Thought Leadership

What does the great resignation mean for the future of employer branding?

Identifying the right tone and connecting authentically with people has never been more nuanced.

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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The great resignation is more than a great headline, it’s undeniable that people are moving jobs at an alarming rate. The advertising industry is facing a talent crunch. Against the backdrop of a turbulent social, economic and political climate, workflow is unpredictable and resource is hard to maintain. Combine that with renewed expectations of the workforce and a heightened focus on purpose and meaning, it’s truly an employee's market.

A people-first approach is essential for attracting and retaining talent. Where every agency boasts great clients or projects, culture is what sets things apart. Putting people first, creating an inclusive environment and being adaptable to the needs of employees in an era of remote working is now more important than ever.

Similarly, brand-side consumers are growing more mindful of their choices and want to support brands that align with their values. This extends to the way that staff are treated. People want to know that the brands they align themselves with treat their employees right and via the likes of Linkedin and Twitter the closed doors of the office are being opened up and true company behaviours are reaching the eyes of consumers.

The great resignation has no doubt changed the face of employer branding. Companies now need to be savvy about all angles of their communications and beyond that into their policies as things like the Gender Pay Gap Bot exemplify how they are held accountable and face real-world repercussions for empty promises. 

Finding the right tone in such a rapidly changing landscape is no easy feat. With that in mind we asked experts from across the industry ‘what does the great resignation mean for the future of employer branding?’

Lorraine Jennings-Creed

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Director of Wellbeing Services and Culture Change

NABS

It’s a candidate’s market. We know from our coaching clients at NABS that the pandemic has made people think about what they want out of work and they’re ready to go out and get it. Wellbeing is crucial here: a quarter of calls to NABS’ Advice Line are about mental health. Our people expect to work in organisations that put well-being first.

Salaries have increased, which is great, but what expectations do they come with? Is it really a case of same job, more money, or are expectations far greater? People who are pressured to work at a higher level without the necessary experience, training or support can become anxious and stressed.

We need to recognise the fallout on team members whose colleagues leave. Delivering the same levels of work, at the same pace when resource is down for lengthy periods can lead to burnout. A stress-inducing culture does nothing for employees or employer branding. It’s a competitive market for brands and they will be required to respond to clients’ expectations, so boundaries, recognition and support needs to be in place for those who are left carrying the load.

Hybrid working means that brands are having to work hard to create positive cultures – essential for ensuring we retain our newly recruited talent. We know from NABS’s research Diversity in Focus, and from timeTo’s surveys, that we all need to do more to make our industry a safe and inclusive space. The onus should never be on an individual; it’s a collective responsibility. That’s why NABS is developing training on inclusive leadership so that we can all change the culture and support those who need it most.

James Trowman

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Partner

The Frameworks

Traditionally branding has focused on clients first, employees later. But there’s been a huge shift in business, and today successful branding is far more employee-led. 

The pandemic led employees to rethink their careers and drove the great resignation, with many businesses losing their top talent. Now, increased competition has given employees more choice and enabled them to broaden the search criteria.  

Employees want to work for brands that share their values and tackle today’s big issues such as sustainability and diversity. To attract and retain talent, brands need to align their external branding with what they stand for.  

This isn’t to the detriment of client relationships. Far from it. Businesses are made up of people, and rather than tap into a list of services, clients are increasingly looking for collaborative business partners who share their purpose, too. 

A film we created about our client UST’s partnership with Nourish + Bloom, the first African American-owned autonomous grocery store, does just that. While UST’s technology powers the store, the film focuses on people: those running the store; supply chain partners; UST’s experts; and the community that shops there.  

These are the authentic stories employees and clients want to hear from brands. 

Metz ti Bryan

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Production Leader & Co Founder

The Or

Once upon a time, the employer held all the cards. The general industry attitude was that employees should be grateful for the privilege of being invited to the party – even if it meant long hours, no recognition and little pay. It is no wonder there was an awakening that has resulted in the great resignation. Life is too short to put up with that!

With this shift, there is an emphasis on, not only the role and standard company benefits; but on how you will feel in the position, does it serve the individual’s purpose and what support is available. This new relationship means that both parties now hold their own sets of cards, and any exchange needs to be mutually beneficial.

This shift is most noticeable during recruitment. An interview needs to be about what each can bring to the table. Employers now need to prove how they can adapt to what each employee is looking for and create an environment that fosters a sense of positive feeling and focus, even if that means coming out of their well-established comfort zones.

An employer must offer a balance of great work and a supportive environment, or the talent will move on. And the proof is always in the pudding; processes need to change to make this a reality and employees need to feel heard on an individual level. Being ‘great for my CV but a hellish experience’ is no longer going to cut it. A reputation for the right reasons is more important than ever to find and retain the best the industry has to offer.

Grace Power

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Senior Account Director

MBAstack

Development, flexibility, and brand purpose are key to what employees are looking for from their workplaces – and is what will stem the great resignation.

People-nurturing with a clear focus on development is important. Show employees that they are valued and you’re investing in them. This is a priority at MBAstack, and we are one of the few agencies that has won platinum status for the last seven years for the CPD.

Companies need to be respectful of and mindful of the work-life balance and offer benefits such as hybrid working, sabbaticals, and childcare options. It’s also worth considering that different generations have different priorities – it’s not a one size fits all. People just starting, are more likely to want to be in the office, mixing with colleagues, whereas for older employees, hybrid working is important due to family commitments. The key is getting the balance right and adapting for staff.

The brand and mission of agencies are areas that matter. Employers need to ensure they focus on inclusivity, creating an open forum for everyone. People enjoy mixing with colleagues from all backgrounds and take pride in their company’s diversity.

Connection and kindness are key in an industry that can be very demanding. Creating a sense of community takes time and effort but will ultimately pay off in the long term with an increased feeling of job satisfaction.

In summary, companies need to practise what we preach to our clients. We tell them to be customer-centric, what they want and need – not what you are trying to offer them. Companies need to do the same. Focus on what employees want, put their needs front and centre. If we start thinking like that, then we will ensure we will stem the great resignation.

Siobhan Brunwin (she/her)

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People Director

Mullenlowe Group

Encouraging the best talent to stay with you relies on ensuring your employee branding is as authentic as possible. We all want to sell the best version of our agencies, of our cultures & of ourselves to candidates but if the reality really doesn’t match the fantasy you create during the recruitment experience your talent are going to exit pretty sharpish. 

There is no doubt that the world of office-based work is still going through a transformational time, what people are looking for from their employers has radically changed. We are still very much in the middle of a mental health crisis: the impact of the pandemic, and the economic & political uncertainty we are facing both nationally and globally are still weighing hard on us all. I think that now people are looking for a very different employer then they were even three years ago; they want to feel appreciated, they want to know that what they do matters (to themselves & the world) & in the words of Harry Styles they want to be treated with kindness. Employee branding used to be much easier when it was lead with the sexier perks of free drinks, early finishes and office pool tables but now we need to shift to not just what an employer can give you but how they can make you feel.

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