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Fortifying Your Employer Brand Strategy During an Economic Slowdown

For Canada, growth in real GDP is projected to slow from 3.2% this year to 1% in 2023 before strengthening to 1.3% in 2024, according to the OECD. At the same time, we are in the midst of chaos for the workforce, inside Canada and globally. A multi-factoral shortage of skilled labour and a turn toward a more agile workforce and an economy that is increasingly geared toward the 'gig worker' has created more pressure than ever before for executives to expand and reimagine human capital strategies.

In uncertain times, it can be challenging to 'see the forest for the trees'. Many organizations have had the unfortunate experience of weathering a major layoff recently. The question needs to be addressed: why should we invest in employer branding during such a tumultuous time?

An organization's employer brand is, in the Drift definition, a signature creative identity and associated strategies that enable you to attract the talent you need to propel your organization. It's a clear articulation of your culture.

One of the best ways to understand the employer brand is as a symbiotic partner of the company brand. It's a lens that enables your organization to share what's important to an audience of prospective talent - the people who will become the future of your organization.

So, if it's not clear by now - it's incredibly important to sustain your employer brand, even during slow hiring times. In fact, if your company recently went through a mass layoff, the public handling of it was likely either a huge amplifier OR a detractor for your employer brand. One of the many factors contributing to the massive paradigm shift around how people think about being 'at work' is the epochal movement toward prioritizing one's boundaries, purpose, psychological safety and sense of well-being over the things that were traditionally held as the unwavering guideposts of employee value, like, compensation, prestige, etc.

In short, it's important to sustain an impactful employer brand, targeted toward your future talent even when you aren't actively hiring. When the mist clears and things begin to ramp up, there is going to be even more pressure on companies to jumpstart innovation, growth and disruption and lead your industry competition in shaping the future of your sector.

That means, strong pipelines of purpose-aligned talent.

So... how can you fortify and sustain an employer brand strategy when the immediate future is uncertain, hiring forecasts are not happening and budgets and blurry?

Balance strategic and tactical elements of your employer brand roadmap.

It can be challenging to see the benefit of strategy during a time of uncertainty. Reactive recruitment methods take hold and if you aren't careful, that model will remain intact well after the economy is back on the upswing and so are your hiring needs. Reactive models are really hard to break out of, so use this time to establish intentional, strategic processes when it comes to engaging and attracting talent.

Looks like:

  • Establishing a cross-functional team of employer brand stakeholders.

  • Conducting employee focus groups on the current employer brand to discover if it's still aligned to culture and talent needs.

  • Mapping recruitment marketing strategies for high-priority talent groups.

  • Building the relationship between Brand, Social and Talent at your organization to streamline future requests for space in the content calendar or on other branded channels.

Rally internal champions and lean on team resources.
Chances are, your people are feeling the burn of this time in our workforce history, as well. Employers are uncertain about the future, and employees feel that. Burnout is at an all-time high, so your culture champions (ie. the people who were real amplifiers for your brand and company culture) may need a little TLC and inspiration to keep going.

Host open forums with leaders to talk about the culture and how it has shifted since the pandemic. Use these forums as a way to collect data and insight about your employees' priorities. The natural affect these forums will have is to make your workforce feel more connected to your culture and leaders, even during challenging times. In some cases, you may be able to enable external social sharing of some of the amazing ideas that come out of these sessions.

Looks like:
  • Monthly live virtual forums with different senior leaders across the organization

  • Leaders transparently share their plans, challenges and how they hope to steer the organization through the economic downturn.

  • Employees have the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas.

  • Important - close the loop with employees on these open forms. Develop a quarterly communication strategy that says "We heard you. Here's what we are doing about it."

Make research a big part of your sustainment approach.
The best way to make sure you emerge from this time with a strong talent pipeline is to use this time to get to know everything there is to know about your talent. Consult leading data sources like the Statistics Canada workforce reporting, Job Bank trend analysis, industry networking groups on LinkedIn or major consultancies like Deloitte or Gartner and try to answer these questions for each demographic of your workforce:

What does this talent segment value in a career opportunity? What are the macro-economic trends impacting this talent segment? What (if any) demographic information is relevant? How can we match our EVP to that value in a unique way?

Armed with this information, you can segment your employer brand messaging effectively, create social content that resonates in the right way, reimagine your career site to connect more deeply with future talent. Information is power and in this case, understanding what your target talent segments want in a career is a secret weapon when it comes to bringing purpose-aligned talent into your organization.

Take this time to run low-impact recruitment marketing pilots.

Slow hiring season is the best time to try innovative recruitment marketing tactics and create business cases for future initiatives. Now is a great time to pilot employee stories on LinkedIn, launching a new social channel for careers (now that you actually have time to develop content a couple of months in advance), host internal engagement events and hire a photographer to get authentic shots of your team coming together. If you are a fully-virtual team, bring a working group together to define remote work at your company and build it into your employer brand platform as a key differentiator - not all companies are doing hybrid and remote work well right now. If you are, it's part of your EVP and should be amplified.

Here are Drift's top 6 recommendations to accelerating and sustaining an employer brand during challenging economic times:

  • You need collaborators - solving a problem together is always better than fighting over resources!

  • Proactively map hiring timelines and mitigate potential derailers upfront.

  • A hiring campaign without talent insight is like a rudderless boat.

  • Aligning your plan to an overarching strategy paves the way for higher impact.

  • Use diverse mix of platforms, media and delivery methods to target your audience over a truncated timeframe.

  • Pay close attention to what you are learning from talent - your post-campaign work is to turn this into a blueprint for future employer brand growth.

To learn more about the Drift approach to employer brand and culture strategy, visit our site or book a call to learn more about how we can guide you toward a powerful employer brand strategy that delivers results for your business.

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