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Employer Branding NOW 2021: Historic Shift Underway

By Universum on 04/05/2021

The World’s Leading Employers are re-evaluating their deal with talent

Universum’s annual Employer Branding NOW 2021 survey, now in its 6th year,
documents how talent leaders are re-positioning their employment offers for a different working world.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, May 4th, 2021 – Universum’s anticipated Employer Branding NOW 2021 study, conducted during the first quarter of 2021, shows a significant proportion of companies around the world are ramping up their recruiting efforts and rethinking how they can best compete for talent following a far-reaching period of change. Forty-five percent of companies participating in the survey expect their recruiting needs to be higher this year. And 70% of the leading global employers who expressed an opinion claimed they had either re-evaluated their employment deal or were in the process of doing so.

“Over the last year, the World’s Most Attractive Employers were much more likely to maintain their investments in recruiting and internship programs, meaning they are better positioned to benefit from the economic snap-back underway,” says Richard Mosley, global vice president of strategy for Universum. “However, even the WMAEs, with the strongest employer brands recognize that they need to take care in navigating ‘the new normal’.”

Universum, the global leader in employer branding, surveyed over 1,200 HR and talent leaders from 71 countries from February through March 2021. The research investigates the practices of talent leaders in areas like employer branding, talent attraction and employee engagement; it also collects insights from the World’s Most Attractive Employers, a cohort of top global employers identified by job seekers around the globe.

Among other noteworthy findings from the research:

Employers ramping up recruiting and positioning for an up-economy: Since many companies expect a positive uplift in recruiting activity in 2021, they are also expecting the hiring environment to get more competitive; even with higher unemployment levels.

Many brands are revisiting their employer value proposition, testing whether it still resonates in a disrupted work world. More than 2 in 3 among the WMAEs say they have either updated their EVP or are considering a change — an unusually large share. These findings reflect two powerful movements over the last year: a realization that some EVPs no longer align with the ‘new normal’ of flexible, remote work, plus, an evolution in employers’ messaging to emphasize diversity and inclusion given a new attention to social justice issues in many regions.

Top employer brands no longer seriously threatened by startups luring high-value talent. With so much upheaval over the last 12 months, many young people are looking for greater security and more defined career paths — something they are more likely to find at a larger employer compared to a startup. In 2021, just 16% of the WMAEs say they are “very concerned” about talent competition from the startup world, compared to 38% that reported high concern two years ago.

Hiring for diversity a key priority for top brands. Among the WMAEs, 98% say diversity and inclusion is a very important part of recruiting efforts, a priority now shared by 74%), of major employers.

“The last year has given us a chance to see how top employer brands perform under duress, and the World’s Most Attractive Employers demonstrate that even in a downturn, recruiting and employer branding must be ‘always on’,” says Universum CEO Mats Röjdmark. “The WMAEs were quick to pivot to a virtual recruiting environment, and willing to invest in virtual internships when some brands pulled back. These companies were not merely surviving but thriving.”

To download a copy of the full Employer Branding NOW report, which includes additional research about topics such as EVPs by company size, talent supply chain strategies, and data-driven recruiting, visit


About Universum

Universum is a data-driven, insight-led employer branding agency. Founded in Stockholm, we are now active in over 60 countries, with key hubs in Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai. We provide our clients with the research, strategy and creative solutions they need to compete more effectively for talent.