The return to office should be see as an opportunity
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The return to office should be see as an opportunity

People are flocking to have a beer, coffee or meal outdoors here in Switzerland. It's a welcome sight after a long winter under lockdown. Despite the slow start, the country's vaccination programme is slowly gaining pace.

10 May 2021

Yet, despite the progress, working from home where possible remains mandatory in Switzerland. This requirement is likely to remain in place for a little longer in comparison to other countries like the US and UK. Yet, the great (and possibly confusing) return to work will happen at some point in time in Switzerland. When it does, it could have a significant effect on how companies market themselves when recruiting new talent.

This is a story where the one with the strongest employer brand takes all. For decades employer brand has been spoken about by recruiters as an increasingly important factor during the recruitment process. How talented candidates view a company can often come down to whether or not they find the company a desirable place to work or not. It’s a very important factor that will go through the mind of a candidate during the decision-making process.

Why some CEOs are nervous

The CEOs of large companies realise this. This is particularly noticeable in countries like the US and UK, where workers are expected to start returning to the office in June.

We have already seen the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan express quite vocally that they expect workers to return. Some have openly warned about the perils of remote working, which should make a return to the office imperative. Even the CEO of Zoom Eric Yuan admitted only recently that he too is suffering from Zoom fatigue.

What’s revealing about these very public messages is that these companies appear extremely nervous. Behind some of the veiled threats issued by CEOs lies some interesting marketing spin.

CEO Jamie Diamond of JPMorgan has very clearly stated that a return to the office is imperative. He believes it's needed for generating new ideas, preserving corporate culture and competing for clients. The office he has said is a place "for those who want to hustle". Yet, he also acknowledges that not all his employees are happy about returning, which reveals how vulnerable large companies are feeling right now.

This isn't something that is strictly confined to the Covid-19 era. Most companies have a growing issue with connecting with talent. Top candidates are no longer responding to traditional recruiting tactics. Attractive salaries may still be important, but candidates want more, especially now that we are set to leave the pandemic behind us.

Could Google have the perfect employer brand?

Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Google is still widely regarded as one of the best companies to work for globally. The company doesn't just pay well, it also strives to create the perfect office environment. It has undoubtably one of the strongest employer brands in the world.

135,000 Google employees are offered free healthy and gourmet meals, laundry, fitness facilities, generous paid parental leave and on-site childcare. It also gives employees the flexibility to work on projects of passion so that they can tap into their creativity. It encourages the employees to become teachers and coach one another i.e it makes reskilling and upskilling a natural part of working. The goal at Google is to nurture a creative, satisfied and strong community of employees.

Workers at Google have responded well and many have stated on Glassdoor – the anonymous payscale site – that it has been the meaningful and challenging projects that attracted them to Google in the first place and kept them there.

One of the most interesting perks I think, are the Wi-Fi enabled buses. During pre-Covid times, only 28% of employees chose to work from home. That's right! Even during pre-Covid times, Google employees had the choice to work from home and the majority still went to the office.

Employer brand is essential for getting talent back into the office

I think there are very important lessons that companies in Switzerland can learn from such examples. Yes, it will be challenging to coax some employees back to the office. But I believe that the best course of action are not veiled threats or strong opinions on office culture, but something that is actually meaningful to employees.

What I'm talking about is rather than talk about a return to the status quo, companies should directly market themselves as progressive leaders in trying to improve the workplace for all.

Famous billionaire and entrepreneur Richard Branson once said: "I am convinced that companies should put staff first, customers second and shareholders third – ultimately that's in the best interest of customers and shareholders".

It's not difficult to understand why. If your employees are happy, then they will serve your customers better, which boosts profits for the company, and keeps shareholders very happy. Employer brand is therefore crucial for not just attracting top talent, but also for business success.

I believe companies should look at the great return to the office, not as a headache, but is a great opportunity to excel.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn