What is the reputation of England as a place to work overall, independent of the skill area and the level of job? But why just England rather than the UK overall? The reason is that describing England is much harder. I’d find it much easier to write the employer brands of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reflecting their own culture, perceptions, alumni and character. Right now we are negotiating our future while hiding the characteristics of the English under an overall identity.
UK Governments have always found it hard. So does Kate Fox in the 2014 edition of her book ‘Watching the English’. Read her observations on the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony and the superiority it conveyed to the home audience.
A great brand needs to reflect logic, emotion and reality. The pillars that underpin it need wide acceptance but the UK have always fudged that. No wonder they played the ‘project fear’ card prior to the Scottish referendum in 2014 and the Europe referendum in 2016. Using financial logic is an emotional cop out and those two efforts did not change gut attitudes one bit.
Any attempt at unified thinking about England must overcome deeply entrenched divisions, and the views of the multiple modern tribes which reflect them. Each can influence individual working experience and social mobility – think of Londoners, ‘the North’, the so called metropolitan elite, the class divisions and that patronising phrase ‘ordinary working people’, aren’t we all? Then add in ‘citizens of somewhere’, ‘citizens of nowhere’, the particular character of ‘The City’ (a major influencer on values and career choice) plus the unique groups which emerge from our divided education system. Small wonder we have so many newspapers and a vast social media range.
History doesn’t make it easier either. In 1963 the American politician Dean Acheson described us as having lost an empire but not yet found a role and it’s in the DNA for many. Is there any other country which dwells on WW2 like the English? So far this year, three movies on the subject – Churchill, Dunkirk and Their Finest. While The English can mock themselves, deep down they like the phrase ‘punching above our weight’ and the fact that we continue to spend more on our armed forces than our richer NATO neighbours in Europe.
So, what do I think forms the employer brand of England? We need to give some thought to this because it will help this Brexit divided country, at both Government and grass roots levels, in wrestling with the challenges. Whatever the end result, we are going to need to express just why talent should choose us.
Here are my views on England’s employer brand pillars:
To use more EB jargon, we must also consider current ‘brand busters’, i.e. factors which hinder the employer brand of England.
Now add the pros and cons of Brexit to the above. Is it reasonable to expect a new generation of plucky merchant adventurers/inventors to take advantage of an independent and less regulated UK? Operating with new trade deals globally? How many Dysons will we need? There will need to be plenty of such people and with a longer term view than our entrepreneurs have demonstrated to date. This had better be successful since we may no longer be as favoured a location for global businesses as we have been to date. Overall, we must find ways of ensuring that our present 32m people in work are still there.
Recruiters tell me Brexit uncertainties are making coming to work here a harder sale. In turn, will our own most talented people start seeking work elsewhere.? We need to track attitudes to our Employer Brand both at home, across Europe and elsewhere. So many out there wish us well but fear for us. We must find ways of demonstrating that these concerns are needless.