While the concept of employer branding traces back to the 1990s, the job itself didn’t formally exist within the United States until roughly a decade ago. Employer branding as a discipline really began to take off as we emerged from the Great Recession and organizations found themselves facing far more competition for top talent.
Initially, employer branding specialists worked for professional services firms, as most companies outsourced these initiatives to recruitment marketing or consumer agencies. Specialists employed traditional marketing practices, including primary and secondary market research, as the foundation for messaging and creative direction.
Employer Branding Goes Global
However, it wasn’t long before enterprise organizations recognized the long-term benefits of employer branding and the need for branding at a global level. Many turned to hiring in-house talent, from entry-level positions focused on a specific area, such as social media, to vice presidents of employer branding who possessed the breadth of experience required to manage all aspects of employer branding globally while addressing regional nuances.
Those holding high-level positions cultivated a range of core competencies, from the ability to understand market research methods and translate the findings into strategic direction to global marketing plan development and implementation. Success required familiarity with the candidate journey, the employee experience and overall reputation management, as well as the ability to glean insights through the analysis of employer brand metrics and KPIs.
A Shifting Talent Landscape Presents Challenges and Opportunities
Fast forward to the future and, while nobody can predict exactly what the employer branding profession will look like a few years from now, several trends are underway that will surely impact the discipline:
• Gen Z, the first true digital natives, enters the workforce. Members of this generation will undoubtedly bring along their demand for quick response, 24/7 communications and self-service options. Employer branding specialists will be among those helping their organizations evolve the candidate experience to meet rapidly-changing expectations.
• Artificial intelligence and automation become fully integrated into all phases of the hiring process. Specialists will need to adapt messaging for emerging tools, such as chatbots that answer common candidate questions to automated messages sent through AI, both internally and externally and on a global scale.
• Fostering trust and transparency increases in importance. Candidates and employees have both expressed ambivalence regarding the use of AI for hiring, performance and retention efforts that, while well meaning, can seem like Big Brother. Negative employee experiences won’t just cause workers to quit; they can also damage the brand these individuals have worked tirelessly to cultivate for years.
No matter what the future holds, it’s clear that employer branding specialists have elevated the practice of talent acquisition by applying their deep understanding of target audience attitudes, perspectives and preferences, along with labor market dynamics, to the development of effective communications strategies. In addition, they’ve proven adept at using longstanding consumer marketing approaches to guide their efforts while implementing sophisticated measures of success that demonstrate the benefits employer branding delivers to not only hiring but the business itself.
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