their efforts in 2021. The directors at Blu Ivy work in partnership with in-house Employer Brand heads with several Fortune 1000 and rapidly growing organizations globally.  We have seen some incredible strides that have been made in terms of strategy and talent attraction results. We also see several threats and opportunities for the employer brand work in the year ahead. 

Below is a listicle of our advice to experienced in-house employer brand leads in 2021.

Talent Trust Will Be Critical to The Employer Brand and Bottom Line

Many employers are facing economic challenges brought about by COVID. These organizations may find they are either declining or not responding to more external candidates than in previous years. Some may be dealing with restructuring, cost cutting, and tough business decisions that affect the employee base and reputation in the market.   

For leaders facing these challenges, living the employer brand promise is more important than ever. Given the rise of cancel culture, employee share of voice on social media and corporate distrust, 2021 is a year that leaders will need to align employer brand into organizational change management.  The changes ahead can have a significant and lasting impact on the business, leadership reputations and company performance.  Be proactive and get at the table with those who may be responsible for leading these changes. 

Influence or design change solutions that make difficult changes a more positive memory for all involved.  Each difficult change should be designed with the intent that those impacted will share the experience with a positive spin. Given the stress of the pandemic, and isolation that much of your talent have been living with, this effort is more critical than it has ever been. 

Work with an employer brand design consultant to help strategize on ways to build trust and respect in difficult moments. Not only will it prevent near term crisis management, but it also sets the tone that your organization is fully invested in a branded experience for the entire talent journey, and that people and culture are at the heart of everything you do.  

Operationalize the Employee Value Proposition into the Candidate and Employee Journey. 

Uncover the high and low points in the talent journeys this year.  Knowing what aspects of the employee and candidate experience lead to highly positive or negative sentiment will help you focus on what matters most in your investment.  Bring leadership training into the fold when working on the journey mapping and design changes. An EVP and Employer Brand promise will fail the organization in 2021 if it only speaks to the external market.  Conduct a pulse check – how many of your leaders know what the EVP is? If they cannot articulate it, how will the company deliver on the promise and the KPIs you are looking to achieve with the Employer Brand investment? Take the time to consider what the upside is to the business and your personal growth if you shift the role that leaders play in the employer brand experience?  

Create Holistic, End to End Measurement Frameworks. 

With increased pressures on P&Ls, reporting and return on investment it is time to step up your game on performance analytics.  Many organizations currently track engagement, and candidate application metrics, but it often does not go a lot further. Some are tracking paid media or programmatic job ad performance, which is one step improved. This year, it is critical for employer brand leads to know how the employer brand work aligns to the bigger picture. How is your customer experience shifting? How has the corporate brand been impacted by your employer brand efforts? How have referrals, external perceptions shifted?  There are too many eyes in the business looking at your work. Too many expectations of what it will achieve. Without clear performance analytics and scorecards in place, you will find yourself at best challenged to explain your impact and in the worst-case scenario, seen as a cost centre. Great data drives more innovation, elevates your conversations with executives, and validates the investment in your amazing work. Make this a priority early in 2021 and seek guidance if needed from your employer brand consultant on the best tools and metrics to measure.  

Optimize and Streamline. 

Q1 is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on what worked well last year in terms of employer brand assets, content and candidate communications.  Why did it do so well? Do you have data that validates why? Often when you are working in an employer brand leadership position, you are jumping from one deliverable to the next, and do not have the time to focus on analyzing, optimizing or streamlining past work. Taking the time to review this can open the door to repurposing or modifying some of your earlier assets and freeing up budget to get to some of those solutions that have been on your wish list or out of reach.  

In 2021, use your agency or internal support team to track, report on and evolve your employer branding. Driving efficiencies and impact should be your focus. The closer you are to bottom line business results, the greater the support, budget and impact you can drive. 

Employer Brand and Culture Must Align

The Pandemic will have a lasting impact on employee well being.  Employer Brand leaders will need to keep the storytelling and branding authentic to 2021 experiences. Keep it simple because the digital noise has been amplified to new extremes. Cutting to the heart and emotional objective of the message is ever more important.  

Work in collaboration with culture leaders to ensure that the EVP (employee value proposition), messaging has proof points lived in daily interactions, job activities, digital meetings, personal development, perks, leadership support, wellness and recognition.  

The last year has emphasized how critical it is for the employer brand to take a culture lens, not just a recruitment marketing approach. Ensure that early in 2021 the EVP is embedded into your employee journey, experiential design and culture strategy.   The encouragement, impact and validation that one receives in a traditional office setting needs to be reimagined and adapted to the Work from home or distanced work setting.  

There are differing predictions on what the post-COVID world will look like. Maybe we will return to the office, maybe we will continue to work from home, perhaps a hybrid of the two – regardless, organizations should be prepared and deliver the best employee experience possible regardless.  

Contract and Gig Workers Are A Growing Influence

The Pandemic has accelerated the Future of Work and the workforce that will be required.  This past year saw a dramatic increase in the number of organizations that are hiring technology, design and analytics talent at record paces. Contract and freelance talent models are on the rise. If your employer does not have a forecast for the demand and supply of the highly skilled people it needs, now is the time to plan for it, and to consider how you will compete to attract/retain top talent for these roles. What is their experience, their sentiment about you as an employer and their desire to add your projects to their mix of customers? More new talent is drawn to the gig economy than ever before. Employer Brand leaders will need to reflect on how you attract and deliver on a modified talent experience. Their voice has as much impact on the company deliverables, reputation and innovation as many of your internal resources. Now is the time to consider the gig worker value proposition if you wish to maintain a competitive edge with your employer brand and innovation strategy. 

This is a genuinely exciting time for Employer Brand leaders.

What called each of you to step into this role was likely your ability to look at talent solutions not just from an HR but also a marketing mindset. The first stages in your role were building the foundations. The EVP, the brand creative, and perhaps a new careers site and social content marketing solution. Congratulations, that was a massive achievement! 2021 is now calling on you to elevate your impact. Recognize that your purpose is far more than recruitment marketing asset development. You are meant to change the way talent experience the workplace. You are meant to drive powerful business results. You can help your employer avoid major crisis, and to elevate the customer experience. This is the reason why we stepped into the employer brand leadership role. Your future is brilliant, and the time to make the powerful shift in focus is now. 

If you would like to learn more about employer branding and how we can help you build a resilient corporate culture, call Blu Ivy today at 647-308-2352.

This blog was written by Stacy Parker, Managing Director, Blu Ivy Group.

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