Employer branding is still an emerging discipline. Therefore, there is still a range of reactivity and sponsorship for employer brand (and related fields) from company to company. Year over year, research firms and consultancies report that between 45% to 65% of HR leaders report that investing in external employer branding is a key priority in a post-pandemic workforce. Some organizations (like, SAP, Chipotle, Electronic Arts, Cox, Kohler, to name a few) lead in innovative employer brand storytelling and outwardly demonstrate an ongoing investment of resources in supporting continual employer brand development and exploration.
This isn’t the case for everyone. Many employer brand specialists working inside corporate structures report that change resistance at executive levels can be a difficult roadblock to overcome when time is of the essence to differentiate your culture narrative in a competitive workforce. Some of the common challenges employer branders report look like
Duplicating effort to produce a business case or competitive insight report justifying the need for employer brand budget (or budget allocation) each time there is a need to explore a new method or tactic. This is usually the outcome of too few touch points with business partners to keep them updated on the performance of ongoing initiatives.
Hyper-vigilance around bottom-of-the-funnel metrics and discarding of awareness-level performance. This usually sounds like, “We’d like to know how many high-quality candidates we can expect from this talent advocacy initiative.”
Stop-start de-prioritization of employer branding initiatives due to lack of clarity on business priorities and hiring forecasts. Sometimes, it can feel like employer branding is marked as ‘optional’ on important executive agendas and that can result in long wait-times for approvals.
It’s challenging to know where to focus in a tight labour market driven by pandemic-related accelerations. Things change daily. Employer branders often find themselves in the position of having to justify budgets with immediate results, or the plug gets pulled. Or, the individuals or teams responsible for employer branding find themselves so stretched with reactive recruitment requests (“We need to launch a sponsored campaign to hire twenty new software engineers by next month”) that the real, strategic work to define a visual identity and associated strategy never takes off.
A reactive recruitment strategy that persists is most often a result of embedded beliefs about what people are looking for in a career that are not reflective of what we now know to be the truth.
Reactive recruitment assumes that there is a pool of talent in any given demographic with a passion for your purpose and the right skills and experience to work well at your organization. For example, de-prioritizing the work to create an informed hiring forecast at the beginning of the year and later being caught off guard with a need to hire dozens of skilled professionals in a truncated timeframe is indicative of a systemic belief that the talent is here for us, whenever we need it. That just isn’t true. The global labour shortage, Great Resignation and Reshuffle numbers and the mass-exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce that are not being replaced with experienced young talent are all markers that it is the Age of the Employee.
Without a brand segmentation strategy designed specifically to share your culture, your commitments to employees and what you stand for, socio-culturally, (and, of course, internal employee experiences and leader behaviours that back it up) it’s unlikely you will succeed in creating and sustaining pipelines of top talent in an increasingly autonomous, gig economy.
Usually, change resistance stems from a trepidation to invest valuable (and often scarce) budget in a relatively untested and unproven schema of talent attraction. That’s why so many business cases and metrics are commissioned - leaders and decision-makers are looking for reassurance that this is going to help. Overcoming change resistance starts with creating corrective change experiences - or, finding creative ways to leverage resources and tools at your disposal to generate proof-of-concept results and data to bolster confidence and pave the way for an organizational investment in employer branding.
Here are a few ways for employer brand leaders to create change positive experiences to bolster your business case and create space for a stronger presence in your organization:
Assemble a group of stakeholders with influence and keep them informed. Call it a steering committee, a cross-functional team… make sure Brand, Communications and ED&I representatives are in the room. Use a regular quarterly cadence to report on employer brand learnings and progress and use this group as an advisory council. For example, when it comes time to refresh career site content, this team can help guide the creative direction of the site. Bringing influential leaders together as collaborators on key initiatives makes it easier to secure important green-lights down the road.
When it comes to Business Leaders, let goals be your guide. Often, an area of the business will fund an employer brand initiative (like, a recruitment marketing campaign). These are important opportunities to secure proof-of-concept data that you can leverage in future funding requests and business cases. For example, you have the opportunity to run a $100,000 digital media campaign to attract data scientists. Make sure you set clear, measurable goals with the line of business and recruitment leaders and create a continual communication and measurement strategy. Over the course of the campaign, monitor and report on your goals, tweaking the strategy (with business input) as needed. At the end of the campaign, even if you didn’t reach your goals, you now have a wealth of data to inform and strengthen your next campaign.
Every initiative is a “backdoor pilot”. Every campaign, no matter how small and underfunded, is an opportunity to audition new ideas, content, concepts, creative, messaging and brand narratives to your talent. The data you collect from these initiatives can inform your broader talent strategy, strengthening your approach and letting you know what talent needs.Not having a team, an agency or a budget is the plight of the employer brand strategist, especially when so often "build the organization's employer brand" is the only tangible bullet point on the job description. But, ever-evolving problems and challenges call for non-linear solutions.
An employer brander’s best tools are patience, creativity and resourcefulness (in that order, I think).
It takes a lot of courage to champion a new concept, especially when met with resistance and skepticism. A great strategy is to understand the root cause of the resistance (generally, fear or unfamiliarity) and find ways to collaborate with stakeholders and business partners to assuage their concerns using the principles and tactics you know will deliver value.