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5 Things You Should Do to Recession-Proof Your Employer Brand

By Universum, 2023-11-23

How Can You Recession-Proof Your Employer Brand?

Amidst ongoing economic turbulence characterized by inflation and uncertainty leading to hiring freezes and cutbacks, fortifying your employer brand to prepare for the year ahead is critical for employer branders and talent acquisition leaders. Universum’s unique advantage rooted in extensive candidate research, surveying approximately 1 million candidates annually, has become a pivotal competitive edge for many of the world’s leading employers facing economic uncertainty.

Gathered through partnerships with over 2500 colleges and universities and through servicing thousands of employers, our detailed insight on the preferences and perceptions of the candidates you’re keen on recruiting is a competitive edge for our clients. Operating in over 50 countries, this research foundation enables us to craft and deliver tailored Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) worldwide every week and a half. If you are like many of our clients, this insight is probably already helping you develop precise communication strategies, plan your communications budget, pinpointing your relevant channels and identify the EVP attributes that resonate with both your internal and external candidates.

As we brace ourselves for potential economic shifts, I’d like to share observations from our client partnerships, highlighting strategies many of our clients are employing to weather the storm ahead. These strategies involve embedding EVPs into every facet of their operations, from initial offers to alumni communications, and form the basis of our collaboration with the world’s most recognized global companies.

In the face of uncertainty and halted budgets, what can and should you do to recession-proof your employer brand?

Make Data Your Competitive Advantage

If we anticipate stormy economic weather ahead and restrained spending, retaining and maintaining market share among candidates becomes priority number one. If your spend has been reduced, keeping what you have becomes that much more critical. To achieve this, it’s crucial to understand what attributes of the career you own in the minds of your candidates. So, my first suggestion to you is to make data your competitive advantage.

Prioritizing the understanding of why people stay, apply, or turn away, as well as how competitors attract your candidates, becomes crucial. Universum offers a framework of 40 application drivers based on 30 years of research. Candidates evaluate jobs based on their perceptions of “reputation and image,” “people and culture,” “remuneration and advancement opportunities,” and their assumptions about “the job.”

One common mistake employers make is focusing their communications on internal perceptions without considering external perceptions and candidate preferences. While these internal attributes may seem compelling and may be relevant internally, without understanding market share, employers are essentially guessing at which of these attributes will resonate most with their external candidates. In an uncertain economic climate, it’s critical that employer brand and recruitment marketing dollars are ROI- focused and rooted in data-driven, differentiated content. When every dollar counts it is critical that we remove the guesswork from our strategy and focus on actions that will produce.

As the employer brand field continues to professionalize and we see more and more noise in the talent market the candidates you want are having a difficult time differentiating between you and your competition. Employer brands built exclusively on internal perceptions often results in similar outbound messages saturating the market, making it essential to cut through the noise and differentiate effectively. Organizations must understand not only what employees think but also what candidates credibly associate with them. Benchmarking your communications against your recruiting competitors content helps determine which elements of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) will be effective and which elements are working against you, or worse; working for your competitors.

Operationalize the EVP

Employer branding presents a unique opportunity to touch every facets of a business, spanning from executive leadership to the initial interaction with candidates, learning and development, and even alumni communications. Particularly during periods of tighter resources, every investment in the employer experience should act as an opportunity to vividly showcase your employer brand.

Your off-site event, team-building program, or holiday party can serve as platforms to highlight critical career attributes significant to both existing employees and potential candidates. Too often, organizations miss leveraging these investments in the employment experience as touchpoints for their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). For instance, if you host a “habitat for humanity” event, don’t merely display pictures of the occasion. Use this investment as a means to showcase your core purpose, your commitment to the community, or other vital aspects of the employment journey that your research shows are important for your candidates and employees alike. This approach is applicable to any investment you make in your employment experience. Ensuring the EVP remains integral throughout the recruitment and employment lifecycle is a great way to leverage the employee experience as a tool for amplifying your EVP within your current budget.

While the expense associated with this is minimal, leveraging investments in the employment experience in this way is an aspect of employer branding that is frequently overlooked. Creating an inventory of every touchpoint in the employment experience where the EVP can be consciously integrated can be a very helpful planning tool.

Leverage Your EVP for Retention and Engagement

During economic uncertainty and cutbacks, leveraging the EVP for retention and engagement becomes critical in retaining existing talent. Alongside retention challenges, engagement stats are declining. According to Gallup, engagement is decreasing while active disengagement is increasing. Factors like clarity of expectations, connection to company mission, perceived growth opportunities, and a sense of care at work contribute to declining engagement rates. These touchpoints are also potential EVP opportunities that can be infused into company communications to enhance engagement. Incorporating your EVP attributes into engagement surveys can provide a valuable way to keep your finger on the pulse of your internal EVP.

Once each of your potential EVP touchpoints are understood, integrating the EVP into all content becomes much easier. The world’s most attractive employers are integrating their EVPs into interviews, email templates, employee newsletters, offer letters, rejection letters, alumni communications, ambassador toolkits, engagement surveys, employee pulse surveys and even candidate preparation support. Stay interviews and regular retention touchpoints are becoming mechanisms to bring the EVP to life within existing investments.

Diagnose and Improve Your Candidate Experience

Preventing the loss of candidates in the pipeline entails monitoring and understanding the candidate experience. Understanding your recruitment funnel and your conversion rates at each stage is key. For instance, a strong awareness leading to high consideration but a drop in rankings when it comes to applying signifies a recruitment issue at the final stage, often indicative of challenges in the candidate experience.

Mapping the candidate experience helps employers understand whether each stage in the candidate journey reinforces or undermines the Employee Value Proposition. Ensuring a seamless candidate journey aligned with the EVP is crucial. Conducting an inventory of the candidate experience and benchmarking your candidate experience against your recruiting competitor’s ensures no opportunity is missed to leverage and operationalize the EVP.

Speak Marketing’s Language

At Universum, we serve most of the world’s leading brands. This work provides insights into what matters to both employer brand leaders and their marketing counterparts. Talent leaders within the world’s most preferred employers understand what matters to their marketing team and how they measure performance. They approach their own talent brand KPI’s with similar rigor used by their marketing partners. This significantly aids in aligning their talent brand objectives with their marketing team’s objectives.

Because marketers are often measured by the performance of their consumer brands, treating candidates as akin to customers can be helpful in securing support from the marketing team. This entails supplying marketing colleagues with comprehensive market research—specifically, talent market research—which helps identify candidate preferences and highlights your unique positioning compared to competitors. Effective talent market research not only fuels productive discussions with marketing but also streamlines content creation, enhancing your stature with the marketing department while improving your position in the talent market.

Focusing Your Employer Brand Messaging is Key to Maximize Your Impact

Narrowing down your brand’s focus to resonate effectively with a specific audience rather than attempting to cater to everyone substantially bolsters the ROI of your team’s communications. Not every candidate is the right candidate. Too often we see employers suffer from poor awareness because they try and be too many things to too many candidates. Good marketers narrow their focus on a select number of brand attributes and then work to own those attributes in their market. Employer branders that make data-driven decisions can narrow their focus and essentially “double-down” on the select attributes that will lead to market dominance and produce the best ROI without diluting their focus.

When collaborating with your marketing team, it’s important to recognize the difference in expertise between talent acquisition and marketing professionals. Rather than overwhelming your marketers with talent data, offering clear, data driven guidance proves more effective. Just as your marketers will provide your talent team with enterprise brand guidelines, supplying content like data-driven personas built out in your brand guidelines helps distill your talent insights in ways that marketing can operationalize. Aligning marketing strategies with talent acquisition goals through data-driven decisions and focused communication is critical. Robust talent market research not only elevates discussions but also streamlines content creation. In this way, employers leveraging data-driven talent insight possess a distinct edge.

One final note; amidst economic uncertainty, personal approaches and genuine communication are critical. If your company is facing financial difficulty your candidates may be just as stressed out as you are. So while data is important, balancing data with human compassion, empathy, and authenticity is critical—differentiate, make data-driven decisions, but don’t forget to retain that essential human touch.

In a word…. stay human!

Written by: Jason Kipps CHRL, Managing Director of Canada, Universum

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