Having spent the best part of the last decade researching, writing, speaking and consulting in the field of employer branding, I thought as this new decade begins now would be a good time to reflect and share my opinion on employer branding trends towards 2020 and how they will impact on the workplace.
My views have been shaped by leaders, practitioners and academics I have been fortunate to collaborate with over the past 10 years with the past 3 spent travelling to 30 cities in 20 countries as part of my Employer Brand Global Masterclass Tour.
Some of the trends below have already started and will gain momentum towards 2020. Whilst it is by no means a complete list, I hope it will provide insights, awareness and facilitate discussions into how I see employer branding evolving over the next decade and your preparedness to meet these challenges.
Global companies such as Google, Sodexo, Apple, McKinsey & Co, Southwest and Philips have been frequently spoken about as leading employer brands over the past decade. Whilst there are many lesser known or visible employer brands, they are in fact in all industry categories and in companies of all shapes and sizes. These companies consistently articulate a clearly defined employment proposition to their target audience and align systems, policies and processes to ensure an authentic employment experience for employees across the employment lifecycle. In short they care about the welfare of their employees and have leadership conversations to better understand what drives superior performance in their teams.
Companies who are judged as the leading employer brands over the next 10 years will be those who identify, react and adapt to the people and product/service challenges that lay ahead. These include:
1) Time replaces money as the new currency
With increasing amounts of women entering the workforce and one parent working families’ being a thing of the past companies who can trade time for other rational benefits such as pay and career development by embracing flexible work practices and ensure work commitments align with social and family responsibilities will be highly sought after. The notion of ‘work’ will be replaced by striving to provide an employment experience which is closer aligned with living a rewarding life throughout all stages of the employment lifecycle (e.g. recruitment, induction, promotion, etc) rather than working towards retirement merely being seen as a reward at the end of a lifetime of work.
2) Functions will blend
Employer branding is not a HR function, it is a business philosophy and all functions have a role to play. The business environment is dynamic and moving way too fast for Human Resources, Marketing and Communication professionals to continue driving the strategy in isolation whilst trying to achieve alignment between people, products and consumers. The study of employer branding will continue to make its way into the University syllabus in HR, Marketing and Communications courses and the science of employer branding will advance as an increasing number of academics and students undertake research in employer branding building upon the research previously undertaken in employee engagement, organisational psychology and brand management.
3) Less is more, small is big
As every dollar spent has come under closer scrutiny during the Global Financial Crisis, this culture will continue towards 2020 and leaders will need to demonstrate a ROI of investment in employer branding and how it impacts on delivering the company’s mission and vision - two areas the top company’s get right whilst others’ actions fall well short of their promise leading to disengagement and lack of trust amongst employees.
There will be an increased focus on employer brand strategy development to avoid brand fragmentation and confusion which exists when the market produces innovative ways to attract, engage and retain talent faster than companies can keep up with. There will be less focus on creative communications and more focus on relevancy, customisation and authenticity as companies’ invest to build their brand from the inside out and reward behaviours which reflect a defined employer brand positioning and strategy which takes a holistic approach to the employee lifecycle and diverse employee segments.
4) The talent crisis becomes the matching crisis
Companies will tune into the global network of untapped talent in emerging economies such as India, China, Middle East and Turkey where technology and access is accelerating skill build in these regions. As organisations become more knowledge and technology reliant the demand for more diverse skill sets will result in companies building virtual teams of specialists on retainers in order to keep up with the accelerating pace of market change. Companies will leverage affordable, high quality technology to connect virtual teams and provide an environment where employed and contracted talent feel valued and a sense of belonging, - an experience much like the one today being enjoyed by millions on social networking sites. The uptake of Talent Relationship Management (TRM) software will accelerate in much the same way as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology did in the 1990’s as companies strive to find competitive advantage in TRM – let’s hope the same mistakes aren’t made!
The demand for specialist virtual consulting will accelerate towards 2020 as the demand for real-time access and transfer of explicit to tacit knowledge to optimise performance demands real time reflection, feedback and action. The game will be won by the companies who can match talent (from anywhere on the planet) to be up to speed on roles and responsibilities much quicker than today’s 3-6 month onboarding period allows.
5) Relationships will replace reputation
The key to sustainable business success has always been established in the relationships between the people involved, not just in a superior product or service. The cost of a bad hire or vendor selection is costly so companies will rely less on a ‘pitch for service, ’and‘ tender processes and choose partners based on a previous working relationship or referral when allocating resources for employer branding initiatives.
The key shift will come in defining, nurturing and evolving relationships based on a value return as opposed to the ‘bigger is better’ approach companies and agencies have strived for the past 20 years leading to redundant information and disenchanted candidates and vendors.
6) Employer brands become global
In the past decade employer brands have been highly localised. That’s why an organisation that is judged a number 1 employer in the USA may only rank number 6 in Asia. The evolution for the world’s leading employer brands is to find closer alignment between the culture nuances in attracting and retaining talent in different countries and cultures. This will require increased communications between Head Office and Regional leaders. I am amazed of how many global brands talk about having a global employer brand strategy and when I meet their regional leaders they advise, “What Global Strategy.” Technology will support improved global collaborations between regional offices but it is going to take a culture change of moving from a “command and control employer brand leadership” at headquarters to a “collaborative and evolve” employer brand leadership” style to enact engagement across regions which enhances business performance.
7) Slow is fast
Information will be delivered faster towards 2020 but the churn of redundant information will become slower. Technology and tools will get better at filtering out noise that has the tendency for employees to waste productive time online and on social networking channels.
Training will become a daily occurrence inside organisations and tools will allow for knowledge to be requested, captured, customised and transferred to employees via their hand held communication devices. Employees will receive real time updates aligned with their career development plans and leaders will be able to view real time updates on performance to plan and provide coaching and mentoring before or at the moment when it is most needed rather than 3-12 months later at a formal performance review.
8) Organisations will get naked
Just as reality TV shows have become the norm the past decade, reality workplace TV will become the norm towards 2020 as companies allow access into the culture of the organisation through web streaming and reality shows about the day to day operations of what makes the company a success or a failure. Viewers will be encouraged to participate in and solve workplace problems similar to how crowdsourcing works today. Job offers will be made and filled within hours as companies exploit the benefits of crowdsourcing.
9) Work becomes living
Companies will empower employees to come and go as they feel is required to deliver the outcomes of their role. The level of distrust in corporations today will be a tipping point for talent to move to an organisation that provides an employment experience which is closer aligned with their lifestyle choices.
Exiting baby boomers will pave the way for a new workplace dynamic where Gen X’s, Y’s and Z’s will provide a melting pot of skills, attitudes and a ‘can do’ attitude with lower levels of bureaucracy. Just maybe, this reduction in bureaucracy will provide talent with an increased sense of ownership of time as efforts are focused on outcomes and performance rather than politics and bureaucracy.
10) Connected, cleaner and greener
The penetration rate of the internet is growing at rapid speed in emerging economies and along with the increasing speed and lower cost of delivery, companies will increasing opt for greener consulting services which can be delivered over the web rather than in-person and in doing so, save on time (which will add value to #1 trend) and carbon emissions. This will add up to significant tangible savings and market support for companies amongst all sections of the community.
Top talent will choose between companies who can demonstrate they care about making the world a better place to live rather than just maximising profits at the expense of society’s negative externalities.
......................Some closing thoughts
If the economic downturn has taught us one thing, it is the value of the three business performance pillars of trust, communication and leadership in building competitive advantage. The rate of technological innovation is increasing at rapid speeds and the greatest challenge for business will be to manage the needs of shareholders and employees to ensure that profit is returned in a manner that is both healthy for the environment and for employees. We should not forget these pillars have always been within our reach, the challenge will be how we balance our focus on them whilst managing the complexities of the workplace towards 2020.
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Brett will be the Chairing the 2010 South African Employer Branding Summit in Johannesburg on 23 March 2010 and 2010 Italian Employer Branding Summit in Milan on 27 May 2010.
For further details about these employer branding events please click here>