Amplifying your employer brand post-COVID-19


guest column :Emmanuel Zvada

THE ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put every company’s employer brand to the test. During times of crisis, your employer brand must become your brand and that is an irrefutable fact. While employer branding may not seem like a high priority to some, this is exactly the moment when organisations must take care to respect, protect and even elevate their reputation to internal and external stakeholders. Without doubt, the COVID-19 crisis is forcing many businesses to confront a new reality that puts their employer brand to the test.

If you are an employer or business leader, this is the moment in history when your true identity will emerge, and it will be easy to see if it matches who you said you were all along.

Employers and business leaders need to remember that their identity and their promises need to be kept despite the difficult decisions that need to be made. Various measures that were taken during the lockdown such as layoffs and freezing of benefits have an impact on both corporate and employer brands, but how these actions are perceived depend on the way they were executed and communicated.

What is employment branding?

Simply put, your employer brand reflects your reputation as a workplace. What’s it like to work at your firm? Does the culture emphasise individual autonomy or obedience to authority? Employer brand is the reputation your organisation has with its own employees and the wider employment market. Unlike your corporate brand, which is how your clients see you, your employer brand is how your employees see you, and is an important component of your corporate brand.

How it helps your business
With the help of a strong employer brand, your company will be able to increase the number of quality applicants, reduce costs per recruitment and differentiate yourself from competitors. A strong employer brand is vital for the success of any organisation, which is only as good as the talent it has operating within it. Which means having a strong employer brand is critical in attracting and retaining the talent you need to take your organisation forward, while competing in ever-competitive and increasingly challenging markets.

As the recovery from COVID-19 gathers pace, with many workplaces having already begun the reopening process, employees will be evaluating the response and handling of matters in response to the pandemic, and this evaluation process is extended to organisations of all sizes. Some of the questions that are being asked by prospective employees and current ones are, “How did the employer treat them (its employees) through this really difficult time”? “Would the behaviour of this organisation in response to the pandemic align with the values that they have individually and would they want to continue being part of it”? The following tactics may help you improve employer branding to attract and retain the top industry talent.

Recognise your employees’ efforts
Every human being wants to be recognised and appreciated for the work they do because they like to see the reward of their efforts. Acknowledging the efforts of your workers is an excellent employer branding tactic and recognising employees for outstanding performance in the workplace doesn’t have to be expensive. Verbal thanks, emailed thanks, and handwritten notes are always easy, cheap and quick ways to say thanks for everyday effort but they can go a long way in strengthening the employer brand. There are some employers who think that a thank you is unnecessary and they just brush aside and ignore employees’ efforts. Recognising employees for their efforts and accomplishments is important in increasing engagement and loyalty and causes employees to do more great work.

Speak to your talent and listen to its issues
As a leader, you need to have a strong voice but you need to know when it’s time to listen to your employees too. The importance of listening to employees can be seen in terms of innovation. When employee ideas are heard and encouraged, the company can stand to positively impact the bottom-line, while engaging the employee simultaneously. Employees who are listened to are more connected with the employer and in turn feel more engaged and motivated to do the best for the organisation. It is also crucial to have tools in place that can help ensure that you create room to hear employee concerns and these may include, having regular open forums, Friday lunches, etc. This will inculcate a culture of listening and open communication within the company.

Have clear values, mission known by employees
Having clear company values helps you ensure that all your employees are working towards the same goals. Your core values support the company’s vision and shape its culture. That’s why every single business decision should be aligned with these values. Employer branding is a beneficial tool to attract and retain talent, however, a number of companies do not have a clear strategy of which it’s important. Having a clear set of values helps your employees understand what you stand for.

Are your salary and benefits competitive?

Employees shouldn’t be viewed as an expense. Instead, they are one of your company’s assets. Employees will be much more interested in their jobs and in the company they work for if they feel valued by the company. A higher salary is a way to show employees that they are valued. Assess the salary and benefits package offered, and see how it compares against the competition (that is, the competition for candidates/employees — which is not necessarily the same as competition for customers).

If the salary and benefit package does not compare favourably with others in the market, it will be an uphill battle to improve the employer brand.

Managing employer brand during a crisis can be difficult, but adopting an authentic, consistent approach will help you better manage the expectations of your people and those of other stakeholders.

The current situation is stressing every organisation around the world. Even after lockdown ends, the COVID-19 crisis will continue to change the way people live, think and work. It is, therefore, vital to take time to understand what matters to your people now, revisit your brand message and take stock of the little acts that have helped your organisation survive the pressures of the pandemic.