Already, 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for hiring—and employees know it.
In a recent Pitchbook Survey, 90 % of private companies said they plan to hire this year, and unemployment claims recently dropped to their lowest point since the pandemic began. Companies that froze hiring in 2020 and weathered the storm are now ready to invest and grow by accessing previously inaccessible talent through remote work.
While many companies have big hiring ambitions for 2021, the question remains as to how they will bring their brands to life in a virtual world and attract the best talent. Consider large physical campuses like Google, Facebook, or Starbucks: from architecture to food to style, the brand “vibe” permeates every corner. The biggest question every company and employer faces is no longer “Where is the best talent,” but “How will our brand permeate every corner of a virtual room?” Moreover, as big household tech names begin to search outside their former geographical confines, startups in previously insulated geographies now face the threat of losing talent to larger, more established and recognizable brands.
In the global war for talent, potential hires will choose companies with the brands they understand, align with and believe in. In order to win this talent war, companies will have to translate the external (colors, logos, etc.) and internal (values, vision statements, etc.) components of their brand into virtual experiences and wholly reimagine the candidate experience.
As a longtime brand builder and investor, I believe that a brand is the sum total of interactions a customer—in this case the prospective employee—experiences with the company. More than just buying a splashy media campaign, the consistent touchpoints and moments your prospective employee experiences with your company build credibility and recognition over time.
So how can you insulate your brand from talent poaching and create an experience that transcends physical spaces? Here are the three areas you must focus on to win the talent war.
1. Attract Talent With a Brand That Resonates
Above all, you need to know what you stand for, why that matters, and how to articulate it to others. At my firm, West, we start by defining and codifying a company’s Brand Platform—it’s the who, what, why and how. This includes the big north star a company is aiming for, the thing that gets everyone on the team to engage fully each day (and night at times!) This is also a clear definition of the “character” of the brand. Beyond the logo, employee swag, or custom Slack theme, you have to invest in your brand platform. The most successful brands are maniacally diligent about aligning all of their messaging and touch points.
2. Evaluate the Journey
Any marketing leader will stress the importance of the customer journey in order to attract and retain zealous lifelong customers. All companies need to apply this same mindset to their talent-acquisition strategies. Determine what “surprise and delight” moments can be injected into the employee hiring, onboarding and development process that tell the story of your brand, vision, and mission. Everything you can do that is unique to your company will positively impact your ability to attract and retain talent.
3. Your Employees Are Brand Advocates
This begins right at onboarding. It’s the perfect moment when you can really cement the brand and turn your employee into a well-spoken advocate. Employees should be your biggest advocates, but in order to be effective, they must not only deeply understand the brand but also feel it in an exciting, emotional way.
Ultimately, in the global war for talent, potential hires will choose companies with the brands they understand, align with and believe in. In other words, the brands they love. Failing to crystalize your brand vision is a misstep you can’t afford to make in our fully remote world. Focusing on your brand will enable you to win in the talent wars that lie ahead.
Joanna Rees has spent her career as a leading brand marketer and investor. She is the managing partner of West, a venture studio that specializes in designing, building, and launching brands including Twitter, Square, Impossible Foods, Prelude Fertility, and GoFundMe.
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