The term “turn of the times” is stolen – just like the slogan of a cosmetics company of the 80s. But it is not too big for the developments on the labor markets that we are currently facing. And the change of times requires a change of strategy in HR work – and beyond that in the people strategy of every company.

I spent many years working in large companies on employee communications (goal: culture change via internal media) and employer branding. Both were communication functions that were the “little brother” of the “big” corporate communication: marketing, PR, advertising, brand communication. Here were the big budgets, here were the strategies developed: Employer branding was a procurement market, employee communications at best held a dialogue with employees and explained HR tools. Or did ‘court reporting’.

The turning point we are experiencing is simply the shortage of skilled workers.

This is created by demographic trends: the next generation is almost half the size of the boomer generation. Not only daycare centers, nursing homes and bakeries are running out of employees – but all organizations. The side effect: the young can pick and choose jobs, and they do so according to new (their own) criteria. Does the work environment fit? What are the development opportunities like? Can I help shape things? Will I be promoted? Can I identify with the product? Is the corporate culture right? Does everything fit with my values, my life model? Is the purpose right? And thanks to digitization, they have every opportunity to find out beforehand or to quickly change employers again. Generation Y/Z have a sense of “coherence” and less willingness to suffer. Using communicative tools to create an employer brand that doesn’t correspond to the company reality simply doesn’t work anymore.

What is needed is an authentic “employee experience” that is holistic and sustainable – in other words: the corporate culture explicitly becomes a “selling point”. As change managers, we know that corporate culture cannot be “created” in the short term with a few measures. Anyone who promises this is unserious. The corporate culture must fit the industry/product and still stand out from the competition as something special. A sense of purpose must not be “constructed” but must be authentic – or you can leave it alone and focus on other aspects of the employer. If special target groups such as people with a migration background or skilled workers from abroad are added, the entire toolbox of employer attractiveness must also explicitly address these target groups.

The brand image must support and reinforce this profile. Values must be explicitly lived – and express the company’s individuality. And this has facets that have nothing to do with communication: Organization, processes, employment conditions, leadership, attitude, history and identity. Corporate culture is also supported by the (flat?) organization and the (simple?) processes. Leadership culture must carry and promote these values and structures. Gen Y&Z need a lot of attention in leadership – but at the same time a lot of freedom. And the employment conditions (role descriptions, job design, comp&ben models) must carry and enable this culture of the company. Consistency is needed here as well.

What you see is what you get!

Employer branding that can build on such structures and cultural elements will be successful in the future. And will not only attract the right employees but will also be able to retain them. A brand identity that creates coherence between product, company, culture, values, and business model will be perceived as holistic and sustainable. The prerequisite for this is appropriate budgets, resources, but above all the awareness of the company management for the importance of internal factors for the company’s success.

In practical terms, this means:

1.employer branding communications will become more important alongside customer marketing – the two must integrate.

2.communications professionals must work closely with other transformation professions such as organizational development or HR/People & Organizations.


Alexander Gisdakis

CEO und Partner Breitenstein Consulting