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Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Post-Covid Revised Edition

In light of this unusual, and challenging year for our world, I reviewed my predicted trends for Employer Branding in 2020 (which I published in December 2019). After all we’ve been through with quarantine, global economies shutting down, close to 400,000 lives lost in the past six months, I needed to evaluate whether my initial predictions remained relevant, even throughout this pandemic.

The first sentence, and my positive naivete, of the original article amused me: "The magical year of 2020 awaits us. Full of changes, not only in the field of Employer Branding." One thing remains true of that statement at least, it has been a year full of changes.

I predicted that the attitude and actions of corporations towards their employees - their acceptance, leadership and motivation - would evolve, as was already indicated at the end of 2019. And what direction did I mean? Holistic, long-term, and strategic. I expected the topic of Employer Branding to become further integrated into corporate cultures through their lived values, shared long-term visions and strategies, and diversions from recruitment campaigns, career sites and social networks.

I had no idea how much something as unexpected as a global pandemic would grow this trend.

For each of the 5 predicted trends, I have added a paragraph reflecting on the trend from a post-COVID perspective.

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Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Post-Covid Revised Edition

  1. 1. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 2 In light of this unusual, and challenging year for our world, I reviewed my predicted trends for Employer Branding in 2020 (which I published in December 2019). After all we’ve been through with quarantine, global economies shutting down, close to 400,000 lives lost in the past six months, I needed to evaluate whether my initial predictions remained relevant, even throughout this pandemic. The first sentence, and my positive naivete, of the original article amused me: "The magical year of 2020 awaits us. Full of changes, not only in the field of Employer Branding." One thing remains true of that statement at least, it has been a year full of changes. I predicted that the attitude and actions of corporations towards their employees - their acceptance, leadership and motivation - would evolve, as was already indicated at the end of 2019. And what direction did I mean? Holistic, long-term, and strategic. I expected the topic of Employer Branding to become further integrated into corporate cultures through their lived values, shared long-term visions and strategies, and diversions from recruitment campaigns, career sites and social networks. I had no idea how much something as unexpected as a global pandemic would grow this trend. For each of the 5 predicted trends, I have added a paragraph reflecting on the trend from a post-COVID perspective.
  2. 2. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 3 1. VIRTUE SIGNALLING –> MANAGERIAL ALIGNMENT It’s likely that you have been at a company where the management plasters a new vision and corporate values all over its corridors, restrooms, and common spaces. Employees see the new materials, read them and shake their heads in disbelief. They don’t understand them, and the values don’t resonate with them. They do not know how to manifest the imposed values in their personal or team work, much less in their long-term strategies. I'm not surprised. Often these are meaningless statements created by wordsmith’s, which even the management itself is not ready to implement. Such conflicts often arise in a management team whose members do not trust each other, play games, defend their positions and ego, and certainly do not pursue a common goal. In 2020, the dysfunctional failure of these tactics will finally surface as the mood in the market changes. Companies will need to encourage people (employees), and develop motivating strategies to guide them. What else should that be other than absolute clarity of intentions and plans, the clarity created by answering 6 key questions: 1. What does the company do (product and story)? 2. What is the purpose / meaning of the company's existence (mission)? 3. What does the company want to achieve in the long run (vision)? 4. According to what rules does the company play (corporate values)? 5. What makes the company unique, who is its key customer (brand promise)? 6. What does the company build on as an employer (Employer Value Proposition)?
  3. 3. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 4 Directors who are dedicated to their self-development will be ready to achieve greater alignment with their teams by eliminating the dysfunctions brilliantly described in the book, The 5 dysfunctions of a team, by Patrick Lencioni. Workplace dysfunction begins with the absence of trust and fear of conflict, continues with a lack of determination and avoidance of responsibility, and ends with indifference to results. Post-COVID reflection: The problem of uncoordinated, dysfunctional teams is even more exacerbated and crystallized in the post-COVID workplace. Dysfunction in work teams and relationships will expose itself through the necessity of quick reactions, clear steps, firm decisions, and intensive communication. All of these variables will be made even more difficult through increasingly remote workplaces - further highlighting the need for alignment. Although sometimes in sports, weak teams can manage to unite and make extraordinary efforts, they usually do not last long and eventually crumble.
  4. 4. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 5 2. IMPLEMENTATION PLANNING –> STRATEGIC THINKING In business we are constantly fighting fires – big, medium and small, all the time. Many management teams are subject to this task and forced to constantly focus on extinguishing their immediate problems. They only seem to have the capacity to look to the end of the year at most, sometimes only the end of the next quarter. They are stuck in daily operations and burn all their energy on immediate activities. They create tactical plans to squash the biggest fires to achieve fast results. They put out one fire and hurry to another, while in the meantime another ignites. They are fully dedicated to implementation planning. Eventually, people tasked with firefighting in organizations can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, at the end of the next quarter, they slowly lose hope and their own fire burns out. Endless extinguishing does not pour energy into their soul. In 2020, the country will be faced with challenges. The automotive industry will cut back on gas, which will be reflected in other industries over time. People inside of companies will become uneasy, and will seek reassurance that the future of their company is stable, and they will want to know in whose hands that responsibility ultimately lies. The need to create a long-term vision (5, 10, 15 years) will become an urgent matter for many companies. Of course, I don't mean idealistic visions which are just good for annual reports and company publications. I refer to long-term goals which break into medium-term (3-5 years), annual and quarterly goals between individual teams. By the way, a great article on this topic called Many Strategies Fail Because They Aren't Actually Strategies was recently published in the Harvard Business Review.
  5. 5. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 6 Post-COVID Reflection: Clearly, in the first weeks of quarantine, the increased rate of immediate, and tactical adjustments was understandable. Now, as we gain understanding of the virus, its impacts and management techniques, there is a growing need to see beyond the end of this year. Both because of the need for smart resource utilization (which some companies will now have less), and because of the need for people to know what the world will now look like. And do you have a better idea of giving people "security and peace of mind" than showing them that you know the way?
  6. 6. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 7 3. FRIENDS CULTURE –> CULTURE OF RESPONSIBILITY Most likely, you have worked in a company where people clap each other on the shoulders, go for beers together, and office days feel more like parties than work, but the company does not progress. In such an environment, new projects, innovations and strategies are created, but hardly any change or progress is actually implemented. Although the problems are named, they are not solved in the long run. “Culture eats strategy for lunch”, said management guru Peter Drucker, before correcting himself later to say, Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. And he was right. The best strategies, new products, and internal processes do not come to life in a company without clear individual responsibility. In 2020, companies will need to change that kind of behaviour. They will realize that friendship is a nice thing, but without a culture of responsibility, they cannot achieve results. Responsibility within companies can be divided between accountability and responsibility. The difference is that guarantees can be shared, while liability cannot. Being responsible means not only being responsible for an outcome, but also for one's actions. In companies there are always functions such as business, marketing, finance, for which someone is responsible. Additionally, the processes that run in tandem through these functions such as development, internal communications, introduction of new products must have responsible task leaders. If it is not clear who is responsible for what, and the right measures are not assigned, the strategies will progress only on paper.
  7. 7. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 8 Post-COVID Reflection: I know from experience that this point is very closely connected with the previous one - implementation planning. When plans are not connected with a clear who-what-when-how plan, the plans are just hallucinations. In the coming time, there will be far less room for companies who struggle to clearly establish responsibility across their teams.
  8. 8. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 9 4. TRICKLE-DOWN ORDERS –> BOTTOM-UP MOTIVATION Which form of communication is more impactful than simply passing along information? Inspiration. Presenting meaningful advice, stories and support that can help employees in their daily work and even life outside the office. But now I switch to another important facet of inspiration at the workplace - employee involvement. Co-creation and investment in the present and the future of the company. Today's typical format is "about us, without us". It is usually a two-stage, top- down process, in which higher-level managers decide what happens for everyone else, and then implement the decision and communicate it through internal departments with the help of internal communication. However, such a detached and hierarchical process does not deliver the desired effect. In 2020, workplaces will become more involved and integrated between their leaders, management and employees. Instead of just making decisions and informing people, companies will start to create decisions and processes with them. And I don't mean in the way of management simply asking employees, evaluating the feedback ourselves, and preparing action steps, plans, measures in a vacuum. Instead, it will be much more about creating solutions in a process that fully involves people. The goal then is not only to end up gathering opinions, but to continue cooperating in subsequent steps. Stanford University professor, Robert Burgelman, wrote: "Successful companies are characterized by maintaining internal experiments and selection processes from the bottom up while respecting the strategic intent set by the management team." To put it simply: management should outline a strategic framework, establish sound processes for internal feedback, and allow autonomy for inspired people to materialize their intentions to meaningful action. .
  9. 9. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 10 Post-COVID Reflection: this point concerns both the finding the motivations of people, and the ability to turn those into action as part of a larger strategic plan. When people are involved in building plans and feel motivated to take part in and implement them, their chances of success will be several times higher. And this is nothing new - companies needed it before the pandemic and will need it after it.
  10. 10. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 11 5. HAPPINESS MANAGERS –> HOLISTIC MANAGERS Buzzwords are powerful, they can attract attention and inspire ambitions. I see “happiness” in the context of work as one of these common attention-grabbers, and it manifests into creating happiness managers to implement “happiness-building” in the office. However, I think that ambitions do not include employee happiness. Happiness takes place on the inner level of every person, it is a state of mind and unity of spirit, and there companies can hardly achieve. The ambitions of companies should end at the creation of clarity of their importance, role, and responsibility in the company, a context that can help motivate people and their subsequent fulfillment. In 2020, some companies will jump on the trend of managers who will be individually and truly interested in paying real attention to “their people”. I would like to quote Štěpán Lukeš, HR head of IBM ČR, when he said: "We are moving from assigning a task to understanding the task processor". Maybe we can call them caring or holistic managers, depending on how they focus on meaningfully understanding the work of individuals. Individualization is not only a trend in business operations, it will also be a trend in HR management and development. In addition to programs aimed at all employees or individual teams, there will be far more activities targeted at individuals. How do we create meaningful work (<= clarity created by management teams) in a caring environment (<= attention of holistic managers).
  11. 11. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 12 Post-COVID Reflection: quarantine conditions that created both the opportunity, and necessity for deeper interpersonal connection in the workplace will not (hopefully) be present for a long period of time. However, we can hope that the positive take-aways will last. Managers have been able to come out of their shells and take an interest in "their" people far more than before, paying attention to them. There’s been a little more time for personal interaction. Maybe some have touched on how to calm and encourage people, send them some positive energy, contribute to their satisfaction or ease their nerves. I doubt any of them were thinking how to simply make people happy ;-)
  12. 12. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 13 CONCLUSION I have been predicting Employer Branding trends in the Czech Republic for 5 years. I also now, along with most of the rest of the world, have experienced my first pandemic and quarantine too. What will be next? For me, the journey begins with companies that want to be more successful thanks to their people. This is how I named the new leadership concept – STEEPLE / More Successful Thanks to People – which is based on branding, leadership and the business / management aspect and puts it in the hands of directors and management teams of companies. This is where strategies must be born that are meant to influence the meaning embedded into the names and logos of companies. I'm looking forward to summing up and underlining this year to see how many companies have invested in aligning management teams that have started to focus fully on strategic thinking, creating a culture of responsibility, drawing people into the game at the right time and enabling their managers to be caring, and care for people. I wish you all the best in the second half of 2020.
  13. 13. Petr Hovorka ・ Employer Branding Trends in 2020 / Looking Back After the Pandemic 14 “If you look at the financial statements, you'll see how you've been in the past. If you look into the corporate culture, you’ll see how you’ll do in the years to come.” Petr Hovorka Management Consultant & Employer Brand Baker @ BrandBakers +420 602 271 011 petr.hovorka@brandbakers.cz https://www.linkedin.com/in/petrhovorka1/

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