Recently, my LI feed seems to have been dominated by examples of poor candidate experience. Stories of CVs disappearing into ATS black holes, badly managed interviews, missing feedback and over-complicated and ineffective application processes have become the new norm. It seems candidate experience and its big brother, Employment Brand, have slipped down the recruitment priority list.
It’s not as if the value of an effective employment branding isn’t well understood. The term first appeared 30 years ago and has been widely recognised as being a vital part of any business strategy for at least the last ten years. In 2008 Jackie Orme, the then Director General of the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel Directors said Employment Brand is “absolutely integral to business strategy—resonating well beyond the doors of the HR department". Run a quick Google search on candidate experience and you’ll get nearly 28 million hits telling you why it’s essential, as well as the cost of getting it wrong.
So why – after all this time – is employment brand a secondary consideration for many recruiters? Why isn’t it a key component of every talent acquisition approach?
The Great Recession marked a tipping point for Employment Brand in many organisations. The political and economic uncertainty of the last 8-10 years has driven a lot of short-termism in businesses, making it harder for HR and Recruitment departments to effectively plan ahead. CEOs and Boards around the world became more cautious about making longer term investments, so programmes like employment brand were understandably dialled back in favour of short-term transactional initiatives with more immediate tactical gains. For many (but not all) organisations, employment brand and candidate experience stopped being ‘integral’ to their recruitment approach, instead becoming more of ‘badging’ exercise tacked on at either end of the hiring process.
But have we now reached a point where that has to change?
I’ve written before about some of the macro changes that are shaping the future of Talent Acquisition. We know that:
Technology will continue to revolutionise the relationship between candidates and companies, delivering personalised targeted experiences to candidates whilst enabling far greater insights for both parties
Global labour markets are fundamentally shifting with populations getting older, leading to multi-generational talent pools with multi-stage careers
Expectations of work have fundamentally changed for both candidates and CEOs, with the latter in particular focussing more on the link between culture and performance (some of these emphasise the point CEO culture quotes)
So why should Recruitment pay attention now? Well, let’s take a look at just three examples of change that are hurtling down the road at us.
The Gig economy is already fundamentally re-shaping when and how companies interact with candidates – forcing organisations to find new ways of attracting and engaging critical talent who have very different work motivations from permanent staf
Technology is decoupling the link between location and role, allowing work to be delivered from anywhere at any time, allowing organisations access to new talent pools. Amazing employment brand and candidate experiences will be critical to compete for talent in these new markets
Unimagined new jobs will appear quickly (for which organisations won’t have a talent pool because the roles weren’t forecast), forcing businesses to find ways to attract and engage completely different types of candidate, many of whom many never have even heard of that business, let alone considered working there.
Employment brand will be essential to respond to all these challenges and more.
So what can recruitment functions do now to harness the power of employment brand?
Culture and Brand needs to be one of first things in your recruitment strategy, not your last. Processes, policy, operating model, systems and technology all need to enable candidates to experience your authentic and compelling brand culture. Brand can no longer be stuck on like a badge – candidates and CEOs will see that a mile off. Employment brand has to be integral in everything Recruitment teams do.
Second, Recruitment needs to work closely with the rest of the HR team. Put yourself in the shoes of a candidate. Whilst Recruitment might focus on them during the acquisition process, that talent may eventually go on to become an employee and alumni, a contractor or interim, a supplier or partner, a client or customer. They develop a unified understandingof that organisation and culture, even though that understanding might be made up of different experiences, potentially built over extended periods of time with different parts of the business. Add in that all of them have personal networks that they influence, and the importance of delivering a consistent, authentic experience throughout the entire ‘people lifecycle’ becomes critical to your business’s success. A joined up HR function is key to leveraging the power of brand and culture.
Finally, invest time and effort in producing and publishing authentic content about your employment brand and culture. We already know that technology allows candidates more personalised opportunities to learn about your business, so make sure you have a steady stream of genuine, compelling content to show who you really are to those who come looking. It doesn’t need to be glossy (sometimes it’s better if it isn’t) and it doesn’t need to be expensive. It just needs to be authentic and it needs to be often.
Recruitment can no longer afford to fudge employment branding. In fact, changes to the world of talent mean employment branding has never been more important in delivering competitive advantage back to businesses. It's time to re-prioritise it on the Recruitment agenda.