Talk of employer brand is nothing new. However, as companies in the UK battle redundancies and a market downturn not seen since the dizzying heights of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), it has reached a new level of importance.
The reckoning for the technology sector across 2022 and 2023 impacting start-ups and global businesses like Twitter, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, has started to filter into professional and financial services with firms like Accenture and bulge bracket banks Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse and UBS post-merger all announcing redundancies.
Things are tough right now. If there’s something that we should’ve learnt after the GFC it's, how you respond in a downturn will impact who will remain loyal in an upturn.
Focusing on recruitment and employer brand during a hiring freeze seems counterintuitive, however, companies that invest now will reap the benefits over the coming years. Below are five key focuses you can undertake during a hiring freeze that are budget-friendly and will help you navigate what is likely to remain a difficult 2023 before a slow uptick across 2024/25.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a slower growth market is cutting your recruitment effort altogether.
2023 Employer Brand Focuses
- Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) – In 2020, the focus on DEIB was one of the first things to go in the face of a difficult market. And it was noticed. While hiring might be slowed or frozen altogether, focusing on inclusion for those from a minority background shouldn’t cease. Take the time to create concrete actions to address the systemic inequalities that exist in your workplace (there will always be some, no business is perfect) and focus on creating a culture of belonging for all employees. A hiring freeze is a great time to reassess processes and backgrounds of past applicants to assess if unconscious bias is playing a part in your hiring decisions to make changes for the future. Learn how to improve diversity in your business here.
- Employee wellness and mental health – The last few years have been difficult, and many are battling burnout. The wellness and mental health of your team should be a top priority. Look to provide resources and support to help employees cope with the ongoing challenges and stressors of external market noise, remote/hybrid work, work-life balance, and if you’ve been through a redundancy round, the fear of job loss or loss of colleagues.
- Career development and up-skilling – HR teams across the country are trying to answer the question of how best to provide career progression in a slower growth market. Our advice? Look to provide opportunities for continuous learning and mentorship to develop skill sets that align with their career aspirations to retain top talent. If you can’t afford a promotion, be honest about it and give clear timeframes as to when it can be accommodated. If you can, consider backpay/bonus in lieu of being able to offer a timely promotion.
- Recruitment and retention strategies – One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a slower growth market is cutting your recruitment effort altogether. At some point you will probably need to hire again, and so will everyone else. Competition for talent will intensify and you’ll probably be left on the back foot, either unable to hire at pace or having to offer salaries that exceed market average. While you might not be looking to hire immediately, focus on engaging top talent through differentiated recruitment strategies to build brand recognition in the employment market. You’ll create a warm talent pool you can tap into when the time comes to pick things back up.
- Employee experience (EX) – Finally, prioritise the employee experience by creating a workplace culture that values employee well-being, transparency, engagement, and productivity. Build a company your team feel like they’ve had a hand in creating through feedback, invest in workplace design and amenities, and create a supportive and inclusive company culture. We’re in an era of heightened scrutiny and scepticism, so you need to be authentic and lean into your mission, vision, and values – remember, it’s all about creating long-term loyalty.
We’re working with businesses on how best to navigate the current market and what you can do to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward to retain your current staff and hire in the future, when the time comes. If this is something you're struggling with, get in touch today – we’d love to help.