How to build a strong employer brand through PR in a tight labour market

Despite the uncertain economic forecast, ONS data shows that job vacancies remain at historically high levels, with many UK businesses struggling to secure new talent. Whilst the ‘war for talent’ across many key sectors appears set to continue, runaway inflation and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has driven many people to consider new career opportunities more actively. In fact, recent research from Reed.co.uk shows that over half of all workers (55%) were actively job-seeking or considering looking for a new job over the summer.

Salary concerns

With millions of potential new hires on the move in search of higher salaries, there is certainly an opportunity to fill vacancies by offering salaries in line with current inflationary increases. However, many UK businesses may not be in a financial position to deliver this, considering the recent economic turmoil. Already, we have seen how the UK’s £32 billion legal sector has struggled to match the salary offers of US firms, supported by the comparative higher strength of the dollar.

Ultimately, unsustainable pay bumps offer only a short-term solution for business leaders keen to grab the attention of today’s more mindful talent pool - increasingly, we see employees looking to secure a role with a company whose wider culture and story align with their own values and aspirations.

Build an employer brand

Whilst the cost-of-living crisis is certainly a key driver for active candidates, it is worth remembering that the catalyst for the ‘Great Resignation’ was a desire from workers to seek change and rejuvenation post-pandemic, as well as secure working practices that better suited them.

Now more than ever, there is a strong business case to be made for investing wisely in more proactive methods of outreach and ‘employer brand’ building in order to attract talent.

In the professional services space, for example, the power of employer reputation in attracting talent is clear, as the so-called ‘Magic Circle’, ‘Big Four’, and ‘Bulge Bracket’ firms can expect a steady stream of applications from young graduates and experienced talent alike. However, for small and mid-sized firms, it can be a struggle to stand out from the crowd.

Comms must be bold

In this highly competitive labour market, it is important for these businesses to be bold and creative in their external communications and go beyond simply advertising details about their company culture on websites and job specs.

It is here where the value of public relations becomes clear. With experience in helping organisations to maintain and build a positive public image, the PR industry has the expertise to help ensure a story is told both effectively and to a wider audience of potential talent.

Whether it’s sharing details of your ESG commitments, unique workplace initiatives or the core beliefs of the founders, proactively engaging in PR can be an effective recruitment tool. By helping organisations to secure coverage in key trade titles or building the online reputation/reach of a company via LinkedIn, effective PR can provide prospective new hires with a glimpse into the heart of a company - allowing them to better understand how engaged and committed an employer is in their career and wellbeing.

Take action

As Tim Ryan, US chairman of professional service firm PwC, recently quipped, the post-pandemic ‘war on talent’ has been decisively won by the talent. The question now is whether bosses understand that failure to fundamentally shift their approach to talent acquisition risks their business losing market leadership. To secure talent, a firm simply cannot afford to sit back with a “come and get me” approach to recruitment.

The ‘war for talent’ is fast becoming a war for positive PR, in which employers are seeking out new methods to engage with target talent pools more effectively and tell their unique story in a bid to stand out from all the rest.

Written by Neil McLeod, director of corporate at PR agency The PHA Group

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