Will Employer Brand Exist After COVID19?


How does Employer Brand survive a crisis like COVID19?

Employment branding pros are not immune to the wave of layoffs happening throughout the world.

Will a employer-controlled economy (more people than jobs) need a great brand to land employees?

To say the future is uncertain is an understatement, so we brought on EB extraordinaire James Ellis to help us sort out what the profession looks like in a post-coronavirus world. We also discuss the vendors who will thrive, and who will dive, in this brave new reality.

This EXCLUSIVE brought to you by NEXXT, better ways to get the right candidates.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

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James : I think every company walks out of this crisis with a story, and that sort of story is either amazing or terrifying. And they're going to have to grapple with that because that story is their brand.

Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: What's up boys and girls? You're listening to The Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman.

Chad: And I am Chad Sowash.

Joel: And on today's show we are honored to have the great, the honorable James Ellis.

Chad: Who?

Joel: Employment branding expert on the podcast. James, welcome.

James : Get my agent on the phone. This is not the podcasts I agreed to.

Chad: That's how we get you.

Joel: You're in Chicago, right?

James : It's true. I am live in Chicago.

Joel: Right. What's the COVID-19 update from Chicago?

James : I don't know. My wife only lets me go out of the house once a day, once a week rather, to get groceries. We hunker down, for real.

Joel: Smart.

James : Yeah.

Joel: Good for you. Good for you.

James : Yeah. Though I am making my own home-made masks out of T-shirt sleeves. That tells you the state of America these days.

Joel: Nice. James, for our few listeners who don't know you, give them the elevator pitch.

James : Okay. Well, first off, what's your problem exactly? How? How? How?

Chad: It's what I'm asking.

James : Exactly. No. I'm James Ellis. I am a self-described employer brand nerd and I feel pretty confident saying that because if you Google employer brand nerd, I am anywhere from seven to four of the first 10 results. Google said I am, therefore, I must be, as we all know to be true. Ah, gosh. I run a podcast called The Talent Cast. I have a weekly newsletter called Employer Brand Headlines. I talk about employer brand, I think about employer brand, I write about them, and build, and launch, and sell employer brand stuff. Really, that's all I do.

SFX: Hell yeah.

Chad: Did you research the actual keywords for employer brand nerd to know that you could own those words?

Joel: Everybody's searching that term.

James : Oh yeah. It's a hot commodity. If I tried to pay for that, it would be astronomical. No, it was purely happenstance, as is most of my marketing, where I just realized I was a nerd about this thing, put it in. And then once I went, "Hey, I wonder how hard it is to find me if I type in keywords," and there I was. I went, "I

guess I own this one now."

Chad: Let's jump into this real quick, because we are hearing left and right from employer brand professionals everywhere that employer brand matters more now than ever. My question is, is employer brand even going to matter after COVID?

James : Yeah. That's a great question because ... And it starts with this idea of, what the heck is an employer brand? I always joke that anybody who talks about an employer brand without defining an employer brand is clearly trying to sell you something, and doing so by grabbing you by the ankles and shaking until the change falls out of your pockets. I don't to be that guy. I'll happily sell you stuff, but well, it's not today.

Chad: Joel is that guy. Yeah.

James : Yeah. Joel is clearly that guy. Excuse me. Pardon me. Take two. Joel is not that guy. I'm not pandering at all. Employer brand is this idea that what one person thinks it's like to work at your company based on a myriad of different touch points and experiences. Called into customer service, had a great experience, yay. Read a news story that one person sexually harassed another person, boo. Has the story that the CEO is screaming at an employee, boo. All the stuff that happens. Recruiter is a spammer, boo. Recruiter's great, yay. All those things add up into a perception of what it's like to work there, and then you aggregate that amongst all of your talent pool, and that's your employer brand.

So if that's true, and I'd like to say that it is, not that I invented it or anything, employer brand is a function of, what's your culture, what's your leadership, what's your policies, and what's your options, what's competition option sets. If you break those four ideas down, has your culture change in COVID-19? Well, gosh, I'm sitting in my dining room, you're sitting in your various living rooms, I hope, and not the smallest room of your house, because if so, I don't want to be on that podcast. Because we know what happens there. Everybody's in a weird world of hurt. Everybody's on various telev-conference conversations and phone calls and video chats and all this stuff. And your culture naturally changes because all the informal touch points around the water cooler, the coffee, the lunch, the pop in on your boss ask a quick question, kind of conversations. Hearing when everybody's talking about The Bachelor for whatever reason, or I guess in this case, Tiger King. Getting that level of ... Is that a secret word? Thank you. Thank you very much.

Joel: Joe Exotic always gets an applause on this show.

James : Okay. Fair enough. Again, employer brand in King. So the culture changes. The employer brand has to take that in account. If you have to ask the question of what happens next? What happens when this is all over? Do we all go back to the office? Should we go back to the office? If we don't, what happens? The culture is taking some pivot, so it does impact employer brand. Leadership. How did leadership respond to the pandemic? Did they say, "Go back to work," and, "What do you need a mask for?" Or did they say, "Everybody go home, take care of yourself, take care of your families and figure it out. We'll figure it out together." Those things are going to impact your employer brand. To quote one Mark Cuban, who I am

known generally to quote, it's going to impact your employer brand for decades. How you responded. A candidate is going to walk up and say, "I'd love to work for you except I have one simple question, what happened when the chips were down?" Did you care for your employees or did you not care for your employees? That's your employer brand.

Joel: Chad wants to leap into a post-COVID world. I want to have a little bit of context in what we're dealing with six months ago and what we're dealing with now. Because I think a lot of people's perception is, employment brand manager is a nice to have, it's not a must have. I think the perception is, when the economy's great, let's get some employment brand people, things are good. Then things go in the tank, okay, we're not hiring, so the contract recruiters are gone. And I think most people think the next person to go is the employment brand manager. Is that a wrong person perception or is it correct?

James : If your sense of employer brand is just recruitment marketing, with a little bit of polish on it, then yeah, probably. If you're not hiring, you don't need that person. That's a completely valid approach. I think it's a wrong approach because I think it's the wrong way of perceiving the value of that person. First off, the reason why we needed employer branding was yes, it was a function of higher competition. The fact that we're competing with more and more companies, more and more places, more and more times, meaning you needed an edge to compete and a brand is a great way to get that edge. If we move into a COVID world where the competition shifts, I don't think the competition goes away even if unemployment skyrockets, which let's be fair is happening right now.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: Yeah.

James : There's need for quality talent change.The fact that it's there, doesn't mean you're going to take the fastest. Recruiting and hiring managers has shown over and over again that even when you bring them three amazing, talented candidates, the hiring manager four times out of five says, "Let's ask for one more person. Maybe there's someone even better out there." Right? That's a pretty standard expectation. Employer brand says there's always better talent to find, maybe this is a chance for your company to functionally level up at different roles to say, "Okay, we could have brought in a B level candidate, but now with competition being a little different, we might look for an A level candidate. Maybe we could bring in someone who might work for one of those big companies."

But at the same time, I don't think the competition has shifted that way at all, because two things happen. One, there are industries that are hiring like absolutely crazy, pharma, biotech, manufacturing. All these companies that are going to change because of the COVID virus, they're hiring like crazy, which means the competition skyrockets. The talent hasn't shifted, but the competition has. The other element here is that, because we're in a more remote friendly world, since this has proven to every HR director and hiring manager and leader that everybody can get great work done from their dining room and living room, maybe they just stop paying rent, maybe they just close down the office and everybody works from home, or at least a good portion will. Now what happens there is, that person who is now working from home can now work at any company, and suddenly the number of options they have of where they could work

exponentially changes. They could work in Seattle and Florida and Maine and Vegas if they wanted to, if they chose to, which means they can apply to jobs all around the country, if not all around the world. Which means the competition maintains a high level. Which means you still have to answer that fundamental question of why should someone apply? And what is it like to work there? And that's employer brand in nutshell.

Joel: Does the EB manager at Applebee's or Chevron move over to Eli Lilly and Pfizer? Or do those organizations keep EB managers, but do they focus more on the state of the current employees and the people that are getting fired in terms of keeping a good state of affairs with them and making sure that Glassdoor doesn't see an influx of tanking reviews? Does the role change or do they just go to another company?

James : I think the role does change a little bit, but I think the role has been changing for a long time quietly. If you think of employer brand is purely a top of the funnel, fill the pipeline kind of role, it's a very limited perspective on what the role can do. If everybody knows why they work somewhere, it changes retention, it changes morale. I think that if you really embrace what employer brand can do, you don't see it as a recruiting function, you see it as a corporate function. That marketing of the brand is marketing's job and comms's job and employer brand's job and investor relation's job that are all talking about the same brand, seeing it through different perspectives. If that's the case, yes, Applebee's, I think Applebee's is an interesting conversation because yeah, there's going to be a glut of cooks and waitstaff ready to get a job the second they start opening those doors, but again, should you be elevating your talent? Should you be looking for better cooks and better waitstaff? Should be you not be willing to take any high school dropout who's willing to fill out that application and say, "Great. Congratulations. You're a busboy and now eventually you're going to make to be a server," or are you going to take people who are good at this, who love doing it? At the same time, why do people want to stay there? Because why people stay there feeds why people want to be there.

Chad: Here's the thing though, we just came out of a candidate really powered environment, where the candidate really, they're the ones with the

James : They're driving.