The Pandemic: A helpful stress test for your employer brand
The original article below by Shelly Ricanati, Marketing & Employer Branding Manager at Xtra mile, a World Employer Branding Day Gold Partner, can be found here>>
If you are responsible for managing your Employer Brand or EVP, the current pandemic has been a very interesting time filled with challenges and opportunities.
For example, how do you create strong employee experiences without relying on face-to-face activities, water cooler interactions, or company getaways.
Or, how do you differentiate with a flexible and progressive employment policy when everyone is now WFH. And what are the implications going forward now that your entire workforce has tasted a new take on work-life balance?
In other words, Covid-19 and the way your company has responded is bound to shape and influence employee perceptions of your brand in profound ways. How are internal communications being managed?
Are management and leadership stepping up? As budgets shrink and get-togethers and Happy Hours are put on ice – no pun intended – how can management still create great employee experiences?
We believe that companies who are clear about their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and focus on serving their employees’ will find it easier to weather the current storm, turning challenges into opportunities to strengthen their core Employer Brand.
For instance, if Learning & Development is already a core part of your EVP then companies can continue offering opportunities for personal and professional development through online platforms like Coursera or edX. If a core part of your EVP is Technology, a company can fall back on its well-proven workflows and methodologies to keep its focus on innovation and technology development – without missing a beat.
In other words, a strong EVP reflects a strong DNA. In times of crisis, companies who stay true to their EVP, walk the talk, and deliver for their employees, will be valued and appreciated
3 areas where you can consolidate your Employer Brand today:
Strategic Internal communications to create a sense of security
Employee communities to enhance engagement and sense of belonging
Social Impact and CSR for a greater sense of purpose
Strategic Internal communications to create a sense of security
Understandably, with normal work life and business-facing all kinds of disruptions, employees are anxious and uncertain. From admin and return-to-the-office policies to compensation and benefits, to bigger questions about the company’s future survival – employees are looking for reassurance.
So make sure to communicate in a clear, transparent, and reassuring way. Instead of taking an ad hoc approach to internal comms, formulate a solid, well thought out communication strategy aligned with your values, and stick to this to ensure ongoing messages are consistent with your company’s core beliefs. This period also presents a golden opportunity for leadership to step up and make their leadership felt.
Pre-Pandemic: Employer Branding and communications focus on being visible and being heard, with grandstand events aimed more at showing off to people outside the company or potential employees. Leadership exposed rarely, only at landmark events.
During Pandemic: Focus is shifting to internal communication. It’s less about marketing and more about transparency and confidence-building; an opportunity to show employees they are being listened to through Employee Surveys (E.g. how can we help you manage zoom calls and kids). Now is an opportunity for employees to get to engage more frequently with CEO / C-Level at eye-level.
HR has a great chance to help leaders build their visibility and presence in the organization. This can be leveraged to show employees they are working for a company with robust and even visionary leadership capable of steering the ship wisely in rough waters.
Employee communities engagement and sense of belonging
The purpose of communities is to bring people together. The assumption is that if people have friends or colleagues who share the same interests then it gives them more reasons to be engaged with the workplace, hence increasing their involvement and investment in their work. The pandemic is confronting us, on the one hand, with social distancing and on the other, we have a deep understanding that “we are not alone in this”.
We believe this will take the work-place towards creating an infrastructure for mutual support between employees, and create communities that build connections and relationships between people.
Pre-Pandemic: Organizations were focused on creating platforms to promote and foster internal groups and micro-communities to gather around personal interests e.g. running groups, LGBT to promote their own interests and work with management for a surrogate.
During Pandemic: In a time of “social distancing” we should be talking more about “social belonging” and “mutual dependence”. This period has crystalized growing trends putting an emphasis on creating an authentic, grassroots sense of belonging among colleagues, both professionally and personally, which really improves one’s experience as an employee. Companies can give employees the time and the infrastructure to help them promote their own needs – with the goal of facilitating a better experience. Examples include employees, giving workshops to colleagues kids in storytelling, origami, and cooking over zoom during the lockdown.
Social Impact and CSR inject a renewed sense of purpose
This pandemic has woken us up a little. We have internalized how a crisis can hit us and affect us all. Slogans like “global community” have been brought home, as we realize we are not immune to events happening thousands of miles from our offices, that we are part of a bigger ecosystem. This is affirming too – that we are part of a global community, something bigger than ourselves, and that we – as individuals and as employees and employers – have a responsibility towards it.
Now is a great opportunity to tie Social Impact actions with your Employer Branding values, so your employees really feel they are in the right place and are working for a company that is good, does good, and acts responsibly and with purpose.
We can do this for the communities among which we live and work. We can donate money, time, or commit resources, and we can make it easier for employees to do their bit and volunteer. Being a socially responsible employer also means treating customers and suppliers with integrity and transparency – and it means if you have to let people go – which unfortunately many companies are – doing this in an empathetic, transparent and compassionate way.
This pandemic hasn’t killed Employer Branding but it has changed its focus and content. As companies focus on their “continuity” strategy, the wise will be guided by their core Employer Brand Values. If you can meet the physical, emotional, social, and purpose-driven needs – then your EVP is in a good place.
Corona has shown that being regarded as a top employer is sometimes as much about doing what your employees need you to do than the glitz and cocktail parties. That internal focus will pay dividends to retain your best talent and attract more of the talent you’re looking for.
And, finally, that now is a perfect opportunity to revisit your EVP basics and rethink how you can engage with employees in fresh new ways.