Why does anything ever need an update? Because it has unwanted fine lines and wrinkles. Cue the facelift analogy. Below are five (plus one bonus!) very clear signs that your employer brand may need a mild tuck, lift or refresh (not necessarily a Dolly Parton re-do, but we have that ability if that’s what you’re into).
1. Hiring trends are peaking or dropping, and the reason why is a total mystery to you.
It’s rare, but it can happen. You’re all of a sudden getting tons of thirsty qualified applicants, and maybe you aren’t sure what new perfume you’re wearing, but people are picking up what you’re putting down. It could be your hard-to-get flirty attitude, word-of-mouth through your existing employees, or even some random mention of your company within a news article … who knows? But you need to be ready for them. If they come knocking on your door and you’re in your day-old pajamas, then you’ve got less of a chance to bring them inside for a glass of wine. Okay, I’m done with this analogy for now. I’m not E L James. But in all seriousness, you’re getting a free gift from the universe and you need to be ready.
The not-so-great (and more likely) scenario is that you’re losing talent. You may have theories as to why, but this mass exodus is taking a toll. This means you’ve got to start hiring —unless they’re all leaving because you’re replacing them with loyal robots. Your employer brand needs an update now more than ever. You need to not only delicately address this PR issue but also tell your story in a refreshed way. Ignoring the problem never works, but you know that.
2. You’ve expanded your services or product line (I.e., you aren’t doing what you used to be doing)
Here’s a simple one. If you used to sell burgers and now you’re selling burgers plus burritos, you need to update the world. And this is for two reasons: you need to tell them the news so they can decide how to feel about you as a brand and an employer, but you also need to hire new and different talent (see point #5), like burrito chefs! That’s a thing, I looked it up.
3. You’ve got an IPO coming your way, or some other big financial change that can be for the better or for worse
Just like marriage vows, you promise to stay with your company for better or for worse. It’s actually nothing like that, but, I would argue, you’ve got some level of loyalty to your organization if you’re reading this. Your employer brand can’t naturally keep up with the never-ending news cycle. But you can do some simple things to make sure you’re acknowledging and reacting to what the rest of the world is seeing (this is especially important for companies going through anything in the public eye, like IPOs or layoffs). If it’s positive news, an obvious step is (you guessed it) updating your employer brand. New and curious people will be perusing your website (among other things) to try and understand the company culture, and all of the good, bad, and the ugly. So give them a story they can repeat and that you want to be repeated. It’s likely not the same story that was being told prior to this new news.
4. Your culture doesn’t match what’s happening now
Back in the day, your company culture was one of wearing suits and/or high heels with pantyhose and working in individual offices. But now your company is more relaxed and working in a communal office space. If your old culture is still being promoted through marketing materials or outdated videos but is nonexistent in the real world, I can’t think of how a candidate could get any more confused. This is a very extreme example, but cultures do change and it’s important to tell the world about those changes. Find the compelling nuggets within your existing culture, and make sure you update how you are telling your culture story to the world.
5. You’re hiring a totally new talent pool
Similar to #2, you have always and will always make textbook reading software, but now you’ve started analyzing and selling the data about textbook usage. The people who built your textbook reading software do not have the same skills as the people who you need to analyze the data. Yes, this is a reference to our ever-desired data scientist unicorns. Another, easier to understand example is Netflix. What’d they previously do? Mail you rented DVDs with great customer service. What do they do now? Download and stream endless video content (a lot of which they created) from any digital device and slowly take over the world. They probably aren’t needing as many people to facilitate their snail-mail logistics and they probably can’t train the employees who were sorting DVDs at headquarters to start negotiating movie deals with celebrities. They needed new talent, not just because of growth, but also because of their shift in their offering. And because a world without Netflix is maybe not worth living in. And this is not a job just for their brand team to solve, this is an HR issue —an employer brand issue. Netflix would not be succeeding at their current rate if they didn’t properly update their employer value proposition and employer brand.
6. Obvious, but needs to be said, bonus: Your employer brand is just plain out of date.
No matter how much sunscreen you’re using, the sunspots and signs of aging will always appear eventually. Think about your current career website (or maybe you don’t even have one) and then look at the demographics of the talent you’re trying to hire. Another extreme example: if your career site shows middle-aged white males laughing together in a mahogany-filled boardroom and you’re trying to hire diverse and/or young talent —then I bet you can predict the future of this scenario. Even mild nuances can make a big difference —think about what your talent pool wants out of a career that you can deliver on. They may want work/life balance or career opportunities for advancement, but all you’re promoting is a stable career with good pay —you may be leaving some chips on the table. For all I know, your company could have amazing work/life balance, but not believe it’s relevant to promote. Check yourself and ensure you’re staying up to date on the emotional motivators of your target audience.
In short, my advice to you: Be sure to age gracefully. Have pride in your roots, but don’t be so prideful that you don’t allow yourself to improve, grow, and stay relevant. Even if it means getting some lifts and tucks along the way.