8 trends that will affect your employer brand in 2020. Maybe.

Photo of Dan Fish

Dan Fish

Chief Creative Officer

Nuclear power is impossible. The worldwide market for computers is 5. Electricity is a fad. Guitar music won't last. Telephones will never catch on. Computers will stop working on Jan 1st 2000. The world will end in 2012.


History is rarely kind to those who make predictions, so it is with some trepidation that I approach the subject of this article. 

Lessons from history aside, if ever there was a time to take stock on where employer branding is at the moment, look ahead and make some ballsy, no doubt soon-to-be embarrassing predictions about where it might be going, the start of a new decade, and a new lunar cycle seems like it. 

So, with both feet firmly lodged in my mouth, tongue slightly in cheek, and seasoned with a pinch of salt, here's a list—in no particular order— of things to look out for in 2020 and beyond. Publishing predictions about the future on the internet? What's the worst that could happen?

1. Employee experience takes off


From customer experience, to candidate experience to employee experience. The experientialisation of journeys and their myriad of touchpoints will continue. A quick look on google trends reveals that "Employee experience" as a search term is steadily rising. Employers are increasingly coming round to the realisation that the true creation of brand's equity comes from a single source: people. 

And so, optimising your employees' day-to-day working experiences will have a compounding effect on the rest of the organisation as key metrics like engagement, motivation, and productivity improve. Research like the Barrett Values Assessment can measure the degree of disfunction in an organisation. And there's a wealth of resources from the field of UX research, such as empathy maps, journey maps and experience maps that HR teams can adapt to measure and then improve candidate and employee experience. 

2. Corporate brands and Employer brands converge


To many in the industry, the two have always been inextricably linked. But until recently the two have more often than not often existed in isolation. The two brand hemispheres will converge this year more than ever before. The glue? Purpose. Sinek's influential TED talk and the subsequent, equally influential book put the concept of purpose firmly on boardroom agendas around the world. And in doing so, started a domino effect that is blurring the distinction between customer and employer brand, which in 2020 will be more felt than ever before. 

Your organization's purpose is the reason it exists. Understanding what this really is and communicating it and delivering on it effectively are the keys to building brand advocacy. The salience of your purpose and the integrity with which it manifests drive your reputation, and therefore the attractiveness of your brand. That's true whether you're appealing to customers to open their wallets, or to candidates and employees to devote their time and effort.

Strategies like promoting careers based on the intrinsic value for the world that they create, brand-led culture initiatives and performance management frameworks that link employees to the creation of customer success, all help to meaningfully connect employees to the true essence of what your organisation is really about. As more employer brand managers deploy purpose-led strategies like these, so too will their "employer" brand mature into something more holistic, and more directly linked to the fulfilment of their overall brand objectives. As a result, managing this effectively will require increased cooperation between brand stakeholders, as the distinction between certain aspects of marketing and HR dissolve. 

3. EVPs become TVPs CVPs and PVPs


Along with the convergence of employer branding and corporate branding, we're also starting to see a change in the language being used to frame the way we talk about the core component of an employer brand: the framework formerly known as Employer Value Proposition. This year we have begun to see clients and prospects begin to reference their talent brand, or their people brand rather than their employer brand, and colleague value propositions rather and employer value propositions. It might only be a small change in the wording, but language changes the way we think. And that changes the way we behave.

4. The death of the career site


As the HR tech industry continues to grow we will see a decline in the number of custom career site projects being commissioned. Integrated tech stack solutions such as TMP's TalentBrew, Symphony Talent's Smashfly, and HCM solutions like Workday are providing ever-more integrated solutions combining programmatic, CRM, and ATS bundled with their services.

And in China already, it's now considered more important to have a decent WeChat channel than a career site. As tech-platforms become more sophisticated, and SasS business models become the norm, we'll see "Build As Last Resort" models becoming more prominent, and with them, perhaps step closer to that ever elusive holy grail of employer brand media campaign metrics: full end-to-end tracking.  

To this old dog, nothing will ever quite beat the impression a custom-built career site creates for candidates. And in reality, although career sites aren't going anywhere, the way they are built and managed is. 

5. Employer brand indexing goes mainstream


"What's the ROI of an employer brand?" One of the most contentious questions of all will begin to be asked differently and more definitively. According to data by Universum, the top #3 metrics for employer branding are Retention, Quality of Hire, and Engagement, with fewer than 20% citing external factors such as rankings and brand perception.

I expect this to change, as the number and availability of external data becomes more widely available. With the continued growth of social media as a principal employer branding channel strategy, and with the advance in tools and services that actively track employer brand perceptions, we will begin to see the uptake in external measures of employer brand performance. 

Comprehensive external benchmarking as standard is still some way off. But this is great news for all in the profession. It will make employer branding easier to define and obviously easier to measure. And the more you can measure something, the more you can improve it. 

6. Global recession? Worse?


Every silver lining has a cloud, as my Dad likes to say. And so it just wouldn't feel right if I didn't include at least one gloomy topic. And it's probably no surprise to anyone reading the news at the moment. A large number of major countries are either currently in or on the brink of recession. In 2019 the bond yield curve inverted briefly (a historic recession predictor) before the fed promptly cut interest rates. The US-China trade war. Extreme weather. Tensions between Iran and the US. Happy days.

In hard times, it's common to see recruitment budgets get slashed as hiring freezes take effect. Under these conditions, long-term strategies like employer-branding can be among the first budgets to come under scrutiny. Paradoxically, this could be exactly the wrong move to make. Whilst hiring freezes may reduce the need for talent acquisition hiring campaigns, there are significant productivity gains to be made for the brands with the courage to invest in strategies that improve the candidate and, especially the employee experience. Exactly the kind of gains that might come in handy in a down market. 

7. Job description revival


The simple Job Ad. As the last decision gate a candidate goes through, they hold a unique importance in conversion. Curious then, that they are so often overlooked and neglected. Or at least so I thought. In 15 years I've never seen so many clients simultaneously talking to us about how to improve the quality of their job descriptions. And the good news is, in 2020 it's never been easier to improve them.

With quality reports coming from platforms such as Appcast, Smashfly and Linkedin, data is taking the guesswork out of designing job ads. There's a rich amount of data detailing how long they should be (300-800 words) what to include (Benefits!) and how to structure the title (nix the symbols). Combine this with some of the brand principles covered earlier in this article – intrinsic appeal of the role, how the role or function contributes to brand / organisational value creation – and a bit of lexical flair and you have a potent formula for this most crucial of touchpoints. 

But what about next-generation tools like the augmented writing platform Textio? Textio is a powerful tool for sure. But get this – at Maximum, we just completed a Job Ad testing cycle with a client where we pitted various formats against each other. The top performing format? The one written in good old-fashioned plain English prose, written by a copywriter set to a simple template structure that factored in the points above. 

8. The fifth industrial revolution


If the fourth industrial revolution can be characterised by a dehumanisation of the workplace through technology, AI and automation, the fifth industrial revolution is its polar opposite; characterised by a reconnection to values, purpose and inclusivity. Salesforce co-CEO Mark Bennioff goes even further stating that it will be about nothing short of "saving the planet". 

For many large organisations, this shift in business intent is about more than ethics, it's about survival. Going back a bit, I was struck by something I saw in the news in early 2018. In his annual letter to shareholders, Blackrock (The largest asset manager in the world) CEO Larry Fink warned investors of the need to "contribute to society, or risk our support."

Later the same year, together with Ram Charan and Dennis C Carey, McKinsey World Wide MD Dominic Barton published the book "Talent Wins" which outlined the need for CEOs to recognise the competitive advantage oh human capital, and went as far as to argue for a new trifecta at the top comprised of CEO, CFO and CHRO. When industry leaders are making these kinds of public claims you can be sure that although it might take a little time for the ship to turn, the captains are charting a new course.

At the other end of the career journey, young talent entering the workforce for the first time are increasingly opting to work for companies that can offer "meaningful jobs that fulfil their personal goals and create impact." What does this mean for those of us in what we currently call employer branding? In the face of this paradigm shift we will see more employers asking how they better define their purpose and how they can be more purpose-led in their talent management strategies. With it, the challenge — and opportunity — for HR leaders and their teams to play a leading role in defining and shaping culture, attraction and engagement.  

So there we are. 2020 and the year of the rat are shaping up to be quite the decade. What are your predictions? And how might your organisation prepare itself for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead? Let us know. We'd love to hear from you. Happy new year y'all.

Photo of Dan Fish

Dan Fish

Chief Creative Officer

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