Employer branding in 2021: What we know for sure
3 minutes | Posted 03 February, 2021

In January last year, none of us were preparing for a pandemic. Many of us were setting our sights on getting our businesses one or two steps closer to the future of work; maybe introducing some new tech, or perhaps working on strengthening our employer branding foundation and equipping ourselves for the shift towards automation and AI.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you can’t predict the future. So rather than prophesize about what might be, let’s instead focus on what will be. What are the “knowns”? And how can we prepare for them when it comes to employer branding?

Returning to the office

In Canada, we’re fortunate enough to be hopeful for a return to the office this year but the office won’t look the same and may never be what it once was. “Hot desking” has connotations to “pandemic” and talent leaders are considering how we can make our workplaces social (and collaborative) while social distancing.

Some hires will have joined your business during the height of the pandemic. This means, in many cases, people who have been with your business for months may not have attended your office yet. This is where employer branding and talent teams need to collaborate effectively with internal communications and culture teams. Returning to an office environment after 2020 can be stressful and confusing for team members, so it’s imperative to guide them through the process, make them feel safe, and demonstrate an active effort towards re-establishing culture in the office environment.

What does all this have to do with employer branding? Retention. Confusion and uncertainty are gateways to frustration and ultimately leaving your employees feeling forgotten about. Reinforcing the “whys” of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) through positive employee experiences will mean happier, retained people.

Remote boom continues

While many of us are returning to the office, 2020 proved that remote workforces are not only possible, but effective. Being able to perform any job from anywhere is also linked to better hygiene, health and safety – and many employees will prefer not to rush back to crowded daily commutes on public transport any time soon.

When it comes to your employer brand, this raises questions around the new reality. Does your careers page only show people clustered around a foosball table? Have you adapted your attraction and sourcing strategies to remove location barriers? What about onboarding – have you truly adapted to remote onboard or is it just a patch and repair with the hope that we’ll return to normal?

The face of work has changed forever, and what you communicate to candidates and the experiences they may have should reflect that.

Recovery from brain drain

For the businesses and industries that were hit hard last year, 2021 will mean looking to plug and fill the brain drain. You may have had to release good talent out of necessity. Many candidates transferred their skills to more stable industries. As our organizations recover, an alumni strategy could play an important role. Re-engaging with former employees not only builds goodwill, it also accelerates your path to recovery as you’ll be reinstating people who are familiar with your business and can quickly “pick up the thread.”

Consider too that there may be reluctance – not just from returning employees, but candidates who may be loath to join an industry or business impacted by Covid-19. Ensure your employer brand is updated to reflect the situation. Be transparent with candidates and, where possible, highlight what you’ve done to recover and why you’re growing now. Resilience and adaptability are in demand from candidates, so anywhere you can demonstrate this through your employer brand will help you strengthen your reputation.

“Resilience and adaptability are in demand from candidates, so anywhere you can demonstrate this through your employer brand will help you strengthen your reputation.”

Homegrown opportunities

With border restrictions and uncertainty about when global travel will be reinstated, both candidates and businesses alike will need to look locally for opportunities. This means the job market will be even more competitive than before.

When it comes to attracting top talent, your employer brand needs to shine. You might think about an awareness campaign for critical talent, particularly by targeting them in less obvious places; or campaigns with brand affinity opportunity. Creating goodwill and positive brand alignments will help keep your organization front of mind for top candidates.

For more niche roles, continue to look at adjacent industries for transferrable skills. Ensure you have the training, induction and onboarding in place to help this talent group get up to speed as quickly as possible. It’s also important to manage expectations. Hiring managers will need to understand employees may need more support as they transition, and candidates should understand they’ll have a lot to learn.

While there are a few things we can safely bet on for 2021, we’ll certainly be facing our fair share of uncertainty. The trial-by-fire that was 2020 has taught us a lot of lessons about facing the unknown, and though there will be a lot to navigate this coming year, being aware of these “known” factors will hold us in good stead to face whatever comes our way.

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