The pandemic has prompted many job seekers and employees to rethink their priorities at work. Some may look for a stronger sense of purpose at their companies, others may prefer more flexibility to work remotely.
In the third episode of In Cognition, we hear from industry leaders about how employer branding plays a key role in attracting and retaining talent, and what actions companies can take to strengthen their employer branding.
An employer brand speaks to every aspect that represents a company, including its mission, vision, culture and personality. It describes the market perception of the organisation as an employer, and its value proposition to employees in exchange for their talents and commitment to work there.
Look at employer branding as a whole, rather than individual elements
Anthony Head, Managing Director at Engin10, says employer branding is becoming increasingly critical for businesses to attract and retain talent. Head highlights that the Japanese workforce, which traditionally merits stability and lifetime employment, is proving this point.
“Employees’ mindset has shifted from one company for life to many companies for life. While many companies are expecting employees to return to the office, there are also more people moving outside of Tokyo and working remotely. There are a lot more startups coming into Japan and they offer the option to work from other places,” says Head, who leads the Tokyo-based employer branding consultancy.
Tokyo experienced its first decline in population in 26 years in 2021 as more people moved out of the capital and fewer foreigners moved in, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
“Because of the talent shortage in Japan, the employer brand positioning has critical and strategic value not only to acquire talent, but also to keep the best ones from going elsewhere,” he added.
However, having compelling mission and vision statements is just the baseline. Toby Hurst, Lead Consultant at Hoxo Media, says over the last few years, most businesses have recognized the importance of mission and vision and incorporated them as part of their company identities. But to attract the right types of candidates, employer branding needs to cover every aspect of the company profile.
“Mission and vision may be the first things candidates look at when they apply for a role, but I don’t think any part is more important than the others. Companies should really look at their employer brands as a whole, rather than individual elements,” says the London-based consultant, who helps recruitment agencies build brands and engage clients through content marketing.
Catherine Lim, Office Manager at FinLync, also shares a similar view. “Mission and Vision were the talk of the street for more than 10 years ago, but now it is about how they are lived through in a company’s culture and personality in their totality,” says Lim.
Leverage on employer brand to attract talent
FinLync, a treasury technology startup with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Portugal, and Singapore, has been growing its workforce globally at a fast pace in the last six months, and Lim attributed it to FinLync’s employer brand.
“At the beginning, I was a bit concerned whether we could attract people, given that we are a startup and the Covid-19 situation brings so much uncertainty. But when I listened to our new joiners, I’m surprised what gave the extra push in their decision in joining FinLync. And I think the company’s branding, how it’s being known in the marketplace, helped a lot.”
As Hurst pointed out, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for small-sized companies to attract talent by building a strong employer brand.
“Historically, big tech companies could easily draw talent. But there’s a whole host of candidates in the market that don’t want to work for companies of that size anymore,” Hurst added. “They’re looking for more personable businesses that they can relate to and serve more of their own purposes within that career.”
Treat the candidate experience as a critical part of employer branding
While candidates would consider a company’s mission, vision and culture in order to decide whether it’s a right fit for them, it is often difficult to tell until they join the company. On top of providing an engaging experience for employees, Engin10’s Head says that companies should treat “candidate experience” as an operation critical to their businesses.
“From the message, they take to the market, to how candidates engage with their talent team, to how their recruiting agencies communicate their brand proposition, all the way through to the whole interview and onboarding processes,” says Head. “Every touchpoint that a company has with a candidate needs to be on point. Because if you’re not on point, then potentially your competitors are on point. There are no excuses because a candidate’s experience is also a reflection of the experience of working at the company itself.”
Take small steps, rather than waiting for a singular moment to create a large impact
The other way companies can demonstrate their commitment to their mission and vision is through tangible actions that candidates can see for themselves.
“It was nice when you hear companies talking about mission and vision for the first time, because it’s refreshing. But after a while, if that doesn’t become a reality, then it’s a bit of a vanity exercise,” says Hurst. “Candidates are going to be looking for companies that do less talking and more doing.”
Companies shouldn’t hold back on taking small steps to prove that they are aligned with the values they put forward, he added. “Companies sometimes slow down their actions because they don’t want to take tiny steps, they want to do something really impactful. But actually, what could a company do in its day to day to drive towards its goals and values, even if it impacts just 1%?”
Care for individual development goals
Offering competitive compensation is a common tactic to attract talent, but as candidates look for more personal goals in their careers, companies must also make their offerings more comprehensive, according to the experts.
“You can only pay people so much. If you don’t have a good culture and personality, then there are more bad eggs than good ones in the company. The employment wouldn’t last long,” says Lim.
According to Head and Hurst, one of the indicators of a good culture is whether the company is willing to invest in its employees’ personal growth.
“Taking a holistic approach towards employee wellbeing is a key pillar of employer branding. People want to feel they are being nurtured,” Head says, adding that companies should have employee value propositions that are personalised to each individual, rather than only staying at a corporate or division-level.
Hurst is also noticing an emerging trend that candidates are now focusing more on their overall employment package, not just the compensation component.
“Training and developmental opportunities are going to be key because people want to make progress,” he says.
“Sometimes a company can be hesitant to promote that because if someone joins and gets all the training and then leaves, it would have wasted all its money. But the reality is that if you’re seen as someone who invests in people and doesn’t stop them from pursuing their goals, whether that’s within your business or outside, you will actually attract better people to work for you in the long run.”
Walk the talk and let your employer brand speak for itself
In a nutshell, an employer brand is a manifestation of what the company does to its current and future employees, rather than a hypothetical identity that’s built out of nowhere.
“The brand is a function of who you are as a business and you can’t really control that. What you can control is what you are doing to benefit your clients, candidates and employees. Put the effort into what you want to develop first, and then worry about where the brand builds from there,” Hurst explained.
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