January does have an end...

Can I come out now?

It’s all over, isn’t it?

January does finally have an end after all.

All 17 or so weeks of it. Perhaps the month’s unfeasible duration is the reason we seek all manner of diversions and distractions at this time of year. A brief dalliance with the inside of a gym. A temporary and modest curtailing of alcohol intake. Dipping your toe into memes, social media trends, online engagement, call it what you like. What I don’t really like is Blue Monday and the official recognition that the day when credit card bills are landing thick and fast, hitting the floor with the same regularity as our New Year’s resolutions, and with pay day still stubbornly in the distance.

More amusing entirely has been the Ten Year Challenge. For those uninitiated, this was a construct devised on Instagram. Individuals were encouraged to paste up photos of themselves today next to one from ten years previously. For those of tender years, the point is around ‘glowing up’, shedding oneself of puberty’s worst blemishes and emerging a more confident individual, with better hair, teeth and facial tattoos. For those of us with perhaps more miles on the clock, the theme touches more on defiance – that age has not withered us entirely.

Both photos are snap shots. Moments in time.

There’s a lot in the employer brand world we can learn from this.

How do we approach the analysis, construction and landing of an EVP? To what extent is this a project we might wheel out every three to five years?

We’ll do all the right things – we’ll engage with senior leaders to understand the direction and trajectory of our organisation. We’ll speak with key internal talent pools to grasp the employment reality. And we’ll listen to external candidates in order to appreciate how they currently understand and process our organisation and its careers.

And then what? Does the resulting EVP become – with all the best intentions – set in stone? Does it become and remain our talent acquisition communications touchstone for the next three to five year period? Is it saying the same thing five years down the line as it did the day it first saw light?

And why is that necessarily a bad thing? What’s so wrong with consistency?

Let’s think about how much has changed in the last three to five years?

And whilst Brexit is the obvious response, let’s put that to one side. Largely because no one has much of a clue how it will play out and what the likely resourcing implications might be.

But what change is more identifiable? Think about your own organisation. To what extent has it changed and evolved over the last five years? What new products and services is it now delivering? Into which markets and territories? Culturally, have things evolved? Or are things exactly as they were five years ago? I’m guessing not.

What about your competitor set? Has their positioning, messaging and product set stayed exactly the same as they were in 2014? Again, I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting this isn’t the case.

And how about the talent market? No different today than it was half a decade ago? According to a piece of research late last year from Monster, 62% of recruitment professionals felt that their job was harder today than was the case just 12 months ago. Multiply that by three, four or five times, and it seems reasonable to paint a picture of a tougher, more competitive, more crowded talent acquisition landscape.

So, how are we feeling now about an EVP that was based on readings and learnings from several years ago?

People want to understand where your organisation is heading and how they can contribute to that journey and destination. I’ve borrowed from Simon Sinek before, so there’s little reason not to do so again. There absolutely has to be a why in your employer branding. You need to present a compelling why in order to convince great talent that they should leave their current employer and consider working with you.

But part of such a why has to have an element of a where. Where is this organisation going, where will it take me, my career and my subsequent prospects?

And if the why doesn’t have much of a where, then it can all too easily become a was.

And all of a sudden, a was doesn’t feel much like a compelling reason to join your organisation.

It can feel more like a yellowing snapshot than a convincing signpost. One that looks back, not forward.

You want a great topical example of a where? Check out Heineken’s new Go Places 2.0 campaign. Fun, involving and absolutely of its time and of its people.

That sense of both direction and momentum relates to no talent pool more so than entry level hiring. It was fascinating this month to see some hugely bullish stats from the ISE. Their members suggest that apprenticeship and graduate hiring numbers will increase by 27% this year – this despite the fact that 1,800 such jobs went unfilled last year.

You want more? Course you do. The most recent ONS figures suggest that the workforce added 141,000 jobs in the most recent quarter. Employment, at 75.8% has never been higher since comparable records began in 1971.

The desire to see signs of this trajectory touches on engagement and retention as much as attraction.

If your organisation isn’t demonstrating a forward-looking EVP – one predicated on where you are going rather than where you used to be – then you cease both to be an aspirational employer for candidates and for employees. We touched on trapped talent last time around. If there’s one thing likely to give the impression that your people are trapped, it’s working for a was organisation rather than a where organisation.

Compare the EVP process with that of engagement surveys. Happily, we’re moving away from those clunky annual, even biennial events which suck up focus, attention and time and deliver very little in terms of progression and employee involvement, where scores often correlate more to participation than genuine engagement. Employers are seeing much more value today in more regular, more intuitive, tech-inspired pulse readings of where the hearts and minds of their people are.

So, how do we re-engineer the EVP process into something similarly more organic, more evolving, more involving?

Two suggestions from me. Don’t view the EVP as the holy grail – see it as a journey more than a destination. Don’t treat it as a dusty corporate artefact, locked away, to be revered and respected. Kick its tyres, road test it, challenge it – put it in front of people joining you. Do they recognise it as the organisation they’ve just joined? Do they, three months in, feel its authenticity? Just how relevant and topical do they perceive it?

But above all, enable your people to breathe life into it. Provide the platform whereby they can provide new, topical, interesting stories, videos and quotes that support your people messaging. And acknowledge them for doing so. Give them a voice and reward them for using it.

And if the feedback from new joiners and the essence and nature of the stories that are coming forward during this process begin to point to a different why, then perhaps it’s time to reflect that.

Perhaps it’s time those stories felt more like today’s film rather than yesterday’s ageing snapshot.

Neil Harrison believes employer brands should be informed by authenticity. It's awfully hard to arrive at such authenticity without having a topical understanding of what your employer brand is challenged with, what it has to offer, how it's perceived and what it's up against.

Neil has been lucky enough to work alongside exceptional brands such as Sainsbury's, Transport for London, Pizza Hut, HS2, The AA, BA, Heathrow, Virgin Media, the University of Sheffield, Telefonica, Santander, Unilever, Prosafe and Subsea7.

Today, he works with both clients direct and via agencies and RPOs. Such work is increasingly used to drive both diversity and internal engagement initiatives. The ability of an organisation not only to retain but to get the most out of its people has never been so important. We are also doing some interesting work in the exit journey of potentially departing employees.

Neil is a key member of the DANGERFIELD team.