While there are some notable exceptions, most companies big and small have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The economic impact is obvious, but the pandemic and resultant lockdown have also affected how certain brands and employers are perceived.
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban believes how organizations treat workers during the pandemic “could define their brand for decades.” We agree. We also believe that a time of crisis can often be the best opportunity for companies to let their employer brand shine.
Turning Crises into Opportunity
A lot of successful people owe their success to seemingly insurmountable problems they encountered and overcame over the course of their lives and careers. A 2016 study found that organizations that survived a crisis had one thing in common: they were able to help their employees stay positive through it all. That, in turn, reflected well on their employer brand.
There are many great examples of leaders who are adapting and pivoting during the current crisis, working to keeping their companies afloat and their teams motivated. Felisa Palagi, CEO of Internet Creations, a Salesforce consulting company, worked quickly to set up remote work environments, offer flexible hours, and roll out a pandemic business continuity plan. Employee roles have been blurred to fully utilize each person’s talent and the results have been gratifying: employee-led collaboration and fantastic new ideas.
Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of executive development firm EDA, Inc., is using the wisdom she gained through two previous downturns to, as she says, “lead her team through the fog.” Her five-part plan is based on courage, clarity, connectedness, culture, and action, and boils down to one simple idea: make your employees a part of the solution.
It’s important to remember that customers care how organizations treat their employees. A company’s employment practices can shape brand perceptions, especially in adverse times.
Why Employee Brand Matters
In the RPO Leadership Forum webinar, Recruiting in Turbulent Times, Patty Silbert, President of Newton Talent, shares innovative approaches to employer branding in times of crisis. As Patty says, “we’re all anxious to get through this situation in order to see what our next normal looks like.” Let’s start out with defining what we mean by employer brand, employer value proposition (EVP), and how COVID-19 is having an impact on both.
An employer brand is people’s perception, be it good, bad, or indifferent, of an organization as an employer. Employee branding describes the activities a company undertakes to communicate a desirable employer brand image. Employer brand management is the full spectrum of activities a company orchestrates to deliver a consistent brand image and experience inside and outside its organization.
EVP, on the other hand, is how a brand would like to be perceived by its employees and the candidate community.
Managing their employer brand and EVP during a crisis may not seem like a high priority to some, but now is exactly the time when organizations must take care to protect and respect their employees and their brand, elevating their reputation to internal and external audiences.
Whether a business is facing a reduced workforce or needs to accelerate hiring, upholding its values in a transparent and honest way is key to maintaining and managing its EVP. Companies that are perceived during this time to be genuinely caring and committed to their people stand to emerge stronger as the crisis lessens and eventually comes to an end.
The Role of Employer Brand in Turbulent Times
If you’re like most of us, you’ve gotten an avalanche of emails from companies saying they’re taking steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers. And chances are good many of them were sent straight to trash. That’s because formulaic messages don’t work in times like this. A crisis calls for doing, not saying. In other words, character is revealed when pressure is applied.
While no one can pretend to have all the answers, RPOs can help their clients structure a new approach to employer branding, one that supports the interests of the community as well as current and future employees. Some steps companies are taking include:
- Putting more resources into social media posts and using other content to enhance people’s perception of their brand and keep them top of mind.
- Making full transparency a priority so to emphasize their leadership and support for customers and employees.
- Keeping the community at large informed on how they’re managing the situation.
Some brands are also adjusting their hiring process and updating career pages to reflect the new reality. For example, if an organization is putting a hold on interviews and hiring, that should be clearly and honestly communicated.
Recruitment During Turbulent Times
Adapting to new circumstances and staying relevant are key to brand power and to an organization’s reputation. As shown, brands looking to enhance talent acquisition in this difficult employment environment can benefit from rethinking the way they show their products or services are important to individuals and the greater societal need.
Here are some things to consider:
- If a company is still interviewing, are they doing it virtually? Candidates should be informed of all modified hiring practices.
- Companies that have a talent network, i.e. an email list, should keep interested candidates regularly informed of where hiring stands.
- Providing emotional support to both retained and furloughed or laid off employees is important for keeping morale up.
Managing an employer brand during a crisis can be difficult, but as an RPO you can work with your clients to adopt and adapt to an authentic, consistent approach that helps them better manage expectations. For how companies handle the current situation will dictate how much faith employees, candidates, and customers have in them, and how invested they will be in their future success.
Patty Silbert speaks about the responsibility of managing EVP within human resources.
To learn more tips about managing EVP and employer brand, and for a free workbook, from Patty, watch her full webinar: Recruiting in Turbulent Times and Why Your EVP is More Important than Ever.