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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Fielding

Employer branding – The future of work, leadership, and the employee experience

For many businesses, recruitment, keeping and finding the right candidates are high priority post the covid-19 pandemic. However, changes in people’s attitudes and behaviours challenges previous understandings about work, leadership, and people’s expectations on everyday life.

Moreover, the question how businesses should invest and focus for the future in a changing economy, remains uncertain. Nevertheless, keeping talents and recruiting the right people are crucial for securing future growth. To answer these questions, we took the opportunity to speak with Brett Minchington Founder of Employer Branding College and pioneer in the employer branding global industry since 2004, to get his global perspective on how to attract and retain talent in a post COVID-19 work life.

Would you like to give the readers your view about what Employer Branding is today – How do you define employer branding?

— Today, employer branding is one of the top items spoken around the executive table at the world’s leading organisations. The positive or negative image your company has as an employer, will change over time and often factors outside your control such as the global pandemic we are now in, will impact it. The hospitality, leisure and travel industries have lost a lot of employment appeal over the past 12 months as a result of being locked down for long periods resulting in large numbers of people leaving the industry.

As economies have started to open up, these industries are now facing severe talent shortages, placing further pressure on those already working in the industry, who are now also considering leaving due to the unattractive environment caused by the staff shortages. Even high growth industries such as IT, healthcare and pharmaceuticals are facing severe talent shortages which shows no sign of improving soon, says Brett Minchington.

“The companies that understand the true value of employer branding to a company’s bottom line are investing in building leadership capability to manage their employer brand as a strategic business function.”

Employer branding has evolved the past fifteen years

Minchington explains that Employee needs continue to evolve over time as economic, social, technological, and increasingly environmental factors, drive workplace change.

— I have observed employer branding become more strategic in the world’s leading companies over the past fifteen years, with the greatest shift in the past three. Everyone is talking about their employer brand these days. However very few companies have the internal capability to manage it effectively over the long term as they face external trends. Much of the employer branding work we see today is still campaign based and limited to recruitment marketing, social media, or talent acquisition initiatives.

However, the companies that understand the true value of employer branding to a company’s bottom line are investing in building leadership capability to manage their employer brand as a strategic business function. They are also re-thinking their organizational structure and design to ensure they are more agile and adaptive to trends and the evolving needs of the talent they need to drive their success, says Brett Minchington.

These are the main shifts in Employer Branding work post the pandemic

When we ask Brett about how the pandemic has affected employer branding practice, he declares that the pandemic has resulted in a shift of focus towards people experience and personalization. He continues and states that the shift is challenging to deliver at scale, especially because most of the workforce are working remote.

— Some companies are thriving, many others are struggling due to a lack of employer brand capability and leadership resistant to change, he says. Brett continues and explains that today, employer branding needs to strike the right balance between relational and transactional aspects of the employment experience. While salary and benefits are important in choosing to join or stay at a company, people are increasingly seeking to work for a company with a strong purpose and one that provides them with a sense of belonging, meaningful work, personal and professional development, and respect.

The increased focus around the world on employee mental health and well-being demonstrates just how serious companies are starting to take employer branding. If you do not treat your employees well, you will lose them, even, as research shows, they do not have another job to go to, says Minchington.

“You need to be agile in decision making and work design, ensure you have the right systems and processes in place to optimise employee experience and respond in near, real time, to changes in people and customer sentiment.”

— Today’s employers need to have an agile mindset and adapt quickly to changes in an unpredictable global environment. To be successful, your employer brand needs to become one of your company’s key assets. It’s simple, if you can’t attract and retain the right people, you will not succeed. You need to be agile in decision making and work design, ensure you have the right systems and processes in place to optimise employee experience and respond in near, real time, to changes in people and customer sentiment, says Brett Minchington.

— I am starting to see a shift in companies rethinking their business model to revolve not just around their customers, but their candidates and employees as well. It is only a matter of time when investors press Boards and Executive Teams to excel in this area to ensure they are focused on attracting and retaining the industry’s top talent through modern management practices such as employer branding. The call for stronger collaboration between HR, Marketing, Communications and IT for business success is getting louder. This is where your employer branding strategic function can have most impact! Says Brett Minchington.

Finally, from your perspective, what will be three key things for employers to focus on to attract and retain people returning to a post COVID-19 worklife?

1. Adaptive Leadership: If there is one thing that living through a pandemic has reinforced is that change is a reality of everyday life. As a global community we have seen many examples of companies that have successfully navigated the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. However, we have also been confronted with the loss experienced by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Companies that will succeed in a post COVID-19 world are those with caring and supportive leadership, an ability to communicate clearly on complex issues and those companies with a strong focus on employee experience. Ask most people what they seek in an employment experience and they will share that they are seeking fair pay, professional and personal development, meaningful work, a friendly working atmosphere and a respectful workplace. Focus on meeting these needs and 80 percent of your talent issues will be solved! This is an area where your employer brand leaders can make a significant impact.

2. Sentiment: There are literally hundreds of metrics or KPI’s companies can use to measure success, yet very few companies really know how people feel about working for them. What your CFO values most may be totally different to what matters most to a middle manager. Companies need to effectively measure candidate, employee and customer sentiment and understand how the relationship between them builds company value. As technology evolves to allow real time measure of sentiment we will move closer to a self-relegated workplace where individuals are motivated to bring the best version of themselves to work to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

3. Re-Think Talent Structures: There has been very little progress in organisational structure and work design over the past 10 years, at a time when technology has significantly changed the world we live in. Companies need to take a holistic view of the employee experience they support from pre-hire to retire. This will require a re-think of the traditional hierarchical or matrix structures we still see in many organisations around the world today.

Instead of limiting employees to a functional role, we need to tap into the broader capabilities of our people to support a more people friendly, inclusive and connected workplace. This is a medium-long term outlook and will require the input of ecosystem stakeholders to ensure your companies is attracting and developing people with the relevant skills and capabilities to adapt to the challenges of a post COVID-19 workplace. The strategic employer brand leader is well equipped to lead this company-wide support function role.


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