(4 minute)

Think you've got your employer brand sorted?

Well, there may be many more pieces to the employer brand jigsaw puzzle than you think. With changes to the way we approach equality, to welcoming Gen Z to the working world and AI and automation taking a more pertinent position, your employer brand should be evolving with the times. 

Read on to find out exactly what I mean.

1: Equality is going to be an increasingly important issue

It’s been a good couple of decades for equality in the workplace. But as the gender pay gap reporting starts to bite, this will become an increasingly important issue. If anything, this is only just starting to become a hot topic. Once there’s a number on it, initiatives become less and less compelling; money speaks louder than words. 

It’s an expensive problem to solve. And unless you can offer excellent flexible working, it’s a difficult one as well. 

According to Glassdoor, ‘67 percent of U.S. employees said they were not likely to apply for a job at a company where men and women were paid unequally for the same work.’

2: You are probably wrong about millennials

There are two big myths about millennials: they don’t want money and progression, they want culture and purpose; and, they are always moving jobs.

The idea that millennials are more interested in purpose and culture than money and careers is well established. But it’s mostly wrong. Most studies show that millennials share similar aspirations to other generations. And when the PWC millennial survey asked, ‘Which of the following factors most influenced your decision to accept your current job?’ the top answers were: development, reputation, role, pay. It’s true that millennials are, on the whole, less driven by money, but that’s not the full picture.

Job mobility has been in decline this century (see this study by the Resolution foundation; there’s a similar story in the US). While it’s true that young people move more than older people, they are moving less than they did pre-recession. And Pew Centre data shows that US millennials move less than previous generations did at the same point in their career.

3: Gen Z pose a far more interesting challenge

All that fancy talk about how culture is more important than money and millennials are all about the purpose is dubious for people in their twenties and downright wrong for teenagers. For the kids who grew up during the Great Recession, money is coming back

‘Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that they would rather “save money than spend,” and 60 percent also regarded money as a sign of success as opposed to 44 percent of millennials who hold this view.’ Get ready to see the rising importance of pensions to employees.'

4: There is no skills shortage

From recruiters to professional organisations, there’s no shortage of people shouting about the skills shortage. Usually so they can make the case for more funding, government support, training programmes etc… Well, guess what? We’ve never been more qualified, and we’ve never had so many people underemployed. 

This article takes apart the case for a shortage in STEM skills. This one talks about the over-supply of graduates. With wages this century stagnant for graduates, and falling across the economy, it is difficult to maintain the argument that there is a labour shortage.

5: Alumni are your biggest untapped talent pool

Every year people who spent small amounts of money or time with your business are pursued by the marketing or sales department. Buy a cheap shirt or browse a website briefly, and you are put into a CRM and charmed until you come back. 

Spend two years of your life working somewhere, and when you leave you can expect a trip to the pub and then radio silence. Even though you may well be going to work at a client or competitor, you understand the brand and the product, and you ought to be some sort of advocate or potential boomerang. And you’d be easier and cheaper to rehire than someone off the street. At a minimum, alumni ought to be treated like other passive candidates. At best they ought to be seen as your biggest talent pool and a great source of PR.

6: This is not the age of disruption. This is the calm before the storm

How often have you heard that word, 'disruption'? 

It’s reflexive among thought leaders to talk about disruption. But we live in quiet times. 

The last truly disruptive event was the iPhone. 

Before that, the internet. 

This is a poor show compared to the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. That brought us electricity, the combustion engine, refrigeration, telephones, penicillin, piped water and gas inside houses… the list goes on. Next time you think you need to develop an Employer Brand for disruptive times, ask yourself if you would rather give up your iPhone or your flushing indoor loo? 

As PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, said, ‘We were promised flying cars and all we got was 140 characters.’

But disruption is on the way - through AI and automation. But when it comes, now, that will be a shock…

7: Automation and AI will invert the talent market

Predictions vary, but it is getting less rare to hear people say something along the lines of, "Overall, AI should be better than humans at pretty much everything in about 45 years" 

Forget self-driving cars: contract lawyers, radiologists and tax accounts are all in the firing line. AI is better than the best humans at lip reading. Voice recognition is being rolled out by major banks. 

China is investing heavily in robots. 

Software can do the work of project managers. 

There’s even talk of replacing recruiters with AI.

The net result of all this is hard to predict, but economist Tyler Cowen sees the following factors being central to the new economy:

·      Higher pay for bosses

·      More focus on morale in the workplace

·      Greater demands for conscientious and obedient workers

·      Greater inequality at the top

·      Big gains for the cognitive elite

·      A lot of freelancing in the services sector

·      Some tough scrambles for workers without a lot of skills

Now, this will have three big implications for Employer Brand.

8: You need to be set up for contingent talent

One big implication of AI and automation is the changing structure of jobs. Long-tenure jobs for professionals are under threat. Uber is the new universal model. There’s even a growing market in ‘Uber for lawyers’. Labour supply chains are getting longer and longer. While the culture in the hub of your business is getting more important, so are the looser and looser relationships you will have with a growing proportion of your workforce.

9: Networking will be the new recruitment

That means that recruiting people with advertising, assessments and so on will become less and less sensible. You don’t go through that dance every time you hire a freelancer, do you? 

And there’s evidence to support that networking becoming the new recruitment is already happening. A recent study of the US jobs market by an anthropologist found that, ‘workplace ties — people who can speak to what you are like as a worker — help white-collar job seekers much more than weak ties do.’ That means you’ll need to find ways to create reliable talent orbits – especially as some recent (speculative) evidence suggests that ‘one in ten LinkedIn profiles is a lie.’

10: STEM is overrated. Start prioritising soft skills and humanities

As the machines take over, the STEM premium will become more niche. 

Computers are better at maths than we are. However, in the short term at least, there will still be a growing need for empathy, humanism, management and creativity. Strategic thinkers, ‘people’ people, and intuitives are not going to be replaced as fast.

As Deloitte says, ‘We cannot afford to get caught up in the STEM hype to the detriment of humanities.’ It’s time to start redressing the balance between STEM and the humanities. 

So, what do you think? Do you agree with me? Am I way off the mark? Is there anything else we should consider? 

Let me know your thoughts by emailing me at Henry.Oliver@aia.co.uk   

Photo: Hans-Peter Gauster