As we all know, in 2020 most businesses and employees have had to quickly adapt to some sort of new normal. From remote working to Zoom calls to virtual team drinks, as people we’ve had to adapt how we interact with each other on an incredible scale.
But in the midst of struggle we often find hope.
While communications have gone completely digital and lots of us don’t leave our homes for more than 30 minutes per day, this situation has forced us to reconsider what’s most important: family, friends, colleagues. Genuine human interaction.
We could easily argue (and celebrate) that a silver lining to all of the events of 2020 could be that organizations have been forced to slow down, take stock and recalibrate towards a more people-centric approach to survival in 2020. This means that there’s one key strategy that many smart businesses have started to re-prioritize. That strategy is your employer brand.
However, even with best of intentions, there’s a very clear and present danger of failing to fully capitalize on the opportunities a newly refreshed employer brand and EVPs can bring.
The world has changed and we must adapt, or risk falling behind.
For talent attraction, engagement and retention, it’s no longer good enough to simply brag or attempt to romance a candidate towards your brand by waxing lyrical about the strengths, benefits and opportunities to be found within. Of course, it’s natural to want to show off the best of our organization that we’re most proud of and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if it’s biased, one-sided and too far towards a one-dimensional ‘sunshine truth’ that sounds either too good to be true or distinctly similar to every other brand bragging about themselves, we risk losing the faith and trust of our audience. We also miss out on being memorable, authentic, different, highly trustworthy and believable too.
The old approach has worked perfectly well for years, especially in the world of consumer branding, sales and advertising from which the conventional approach to employer brand has traditionally followed. But think about it for a second. Are you not tired of being sold to like this? Are you becoming a more cynical consumer? I know I am.
An Edelman study in 2019 revealed that on average, only 34% of consumers trusted the brands they bought from. Even so called ‘purpose-led’ organizations are in danger of a perception of exploiting prevalent social issues to further their marketing agenda – 56% of consumers surveyed believed this to be the case.
Interestingly, in the same report as above, Edelman found that people trusted the voice of the employee 3x more than that of a company’s CEO.
So, can we agree that if employer brand follows in the footsteps of consumer advertising we will continue to see audience trust erode?
Instead, as employer brand leaders we have the opportunity to stand out, increase brand trust and assist our organizations grow with efficiency and effectiveness without misleading our audience or over-hyping our employee experience. But to do this requires us to finally stop bragging about our employer brands and change how we think about EVPs.
Accept your organization is not a good match for everyone.
Rather than creating a communications framework of hype, with success defined as how many people we can attract, a better strategy is to create a relatable, easily understood means of matching people to organizations based on culture, character and setting expectations in reality.
The fact is, regardless of what your employee experience is like, there will be people who will love it, can thrive and find a sense of real impact, purpose and belonging while at the same time there will be people that are not ideally matched to your organization regardless of their expertise and experience.
Your propositions should and can be exhilarating to some candidates while also being a complete turn off to others. And that’s a good thing.
For the purpose of talent attraction, imagine measuring the percentage of valued applicants, rather than measuring sheer uplift in overall volume. What would your recruitment team say about that?
Our job is to facilitate effective and efficient matching for the benefit of everyone concerned, including candidates, employees/associates, recruiters and hiring managers and your organization as a whole.
To do this, you have to tell a balanced account about what it’s really like to work at your organization, so candidates can make a better, more educated decision and employees/associates have a chance to authentically contribute to your efforts feeling like they are being truly acknowledged and appreciated for the work they do under not so perfect conditions. How liberating!?
If you’re looking to double down and leverage your organization’s biggest strength – it’s people – then let’s explore how you can harness stories of adversity to humanize your brand and deliver true purpose, impact and belonging. The results of this approach can be incredible. Recently we have seen our Give and Get employer brand work ‘fast forward the cultural journey of GVC by 2 years’ said their Group HR director Simon O’Halloran.
Define a fully authentic employee experience.
We use our ‘Give & Get’ employer brand methodology to seek out the adversity within an organization and craft a balanced value exchanged, rather than a one-way broadcast of strengths.
Traditionally, organizations have opted to paint an unrealistic picture that says, “We’re great at everything!” or “Working here is amazing!”. There’s no doubt that every organization has a number of great things going for it, but it would be foolish to believe that it’s all positive.
Arriving at the truth means seeking out the adversity and challenges that employees face and overcome. To achieve this, you need to start by finding out what your internal audiences really think about your organization. This isn’t simply a case of providing more balance – showing a negative for every positive. That would certainly increase the trust factor of your message, but we would still be missing out on the big opportunity.
Look for the passion and pride people speak of and make sure it’s representative of the employee view, the leadership view and then calibrated with the market view (to establish differentiation).
When people talk about something they are proud of, they often give you both the ‘Give’ and the ‘Get’ in one fell swoop. Whatever people are proud of often organically showcases strengths, benefits and opportunities within an organization, however digging into why people are so proud reveals the harsh realities, challenges and obstacles they had to overcome in order to get there. This is where the magic lies, this is what people want to know more about so a) candidates can assess if they have what it takes to replicate similar success and b) employees can see that their efforts have been acknowledged, appreciated and highlighted as shining examples of what’s possible within your organization.
Candidate persona mapping, stakeholder interviews and online surveys can all be used to help define your unique employee experience, but remember this important lesson: data tells you what, people tell you why.
Knowing what questions to ask and where to dig is key to finding those stories of sacrifice and overcoming adversity.
Tell human stories of adversity.
Your people are your biggest strength in talent attraction, but only if you know how to leverage them effectively.
When you employ the principles of a Give & Get employer brand, you look to tell human stories of adversity. This often includes moments of vulnerability, people overcoming challenges to be successful or a journey of learning. These don’t need to massive challenges, either. It’s all about the personal impact, so these can be small moments that truly matter to people as individuals. Don’t neglect to capture how people feel, this is what makes it a human story.
Whatever the specific story, tapping into the harsh realities of life at your organization will enable you to tell real, human stories that, in turn, make the brand more human as well.
In this sense, personal moments of vulnerability and weakness actually become strengths and opportunities of your brand, so you can demonstrate your unique brand of employee experience to candidates and employees alike. This becomes even more powerful if you are very deliberate about the conclusion of your story. What message do you want to portray as well as the specifics of what actually happened? If your audience watches, listens or reads your stories and concludes, ‘it’s OK to fail’, ‘you can rely on your team for support there’, or even ‘it’s a tough environment but it seems rewarding too’, that’s a very beneficial outcome for all concerned. Well-matched talent will find this infectious, so be brave and proud of what makes your organization uniquely you.
To find out more about how you build an authentic employer brand, our new workshop, ‘Give & Get Employer Branding’, is available now here – I’d love to see you there.