What companies did in 2018 is not enough heading into the New Year.
First, we will explore the 2018 employer branding trends from the Czech Republic. I'll let you know upfront that if you’re searching for a discussion on artificial intelligence technologies or the latest career sites with an expanded reality penetrating the Human Relations area, you’ll be searching in vain. These are all things that relate to employer brand communications, but do not primarily create it.
Instead, my approach to Employer Branding, which I follow and continually promote, is:
"Employer Branding is a leadership concept
to increase the value of companies, organize thoughts and
form teams of inspired employees who pull together.”
Building strong employer brands is the responsibility of leaders. Many people can help with it, but none of them can carry the baton and do it for them. No one, other than company leaders, has the power to change the company so employees find meaning in their work. Even Pfizer, with all its pharmaceutical expertise, cannot create a miracle pill for company leaders which automatically grants them instantaneous powers to instill meaning in their employees’ work.
What was happening in the labor market in 2018?
I have been talking about Employer Branding this year with far more business directors than ever before. The topic began to resonate in the highest places, especially once companies that previously invested hundreds of thousands of Czech Crowns in fast-paced HR marketing realized their high-cost efforts had stopped working. Do you wonder what this fast-paced, high-cost HR marketing looks like? Most often, you will see it on the career pages and profiles of companies that emphasize superficial benefits such as relaxation rooms or games areas. In video cameos, they portray scripted opinions of employees who keenly argue that everything is wonderful in the company without showing the challenges the company faces such as a remote location or a restructure. I always learn the flip-side of the coin when I speak (off-record) to people in these companies.
However, I have a good feeling that more companies are turning to real solutions based on understanding the real causes of problems to enhance their employer brand to attract new employees and retain current employees. I won’t conceal that this makes me very happy, and I have high hopes and belief in the trend continuing on throughout 2019.
How did my forecast turn out in 2018?
Before we look into 2019, let's look briefly, and subjectively, at my predictions for last year’s domestic market. Maybe I have not seen everything and indeed missed something, in that case, do not hesitate to write to me with your thoughts. What five trends did I predict?
1. Directed by HR TEAMS to co-building by MANAGEMENT
I did not do a quantitative survey, but as I mentioned above, this has already begun to happen. Finally!
2. Hunting on social media to building relationships on FACEBOOK
Companies are not creating really great recruitment content. Content remains (possibly) the king in communicating with customers, but the quality needs to improve with people in the labor market.
3. Stimulating through MONEY to Inspiring by THOUGHTS
This is what we are waiting for on a larger scale, I firmly hope. In 2018, I did not notice the emergence of any new referral programs based on increasing internal motivation of employees.
4. MARKETING Informs to AMBASADORS communicate
This was the most achieved prediction of mine from 2018. During 2018 I witnessed many companies that are empowering their employees to create content to share with the external market. Instagram is the most widely used channel.
5. SATISFACTION measurements to COHESION surveys
This was a clean shot. Companies who provide satisfaction surveys and those who provide things like meal vouchers are heavily pushing for this method of employee retention. It will likely the results will not change until companies realize that satisfaction is not enough…a process which will take some time.
What will happen in 2019?
As always, I can only read between the lines, combine various signals, information and experiences from the labor market, unlock trends in the United States and Western Europe, watch the progress and the actions of inspirational companies, and polish my Employer Branding crystal ball. I have been faithful to this approach for many years. So, what do I see in the next year? With my eyes closed, I see "people dancing around the company fire in a celebration of a meaningful workplace progression for them." Well, well-let's move the metaphors into a more comprehensible form of five specific directions that could be enacted in the new year in Employer Branding.
1. attempts of ANY KIND TO MOTIVATE to creating MEANINGFUL WORK
In the Czech Republic, the practice of companies has focused on satisfaction, measured year by year and compared with other similar companies. Others hire managers supposedly charged with the task of “improving happiness,” and single-handedly boosting the workplace and corporate atmosphere. Manufacturing factories especially care about security and proper training, while others are dedicated to minimizing bureaucracy and trying to reward people fairly. Perhaps every company has acquired a benefits-card program so that employees can choose from a range of options. Everything complements the reward for reaching the annual bonus-which some companies still think can be used to motivate employees towards better performances. One incentive after another-stimulation for stimulation.
In 2019, businesses will begin to embrace the need for sustaining people's long-term enthusiasm (versus those making sustainable businesses from other sources). This is probably best described by Simon Sinek: “Great companies don`t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something better than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you`ll be stuck with whoever`s left.”
The result equals meaningful work and the development of managers who create exceptional teams with members who have autonomy and development opportunities and who will listen to fellow teammates. Take a look at the picture below, which outlines five questions as prerequisites for creating meaningful work that, together with managers' approaches, forms a corporate culture in which people want to perform their best.
Figure 1: Meaningful work; Source: Petr Hovorka, 2018
2. BUZZWORDS on notice boards to capturing KEY VALUES
You know the basics: openness, respect, teamwork, innovation, reliability. Most people in the company are unable to name them all, let alone know what they are supposed to mean. Clutter on central notice boards, empty chatter in meetings. I just saw one nice example on a bulletin, "Our company provides its customers with high-quality products and expertise necessary for informed purchasing decisions. We deliver our products faithfully and honestly to the highest level of customer satisfaction. We create professional and long-term relationships with employees who are proud of our business, providing them with a stable and dynamic work environment." Not only does it have nothing to do with people, but it also lends itself to creating cynics who stop believing in the company and its statement. In today’s society we are increasingly incorporating the Y generation, which will make up half of the workforce by 2020. It’s been shown time and time again that what this group wants is authenticity, and not corporate bull$#@#.
In 2019, corporate values will come to a halt and instead, companies will dig deep to discover their own, unique key values. They will begin by realizing what the core of corporate values are: hiring the right people, leading them, and finally assessing their performance. They will understand that their unique set of company values define the personality of the organization and give employees instructions on how to act, reducing the need for inefficient and demoralizing micro-management. Eliška Novotná of IKEA said it nicely: "Where we have no process or rules, we have values." When defining values, companies will differentiate between basic rules that apply to the game versus the wishes and key values that help to distinguish the company from others. The process for testing your specific corporate values is indeed harsh, but necessary. It requires asking yourself whether your values are significant enough to refuse a job if it goes against them, or to let an employee go who has good results yet resists following your value-set and has refused to change for a long time.
Figure 2: Types of corporate values; Source: “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business” by Patrick Lencioni, 2014
3. Concern for MATERIAL REINSURANCE to focus on a CARING ENVIRONMENT
What would we give our people to not leave us, and new ones to come? What did they tell us in the latest survey that they wanted? Saturating employees with benefits is growing to unprecedented heights. Rich businesses arrange their offices according to recent trends, with renowned architects, redesign large and small meeting rooms, telephone booths, fitness and relax rooms, sleeping bags, billiards and Xbox consoles, cafes, libraries, the latest laptops and provide a new mobile phone every year.
Manufacturing companies are also investing, though they are far behind. But are you aware of the 19th century experiment? I cannot remember who the economist was who measured the influence of the boss on the atmosphere of a team at a workshop under changing physical conditions. They took light and warmth and measured the mood. The key finding was: Where they were a great boss, the good atmosphere was in the cold and dark.
In 2019, companies will focus on developing managers who are behind the building of a caring environment and an overall pleasure atmosphere. Team Leaders–Chiefs–are the most common reason people leave companies (forget about the reasons people often say at exit interviews (such as, "I got a better offer") and the frequent reason why people are attracted to companies. While only leaders can create the premise of meaningful work, managers are responsible for implementing the caring environment. How can they do it? Engage employees by giving them autonomy in decision making, provide ongoing feedback, notice them while doing something good, compliment and praise good work, be interested in colleagues as people and listen to their opinions so they acknowledge they are an important part of the company.
Figure 3: Pyramid of Employee Needs; Source: BAIN & COMPANY, 2015
4. corporate SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to corporate EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBILITY
For corporate indulgences, they no longer go to church, but to Corporate Social Responsibility. Sponsoring shelter dogs, senior homes, playgrounds, etc. I have nothing against companies doing good. However, it is very often a publicity stunt, where Corporate Affairs gets to write a popular, feel-good article in the hopes of boosting employee morale and enhancing consumer opinion. Often these activities are performed according to the following formula: CSR = PR minus HR. I'm not saying that all companies are doing the same thing, however, I think it's a pretty common occurrence.
The simple question is: Why aren’t employees themselves the primary group of focus for a company’s charitable or development focuses? They are often educated only in matters closely related to work, while. However consider offering a personal financial literacy program coupled with individual consultations and help for employees in executing financially beneficial actions.
In 2019, company interest in the well-being of employees will increase significantly, and I don’t mean simply adding more benefits to what’s already commonly available (like gym memberships, food vouchers and other 'perks' to be loaded onto cards). These will be more demanding solutions focused on maximizing human energy (perhaps substitute this term for 'human resources'). The process begins with the right training, moving beyond the profession, individual life coaching, and developing personalized interest in each employee and their needs. Maybe a shorter work week which is already being piloted in a few progressive arenas.
All of the above-mentioned trends will also be achieved by creating meaningful work in a caring environment and corporate culture.
Next year, I predict we will see activities shift towards Corporate Employee Responsibility rather than focusing so heavily on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Figure 4: Employees first, employees win; Source: rawpixel, Unsplash
5. separate DEPARTMENTS to united TEAMS
Too often I come across companies where the teams work great, but the company atmosphere as a whole is lacking. When I listen to individual teams, I feel excited-however, the overall company atmosphere and the results report is quite different. What's behind that? Incomprehensibly long-term visions, vague texts instead of well-defined corporate values, unclear accountability, business models which are not clear or communicated, and the absence of medium-term goals that break into short-term annual and quarterly plans.
All this creates a confused workplace. You'll easily see it when you listen to managers as they discuss issues: either you hear the statement, "it was their task, their responsibility, we could not influence it," or "we did not succeed, we need to think differently about it next time." What sounds better to you? For me, clearly it is the second statement, that as managers, “we” should seek how to resolve issues differently in the future rather than simply blaming other who did not succeed in the past.
In 2019, companies will be working on building team alignment, clarifying roles and tuning the interface between them to build employee feelings of mutual responsibility for company success. This will be greatly assisted by the creation of meaningful work, which is actually a prerequisite for quality, cohesive teamwork. A beautiful demonstration of how to foster mutual understanding among teams was the presentation of teams in the IT company, Tieto, through posters which depicted each team’s role in the company.
In 2019, a lot of separate departments will disappear and be replaced by teams. If you have not done so yet, take this small step which produces great rewards-simply change your thinking and vocabulary. Labels like "interviewing", "human resources", "ordinal employee" and in my eyes also "recruitment," do not have a place in businesses that want to move to the next level of internal cooperation. Corporate culture and employer brands are made of the words, symbols, behaviors and actions of leaders and managers that are then passed on to all other workers.
Figure 5: 5 stages of tribal leadership; Source: “Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization” by Dave Logan, John King & Halle Fisher-Wright, 2011
In 2019, Employer Branding will be a sign of companies seeking to create meaningful work in a caring environment. Businesses will focus on greater clarity and outlining why, when and where they plan to go; revise their core business values, invest in the development of managers who are in charge of creating a care giving environment, debug the interface between separate departments, and clearly state responsibilities of individual teams. And last but not least, they will increase their levels of care for their employees.
Before you start thinking about who to assign to Employer Branding in your workplace, remember that this is primarily a continual, every-day leadership endeavor, and one which translates into enlightened firms achieving the best practice in Human Relations standards. While the initiator can be anybody, ultimately the person responsible will be none other than a CEO or a member of senior leadership.
I feel positive energy surrounding corporate trends, one that will bring greater, and more authentic businesses and communications rather than exclusively superficial perks.
I wish you a most successful new year and look forward to what 2019 will bring.
And what are your plans for the new year? Please let me know.
The term "trend” refers to direction, or the long-term process of change. It is used in common language as well as in the sciences regarding current and difficult-to-predict changes, especially in the economic, social and cultural spheres.
About the author
Petr Hovorka is the Employer Brand Baker / Managing Partner of BrandBakers, a Czech Republic Country Partner for World Employer Banding Day 15-17 May 2019 | Lisbon.
BrandBakers is a branding consulting company connecting strategy with creativity. They design and produce marketing communication with real benefits for brands, clients businesses and their customers. They create powerful stories-the carriers of the biggest added value.