The Rise of Purpose: Employer Brand Trends of Q2 2020

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Here at Link Humans, we’re all about figuring out workplace sentiment. Typically, we will look at a specific company and some of its talent competitors to understand what candidates, employees, and alumni feel about these organizations as employers. This helps our clients position their employer brand to better attract and retain. We call this the Employer Brand Index.

Doing this work for global corporates also means we have a lot of insights across the board. For this piece of research, we have aggregated a data set to draw out some of the trends and patterns we have seen in the last quarter. We made a selection of data that was representative of global Fortune 500 companies, typically with 50k+ employees. We look at all data we can find about companies in an employment context, analyze this by our 16 attributes, and score everything up.

This selection includes 25k+ pieces of commentary from talent across employer review sites, social media, and online forums.

Attribute Trajectory

Our methodology is based on 16 attributes, essentially 16 areas that make up the entire employer brand experience. These attributes will shift from one quarter to the next, and during Q2 we saw that:

  • Change & Stability was the biggest improver and ESG had the biggest decrease.
  • Management & Organization has ticked up nicely along with Career Progression and Innovation & Technology.
  • Other big drops included Workplace (particularly for frontline employees who were not able to transition to working from home), Business Reputation, and L&D (we have seen a lack of events, conferences, classroom training for a reason).

Attribute Impact Q2

In this chart, we overlay the share of voice, so the volume of data, with the sentiment ranging from negative to neutral to positive. In this case, we have zoomed in on the area with the most attributes. Some observations:

  • Mission & Purpose has the highest impact overall, with the most share of voice and positive sentiment.
  • Other positive attributes include Benefits & Perks, Learning & Development, Company Culture, and Team Spirit. Their share of voice is lower though.
  • On the other end, we can see that Management & Organization has a high share of voice and the sentiment is in negative territory, which means it’s a drag on the overall score for this study.
  • Diversity & Inclusion and Remuneration are other problem areas, with slightly less share of voice.

Our clients will look at charts like these to figure out what opportunities there are in comparison to talent competitors, what issues need to be addressed internally, which to celebrate, and in some cases what attributes can do with a boost in volume.

Out of our 16 attributes, we have identified patterns which concern four of these; COVID-19 (our guest attribute) Racial Equality (part of the D&I attribute), Change & Stability, and Purpose.

COVID-19

Let’s start with the guest attribute which has impacted us all in many ways. By filtering all commentary by words, phrases, statements relating to COVID-19 we are able to see first of all that mentions skyrocketed in March for professionals, and towards the end of Q2 the trends were converging between frontline and professional.

We did also find a big difference in sentiment here. We’ve color-coded the word clouds and as you can see the frontline commentary has a few red and yellow words.

Some would argue this is because companies tend to focus too much on their professional employee base and not enough on the frontline. Professionals have in large parts of the world been able to work from home, whereas frontline workers most often have to go to a plant, facility, factory, etc to do their job.

Racial Equality

Diversity & Inclusion is a big topic in any given quarter and in Q2 we saw a big increase in Racial Equality themes, especially in the United States.

There was a real spike in commentary at the end of May, correlating with the time of the killing of George Floyd.

The sentiment was mixed with most employers being perceived to genuinely doing the right things and others being accused of not addressing racial equality (or inequality).

Companies that were doing the right things in terms of Diversity & Inclusion beforehand were naturally perceived better, others have a lot of catching up to do.

Change & Stability

Our attribute Change & Stability can sometimes be an attractor or in other cases a detractor. In normal times, we see a lot of change during mergers & acquisitions, lay-offs, reorganizations, and the like. Some companies will stand out as beacons of stability, but perhaps not the most exciting places to work.

During Q2, the world changed and the employers that were perceived as rocks did really well in this respect. Whether it’s a stable business model, enough money in the bank to weather the storm, or how the response was from the company to COVID-19 – it’s all made an impact on sentiment.

The score crept up from the beginning of the year, indicating that talent viewed their employers as something stable in a volatile world. Again, organizations that started early on with things like reorgs, digital transformation were in better shape than the ones who had to take measures during Q2.

The Rise of Purpose

The final attribute I wanted to highlight is Purpose. Looking at the scatter chart to the left, we can see our Mission & Purpose attribute in relation to all the others. The highest share of voice combined with a very positive sense makes it very impactful.

We’ve spoken about the power of Purpose for years, 2020 was when the rubber met the road. In a similar way to Stability, companies that provide the everyday products and services we need to sustain life on this planet have been seen as heroes. We have all come to appreciate supply chains, healthcare, telecoms, electricity even – and so has talent.

The score for Mission & Purpose has gone up and we see a lot of commentary around pride, being part of something bigger than oneself, believing in the mission, and being inspired.

Takeaways

Here are the four main topics and things to bear in mind.

  • D&I – We see companies giving employees a voice and having the honest and sometimes tough conversations. There is no overnight fix here, rather a strategic focus for the entire business.
  • COVID – Our data tells us it’s the frontline employee populations that have suffered the worst due to the pandemic. What can we as an organization do to provide better support?
  • Purpose – We have seen companies very effectively making the connection between the overall mission of the organization and the career purpose for its employees. It’s easier to do this for some companies, but I’m personally happy to see the unsung heroes of employers being highlighted.
  • Stability – Change is inevitable, more so now than ever. From an employer brand perspective, it’s about communication all the way from the C-suite. If there is bad news on the horizon, people will rather know it and plan accordingly. Likewise, if your company is stable, it’s worth reiterating that internally and externally.

Got questions? Feel free to reach out or check our the Employer Brand Index page.


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