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May 12, 2020

Approx. 14 min. read

How to Keep Your Employer Brand Strong During and After the COVID-19 Crisis

Managing your employer brand during a crisis can be difficult. However applying an authentic, consistent approach will help you better manage the...

Managing your employer brand during a crisis can be difficult. However applying an authentic, consistent approach will help you better manage the expectations of your employees, candidates and other stakeholders. 

📚Download the eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age. 

Even though the current situation is affecting organizations across the world, how well you react and plan for contingencies will have a lasting impact on your workforce and your employer brand. You will stay in people’s memory tomorrow for your actions today.

Does It Make Sense to Invest in Your Employer Brand Now?

In the past few weeks, the global economy and the labor market have changed dramatically. The number of vacancies in the organizations is falling, and many people are temporarily unemployed. 

Moreover, the VCU Business School has done research that proves that the unemployment rate has been increasing, and that 24 million jobs have been lost since the last labor market statistics were released.

So does it make any sense at all to think of, and invest in, employer branding in times like these? 

The short answer to this question is: Yes it does!

The fact that your hiring efforts have been frozen, doesn’t mean that this will last forever. That doesn’t mean that you should stop building and maintaining your reputation as a desirable employer to work for. Therefore, the same way you are now focusing on your external and internal corporate communications, these messages should also reach your potential future candidates

It is completely understandable that organizations might give less attention to employer branding during this hectic period. Not only that companies might not be hiring right now, but the  chances of talent voluntarily leaving their companies have suddenly become much smaller. However, there are many reasons why employer branding shouldn't be ignored even during a crisis like this one. 

The most important thing for organizations to understand is that building a strong employer brand takes time. In other words, if you completely ignore employer branding during this entire period, you will lose what you have already built, weaken relationships you have already established, and therefore, will be forced to start building it up again from a lower level later on. 

For that reason, any organization that wants to be strong at a time when the labor market is reshaping itself, simply can't allow itself to do nothing about employer branding.

employer-brand-statisticSo how can organizations cut through all the noise, nurture relationships with candidates and continue to build a strong employer brand?

Let’s take a look. 

12 Ways to Keep Your Employer Brand Strong

I think we can all agree that employer branding is not to be neglected during these times. However, how can we adjust our employer branding strategies to the current situation and make sure to keep our company’s reputation as an employer strong?

Follow these steps. 

Put employee experience before candidate experience

You have probably heard many times that employer branding starts from within. This means that you can’t attract new people to your organization unless you build a strong internal employer brand. In other words, you need to put your people first!

However, this situation, as it has had a direct impact on our employees, is already pushing us all to develop employee-centric mindset in the workplace. Employers are now, more than ever before, becoming aware of the power of driving positive employee experience that directly impacts employee motivation, engagement, productivity and success. 

employee-experience-employer-braTherefore, before even thinking about investing in new employer branding initiatives, ask yourself first: How do my existing employees feel and how do they perceive me as an employer?

Keep your employees informed and engage them in your Employer Branding strategy

As you will see later in this blog, employer branding success highly depends on your employees’ engagement in the workplace. On the other side, this engagement is severely tested at times like these, and the only way to mitigate the consequences is through proper employee communication

company-values-infographic-Sep-08-2021-08-48-31-62-PMEven though it has always been important in EB, the view of corporate transparency has an even sharper lens right now. Many organizations are having to make difficult decisions, and they are struggling to find good ways to communicate both internally and externally.

As an internal communications software company, we can see a broad spectrum of responses with some organizations that are slow to communicate or communicate in an old-school, hierarchical fashion.

When we compare them to the companies with agile, open and collaborative cultures and communications styles, which are engaging their people, partners and candidates at every step of their journeys, we can see the real benefits of proper workplace communication.            

Employees need to have easy access to all the important company and government updates, and they need to be aware of your business continuity plan. They are faced with a lot of uncertainties now, and leaving them in the dark can only make the situation worse and, consequently, have a negative impact on your employer brand. 

Be authentic and focus on your EVP

Even during these unprecedented times, you need to be consistent about your identity. Therefore, use your EVP and your core company values as your guiding light.

employer-branding-company-values This is the perfect time to enhance your tone of voice, make people more aware of your values  in the way you communicate and help your people during the crisis. Be the organization on which employees and candidates can count on in both good and bad times. As the way we work has changed in the past few weeks, employers need to better define their EVPs and understand which of its components are the most attractive to employees and candidates.

The stories you shape around your EVP will be seen and recognized by the candidates and they will certainly remember what separates you from other employers. 

This will enable you to better shape your employer brand and improve your overall talent attraction strategy. To get the best out of your EB stories, it is important to promote them both internally and externally, and we will get more into that later in this blog. 

Adapt your employer branding content to the current situation

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only changing the way we communicate with our employees and customers. It is also changing the way we interact with the current and future job candidates

Many employers are now trying to find new ways to tailor their EVP messaging to fit the current climate. We can see that many of them are focused on sharing positive and inspiring messages as well as practical advice in order to show the audience what actions they are taking to support the safety and wellbeing of their employees. 

To make the experience even more memorable, new forms of content such as videos, work from home (WFH) stories, podcasts and inspiring images are in their peak. Here, your own employees play the most important stakeholders as creating such content would be impossible without their contribution.  

Here is a great image by LinkedIn that shows how the WFH topic has become so popular in the past few weeks.

employer-branding-WFHIt is important for organizations to understand that the content needs to be extra sensitive to the current situation. Instead of creating content focusing on sales and marketing, employers are communicating messages around their approach to handling COVID-19 and its impact on their employees. 

When creating and sharing such content, make sure to stay positive and appreciate what you have. Your employer branding communication should focus on communicating that the people in your organization really make you who you are. 

Make it easy for employees to create and share employer branding content

As mentioned earlier, your employees are the most important stakeholders when it comes to employer branding. As their voice is trusted more than your corporate or CEO’s voice, you need to find ways to empower them to create their own employer branding content and share it with their networks.

In addition, when your employees engage in the whole process, they have much bigger potential to reach a wider audience and expand your employer brand presence and awareness

employer-brand-employee-advocacyHowever, this whole process needs to be easy for employees, and it needs to be streamlined. Besides just educating them around what they should and shouldn’t do, you have to make it easy for your entire organization to have instant access to such content and share it with a single click.

Luckily, internal employee communication solutions like Smarp enable employers to create designated channels for such content and enable employees to become your true employer brand ambassadors. 

Start an employee advocacy program to increase awareness

In order to motivate your employees to engage in your employer branding initiatives, you could create an employer ambassadorship or advocacy program. One research proves that 65% of companies were able to increase their brand recognition from employee advocacy posted on social media platforms.

employer-branding-employee-ambas-2You can make these programs monetary, but even more important than that is that you clearly communicate the benefits of it. When employees are asked about what would motivate them to engage in such programs, most of them said that communicating the importance of social media was the biggest incentive for them. 

Remember that employees that are proud to work for your organization will be happy to share their voice with the external audience. 

However, many employers not only don't have a way to make it easy for employees to participate by sharing the company’s content externally, but they also don’t have a way to track and measure their employees' efforts and initiatives

Ideally, your internal communications platform should serve as a central place for employees to upload and share the EB content, and also track your employees’ engagement in the advocacy program. 

Take advantage of the power of social media

With employees working from home, the usage of social media has also increased. Moreover, 66% of social media users said that they are expecting their social media consumption to increase during coronavirus confinement

Take this as your chance to boost the awareness of your employer brand!

Facebook’s report showed that more than one million users have joined coronavirus-related support groups, and job seekers are increasingly using social media to research for new job opportunities. 

employer-brand-social-mediaEmployers should, therefore, recognize social media as a genuine and efficient platform for the purpose of enhancing employer brand. Many companies today are regularly sharing posts about their employees’ stories and company’s events. Such posts seem to be motivational and inspiring to both employees and candidates. 

Again, none of this is possible without your own employees’ input. 

Understand what kind of content resonates with your audiences the most

There is no improvement without measurement! Therefore, if you decide to implement the above mentioned steps, you need to be able to measure their impact. In other words, employers should have the ability to understand what type of content and messages best resonate with their internal and external audiences

Take a look at what kind of content people resonate the most with on LinkedIn during this crisis. 

employer-branding-content-COVIDWhen we have a clear understanding about what type of content our employees like and share the most, it is easy to to optimize the EB content and get the most out of it

Similarly, when we understand what type of content our external audiences, such as candidates, resonate with, it is much easier to develop and manage our future employer branding initiatives.  

Unfortunately, many employers don’t have access to technologies that track such data. With Smarp, however, organizations can get valuable insights around the most popular content and preferred communication channels among their employees and candidates. 

Close the gap between your internal and external messages

In order to build trust with your internal and external audiences, it is important to keep your messages consistent. If there is a gap between the two, you can create confusion and mistrust among people. 

Additionally, you should make the external content available to the employees within your organization. They should always understand what messages are you trying to communicate to the outside. This is the best way to drive organizational alignment among employees at your company. 

Be transparent, authentic and truthful with your communication to improve both employee and candidate experience. 

Encourage business leaders to get involved

This is your opportunity to show authenticity and transparency—take it.

Business leaders, more than ever, need to understand that their identity and their promises need to be kept despite the difficult decisions they need to make. This is why leadership communications plays a very important role in employer branding. 

These extraordinary times are pushing leaders more than ever to lead by example. This is why we are recently seeing a lot of stories around how leaders are giving up their benefits in order to show the others that are also walking the talk. 

During times of uncertainty such as COVID-19, employees and job seekers are looking from the company’s leadership for assurance. This is a time to be authentic, transparent, and to focus on trust and relationships.

Don’t neglect corporate social responsibility

As corporate responsibility is one of the main EVP components within large enterprises, they are now taking the chance to prove that they are good citizens.

Indeed, many companies are looking for ways in which they can contribute towards economic and societal recovery in the months ahead. 

If you already haven’t, consider implementing initiatives to help your customers, employees and communities get back on their feet. This philanthropic and genuine approach your company undertakes today can reinforce and strengthen your employer brand and increase its awareness. 

employer-branding-social-responsIf one of your corporate communications messaging includes corporate social responsibility, now is the time for you to demonstrate it in action.  

Not only that such actions will have a big impact on your ability to attract talent and help you reinforce your identity and culture, but it will also help you better position yourself among your existing employees who will be proud to call themselves so. 

Update your career site with the relevant content

Today’s job seekers may expect to find more information about what was your approach when it comes to treating your employees and ensuring business continuity. Even though job safety was not one of the most important factors for employees before this crisis, its importance has increased exponentially. 

Therefore, your stability as a company, as well as the way you treat your employees, could become one of your most important talking points in talent acquisition. 

Use it to update the content on your career site and don’t forget to include your own employees’ stories. 

The Future of Employer Branding

Even though the pandemic is slowing down, the consequences of it will be significant and the economy will take some time to recover. Moreover, many analysts say that this could be the world’s biggest economic crisis that will also completely reshape Human Capital Management

While employer branding may not seem like a high priority right now, this is exactly the moment when companies should respect, protect and even elevate their reputation to internal and external audiences. 

employer-brand-quoteIn order to lessen the impacts on their workforce, businesses need transparency – achieved with healthy communication within their workplaces. Many organizations claim that people are at the core of their EVP, but are we really proving that now?

We owe our employees and candidates to treat them with honesty and compassion during this moment, which they will not forget once you try to hire them in the future. 

As mentioned earlier, employers should be aware of the criteria people will use for choosing their future employers after this crisis. While the focus was on the career growth, learning and development and similar factors, these factors may not be on the top of their list any more.

However, the importance of a good work atmosphere will remain unchanged. Additionally, there will be more focus on employee wellbeing. 

Companies need to be aware of the negative consequences of this crisis on their employer brand attractiveness. Let’s take a look into what happened after the world’s crisis in 2008. 

In 2008, Randstad did an Employer Branding a research in which the winner in Belgium had an attractiveness score of 47%. A year later, after the crisis had hit, this had gone down to 43%. That was also the lowest winning score ever in the entire history of employer branding research. By 2010, there weren't too many signs of recovery yet. The tide only began to turn in 2011. 

Therefore, it will take some time for companies to recover from the current setback. 

Further from the same research,

The downturn was also reflected in the scores for the various criteria. The fact that job security decreased, won't come as a surprise. But the decline was also visible in other criteria (work atmosphere, wage, work/life balance, job content, future opportunities, attention for environment and society). Incidentally, the scores for most criteria were lower in 2009 than in 2003, during the recovery of the dot-com crisis. 

To conclude, there's no getting away from the fact that this crisis is going to have a big impact on your company’s employer brand and reputation. However, one is clear — companies that are going to ignore employer branding, and not give it enough attention until the economy starts to recover, will experience significant negative sides of neglecting it. 

Remember — your employer brand is an investment. What candidates and employees see today could impact how they think about you in the future.

What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.


Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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