At a time when your business may still be focused on survival, focusing on your employer brand might not be at the top of your list.
But it should be.
The actions you take now can either undermine or help to rebuild your business over the next couple of months, when the ability to attract and retain the best talent is critical for growth.
Plus, the way organizations are treating their employees, and how their actions align with what they say they value, are being scrutinized by current employees, prospective talent, consumers, and even the media. The lines between internal and external brands are blurring – putting an organization’s employer brand at the forefront of conversations, critiques, and purchasing behavior.
Here’s why it’s critical to make your employer brand your top priority right now:
1. YOUR EMPLOYER BRAND STORY IS AT RISK OF BEING REWRITTEN: Employees are more vocal now than ever before. Their family, friends, networks, and the general public are looking to them for the truth about what organizations stand for and how they behave – especially during a time of crisis. There is an opportunity to positively contribute to the narrative. If nothing is said or done, it allows for others to be the sole owners of the story.
2. YOUR ACTIONS AND DECISIONS ARE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Businesses actions and words are being closely monitored by employees who have high expectations for the organization to do what’s right. One wrong move or decision contradictory to the employer brand can damage reputation – not to mention the level of trust employees have in the organization and how they perceive the workplace. Focus on the elements employees value the most about working there. This will help maintain, and even strengthen, a relationship with your people.
3. YOUR VALUES ARE BEING TESTED EVERY DAY: At a time of change and crisis, values are at the forefront and guiding organizational actions publicly, through people practices and treatment of employees during unprecedented times. The key is to stay true to the mission and values and be clear about what you stand for.
4. TRUST IS CRITICAL: Trust is a key factor in how engaged employees are in their day-to-day work; it drives workplace recommendations and shapes your employer brand. Trust also helps create resilience against risk. When dealing with multiple crises, it is common for employees to feel distracted with low morale – both of which can culminate in rumors. This type of negativity often leads to a heightened sense of skepticism. Try to get ahead by taking the time to focus on your differentiators and strengths, and make sure to stay transparent and consistent in decisions and communications.
What does this mean for the long term? By doubling down on your employer brand now, you will:
- Maintain your employer reputation and strengthen employee loyalty. No one wants to be remembered as the company who didn’t live up to their expectations. People are more likely to remember the specific details of negative events from their past and hold less detailed memories of positive and neutral events. This negativity bias can create a selective memory so strong that it will stay with individuals for years; impacting your reputation as a place to work long after they have left.
- Create a stronger connection between your purpose and employees. Studies show that thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose1. By continuing to put your purpose first and living up to the promises you’ve made, you will strengthen employees’ trust in and connection to the organization. So, when your employees are presented with the option to stay or leave, they will choose to stay, more committed than ever before.
- Help secure employee engagement and watch the business results follow. We already mentioned how trust goes a long way in maintaining employee engagement during a crisis. Employees look to their employers and managers during times of uncertainty to lead – even more than they look to government officials and other organizations. By putting the needs of your people first, the results will follow. According to a study from Fleishman Hillard, the number one driver of reputation among consumers right now is how organizations are taking care of their employees2. Whether it’s how they put the health and safety of their employees first during the COVID crisis, or how they displayed solidarity and empathy during the Black Lives Matter movement, consumers are watching and making purchasing decisions.
Use this time as an opportunity to give your people positive things to talk about and to remember. They won’t care about the free snacks or a pool table if and when we go back to the office. They will care if you did right by them in a moment of crisis and uncertainty, and showed you care about them as a human being, not just an employee.
1 Kohll, Alan. What Employees Really Want at Work. Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2018/07/10/what-employees-really-want-at-work/#1cf76eaa5ad3
2 COVID-19 Mindset: How Pandemic Times are Shaping Global Consumers,” Fleishman Hillard: https://fleishmanhillard.com/wp-content/uploads/meta/resource-file/2020/covid-19-mindset-how-pandemic-times-are-shaping-global-consumers-1586478116.pdf