For years, we’ve framed the virtual workplace as “the future of work”—a distant vision, and one many employer brand managers overlooked, despite the fact that more than half of workers worldwide were spending at least half their workweek telecommuting. However, as HubSpot’s Senior Manager of Employer Brand Hannah Fleishman reminds us, “The future is here.”
COVID-19 has forced companies with little experience supporting a remote workforce to embrace working from home. Some were better equipped to make this transition in stride.
Before COVID-19 closed offices around the world, HubSpot was already positioning itself as a leader in remote employee experience. Of its 3,500 employees around the world, 400 were full-time remote, making HubSpot’s remote workforce its third-largest “office.” That success wasn’t an accident—a major component of its success was its commitment to remote employer brand.
If employer brand describes how your values and culture differentiate you competitively, then remote employer brand describes your remote workforce’s place in that culture, as well as the competitive advantage you offer to remote candidates. As Fleishman puts it, “How you market and position your company, not only as a great place to work but a great place to work remotely, is really important as that becomes more competitive.”
Before 2020, the remote employee experience was an afterthought at many companies. For years, HubSpot was no exception. Framing remote work as “the future of work” allowed companies to deprioritize it in favor of more immediate goals and concerns.
However, supporting remote employees is becoming increasingly urgent as more and more jobseekers opt to work from home for health and safety reasons. “Because of this pandemic, we can expect that candidates are going to expect more remote work opportunities.”
Employers shouldn’t expect the importance of remote employer brand to subside as the pandemic subsides, either. According to Fleishman, an internal survey revealed that 61% of HubSpot employees are planning to work remotely more even after in-person office life resumes.
Employers new to remote work may view it as a temporary or less-than-ideal solution to a period of global crisis. However, remote work provides a host of competitive advantages, even in a world where in-person office life is possible.
One of those advantages is flexibility of location. “You’re missing out on a lot of talent if you’re just focused on your city or region,” says Fleishman. A talent pool unrestricted by geography allows you to reach the most competitive candidates globally, not just those who live within commuting distance.
A strong remote employer brand also expands candidate diversity, especially among jobseekers with disabilities and those with caretaking responsibilities. Remote work can accommodate accessibility needs and flexible schedules. A company that values being “remote-first,” rather than simply “remote-friendly,” as Fleishman puts it, assures these candidates they won’t be valued less than their in-person colleagues.
And while pandemic-induced isolation and challenging home environments are currently mitigating some of the benefits of remote work, evidence shows that under more normal circumstances, employees’ productivity goes up when they’re allowed to work from home.
For most companies, office culture is the root of employer brand. Fleishman reminds us, however, that a photo of employees laughing in an office together is not culture: “Marketing your employer brand based on your office experience is actually a mistake.” For brands with employees scattered across the globe, “Culture doesn’t have a zip code.”
HubSpot’s approach has been to stop treating remote culture as a separate wing of its employer brand. As Fleishman says, “You don’t have a culture and remote culture; you have one culture.”
HubSpot takes this commitment so seriously that it hired its first Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager, Meaghan Williams. Under Williams’ guidance, the company has refined its approach to remote IT, onboarding, and collaboration while making things like virtual team-building opportunities the norm.
Companies wanting to improve their remote employer brand should start small, according to Fleishman. As you would when building a traditional employer brand, the first step is research, engaging your employees about their experiences, and listening to their feedback.
Stay open to feedback on your failures. Research suggests that remote employees don’t get promoted or receive pay increases as often as their in-person colleagues; has your company perpetuated this trend? HubSpot discovered its application experience wasn’t serving remote candidates; does your “Careers” page reflect your commitment to remote workers?
Fleishman recommends choosing four to five areas to observe and measure in your first few months of building your remote employer brand. The data you get from this research will inform your employer brand strategy, along with another positive side effect: Because research on remote work is so new, sharing your data attracts attention to your brand, boosting your visibility and exposing you to potential candidates.
We can’t predict how long health and safety precautions will keep us working from home. But whether or not your team remains entirely or partially distributed in the future, you’ll benefit from investing now in your remote employer brand.
To follow Hannah Fleishman’s work on remote employer brand, follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter. You may also want to check out her previous interview Inbound Recruiting: HubSpot’s Approach to Employer Branding. For help creating data-driven, actionable strategies you can use to make real change in your company, talk to us.
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