Interviews

How LinkedIn is leading a workplace revolution

Zara Easton, Head of Brand Marketing, UK at LinkedIn on the great resignation and why the brand is backing Changemakers

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Our working lives are increasingly lived via LinkedIn. As face to face networking ground to halt in the wake of the pandemic, the power of the platform meant that despite being physically disconnected industry leaders increasingly found themselves to be never not networking. For such is the power and influence of LinkedIn; leadership demands direct communication with employees, stakeholders and consumers alike via LinkedIn. A new era of ‘thought leadership’ driven by authentic connections, transparency and shared learning.  

It is a shift that Zara Easton, Head of Brand Marketing UK at LinkedIn, is well-versed in. Having joined the brand in January 2020, Covid restrictions mean she has only experienced a couple of months in the office in between lockdowns. “Joining LinkedIn at this time has been so interesting as things are changing so much, so from a brand perspective the messages have needed to change too,” she explains 

So too has the way that the campaigns are put together; from a greater use of user-generated content to tackling the production constraints of the pandemic. Easton echoes many across the industry when she points to the fact that the need to keep up with constant change has become the number one business priority. Yet uniquely it is this change which is driving the relevancy, reach and reputation of LinkedIn as a social media destination. As the multitude of headlines on ‘the great resignation’ underline, LinkedIn's growth journey is tied not just to the manic job market, but a destination for individuals to share their own reasons and learnings from this global reset moment. 

Building communities and making connections

It is a reset moment that is having a significant impact on LinkedIn with the rate of hiring the best it has ever been since the platform started recording the data in 2015. Data which is continuing to fuel the rise of ‘personal branding’ via the platform. 

A rise which Easton is passionate about. She shares her positive experience of leading ‘Rock Your Profile’ training at LinkedIn. While cynics may automatically equate building personal brands to little more than nurturing ego, Easton is instead focused on building genuine communities. Notably, LinkedIn's training programme works with NGOs and charities, reflecting the innate democracy of the platform; the liberation and potential for greater diversity which comes hand in hand with a self-publishing business model.

So what advice would Easton give to the myriad of employees starting their year with a strong desire for change? “For people looking for that next opportunity my advice is to tell a really clear story of what you are doing. Really review your profile with fresh eyes. The About section is a key piece of real estate so that is really important,” she explains. While pointing to the additional functionality of the ‘hiring’ and ‘open to work’ graphics on profile pictures as another key way to grow your company or supercharge your own job search. 

When it comes to building your network on LinkedIn, Easton serves up some simple, yet all too often ignored advice on utilising empathy and humanity. “If you want to connect with someone new, remember in a face to face setting you wouldn’t simply walk up to someone with a card and not say anything. That introduction really helps you to create your own story and build a meaningful connection.”

People are really reassessing their work and there has been a real increase in public conversations and content shared around the future of work

Zara Easton, Head of Brand Marketing, UK at LinkedIn

The truth about the great resignation

While there are always significant generational shifts in employee expectations from a workplace, it is clear that the pandemic has brought with it more fundamental changes. From the great resignation to the remote working revolution, LinkedIn is a platform where these changes are clear to see. 

“We are seeing the conversation about the future of work everywhere,” explains Easton, who believes that ensuring LinkedIn is the platform where this conversation takes place is key to its future growth. It's an issue that people are incredibly emotionally involved in. 

“People really care about work related issues,” explains Easton, who points to the brand’s research showing that people want their employers to take their mental health more seriously. “People are really reassessing their work and there has been a real increase in public conversations and content shared around the future of work.”

Changing the future of work

The changing nature of the future of work is at the heart of LinkedIn’s changemakers campaign; a campaign that embraces the diversity of what constitutes a successful career in a post-pandemic era. 

“Success can mean very different things to different people,” says Easton pointing to the ‘Squiggly Careers’ chart by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, who also both appear in the Changemaker campaign. 

“Sarah and Helen’s approach really encapsulates the fact that careers are not just about climbing a ladder, they really think about careers in different ways.” A shift in the lens which affords people the ability to truly embrace a growth mindset and take risks. 

Diversity drives business

“People are unlocking more opportunities by focusing on skills. The Changemakers campaign underlines that success and who is considered aspirational is truly changing,” explains Easton. 

This commitment to change and diversity sits at the heart of the LinkedIn brand and represents an openness, honesty and transparency which was perhaps missing from the business-to-business marketing arena in years gone by. 

Accessibility is fundamental to the platform. “It’s really interesting because we have a real mix of people on LinkedIn and our role with this campaign was to really showcase and spotlight that.”

Easton points to the fact that anyone can follow, share and read thought-leadership on LinkedIn. A part of the platform that is being increasingly embraced by a diverse range of creators and leaders. Prior to the pandemic PR leaders questioned if we had reached ‘peak’ thought-leadership; the scale and diversity of LinkedIn content is evidence that the industry is only just getting started. 

Just as the traditional consumer press has been transformed by the rise of influencers; the business-to-business arena faces the continued rise and growing relevance of a new wave of creators.

It has become a much more human experience, we merged our professional and personal lives and we are seeing more sharing of emotional content and more interesting conversations. We check LinkedIn like any other social media platform

Zara Easton, Head of Brand Marketing, UK at LinkedIn

Living on LinkedIn

In the UK the term ‘personal branding' is all too often followed by an eye roll or an innate cultural discomfort with the idea of self promotion. Particularly when this promotion is a democratised tool for all, rather than the chosen few. 

Yet this well-worn cultural discomfort with self-promotion is not reflected in employee behaviour on LinkedIn. Just as the pandemic ushered in an era in which we were effectively living from work, many of us are now equally comfortable with living and sharing on LinkedIn.

“People are sharing so much more content,” explains Easton, who points to the fact that even at the end of 2021, far from running out of steam there was a 21% increase in the volume of content shared. The irony being that in a working world where people were physically disconnecting, sharing virtually became second nature. 

“It has become a much more human experience, we merged our professional and personal lives and we are seeing more sharing of emotional content and more interesting conversations. We check LinkedIn like any other social media platform,” adds Easton. 

The challenge of change

That human experience sits at the forefront of the LinkedIn Changemakers campaign which features a diverse range of creators changing the world of work forever. One such changemaker is Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, an LGBTQ+ leader who is the Co-Founder of UK Black Pride and the Kaleidoscope Trust. She is passionate about helping workplaces understand the importance of intersectionality so that every professional can bring their whole self to work. 

This #ConversationsForChange campaign also includes Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper founders of career development consultancy Amazing if and the authors of the Sunday Times bestseller Squiggly Careers. They are helping individuals and organisations make work better for everyone. 

For Easton, it was a natural fit for LinkedIn to support the people and conversations driving change in the world of work. For far from change being just a challenge, this campaign underlines the opportunity that comes with this change. “The idea of bringing these changemakers together really helps to inspire change in itself,” explains Easton. 

Democratising thought leadership 

LinkedIn has succeeded in becoming a social destination in its own right; attracting employees and individuals looking for more than just their next job. From investing in virtual conference platform Hopin to building out its own creator programme, the platform is increasingly focused on building a diverse audience. 

“Our role at LinkedIn is to facilitate conversations. It is a platform which enables people to share their thoughts with millions of people,” explains Easton. 

These #ConversationsForChange sit at the heart of the Changemakers campaign and Easton points to the way the campaign features people at different stages of their careers, building their platform in different ways. From advocacy to inspiration Easton believes the platform is successfully setting people up to make a difference. 

The campaign catapulted the Changemakers into the top 0.09% of LinkedIn creators successfully amplifying both their individual causes and goals, as well as the power of the platform as a marketing vehicle in its own right. The success of the campaign means LinkedIn is now rolling it out across different markets.

People want to contribute to change

Zara Easton, Head of Brand Marketing, UK at LinkedIn

A global reset moment 

“The world of work is changing at pace,” explains Easton, noting that the most important work related issues from diversity and inclusion to flexible working and equality aren’t going anywhere. A focus she believes means that companies and employees alike are in the midst of a significant reassessment. 

It's a reassessment in which she finds people are not just thinking more differently about traditional career hierarchies, but fundamentally reappraising what success really means. “People want to contribute to change,” explains Easton, pointing to the way in which digital influencers were using the power of social media to make change in the workplace prior to the pandemic. 

From the reality of redundancy to the true challenges of bringing your ‘whole self’ to the workplace, the breadth and range of issues that have surfaced on LinkedIn are vast. With a mainstream media narrative that is at risk of declaring remote and hybrid working a failure before we are even out of the starting blocks, LinkedIn is becoming the destination for honest, emotional and powerful conversations about the future of work.

As LinkedIn’s Changemaker campaign successfully underlines what constitutes success has fundamentally shifted. Smart brands are recognising and reflecting this change with a commitment to honest, transparent and open conversations from the top. Conversations which promise not just to revolutionise the business of corporate communication and thought leadership, but to fundamentally change the workplace as we know it.

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Future of Work