One of the real bummers for HR professionals is laying off employees during economic downturns. The flipside of the coin is when the economy is going full force and it’s hard to fill skills gaps and retaining talent becomes an art of its own. Both scenarios have their special challenges but for HR managers and Global Mobility specialists, employer branding is an ongoing challenge regardless of a bull or a bear economy.
The Impact of the Gig Economy
More and more people are entering the “gig” economy becoming solopreneurs. They are joining the millions of self-employed consultants and independent contractors. In spite of this, we still see that many people value employment with benefits and steady payroll checks. A lot of personal financial security needs are taken care of by the Swedish welfare state. Yet thought-leaders on human behavior continue to report that many people still place a lot of emphasis on lifetime employment. Recruiting and retaining such valuable long-term workers is likely to be your goal.
A Case Study
Motivational speaker Simon Sinek often talks about the benefits of viewing a employee-employer relationship as something very long-term. General Motors, when creating the California NUMMI factory together with Toyota, committed to a vastly different corporate culture that promised all workers that no one would have to worry about layoffs unless sales were dire.
When the factory reopened under the Toyota management the same workers doubled the output from previous years and become GMs most productive and quality driven plant in the US. Also, true to their promise when having to reduce production by 40% ALL the workers were kept onboard and the management took paycuts to allow that to happen. When the economy came back on track they were ready to meet demand with gusto. When they worked under GM management, I kid you not, they were drinking on the job and embedded empty bottles in the car doors.
In today’s reality with many companies externally funded by outside investors and short-term pressure to generate profits, lifetime job security may be an unaffordable luxury impossible to provide. However, in each step of the prospective employee and employer relationship, there are employer branding opportunities even during economic downturns.
What Employees Look for
Many studies show that employees want to feel that there’s more to the company than just a job. The work should be fulfilling and the company should have a sense of purpose. While doing laundry at work is a perk, pinball machines and free lunches are all nice, next generation recruits want other things along with pinball games. They want a sense of purpose.
So what can employers do to go beyond the playground activities and handling household chores in the office? Some employees feel that such perks ae a way to tie them tighter to the workplace disguised as a work-life balance benefit. The positive attention companies offering these perks received in the past is now diminishing because it’s no longer considered innovative.
Communicating why a talented new recruit should choose your company over others is a growing challenge. In smaller organisations the human resources and communications roles are often shared within one position with one person doing both.
So what do employees want these days? `When asked, they want to work for a company that has a purpose, wants to serve and has a clear sense of direction.
What does a good employer mean to employees?
It can include any number of these qualities:
- There is a clear focus on providing value to customers
- The service or product the company is providing to a market should be good/healthy/innovative or lots of fun for the recipient
- Focus on the user experience of the offering and the value it provides
- Having a corporate culture that they can align with easily - each team member adds to the corporate culture which is why finding the right fit is crucial for employee/employer
- A company that does good and provides healthy products and services to the market
- The company has a purpose and it cares for its employees. (This goes well with the Nordic approach to helping and supporting others.)
How can you create a strong employer brand?
We frequently hear that succesful HR professionals use a variety of tools to build and sustain a strong employer brand, especially in fast-growing companies where culture and history can quickly get lost..
Internal communication is high on the list of course. Think of group meetings, intranet sharing information, internal newsletters and events and activities.
Rotating staff between locations is also a way of having ambassadors for the company culture to get it out to remote parts of the organization. Anglo-Dutch companies have done this for decades already. Swedish companies very often give younger talent the opportunity to take on expat assignments while other management cultures send top management to new locations.
Having a structured recruitment process. Streamline the recruitment process with clear steps that are communicated early in the process. Each candidate gets a response and an outline. This may be the only contact a person ever has with the company. Some Swedish companies are very successful in having candidates apply for positions with them over and over again, thanks to a recruitment process that shows respect for the applicant.
Priority. The talent recruitment process is considered an essential part of marketing and business development.
Always thinking long-term and not filling OR closing positions due to short-term headcount or bonus guidelines.
Strategic employer branding includes being consistently diligent in checking references and doing a background check. Even if the candidate has several offers, most will want to belong to a team where the process is thorough and where they know they will joining highly qualified peers.
Sustaining your employer brand internally starts as soon as the candidates are chosen and offer letters signed. Now the real work starts for HR and the colleagues already on the ground. Effective onboarding processes begin before a new employee starts the job.
- Deliver a true welcome.
- Provide a mentor for support
Perhaps with the help of the efficient tax agency in Sweden, we see that salaries are less of a motivating factor today for transferees because after a certain threshold, the high marginal tax rate on a salary increase delivers minimally more disposable income.
In the last couple of years we have seen how HR has put an increased emphasis on the care of their employees, not the least expats. Relocation and talent management programs are getting bigger again. Skimping is out of style and the candidates who have moved internationally before now demand support as part of their negotiations, often before signing on the dotted line.
A bundled package of relocation services that provides a seamless, hassle-free experience for talented recruits is becoming an increasingly important component of a strong international employer brand.
The Sweden HR Advantage
I can go on and on about how great it is to draw talent to Sweden and how well they do here. An article in Forbes outlines what US expats are looking for when relocating. Especially Americans are thrilled to move to Sweden and it is easy to see how the most common quality of life priorities can easily be met here. Having reasonable healthcare is a real worry for US nationals and so is work-life balance, especially when starting a family and having young children. This can all be attained in Sweden without cost to the employer or direct cost to the employee because it is covered under the tax system.
Swedish HR has every reason to be proud of the social good benefits that are provided by the government and exceed those in many countries. At the same time, a lot of Global Mobility experts will prefer to control their own benefits and perks that are largely intangible and part of their unique corporate culture.
Swedish HR has the advantage of having a local culture very conducive to the commitment culture that is most successful. A commitment culture is especially important when building companies, as the Stanford University professors James Baron & Michael Hannan revealed in their 15-year long study of 200 start up companies in Silicon Valley. Many of these same companies are the largest or most famous companies in the world today.
In a secure work environment a commitment culture can flourish, fewer internal positionings and squabbles occur, and employees can work toward a common goal. The companies with a commitment culture were faster to get to an IPO, the fastest to go public, had the highest profitability AND none of them failed. Not one! Their corporate culture was successfully set by the founders.
Swedish HR managers are often very ambitious and focus on workplace culture. Ask yourself when you visit an office — how does it feel? Is it welcoming? Are you greeted with a smile at the door? Are you offered a great coffee/tea in beautiful cups or is it plastic? Is it clean and orderly? Do people saunter, walk or run? Pay attention, you will learn a lot about a company by just walking through their offices and your own.
We visit many offices and sometimes you just don’t want to leave a welcoming, clearly productive setting where all senses are in harmony. That is a sign of a strong employer brand at work!.
If you’re planning to bring foreign talent to Sweden, navigating an unfamiliar culture and immigration process can slow you down. Thankfully, Nimmersion’s Immigration Guide to Bringing Foreign Talent to Sweden is here to help. Let’s get your new talent down to business.