What employer branding should look like in 2021

When you think of employer branding, what do you envision? Pre-Covid this might have looked like plenty of office perks – free drinks, an enviable office, after-work social events, complimentary gym membership.

In 2021, employer branding will centre on how a company treats and supports its staff and what its values are – and, importantly, what it does to act on those values. LinkedIn predicts that employer brands “will hinge on empathy and actions”. Employee wellbeing programmes, demonstrable diversity and inclusion initiatives, simply putting their people first – this is what candidates will now be looking for in a future employer. Recruiters can lead the way on this by marketing clients’ organisations to promote people-first practices. And recruiters themselves must demonstrate their dedication to tackle issues such as diversity within recruitment head-on.

The events of 2020 sparked global change. Issues such as mental health, workplace diversity, and the importance of flexible working had begun to develop momentum before the world was flipped on its head but 2020 accelerated them all. What matters to candidates now may look very different and therefore employer branding must adapt. Organisations need to demonstrate they care – about their people and core societal values.    


The tragic events leading to the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement has raised the profile of diversity in the workplace. It was clearly something candidates already cared about – WaveTrackR data highlighted ‘diversity’ and diversity and inclusion’ as being amongst the top keywords used by jobseekers when searching for a job in 2019 – but hadn’t been given as much prominence as it should have. 2020 changed that and candidates want to see that organisations are keeping to the promises made last year when it comes to championing diverse and inclusive practices. While making statements on injustice and committing to diversity on social media is a great first step, candidates will want to see that followed up with tangible action.    

Flexible working

This time last year we predicted in our WaveTrackR Annual Report that 2020 would be the year flexible working gathered pace. We held a Talent Matters event dedicated to it. What we couldn’t have possibly predicted is the way we would all be forced to enter a social experiment that involved the entire world shutting down offices and working from home. The upside is that flexible working is now firmly on the agenda. Businesses have realised that not only is remote working possible in many circumstances, it can also be an incredibly productive model.

Many employers have indicated that they will continue to offer remote working to those employees who want it, as well as some sort of hybrid plan. Organisations are also realising the benefits of allowing employees to structure their day to suit them, focusing on output rather than hours worked and enabling them to fit their hours around home commitments. Candidates job seeking in industries that support this will now be expecting flexibility to be enshrined into workforce policies.    

Mental health

Mental health awareness has, thankfully, been on the increase for the past few years but the pandemic fast-tracked it to prominence. The isolation, job uncertainty, loss, and genuine fear that Covid has unleashed has affected the mental health of great swathes of the population. The number of people suffering from depression in the UK doubled in August, with one in five adults reporting symptoms according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Dealing with homeschooling and helping other family members through lockdowns, plus the isolation many have felt at working from home day in, day out and blurred boundaries between work and home life has impacted employees hugely. Some organisations have taken steps to increase wellness amongst their employees, including offering counselling sessions, making wellbeing apps available to staff, sending care packages, sometimes just listening and working with employees to manage their work and home lives better. However, mental health isn’t just something that is affected by a pandemic and candidates will want to see an increased focus on the mental health of its employees moving forwards.  

More than ever, it is essential for a company to find their voice, communicate their core values and demonstrate them through words and actions. Businesses should use their websites and social media platforms to reach out, show they care and communicate what they are doing to support the important issues that dominated 2020 and will continue to dominate going forwards. Start a conversation with your audience, engage them in debate. Employers must be authentic, empathetic and transparent when communicating their employer brand. Candidates want to see D&I, mental health and flexible working practices high on a company’s agenda and they also want to know that recruiters are having these discussions with the businesses they work with. 2021 is the year the employee experience will take centre stage and employers and recruiters need to be mindful of that. 

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