Russell MiyakiWritten by

The Impact on Brand and the Candidate Journey

It goes without saying that we’re in a historical time that has changed behaviors, needs and perceptions. The human race and the global workforce are on center stage in a blockbuster documentary. Meaning, we’re not only living, working and behaving moment-to-moment, we’re also watching each other and reacting to those experiences in real time. Learning from each other. Globally. Because we’ve never ever been through this before.

Just about everything, is virtualized

From how we get our food essentials and household goods to things we take for granted — like going to the prom, going for a medical check-up, even going to a job interview. Social distancing has forced the world into virtual dependency almost overnight.

We are also witnessing the power of togetherness — and brands that realize this are winning. When humans are challenged in some way by restrictions or deprivations, we find new and ingenious ways to adapt.

For example, SpaceX, a private American aerospace manufacturer, is now producing ventilators to help address the growing demand needed. The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation committed to making 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns in the U.S. to help support the world’s heroic healthcare workers. And distilleries around the world are blending their alcohol with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide in vats to produce hand sanitizer that they are giving away for free.

In Spain, truck drivers have been working long hours in order to ensure that grocery stores and other retailers remain stocked with people’s much-needed food and amenities. However, many rest stops and restaurants are closed. So, some drivers have had to resort to cooking food or making coffee in their own vehicles. Burger King has made it a lot easier for drivers to get a meal — by allowing them to designate their trucks as their “homes.” Now that the drivers can call their trucks “home,” they are able to get Whoppers, fries and drinks delivered right to their vehicles by using the BK app.

Now more than ever, we are hyper-focused on — and highly-impressionable to — things like advertising, messaging and content. Why? Because our entire connection to the outside world is literally being funneled to us through our laptops, TVs and mobile devices. Digital channels are almost entirely responsible for bringing the outside world to us. And one of the hottest topics on everyone’s minds centers around employment. Whether getting a job, keeping a job or looking for a new job, people are paying close attention to how brands are handling the situation we’re in and they believe companies should provide meaningful solutions, not just make profits.

In a recent report from Edelman, there are four key criteria points on which brands are being judged:

Show up and do your part

Brands have a vital role to play. Now is not the time to disappear, but to show up and use all your resources and creativity to make a difference.

Don’t act alone

Again, to the point about the power of togetherness, to truly help people during this time requires a joining of forces with others.

Solve, don’t sell

Brands should focus on finding meaningful solutions to the problems we are facing right now.

Communicate with emotion, compassion, and facts

People are reassured by positive brand actions and commitments. Communicate with empathy to help inform and calm.

To be effective NOW, brand messages should center not only on empathy, support and appreciation for the front-line workers and those personally affected by this illness, but also communicate how we can all help each other out in new and meaningful ways. Especially ways that tie their brand to the message in a smart, sincere way rather than a way that could be perceived as self-serving.

As mentioned earlier, the workforce is on center stage. The world is watching. And you could say that EVPs and employer brands have been put under the microscope like never before. Companies are using their corporate-brand dollars to express their gratitude to their employees. With the goals of communicating their values, mission and dedication to their people, those messages will be put to the test when we start to emerge into a new work era.

The impact on candidate personas and candidate experiences

The current situation has changed the way we work and the way we get jobs. It has impacted the candidate experience — quite possibly forever — but it hasn’t changed the fact that we still need careers and jobs. The global workforce finds itself in self-reflection mode, no matter what the status of their current career. The job market is tumultuous with millions of active candidates looking for work. The feelings and attitudes of candidates are filled with uncertainty, so much that some are becoming despondent and looking for alternative routes.

There is an elevated focus on evaluating current skills and competencies. People are looking for alternatives, considering how they can sustain themselves through this situation, and wonder how things – including themselves – will be different on the other side. Candidate behaviors, motivations, wants and needs, are rapidly evolving.

For those of us in the employer brand space, when we think about candidate personas we will need to account for current situational circumstances — what candidates are going through and/or how they are being impacted by the current events. What we are experiencing now will have long lasting effects on all candidates in the workforce.

When we look at building candidate personas, we see changes such as:

  • Channels and touchpoints will be more virtualized.
  • Streaming network platforms like Netflix will be utilized for company town halls and industry events like SXSW or TED.
  • Zoom/Webex platforms are the new interview platforms

Personas have new motivational wants and needs. They may be less aspirational and more focused on meeting core needs, like convenience and security. They may focus squarely on stability, long-term growth, work-life flexibility and clearly defined roles and structures. Personas will also start to feature the needs of remote workers such as having the right tools and equipment as well as an efficient communication process with their teams.

The stories of the personas will reflect the current job market.

When we empathize with the questions and needs of the candidates in each stage of their journey, it will include topics effected by the current situation, such as how any given company is dealing with COVID-19 and how they treat their employees. This impacts the candidate experience.

The Attraction Stage

There are a plethora of candidates actively seeking employment. Usually at this stage, we talk about how we need to get their attention. With a larger percentage of active seekers and already heightened attention and interest towards job opportunities, in our current climate, candidates in this stage may have specific questions such as:

  • How are you handling the COVID-19 situation?
  • How do you treat your employees?
  • How will my role impact the company’s vision?

The Inform Stage

The inform and attract stages are likely blurring together, as job seekers compress the validation behaviors of the inform stage into the attract stage due to the active state of these candidates. They may be looking ahead to applying directly off the first job aggregator or job board listings they see, going straight from banner to application.

Yet on the same note, culture is still a critical point of alignment necessary for candidates to consider an organization. Therefore, companies need to find new, creative and virtual ways to demonstrate their company’s culture in a way that candidates can align to it.

During this stage, the candidates may have some specific questions regarding the current circumstances such as:

  • Is this a remote position, or will I be coming into
  • the office?
  • What safety measures are you practicing to keep your employees safe?
  • Have you had to layoff/furlough employees?

The Application Stage

In the application stage, making hiring decisions and accepting job offers without meeting in person will lean heavily on virtual tools. Virtual interview experiences need to be adaptable to manage both recruiter- and candidate-needs in this new space.

Current circumstances may mean that candidates are more aggressive and companies have a higher volume of candidates to choose from. Again, the length of time a candidate is unemployed changes their motivations and needs. Many of them will not have as much patience with lengthy application processes or delayed response times.

During this stage, the candidates may have some specific questions regarding the current circumstances such as:

  • How will the virtual interview take place?
  • Will I be on camera?
  • I was furloughed from my job. Will that affect my chances?

When it comes to referrals, they may be from friends and former colleagues that are also unemployed looking for a job. This puts importance on the quality of the candidate experience itself, because news of a bad experience travels fast. Will this mean referral networks will band together to help each other find jobs? Or will it turn competitive? In fact, the Ad industry has started to connect unemployed advertising and marketing professionals with referrals.

The Onboarding Stage

Our new reality is that the onboarding and training experience is largely online and being experienced in bite-sized segments spread out through a specific time period with constant check ins. During this stage, the new employees may have some specific questions regarding the current circumstances such as:

  • How will I get to meet my team?
  • How will I be able to train?
  • How will I set-up my equipment?
  • What are my responsibilities going to be on my first day?

In addition to the above, new employees will be tasked with adjusting to a new company, while possibly learning the company’s policies and procedures remotely. The feeling of isolation that often comes with starting a new role, will be even more prevalent due to current self-isolating circumstances. A feeling of belonging comes with physical presence and working together. So, it will be critical that managers and leaders stay in contact with new employees more frequently in our new online reality.

Who knows how long this will all last, but the new norm is upon us. Will we all go back to business as usual? Chances are no. Things will more than likely be different. Virtual services and working remote will be a critical part of business models and no longer an exception. New product and service offerings will be more virtualized as advanced technologies and apps transcend what were once viewed as in-person-only experiences. Changes in crisis management will be more routine and practiced like fire drills. And employer brands and candidate experiences will need to connect to people with the motivational characteristics of the remote workforce.

Russell Miyaki

About Russell Miyaki

Russell Miyaki, Senior Vice President, Creative Services leads TMP’s global team of creative and brand development professionals. Russell, a hands-on creative, takes his renowned talents to lead TMP into the next generation of digital, social and mobile solutions for our global clients. His vision, passion and unparalleled commitment to innovation is the driving force behind TMP’s current and future creative offerings.

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