• Brett Minchington

A renewed focus on employer branding

Over the past six months, like everyone, I have observed the spread and impact of COVID-19 around the world. I have watched with interest how governments, businesses, educational institutions, industry associations and citizens have responded to the pandemic. The stand out consistency in the response efforts has been a lack of coordination between key stakeholder groups around the world that has given rise, to varying degrees, major economic and social distress. Sometimes it seems as if we are closer to a ‘new normal’ and at other times it feels like we are making no progress at all. Maybe we are just navigating the way forward the best we can until we discover this ‘new normal.’

We are facing new challenges in the coming years due to the impact of the pandemic and the numbers are staggering:

  • 15.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, 630,343 deaths (as at 22/7/2020) worldometers

  • Global fiscal support now totals $11 trillion IMF

  • The world economy is expected to shrink by 3% in 2020 - a downgrade of 6.3 percentage points in just four months. IMF

  • Working hour losses for the second quarter of 2020 relative to the last quarter of 2019 are estimated to reach 14.0 per cent worldwide (equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs) International Labour Organization

  • Since the pandemic began, internet usage has risen by up to 70%. World Economic Forum

There are also hidden numbers in the millions of people experiencing mental health issues due to the pandemic and/or likely to encounter them in the coming months and years.

We are contemplating what this all means for our family, friends and our work which nowadays seems to all blend into one. Personally, I have followed my passion in employer branding for the past 16 years and am concerned about what the future holds for the industry and its practitioners.

Upon reflection I am constantly asking myself the question:

Has the pandemic led to an environment for employer branding practice to finally breakthrough and be viewed as the strategic function to build successful companies through inclusive, purpose driven and people focused experiences?

When I published my first book in 2006, ‘Your Employer Brand attract, engage, retain,’ for the field of employer branding to reach its full potential, I envisioned a world where:

  • Companies are people focused.

  • CEO’s believe their core focus is unlocking the potential of their people, moreso than maximising shareholder wealth.

  • Poor leadership is self-regulated as the voice of employee advocacy would call out examples of pool leadership.

  • Work and life outside of work is aligned to fulfilling people’s lifestyle needs holistically.

  • The workplace is an environment that inspires people to do their best work.

  • Companies care about the impact their initiatives to build wealth have on their employees, customers and communities and will be judged by these stakeholders accordingly.

I choose the title for the book as I had come to the conclusion following extensive research that employer branding practice could offer companies much more value beyond an EVP or recruitment campaign, even though that’s where the primary focus and investment was back then.

It was an ideal time to launch the book, though it wasn’t planned as such, it just aligned with my passion to write my first book. Over the next two years the economy continued to soar, just about every article I read about employer branding was really talking about recruitment marketing.

Figure 1: My first book, circa 2006

In 2006 the world I imagined for employer branding to shine seemed decades away. Social media and technology were only just starting to scale, a long way from today where they have integrated themselves into our daily lives’, to the point where they are subconsciously influencing our behaviours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic I have read and bookmarked literally thousands of articles about how companies should respond to the pandemic. Amidst many heartbreaking stories, the news across social media has contained many positive stories about the role people and their companies have played in the response to COVID-19. During lockdowns we have read about innovative companies who quickly pivoted to make face masks, sanitizer, and ventilators and heart-warming stories about people such as Captain Tom Moore who has raised more than £23m for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his gardens before his 100th birthday.

The common sentiment has been overwhelming positive and supportive. Leaders have been showing empathy and compassion at levels never before seen at such scale.

Gallup found that in early May, the percentage of 'engaged' workers in the U.S. -- those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace -- reached 38%. This is the highest since Gallup began tracking the metric in 2000.