Employer brand: what does it mean in the current climate?
Employer brand centres on your reputation as an employer and never has this been more important than in the current crisis. Focusing on employee wellbeing and communicating this effectively is crucial right now.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say that 2020 thrown us all a few curveballs so far. Whoever you are, wherever in the world you are and whatever you do, your relationship with your employer (or employees) will undoubtedly have been significantly affected over the last few months. What does this mean specifically for those of us who work in HR?
For starters, it means that the way we need to talk about our organisations is changing. Those who know me will know I’ve had a few concerns with the term ‘employer brand’ for some time now. That’s a whole other story (you can read about it here). This year, how we define it and what makes a desirable one has taken on a whole new meaning.
The tone of your communications has never been more important. Keep it simple, keep it relevant and above all, keep it human.
Whether you’re an HR, internal communications or an employee engagement professional, you’ll probably have given this considerable thought. If you saw ‘employer branding’ as a means to attract more great people, what happens now, if your recruitment volumes have gone down? Or worse still, you’re faced with mass redundancies? How can branded employment communications help to keep people engaged in their work, at a time when they are only really (and rightly) concerned about their own and their families’ safety, wellbeing and financial security? Not to mention the fact that many are now working remotely, often in dubious home-office set-ups, surrounded by various pets and children (myself included).
For me, your ‘employer brand’ is, quite simply, your reputation as an employer. It’s based on how people feel about working (or potentially working) for your organisation. Particularly in the current climate, it’s almost completely dependent on how you treat your people. It’s about showing empathy with their situation, understanding and treating everyone like human beings, consistently and on an ongoing basis. That’s what will build and maintain a good employer reputation during these very challenging times.
The clever people at Gartner recently published this great article. It suggests the most important question you’ll need to be able to answer is this: ‘what did you do to protect your employees during the Coronavirus pandemic?’
If they were furloughed, how did you keep in touch? If you kept your people on, how are you communicating the very sensitive subject of whether their jobs are still safe? If you’re bringing people back, how are you reassuring them their health is safe? How are you handling pay and benefits, when company performance might be struggling? How are you managing individuals’ performance, let alone learning and development, when people are even struggling to even stay connected?
Hopefully you have answers to all of these questions, with plenty of positive stories to tell. That’s where good communications, PR and marketing should kick into play. If you’ve been reacting well as an employer, you need to tell your story. Firstly, make sure your own people are aware of your successes. Then tell the world. Celebrate even the small wins – because it’s the little things that make a real difference to how people feel.
Inspiring employee advocates
There are plenty of examples of employers doing really well in this space. Some big brand names you will have heard about, like many of the major retailers and tech giants. Others may not be quite so famous (yet), but I know about from working with them, like Inspired Villages.
Inspired Villages is a relatively new company, backed by Legal & General, currently operating six retirement villages across England. With ambitious growth plans, they’re well on the way to opening many, many more. From their mission of wanting to enhance the lives of older people and enable them to enjoy more active and fulfilled retirements, they suddenly found themselves protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They reacted quickly and brilliantly, and just listening to their employees talk about this is enough to give even the most hardened of us goosebumps.
Why is this all so important? Well, this is the stuff your people will (and should) be talking about. Telling their friends, families and business contacts. If you’re lucky enough to be recruiting, chances are you’ll need to manage large volumes of applications, so the messages you put out now are critical to cutting through and getting the right people. If you’re not taking people on right now, you need to focus on your existing people. They’ll be the ones who’ll get you through this and help build you up again when the time comes – which it will.
Remember, it’s not just about what you do or say, but how you say it. The tone of your communications has never been more important. Keep it simple, keep it relevant and above all, keep it human.
These are the things that will make you stand out as a great employer over the coming months. Call that your employer brand, if you like.
Interested in this topic? Read Culture transformation: changing behaviours in the post-pandemic workplace.