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The Great Resignation’s Enduring Impact on Employment

Absolutely everyone’s heard of it, and chances are you’ve experienced its effects as a manager, coworker or jobseeker. The Great Resignation, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a remarkable phenomenon that reflected people’s evolving expectations and hopes for employment. Accelerating existing job-hopping trends, it drove tens of millions (and counting) to reset their life priorities and seek different, better work experiences. And businesses—always in need of great people—must now wage a war for talent in which their employer brand will play a critically important role.

How big was the Great Resignation? No one can say just yet, as it isn’t officially over. The number of workers between the ages of 30 and 45 considering a job change increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021, when 47.8 million people quit their jobs. Since then, more companies have started asking workers to return to the office (or agree to hybrid models), trying to put the pandemic behind them and get back to some form of normal. But in 2022, even more workers set out in search of a better work experience: 50.5 million of them. To this day, labor participation rates remain below their pre-pandemic levels.

Faced with this continuing job market turbulence, many organizations are revisiting how they’re marketing themselves to candidates and engaging current workers. And they look to brand, with its incredible power to connect people and businesses, as a tool to wield in new ways. This is when the employer brand comes into play, along with questions about how to shape it.

Companies already use brand to build relationships with prospects and drive business development. But what is the correct relationship between a corporate brand and an employer or recruiting brand? Should they be completely different? If not, how closely should they align?

Based on our work with professional services firms across industries and verticals, we’ve identified several principles for optimally leveraging a corporate brand to shape a strong employer brand. By following these steps, employers can respond to the Great Resignation by offering candidates and employees the professional journeys they’re looking for—experiences that align with their priorities and can inspire them to invest more deeply in the employment relationship.

1. Let your corporate brand lead the way

Your brand is the core idea that inspires all you say and do—defined by guidelines that focus your communications so they are consistent, coherent, memorable and compelling, and so they set you apart. Let your recruiting messaging find its roots here. Then find opportunities to flex your corporate brand to emphasize unique, targeted messages for different audiences, occasions and media.

Software giant Salesforce calls itself “the customer company” that “helps teams work better together.” The company translated its many client-focused brand attributes and promises (connecting dots, making information-sharing easier) into culture pillars that celebrate community, inclusiveness and growth in the form of employee development. Knowing people want to feel purpose, the company invites candidates to join them in “improving the state of the world.” As a result, 81 percent of employees say they’re “proud” to work for Salesforce and 92 percent believe their workplace is “positive.”

2. Be authentic

When communicating with recruits, never claim to be what you are not. (A company’s career page can tout a supportive and rewarding corporate culture, but this claim means nothing if Glassdoor reviews and social media mentions don’t back it up.) The temptation to tell an idealized story is understandable. But today’s candidates, skeptical of marketing that feels in any way inauthentic, want to know about your company—not be “sold” on it—so they can make the right decision for themselves.

If you’re a smaller player in your category, for example, resist the urge to to emulate industry leaders whose behaviors you can’t match and who will offer a vastly different employment journey. Instead, promote the advantages of working for a smaller organization, whether it’s access to senior management or closer client relationships. By being transparent about who you are, you’ll attract who you need.

Project management tool Trello started out as a tiny challenger in the crowded market of online productivity aids. The company’s employer brand emphasized its collaborative culture, encouraging employees to bring their own ideas to the table and be part of building something bigger. This strategy attracted candidates who were right for the company’s stage of development and were open to working in a startup-like environment. As a result, the underdog grew into a healthy competitor.

3. Engage your current employees

A B2B brand’s best marketing asset is its people, and this has never been more true in the recruiting space. Your existing team is both the best source of insight into whether or not you’re living up to the promises in your employer brand and the most powerful, credible recruitment force your business could ever hope to find.

Sustained employee initiatives keep a workforce engaged and—very significantly—communicate that the business cares about the employment experience. Events and ongoing communications remind the team about the purpose and impacts of their work and provide opportunities to connect with each other as a community. When your workers have these experiences, they share them with their professional networks and advocate for the company as a great place to work. It also makes them more likely to stay.

Creative business solutions leader Adobe hosts bi-weekly “Adobe Connect” sessions with new employees. These experiences include learning opportunities, and they embed the company’s goals and values into the employment journey. As a result, 98 percent of employees who attend say they feel “more connected” to the business’s “core values and strategies.” A system of ongoing, informal “check-ins” then strengthens and deepens that engagement, putting each Adobe employee in charge of their own growth while keeping lines of communication with management wide open. So together, the brand and its people can keep pace in their fast-evolving industry.

If any single principle unites these recruitment marketing recommendations, it’s that authenticity and sustained support are the keys to attracting and retaining talent in the Great Resignation’s aftermath. By leveraging a corporate brand to shape a rich, genuine employer brand, businesses can attract, engage and retain the talent that can help their companies grow and thrive—by meeting them where they are with the messages they long to hear.

To discuss transforming your corporate brand into a compelling employer brand, contact us.

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