As 2013 draws to a close, we can’t help but wonder what 2014 is going to bring. The world of employer branding has been rapidly growing and evolving — just think of how many companies have added a role specifically for this purpose in the last few years. Yet, it still remains a challenge area for many organizations. Companies invest millions of dollars each year in marketing their consumer brands, but employer branding investments are lagging behind.
So, what’s on the horizon for 2014? Here are my four predictions:
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Recruiting Will Look More and More Like Marketing
Deep down, executives know they should be deliberately managing their employer brand — but don’t make the time to do it! Employer branding always seems to fall into the “important but not urgent” category, since recruiters are encouraged to focus on activities that yield more immediate results. In a recent meeting with a client, I asked them what their priorities were, and their response was “to hire 18 engineers.” This is a very clear target – when they accomplish it, there will be pats on the back and objectives ticked off. However, focusing on short-term hiring goals won’t make recruiters jobs easier in the long run: they will have just as much work to do when they need to hire engineers next year.
2014 will be the year that chief human resource officers make a strong move from recruitment to attraction. This could pose a challenge for some organizations, since it requires a different skillset and a new approach to recruiting. Rather than simply filling roles each year, companies will need to devote more resources to set themselves up for long-term success, such as defining messages and communication strategies that generate potential candidates’ interest. They will also need to learn to separate their employer brand from their employer value proposition. While these terms are currently used interchangeably, this is a mistake. The employer brand is a translation of the EVP into a message that resonates with the designated target group, and may have different iterations depending on the audience. How will organizations know what resonates? That brings me to my second prediction: data.
It’s All About the Data
As marketing concepts are infused into the recruitment space, there will be an increased focus on understanding the talent market or the “target audience.” In marketing, companies invest in data to help them understand their segments: what will get an 18-25 year old man to buy our product over their preferred product? What does this group prioritize? Is it money? Brand association? Functionality? Market research data is scoured and focus groups are launched to uncover the differentiators that will move people from considering a product to actually buying it. The more information the better, as it will ensure that the message will truly hit the mark and generate the desired results.
Most companies currently do not invest that same level of research in other areas, but we’re seeing it happen more and more. Many organizations are even hiring data analysts into their HR departments. No longer do decisions need to be based solely on the HR team’s experience. When equipped with data, as well as the tools and training to make data simple to understand and actionable, recruitment departments will be able to make the kinds of decisions that will set them up for long-term success.
A Personal Touch Will Make All the Difference
Today, everyone is embracing technology to help them do their jobs better, especially as we all try to do more with less. For most people, though, this has created a lot of noise — specifically, an unimaginable amount of email! To cut through the noise and allow your organization to stand out, you need to offer the same personal touch that candidates have always needed. Contrary to popular belief, this is especially true for millennials — in fact, despite their reputation for being a tech-obsessed generation, millennials are still choosing career fairs as one of their top communication channels for learning about employers!
While it’s difficult for companies to invest a lot of time and resources in career fairs, there are plenty of other ways to achieve scale while also delivering authentic and personal experiences to candidates. Employers should consider how technology can help facilitate, rather than replace, a personal interaction. Technologies like virtual career fairs and information sessions are efficient ways to reach a large number of candidates, while also making them feel as though they are interacting on a personal level.
Companies That Don’t Go Mobile Will Lose Candidates
Top candidates have lots of options, so they aren’t going to spend a lot of time trying to decipher your career website. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to learn more about your organization and apply — and this means mobile. People do so much of their web browsing, research, and job-hunting on their phone or tablet, and you are guaranteed to lose candidates if your site is not mobile optimized.
The same goes for your application process. Which seems more likely: a passive candidate taking the time to complete a long application through an ATS, or a passive candidate applying with one click using their LinkedIn profile? The latter. Organizations that don’t anticipate the needs and behaviors of their candidates and make the process as easy as possible will miss out on some potentially great hires.
As talent becomes increasingly important for organizational success in 2014, we’ll see the recruitment department become an even more critical strategic partner to the business. However, in order to achieve the business’ trust, recruiters will need to stop focusing on reactively filling vacancies; rather, they will need to turn their focus to forecasting business needs and branding to build future talent pipelines.
Top management will also need to support this shift from recruitment to attraction — employer branding is a CEO priority for the most successful talent attraction organizations. By investing in data, prioritizing long-term branding, and using the right technologies to do it, companies will set themselves up for a successful 2014.