Employer Branding and the recruitment market in 2022

Employer Branding and the recruitment market in 2022

Tuesday, 22 March 2022 10:11

Discussion between Lee Shorter, Practice Manager at Aquent, and Paul Nelson, Managing Director of BrandMatters.

You can view the video interview on our YouTube channel here or scroll down to view it at the bottom of this article.

PN:
At BrandMatters, we're experiencing a sharp increase from the market and our clients with enquiries for employer branding and employee value propositions, or what we call an EVP. Joining us today is Lee Shorter from Aquent, a global workforce solutions organisation, to discuss the current state of the employment market here in Australia.

Lee, a lot's changed in the past 18 months in the world of recruitment. Attracting and retaining talent has become a major challenge being faced by many organisations across Australia and around the world, where closed borders have had a huge impact and led to skilled immigration shortages. Lee, as a professional in the area, could you set the scene for us? What are the major challenges organisations are facing in recruitment at the moment?

LS:
Over the past sort of 12 to 18 months there has been a complete shift in the market. We have gone from being in the midst of COVID, where we had businesses making huge rounds of redundancies for obvious reasons, contractors being let go. So, we had a lot of candidates on the market that were looking for jobs, but companies were not looking to hire. Now that we're through the worst of that and coming out of the back of it, there's been a complete shift to how companies are really picking up their hiring efforts, looking to build up their teams again. Projects are kicking off again, funding is being given for new projects. Everybody is now looking to hire and they're all needing the same skill sets.

They've all got volumes of roles that they're needing to fill and so it's a really competitive market. We've shifted from having lots of candidates and no jobs, to now having not many candidates but a lot of jobs. That's means it's taking a lot longer to hire, and companies are needing to be flexible with the way that they recruit and the people that they recruit. And it's also having a knock-on effect to existing workforces because they're the ones that are having to pick up the slack. So that then creates a problem for the employees who are potentially feeling overworked and then maybe looking to leave themselves which is then further adding to the already difficult problem.

PN:
Aquent specialises in placing digital and creative talent in the brand and marketing and creative services industries, so in your experience, what are these employers looking for in an organisation? What are the main factors driving their decision making?

LS:
We do a lot of research into this, and our data shows that a very small percentage of people are active with their job search at the current time, probably only about 15-16% of people are actively looking. These are people that are on SEEK, on LinkedIn, on company careers pages, reaching out to hiring managers, trying to find an opportunity for themselves, but still a very small percentage. What the data also shows is that around 60% of people, if they are approached about the right opportunity at the right time, would consider a move.

And so that's very important when it comes to things like employer brand, the ways in which we can entice people to an organisation, what would prompt them to leave one role for another role if they're not actively looking. Things like pay is obviously important. We're seeing an increase in salaries because the demand is so high, people are looking for up to around 20% increases to change jobs, which is quite considerable. But I think that the top three things that people would be looking for and why they would change jobs would be interesting and varied work, strong leadership, and most importantly, flexible working.

PN:
That hybrid working these days has changed everything, hasn't it? If you don't have it, then it's an absolute turnoff. Losing good people is always tough on organisations, especially losing creative people or those highly valued by clients and service organisations. So, what makes talent leave good jobs?

LS:
There are a couple of reasons, the main one being poor leadership. People are three times more likely leave a job because of poor leadership than they are for more money. People think, "Oh, you're looking to change jobs, it's because you want a bigger role, or a larger role, or things along those lines", but really most people are leaving managers, rather than jobs. That creates a problem. In this scenario, there are things that can be done in terms of leadership coaching to increase staff well-being and happiness.

I think that as well as that, placing importance on retaining your existing workforce, rather than throwing all of your efforts into hiring new staff is critical. People more likely to consider leaving in a situation such as, “I'm coming to the end of my contract, but nobody's spoken to me about an extension, all they're concerned about is bringing new people into the business”, or if “I've been pushing for a promotion for the past 18 months and all of a sudden, they're hiring for the role that I feel like would be a logical next step for me”, again, these are all reasons why people would look to move on.

PN:
In terms of attraction and retention and the role of employer branding: what are organisations doing retain their best and their brightest?

LS:
There's a lot that can be done in terms of attracting new people to your business, but that should not come to the detriment of the existing workforce. So, keeping your existing workforce happy should be a key focus. An unhappy workforce is going to spread externally because if people can see that average tenures are really short, people are leaving at six-12 months in, then that is going to make them think, "Oh, actually there's something inherently wrong within this business and that's probably not something that I would want to get into myself." And people know people, and especially in the creative and marketing industries, people have friends that work in the industry, they will talk, people will post on LinkedIn about positive experiences they're having with a particular employer. So that all plays into ways in which they can attract people to a business.

I think it's important as well for businesses to really speak to their top performers and see whether internal people are perceiving their brand in the same way that the company thinks that their employee is, or external people perceive their brand, because they can be two completely separate things. That can be done through things like interviews or surveys with your staff, they're the ones that are living and breathing the brand and its values and then trying to link that into your employer brand and your employee value proposition, so that it really resonates with the existing workforce.

PN:
We do a lot of work in employer value proposition development and the market has moved quite a bit there, which is the rate of inquiry coming through to us with people seeking to work out. How do I attract and retain the best? How does my organisation be known as the place to work and the people to work with? So, I guess the question is around employee value propositions, how important are they in overall terms? Do you hear a lot about them in your day-to-day activities at Aquent?

LS:
It's extremely important. We hear about it all the time and it's something that we are consistently asking our clients because we are representing their brand to the market. We need to know the ways in which we can entice people to their business, when there's so much opportunity out there for people. How can we position you as the right next step for them to take in their career. So, I think you need to look at your employee value proposition and really see whether that actually aligns to what's important to people now.

Previous employee value propositions may have contained things like, “We've got a strong office culture and we have lots of social events, we've got ping pong tables and a beer fridge”, all of this kind of stuff. But if you are not in the office, that's irrelevant. And so, your value proposition then needs to pivot and align to what's important: flexible working, long-term opportunities, career development, education and training, all of these kinds of things are what people value. And so that then needs to be translate across and into your employee value proposition.

What I also think is that companies, particularly when they're looking to attract new people to their business, are placing too much importance on what they want and what they need versus having a strong employee value proposition that's going to be employee centric. We always link it back to this notion of, what's in it for me? If you have a look at a job description or a job advertisement, and you'll see a laundry list of, “We need five years’ experience in this. You must have experience in that, this software is of vital importance.” You can actually turn people off, when instead reframing that to “What are you actually going to get out of it? What benefit are you going to get from working with us? We can offer this, the projects that you'll work on will allow you to do X, Y, and Z. This is what our employees are saying about us.” People then no longer have a reason to turn down an opportunity, but rather look at it and think, "Actually, this is something that I really want to explore."

PN:
It feels like there's a real mutuality there, where rather than the employer just saying, "Here's what we expect of you”, the employer is also being able to go back to the employee and say, "Here's what you can expect from us in return," so that mutuality actually occurs.

You've also talked about the fact that the market has changed, and organisations have had to pivot, especially as they have done through the working from home with flexible and hybrid working environments. Given all that, how many organisations are you seeing that are actually updating that employee value proposition, or just leaving it live and relying on what they used to say, to attract and retain the best versus updating it to a more current context?

LS:
I think that there are some companies that are updating, but definitely not enough and I think it really needs to be looked at. Firstly, if you don't have an employer brand or an employer value proposition as it is, then it needs to be pulled together. If your EVP needs updating, it's important that you involve your people in that process. They're the ones that are living and breathing your brand and its values on a daily basis. They're the ones that really should have input into what these brand attributes are, and this can be done through things like workshops. I always find that an external party facilitating that helps because there's no bias either way towards an organisation, or its people, or its values. And when operating in a workshop environment, as yourself what's important to you? What do you enjoy about working for this business? What opportunity have you been afforded?

It's also important that it's not just words on a page, that once you've assembled your employer brand and you've put together an employee value proposition, that's seen to be actioned, people know and are actively aware of it. If your employee value proposition contains things like, “We value training and development and lifelong learning”, but in reality, you don't afford people the opportunity to go and do courses or attend conferences or events or get paid time off to complete an education course that is really going to benefit them, then this will not benefit business. If you're not living and breathing the values that you say that you have, then it's pointless really. And the same goes with various other things like diversity and inclusion, if that's part of your EVP, ensuring it actually is and that it isn’t just a token gesture is critical. For example, do you have D&I counsel? Are you placing importance on diversity and inclusion? Are you including that in your hiring processes? Are you affording opportunities to the same people regardless of their background, or their gender, or their religion? All of these things are critical.

I think companies need to get better at that, it's not just about having a strong employee brand, or a strong employee value proposition, but actually bringing that to life within your organisation. Say, for example, we've seen things like having an employee value champion, where certain people within the business that really embody everything that your values stand for, having them get involved in the onboarding process of new starters and educating them on what the values are and how they can help bring that to life. And it comes back to getting your people involved because as I said, they're the ones that are living and breathing your values.

PN:
It just can't be posters on the wall or some nice creatively written words in a PowerPoint deck. It's got to be authentic, doesn't it? It's got to be demonstrated through leadership as well. They've got to live that and breathe it on a day-to-day basis, it's going to turn up for their employees on a day-to-day basis, absolutely. So, as we bring this to a close now, Lee, it's been difficult to predict the future with just so much change going on in the marketplace, but where do you see the talent market going over the next few years? And you importantly, how can businesses prepare for this?

LS:
In the immediate term, the companies that are coming out the back of the COVID and thinking right, we're now through the worst of it, we can go back to normal and go back to how things were, but aren’t realising that things have changed and change for the better, they're the ones that are really going to struggle when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. We were hoping or expecting that with borders reopening that we would see this influx of international talent coming into Australia, that hasn't really materialised as yet. I think that will take some time, I think over the next 12 to 18 months, we'll start to see that increase and so, that will definitely help.

But I think that the companies that will get through this next 12 to 18 months in the strongest position, are the ones that can align their values and what they're positioning to existing employees and potential employees, ensuring it really aligns with what they're looking for. So having a strong employee value proposition, having strong initiatives around diversity, inclusion, sustainability and demonstrating that they can offer career progression, that's of vital importance to people at the moment. If companies can start to implement this, they are going to have a happier workforce and a workforce that is going to advocate for them and attract other people into the business, people who are increasingly hearing positive things about this organisation. So that's how I see things playing out.

PN:
Lee, we really do appreciate you talking the time with us today. There are some deep insights you've provided and we are very grateful for them.

LS:
Thanks again for having me.

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