7 Trends of Employer Branding for 2021
The following article is by Marilia Honorio Ragazzo (Former Senior Client Partner, DE&I agent of change at CI&T), an Employer Branding College Graduate and member of our Global Alumni.
After an uncertain start of 2021 considering our experiences with 2020, and after reading articles and participating on some webinars, these are my considerations to the Employer Brand landscape for the year ahead. These are seven topics of attention while we still adapt to what may be our new reality: never settle and adjust constantly.
The pandemic imprinted several changes in our work environments, work relations, and even deeper in our lives. It influences almost all topics listed below, but many subjects were already on the table. A few of the items, mainly Purpose, Ethics & Values, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), were moved to the spotlight as we lived moments of civil unrest, racial pressure, and increased understanding that we are all together in the same world that might collapse if we don't act.
1. It is really global
The pandemic made many businesses learn how to work remotely and, all the sudden, many untapped talent pools they had no idea they could dream of having. Most companies now realize that employees are everywhere as they learned how to work with distributed teams. The remote work is here to stay, so it is mandatory to have a remote philosophy (preferably a remote-first one) that values the good word wherever it is performed. It requires intentionality when focusing on distributed teams and remote employees, because there are differences and other behaviors to look for.
Distributed teams may be more diverse, more inclusive, and it requires attention, proper incentives and rewards. Remote workers can add agility and enable cost reductions. But it requires study on how to value and prioritize the global workforce within a company, as well as it requires monitoring brand awareness and employee morale. This article from Velocity Global shows some of the points of attention when considering a global workforce.
2. We are people and we need to be well
After a tough 2020, the wellbeing of employees jumped in front of HR and executives eyes. Not only because people were getting burnout, stressed, but because we all felt 2020 in different ways. Women and caretakers were buried into regular work and care for kids, elderly or sick relatives. The pandemic showed we are all in the same storm, but not on the same boat. It exposed mental health like any other situation before, and it showed that companies may look into an holistic support for families and communities. Benefits, for example, may adapt to the needs of candidates and employees. Mental care, caretaker's burden and some other previously difficult conversations must have a place at work so people can be their better selves.
This article from Gartner showed that 68% of companies introduced at least one wellness benefit after March 2020.
3. Corporate Social Responsibility
This was one topic that the pandemic exposed fiercely in the face of the ones that weren't paying attention yet. Here I'm definitely not talking about greenwashing, social-washing, or faking in any way or form. This is the realization of how every corner of the world is connected, of the dependency we have with different parts of the society, how our communities are affected very differently when something out of control happens.
The world is on fire and most of us are not doing anything about it. We see Greta Thunberg provoking conversations and we realize that companies can also do something. Of course they should respect their scope, their potential impact, but nothing is too little when so much is at risk.
Companies don't have to pay anything to look within the employees, communities, clients, and the environment and figure out something to do. Then sharing the journey and some results, even if small, would touch people's hearts so they want to be part (brand awareness) of it or they want to stay part of it (employees). Look into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, look for what other companies are doing. Nothing is too small to prevent companies from starting their CSR programs. And the future is more ambitious. It is the step further from the Corporate Social Responsibility to the role companies have with Social Justice.
Important to highlight that CSR should not have just a pandemic relief focus. In this article from Forbes, companies may reframe CSR parameters and, as a tip, always partner with like-minded organizations that can help to improve the community and reach shared goals.
4. Purpose, Ethics & Values
Intimately connected with the CSR theme above, one of the great lessons of 2020 for companies that want to be purpose-driven, that want to really connect with people's values is to invest in the integrity of its processes and improve its conflict management.
The social unrest related to racism showed companies that exposing problems is not a bad thing, as long as it sparkles conversations and change. Companies have a long journey on learning how to expose conflicts and better manage them. Conflicts, not arguments, are welcome in the Diversity era as they are a key component for having diversity of thought. We are not ready to take the best out of conflicts yet.
Companies' processes on Code of Ethics must be robust and action must be seen after a complaint is posted, without retaliation.
Almost every employee looks for a great employment deal. Some particularly look for companies that share their values, priorities and purpose. The Employment Contract is now a Values Contract, where employer and employee:
Share purpose: to attract and engage employees, so they are productive and the best they can be.
Have deeper connections: companies should look for their employees, their families, their communities.
Look for radical flexibility: companies empower employees for performance. If there is not flexibility in the relationship, employees will find some other place that has.
More details about the new employment contract is in this article from Gartner. The employers that get this right will have a more engaged workforce, greater employee retention and better ability to attract top talent.
5. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
If your company has not started a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) program yet, now it is the time. As we've lived a year full of social unrest and discussions about race, bias, equal treatment and opportunities, it is time to have the same conversations at work. Some companies, depending on their culture and their geographic locations, may be less advanced in the DEI conversation, but it is fundamental to start the conversation. Nothing fancy or big is required. Let's be honest and talk about reality and our efforts. Even if your numbers are not great, don't let them be shy… don't let the actions be hidden only because you've just started. Let's talk about equal opportunities and equal pay.
For the companies more advances in this field, it is time to embrace Affirmative Actions and help to heal society.
Check the example from Adidas to support the Black Live Matters movement in 2020, that not only shares their intentions but shows their commitment with numbers and real actions. Like the company said in the corporate communication, "we will create a lasting change and we will do it now."
6. It is all about experience
And it will always be. People connect with what matters, with nice environments, good products. They select very carefully the products that they purchase as consumers based on the experience they have with it, so why wouldn't they select the company they work for the same way? And it is a very comprehensive view of experience: starting from the candidate experience to the employee experience, until the decision to part ways. And the remote experience, very different from the office one, brought new challenges on company culture, engagement, performance evaluations and communication, to say just a few. Office experience, if the company has from now one, will be different from previous years.
The pandemic required a new organizational design that includes everyone. More and more people will decide to keep their remote arrangements even when the pandemic is over. In this IBM survey, the company identified that 75% of the employees would like to keep working remotely at least occasionally, while 54 % would like this to be their primary way of working.
There is a huge challenge in communication as people consume information in several ways. And if some people are already experiencing the hybrid model of work, companies must make sure employees still on the remote model won't miss a thing. Otherwise, companies will lose them.
It will be necessary some special attention to moms and caregivers, mainly women. As noted by the UN and many other groups, they were disproportionately impacted by schools closure, for example. As discussed a little about their wellbeing, the experiences must be designed or evaluated based on theirs. And considering other minoritized groups besides women, it is a wonderful opportunity to talk to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and implement some of their suggestions to improve their work experience and advance the company's goals toward a more respectful and equal environment.
This very complete report from McKinsey brings several elements to the experience conversation, with examples to create more tailored responses to workplace challenges, expanding on the goodwill and camaraderie earned in the early phases of the pandemic.
7. Technology & Data
Technology is so fundamental now for sustaining our virtual interactions, but it is more than that (I still love you Zoom). Technology is more than our contacts on social media and the documents we share on GSuite or Teams. It is continuously evolving for applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) on sentiment analysis, Machine Learning (ML) to expedite services with chatbots and other automated self-services. It requires people thinking on smart ways to frequently and not annoyingly collect data so it can be analyzed and help companies on data-driven decisions. Personalized information is key for engagement and, as companies evolve on the analytics field, the closer they get to a predictive future.
This great article from HR Technologist connects the Digital Transformation we've been seeing in the market with HR functions, especially Employee Experience, Workforce Analytics, and Predictive Analytics.
It is key to update or revamp not only companies Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) but also the speech, actions and culture. It is instrumental to adjust companies to the new experiences and reinforce values. The EVP is important for brand awareness, to increase the curiosity about the company, to increase the number and quality of candidates, while sharing true and honest things about the company. This would make employees feel proud, engaged, and they might even act as brand ambassadors.
A well crafted EVP:
Fosters curiosity about the company.
Creates connection with values, purpose and transparency. There will be truths from within shown externally.
Has people wondering how it is like to work for the company, making them open to opportunities you may have.
Makes candidates closer to accepting a job offer.
Promotes what is like to work for the company, while generating pride, curiosity, engagement, and even brand ambassadors.
All topics are connected to this 2021 scenario we are in. We still have a log of uncertainties but we can be sure that our resilience and adaptability will be tested again. We will be ready!
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