Protect your employer brand today by the actions that you take during COVID-19

5 min read

By Caroline Walker

Head of Marketing & Communication

I have been working within a marketing function, within the recruitment market for over 8 years and I have been lucky enough to work on some leading brands within the UK and internationally. During this time, talent attraction and employer branding has been a key focus for these businesses.

Although a great looking careers site, well worded content and strong employer values go a long way to attracting quality candidates to your business, it is still extremely important to bear in mind word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

WOMM is still the most trusted source of referral, which can also negatively impact your business if candidates or employees have something that they want to voice. We have all cringed at some of the damaging reviews on Glassdoor and heard horror stories from friends and family which we will remember for a long time.

Therefore, at this very critical time during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that businesses carefully consider the impact of actions that are taken during the crisis. Think about what your employees will say at the other side of this crisis, as this is how your employer brand will be perceived for years to come.

Below are three simple messages that will help you protect your employer brand for the future following the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Be Honest:

During a crisis, businesses tend to focus on external audiences and neglect employees, which is understandable, as leaders want to ensure the survival of the company. But there should always be time to focus on your employees as they will be ones whose efforts will get the business through times of hardship.   

Transparency is key for keeping your employees focussed, reducing stress from uncertainty, and preventing them from being tempted by other opportunities. Be as authentic as possible, share all the highs and lows, keep your staff engaged – especially if they have been furloughed as you don’t want these employees to be kept out the loop. Employees will be much more likely to understand if (or when) difficult decisions are made if an employer is doing all they can be transparent.

Time to up your internal communication game: 

During times of uncertainty rumours can spread like wildfire, which is why your communication has to be clear, transparent, and consistent. How you say things is just as important as what you say, so carefully consider the tone of your messaging.

If you are not doing so already, ensure that you are consistently doing weekly and monthly wrap ups. It is important that you aim to do this via video call, your employees will be lacking interaction and will respond better to a conversation then an email. There has never been a better time to be 100% transparent with your employees, so why not share the company financials on the back of the wrap up? This could include company revenue for the period, predicted pipeline, company year to date figures and business running costs (including adapted company targets for the company to be profitable with current staffing levels).

Ensure that communication is regular and that a weekly wrap up isn’t the only time when the business communicates.

Stick to your EVP (Employer Value Proposition): 

Businesses are having to make difficult decisions daily, but before finalising any of these decisions, companies need to agree that they are in line with their employer value proposition. This will ensure that they are being true to themselves. If the decision and the EVP do not align, then you should probably find an alternative approach. These are the moments that will define your business perception, culture and brand over the coming years, so take a bit of time to consider this.  

 

Be Human:

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, forward-thinking companies have dramatically changed their messaging to have a more empathetic voice and have positioned themselves as brands that care.  Offering discounts to NHS staff, implementing social distancing, making charitable donations to food banks and fashion/manufacturing businesses producing PPE to help protect our health workers.

All these kind gestures great and small will be remembered by employees and customers. Being human, showing empathy and understanding that the pandemic has impacted everyone is something that businesses all have to recognise and do their bit to support.

Being isolated and working from home can have a negative impact on your employees working day. Staff will be missing the water cooler conversations, after-work socials, and they will probably be missing the long meetings. This human element of the day to day job is something that helps form your businesses culture. Now is the time to maintain the culture that you have worked so hard to create. There are several ways that businesses are doing this:

Breakout spaces:

This will create a social space where employees can have a coffee, discuss the week’s events, or just play games.  

Virtual work socials or work incentives: 

As team nights out or after-work drinks are off the cards, so why not bring this online?

Virtual fitness classes: 

Arranging a companywide fitness session is a great way to increase energy levels.

These are all great ways of maintaining strong bonds between your employees and upholding a sense of community, but you also want to offer wellness support. Some businesses are appointing wellness officers or introducing a buddy system so that staff always have someone they can talk too. Make sure that you do not neglect your furloughed employees, ensure that you extend an invite to them as well.

 

Be Adaptable:

If you are being ‘Honest’ and ‘Human’ then your employees will understand that planning for the distant future is difficult at the moment, a lot of this hinges on what the government is saying on a weekly/daily basis.

The ‘new’ normal will require an adaptable business strategy, working life could look like this for a long time. Some businesses such as Google and Twitter have now offered permanent homeworking as an option to their employees. Following the pandemic, many businesses will be doing the same if they have been pleased with staff productivity. A recent study by the Institute for Employment Studies revealed that many respondents reported that increased productivity was one of the top three benefits. They found that the improved productivity was commonly linked with there being fewer distractions and enjoying a more peaceful environment.

Other ways that companies can become more adaptable is to introduce the following: 

Flexible working hours: 

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that can impact productivity when working from home, many parents will be juggling childcare/home teaching as well as working full time. Which is why flexible working during the pandemic is essential for these employees, you do not want to increase stress levels unnecessary by being inflexible.

Set clear boundaries: 

Some employees when working from home will find it very hard to switch off, some employees will be working at reduced hours. As an employer, you should clearly be defining that you don’t expect them to work over these hours unless absolutely necessary. Encourage your staff to have a dedicated working environment, there is more guidance on this in our previous blog by Chris Mercer-Jones.

Investing in technology: 

As the current situation is here to stay, businesses will be having to plan for this, and the right technology will be key. Whether that’s video conferencing software, project management tools, or mobile-ready hardware. A lot of employees will not have everything that they require to work as effectivity as possible from home. Recently Shopify implemented a remote-working policy and have offered employees $1000 to kit out their work from home offices. This could be a  worthwhile investment when there has been a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints as reported in the IES study.

Recruitment processes: 

For most business hiring isn’t high on the agenda currently, but advertising, interviewing and onboarding will come around faster than you think. Be sure to fully review your hiring and onboarding processes and policies to ensure that this does not slow you down.

Many businesses say that people are their greatest asset; now is the time to prove this by being Honest, Human, and Adaptable with your workforce. By doing this you will enable your employees to be the biggest advocates of your employer brand.

At CSG Talent we offer a range of Talent Strategy Services, if you would like to discuss your talent strategy with a specialist consultant you will be able to find them on our people page alternativity please visit the contact us page.