World Employer Branding Day: data, differentiation, stories and much more.

27 October 2022

In October 2022, over 600 employer branding professionals and enthusiasts gathered in Lisbon for the World Employer Branding Day.  A one-day conference sandwiched either side by a day of workshops and a tour of Lisbon.

So what were the key themes from the 16 presentations made on the day?

NB: these are not in order of importance or appearance. 


Data was touched on by Bayard’s Matt Gilbert; and Barclays’ Colette Murad and Steve Ehrlich from Radancy. Matt made a nice distinction between data and insight: “Data tells you that I like coffee; insight tells you why”.  It is this leap from data to insight that can truly drive more effective branding and engagement.  The Barclays case study highlighted the importance of data in improving user experience and candidate conversion – to the point where 50% of visitors who view a job description go on to apply.  It would be interesting to see the actual conversion from visitors to hires.  Matt From Bayard also touched on how to use EVP data against Engagement data, showing where the areas of improvement or cold spots are; and one of the quotes of the day came from Andreia Rangel and Joana Pais Afonso from Deloitte in Portugal, who made a commitment to ‘listen to our people like we’re a new company’.  A great piece of advice.


It was satisfying to see the importance of differentiation highlighted by the VCA case study. As Ally Brown and Julie Randall highlighted, veterinary recruitment is dominated by a ‘for the love of pets’ message that shows little or no differentiation.  The statement of intent from VCA certainly came in stark contrast to competitors: “take the lead in veterinary employment, not just veterinary medicine”.   Like any brand campaign, it’s critical to find that clear space between you and your competitors – not simply in pictures or colours, but in terms of that value proposition.  Because if it’s doesn’t differentiate, surely you’re just wallpaper.

But pictures are important – and it was great to see the way that Vodafone used employee pictures (through a photography competition) in their employer brand – 50% of all the images in their brand toolkit are from their people.  I’m struck each time that I see one of their job ads how great their pics are.


The biggest story in town was, yes, you’ve guessed it, about storytelling and stories. It was a theme echoed across many of the different presentations – and that in itself shows that the importance of storytelling to attract talent, in particular.  However, there wasn’t a great deal of focus on what makes a good story – Cameron Brain from EveryoneSocial talked about stories, not testimonials; Lauryn Sargent of Stories Incorporated looked at the importance of storytelling as critical to employer branding.  Although it was interesting to hear Cameron say that the most liked posts are related to jobs themselves.  Maybe, sometimes, we’ve just got to accept our stories aren’t as interesting as the job itself…


The duo from Landor & Fitch, the wonderful Emma Toulhurst and Kate DiChristopher-Yuen focused on the brand in employer branding – and one key message stood out. How HR and Marketing need to come together.  In many ways, the employer story is as important to the Consumer or Corporate Brand, as it is to HR and the recruitment of talent.  In fact, the values and behaviours of an organisation – while not visible necessarily to consumers or clients – are intrinsic to how a brand is perceived, by consumers and talent.

As Hayley Brooksbank, Global Head of Marketing & Brand at Bird & Bird, recently put it, “The strongest corporate brands don’t declare their personality, they allow their audiences to deduce who they are from the way they look and what they say. But how their people behave is just as, if not more, important in shaping an authentic brand experience and reputation.”

Future fit

Making your EVP future fit is something that more of our clients have been discussing. Here, Unilever’s Louise Nass touched on that very thing, as she discussed how they are aligning the employer brand to the growth of the business and ensuring it’s fit for purpose today and in the future.  This is a delicate balance – if there’s too much aspiration and ambition, it can be somewhat disingenuous. Unilever’s approach is very much purpose-driven – which is wholly dependent on that purpose staying consistent, which you suspect will be the case.

Making it happen

The Mars case study was focused on how to build a strong employer brand by building a strong global community. This is often an underestimated part of the process – and it was great to hear how Kirsten and her team have been able to grow the community and advocacy around the world.  There were some very practical tips – about specifying intent, collaboration and cultural differences.  There were echoes of this in the talk from Massimo Begelle at The Top Employers Institute who talked about the importance of Secret Agents in the workplace, who enable the adoption of new behaviours through social copying and storytelling – in effect, super-charged employer brand advocates.

The Vodafone case study showed how you can achieve a lot in a short space of time – and do it by co-creating with colleagues.  It was obvious how important the Papirfly employee hub was to their success; and the sense of human spirit + technology came across in the work and the way it was delivered.  Well done to Dawn and Jennie.


The message from Barclays was ‘work with what you’ve got and amplify it’. We certainly agree – and especially being authentic in what your culture is really like.  We also heard from Robin Dagostino at Boston Consulting Group, who showed the importance of gathering user perceptions to validate messaging and approach. Incredibly they had 2.2m user perceptions from 66k participants – and calculated that the average candidate will look at 18 different sources in their job search.  Shows how important a multi-channel approach is to effectively engaging talent.

Zohar Tadmor of CyberArk and Sharon Israel of Xtra Mile, showed the effectiveness of pivoting from a typical experienced hire focus to more junior hiring, as well as reskilling, a theme echoed by Svante Randlert!

Future Workplace

A special mention also goes to Svante Randlert, who talked about what makes workplaces and organisations succeed.  Over recent years, the discussion has gone from IQ to EQ, and now Svante believes we should all focus more on LQ – because our learn-ability is what will help us individually to adapt to the change in skills in the workplace, and make our organisations more agile and future proof.

Of course, when Microsoft get to the stage, the future of the workplace is never far away!  Marlene de Kooning shared a really interesting axis of Wellbeing and Collaboration – showing how overworked people have less of a network and less time with managers – and actually collaboration and wellbeing go hand in hand in the pursuit of greatest performance.


Overwhelmingly, this is one of the most European of conferences that I’ve been to, and there was a greater sense of community than many others.

But what wasn’t said was just as important – and quite revealing in itself:

Culture – for these organisations, it is accepted or presumed that the culture of the organisation is already defined and effective. The truth for many organisations, however, is that is far from the truth.  Whether there are pockets of toxic behaviour or simply the culture is different from what the values say it is or there’s work to be done on making it more inclusive, it’s worth Employer Branding teams taking a good look at the state of the culture.  After all, this is territory that helps to attract and retain talent more than anything else.

Influence – influencers are now more important than ever before. We’re not talking about the Influencers with millions of followers; but more the micro influencers, the studytubers, the voices of black excellence etc., that can have a strong influence on followers and communities. While employees as advocates are so important to amplify your employer brand, influencers play an important role in reaching new and often more diverse communities.

Diversity – it was touched on by some presenters, but only briefly. In part, perhaps because many of these case studies were global projects where the presumption is that they are diverse because they involve so many nationalities and countries.  However, what we are seeing is a much more rigorous interrogation of an organisation by gen Z – diving deeper into those bland diversity statements and trying to understand whether an organisation is able to back up its proclamations.

Special thanks to the hosts of World Employer Branding Day for an excellent conference (and drinks in the evening).  Be back next year…



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