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What are Digital Hugs and how do you give them out?

4 min read.



Employer Branding, Talent Retention

Never underestimate the impact that a more personal approach can have on your employer brand marketing efforts. Taking time to wow people by treating them as individuals can reap dividends for your reputation...


Everyone loves an origin story, right? Spiderman and the radioactive spider; Fleming and penicillin; Donkey Kong; Covid-19 and fried bat; the nativity, the list goes on.

But how did we come up with all this Digital Hug stuff? What, you might quite reasonably enquire, is a Digital Hug anyway?

It actually goes back to a piece I did a few years ago on digital marketing, where I argued that the beneficial effects of actual, real-life hugs, which have been scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure, keep your heart healthy and act as a natural stress reliever, can also be transferred in other ways. Including digitally.

It seemed like a good description of what we are trying to do with our weekly content digest. Popping some knowledge in your overhead locker and one or two items to help keep everyone feeling chipper. So, when it came to finding a name for it, it worked.

A nice big hug will just generally make you feel positive. Hugs cause a release of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust and happiness. We’ve all felt it (hopefully) even if we don’t realise that’s what’s going on.

So what does this mean to the world of employer branding and talent acquisition? 

Digital Hugs could be hugely beneficial for your employer brand by helping you connect emotionally with your talent audience – engaging, connecting and amplifying your brand.

Employer branding works best when it connects on an emotional level through stories based on real-life experiences, or a great candidate journey, interview process and of course through your workplace culture.

Become a Digital Hugger

So, here are six ways of giving a digital hug at every step of the employee journey:

Kill ‘em with Kindness

Make a habit of monitoring what potential candidates are asking about your company on sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Twitter. When you see requests for information, be quick to jump in and provide helpful resources, even if they haven't formally applied yet. This small act of kindness shows you're listening and establishes trust and goodwill early on. In fact, our Digital Hug is a good exmaple of what you can do, offering free info and knowledge to those that are interested.

Digital Romance

From the first point of contact to the offer letter, make each candidate feel like a VIP. Personalise your messages, remember small details about them, and make it clear their application has your full attention. This "digital romance" makes the recruitment process feel welcoming, memorable, and will be one of the many plus points that can turn an employee into an advocate for your organisation.

Moments of Magic

Look for opportunities to surprise and delight candidates during interviews and assessments. You could provide lunch, organise fun team-building activities, or offer exclusive company swag. These unexpected "wow" moments make you memorable when candidates are comparing multiple job offers.

Givers Gain

Don’t just expect people to share your content without giving a little bit back. In the science of persuasion, reciprocity is proven to work in influencing human behaviour. If you seek out opportunities to help others through generosity, those that benefit will feel compelled to return the favour.

When you bring on a new hire, help share and amplify their personal content on social media. According to the principle of reciprocity, they'll feel compelled to return the favour by sharing positive messages about your employer brand and nothing has more validity than social proof.

The Gift of the Goose

Ever heard geese honking at each other as they fly south for winter? They’re not just doing to show off. What they are actually doing is cheering each other on through encouragement and verbal recognition.

Make recognition and encouragement part of your daily culture. Congratulate employees publicly for achievements large and small. This constant cheering on motivates them to continue excelling and spreading the word about your supportive work environment.

Be There

In our digital workplaces, it's easy to rely solely on Teams, email and the like, especially with the huge increase in remote working. But don't underestimate the value of face-to-face interactions. Make time for checking in one-on-one and building personal connections, especially with new hires during onboarding.

While digital communication scales easily, nothing replaces the care and warmth conveyed through real human contact. Don't forget to regularly step away from the keyboard.

Bringing these principles to life requires some planning and effort. But the investment is well worth it. With more humanity and heart in your interactions, you'll stand out from sterile employer brands and create lasting emotional engagement. Candidates will remember how you made them feel - not just what you promised.

Next time you're looking for low-cost, high-impact ways to enhance your employer brand, think digital hugs! Small acts of listening, personalisation, recognition, and care go a long way. By embracing these principles, your talent attraction and retention will flourish.

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