May 30, 2019

Three things global employer branding leaders are talking about

Alexa Moritz, Marketing Manager

As Marketing Manager, Alexa handles the strategy and execution of marketing initiatives for ThirtyThree and works to raise awareness of the importance of employer branding within the North American market. This includes managing marketing and public relations activities, external communications, and planning industry events.

Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more.

Lisbon’s Tivoli Theatre is bustling with excitement. Here, 750 attendees from over 45 countries have come together to attend the world’s largest gathering of leaders in employer branding, World Employer Branding Day. Aside from basking in the beauty and culture of Portugal, I’m here to connect with industry peers, discuss best practice, and cheer on our own Phill Lane, Managing Director of ThirtyThree Bristol, who is presenting a keynote talk.

The energy in the room is palpable. As employer branding evangelists, we’re passionate about helping companies connect with the right talent – but we’ve often had to justify the importance of what we do to others, fighting for budgets, awareness, and resources. Mars exemplifies this, highlighting the challenges of securing stakeholder buy-in.

Yet in this historic venue, I can turn to any given stranger and strike up a conversation about EVP. From giants like Netflix to less-known organizations, each presentation offers a unique take on employer branding. Speakers share their individual challenges and learnings, covering a breadth of subtopics ranging from storytelling to building a global employer brand. While each take is different, I notice several common themes developing throughout the day.

Authenticity is (still) key

If there’s one thing we hope to convey to the brands we work with at ThirtyThree, it’s the importance of rooting talent communications in truth. So, it’s not surprising to see this sentiment echoed by almost all the presentations at World Employer Branding Day. To convey this, PathMotion draws a parallel to the infamous Fyre Festival, a disastrous luxury musical festival that had been heavily promoted by social media influencers. Thousands of event attendees were promised lavish accommodations, gourmet meals, and top-class performers; however, the festival organizers were unable to deliver this experience and the event was a massive failure. The bottom line: no matter how creative and innovative your campaign is, if you’re offering candidates and employees a promise you can’t keep they won’t stay with you.

But what about if your business is currently undergoing a transformation? You’ll need to attract the right types of people who will help drive the organization forward, but you’ll also need to be authentic in doing so to retain them. Phill discusses this dilemma in his keynote, stating that “any reflection of future ambition cannot be authentic today.” The solution? Ensure that aspirations underpinning your employer brand are presented to candidates and employees as exactly that: ambitions that are exciting to imagine and even more exciting to be a part of. When the business and people strategies are closely aligned, human resources can support other functions within the organization to close the gap between that aspiration and reality.

Think beyond diversity

The most tweeted quote of the day comes from LinkedIn: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging is dancing like no one is watching.” The point here is that businesses cannot benefit from diversity without making people feel included. While the perception of a diverse workforce might get candidates through the door, they need to feel comfortable in their own skin to truly thrive within the organization. Accordingly, brands must champion hiring and cultivating a diverse team and fostering a culture of acceptance – these are two separate things. Vocalizing success stories of employees who have “incredible dance moves” because they feel a genuine sense of belonging becomes a powerful lever for driving change.

The importance of allowing employees to ‘bring their authentic selves to work’ is iterated by multiple presenters. Among them are Amazon, who discuss their self-proclaimed ‘peculiar culture’; they’re proud of the diversity of their people and draw upon their stories in various communications. By allowing employees to speak about their individual experiences, the reality of the working environment can be accurately conveyed to external audiences, helping the right people (those who will succeed within this culture) self-select into the business.

Use tech thoughtfully

There’s no doubt that technology is an impactful method for sharing stories about your organization. But, in an age of constant disruption, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using inappropriate tech to talk about who you are. Jumping on the bandwagon without considering the content at its core – and how audiences want to consume that content - can undermine its authenticity. History shows that your audience will see right through the smoke and mirrors. Talks throughout the day urge us to selectively lean on tools such as AI, machine learning, and VR and use them to share human stories and articulate meaningful work.

Film is undeniably a powerful way to tell a story, and it’s so often core to our successful campaigns and content strategy. So, I’m surprised to hear Netflix make the following statement in its presentation: “videos are overrated.” Upon reflection, I see where this is going – it’s crucial to ensure that film is addressing project objectives in a differentiated and thoughtful way to deliver ROI. Any film is only as good as the emotional reaction it creates in the viewer. We’d argue that this rings true for all creative; if you look and sound the same as your competitors, why would anyone choose your organization over another?

At World Employer Branding Day, I meet some incredible leaders in the space and hear from some of the world’s most attractive employer brands. While the fight for investment in this business-critical work may not be over, it’s clear that those in attendance are passionate about employer branding and there’s a compelling case to be made.

The biggest takeaway of all? Our work is more important and dynamic than ever – and together we can drive the industry forward.

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