The events of the last two years are reshaping how organisations design and communicate their employer brands.
By Larry Basinait
Recruiting in EMEA in 2022 looks radically different than it did at the start of 2020. Accelerated by COVID-19 and the movement for racial justice, changes that were expected to take years are happening in months. Virtually recruiting remote workers is the new norm for many. Internal mobility and upskilling programmes are being built out, many for the first time. Today, diversity, equity, and inclusion are being treated with greater urgency and accountability.
How have all these substantial changes impacted the candidate experience? How will organisations refocus their employer brands to reflect new priorities? HR’s 2021 Response Defines Employer Brand in EMEA , a new research report from HRO Today and sponsored by PeopleScout, explores those areas and discusses the implications from the findings.
Whilst a company’s own overall assessment of their candidate experience acknowledges challenges, it has improved since 2020. More than three-quarters (76%) felt they had a good or excellent candidate experience, up from 59% in 2020. Given how tight the labour market is in many industries, recruiters cannot afford to have a substandard candidate experience. The best candidates will move on, leaving those with poor or even mediocre candidate experience practices behind.
The report finds the top three candidate experience challenges faced by employers are:
1. providing a timely interview process;
2. improving onboarding practices; and
3. implementing a formal way to capture candidate feedback. Processes that are not measured cannot be improved.
Employer value proposition (EVP) priorities cover a wide range of goals. The most widely held priority of an EVP is showcasing the work environment, as indicated by 60% of respondents. An organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was cited the second most often, by 50% of respondents.
Feedback about the recruiting experience remains sporadic, both from and to candidates. Overall, nearly one-quarter (24%) of recruiters surveyed never ask for candidate feedback, though more (42%) made it a standard practice than in 2020. Without capturing data, employers cannot construct an informed road map designed to deliver a superior candidate experience. Moreover, smartphone ownership in Europe is about 85%, and the rate is even higher among younger candidates. This means recruiters have 24/7 access to contact candidates for feedback. This feedback can include diagnostic information about the interview and onboarding processes that can be quickly implemented.
Feedback was consistently provided to candidates who were not extended an offer after face-to-face interviews 44% of the time, which is substantially down from the 56% from the prior year. Given the tremendous surge in recruiting activity between 2020 and 2021, recruiters may be too overwhelmed to take the final step in the process. Offering feedback can create goodwill between the candidate and company, add a candidate to the silver-medalist talent pool, and help avoid negative social media chatter. However, legal considerations often dictate what feedback can be given.
Recently, employer brand plans have been progressively including social media. More than one-third (40%) of respondents indicated they are planning more of this usage to improve their employer brand. Communicating through social channels was up significantly over the past year, but as EMEA continues to emerge from the pandemic, it may be that social media usage is approaching saturation. Employer review sites are a component of social media, and 40% plan to use them as part of their plans to improve their employer brand.
For the future, companies will continue to invest more in their employer brands. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of participants anticipate a greater investment, significantly up from 45% in 2020.
COVID-19 response has been a litmus test for employer brand and recruiters remain adamant about the importance of their employer brand as they move into post-pandemic mode. More than three-quarters (88%) of recruiters felt their employer brand will become more important in the long run. A company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-term effect on their culture, reputation as a great place to work, and ability to attract, recruit, and retain talent well into the future. Almost every study participant (97%) indicated their company made an adjustment to their employer brand in response to the pandemic. The majority showcased what the company did to protect their workforce.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) now plays a more prominent role in employer branding. For the vast majority (83%) of survey respondents, their employer branding strategy will change to include D&I as a critical component of the message. A strong commitment to D&I will become a must have in employer branding and failure to address it will reflect negatively on the current workforce and recruiting.