Rethinking Your Employer Brand During and After Lockdown

If you are a business owner or HR executive in today’s COVID-changed world, you may be wondering: ‘Will there be a permanent impact on our employer brand?’

‘Should our employer branding messaging change, even as lockdown ends and we move closer to a vaccine?’ 

“Do we really need a new employer branding strategy

The answer, in most cases, is a resounding “yes”.

Whether you’re in professional services or transportation through to retail and manufacturing, whatever your industry, the employment experience will never be quite the same again. Even as we cautiously return to work from lockdown, this crisis has affected all of us in a profound way that will not be quickly reversed: loss of jobs, grief, financial hardship, isolation, family strife – and fear for our health and the health of our loved ones. 

Now is the time to pause and reflect on your employer branding strategy. The core values embraced by your employees and talent segments have shifted dramatically as a result of the crisis. It’s critical that your brand messaging shifts to ensure it continues to resonate with workers in an authentic and compelling way.

More than ever, employers need to tune in to the needs of their people and put them first, both in actions and words. To do this effectively, the brand messaging must change to align with employees’ current mentality. 

New Employer Brand Messaging is Critical to Recruitment Success and ROI

A change in employer brand messaging isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s vital for the future of your staff and organization. These days, the world is watching closely to see which organizations step up and do the right thing for staff during the crisis. Those companies that fare the best and retain the best talent will be those that truly ‘walk the walk’. Those who fail to respond and sufficiently support staff, and hold onto outdated, insensitive messaging, will risk attrition, low engagement, productivity declines and ultimately poor financial performance.  So, how can you maintain or build a top employer brand and culture during this next phase of the COVID crisis?

Here Are 5 Smart Steps Employers Can Take:

1) Speak to your talent – and listen attentively.

Begin by opening up a dialogue and finding out how your employees are coping during the crisis. How do they really want to be supported? What worries them regarding work and the return to the workplace? What do they need from you, their employer, to make their job and life easier, safer, more productive and more enjoyable?

Sincerity and openness are key. It may help to share some of your own worries and struggles, as an employer. Listen attentively and be sure to carefully capture their candid feedback, values and perceptions — which will serve as ‘gold nuggets’ to richly inform your new brand messaging. These interviews can take place either through one-on-one conversations, or group meetings to gather employee feedback.  The group meeting is especially valuable in generating ideas and getting a sense of common themes for all.

2) Take Stock of Your Current Employer Brand Messaging

As you revisit your messaging, some statements, words and values may leap off the page as no longer relevant nor appropriate. Other aspects may take some further consideration in light of employee feedback. You’ll need to determine whether small refinements or a total rework is needed. ‘Work-from-home’ is now the new normal – no longer a special perk.

For example, with the new mandatory work-from-home reality, any specific ‘work from home’ or flexible hour policies should no longer be underscored in your messaging as a special perk, or differentiator to entice employees. Many companies have invested substantially in setting their employees up to work off-site, or on staggered hours, so this may actually become the “new normal” for a large percentage of businesses.

3) Switch Focus to  Basic Needs

While perks and benefits, growth and advancement, and even inspiring leadership will continue to be important and will drive engagement, those are not the only things that employees are looking for and, right now, they may not be the most salient. With so many job cuts and financial losses for many people, messages around making big money and getting fast promotions are neither realistic and believable nor sensitive in the current work environment.

What matters more these days are messages around basic needs like, health, safety, stability and supportive leaders. Through our own research – and focus groups conducted during Covid-19 – we found that employees selected “caring, job security and compensation” as factors they valued most in the employee experience.  When you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs through a business lens, you can understand how in these uncertain times employees are focused on basic survival needs.

While these values may change again post pandemic, it’s critical for companies to review their current messaging and ensure it resonates with what matters most to their employees and large talent segments right now. Only then can they better align the employee experience.

4) Celebrate Your Successes – and Differentiate Yourself Positively 

With crisis comes an opportunity for organizations to demonstrate and showcase resilience, strength and heart.  What has your organization done during this crisis that makes you proud?  What support are you currently offering employees at home while they juggle their work, parenting and teaching, while worrying about safety?

What can your organization do to help employees flourish as they prepare to return to the workplace? These should all be reflected in your new employee brand messaging.Once you realize the actions you have taken and the way your business has responded, your new employer brand messaging will begin to write itself.

Here are a few ways some of our clients are differentiating themselves during the crisis:

  1. Mental health sessions for stressed-out employees
  2. Fun incentives and thank you gifts delivered to employees (Uber Eats, gift cards, care packages)
  3. Reduced hours and shorter workweeks
  4. Online fitness classes
  5. Virtual happy hours
  6. Online training opportunities
  7. Mentors or Accountability coaches to help employees with overall well being
  8. Virtual town halls – with leaders offering inspiring messages

5) Tell Great Stories – About Your Heroes, Teams – and Organizational Resilience

Finally, what are you doing today to share those great employee stories? Let the world know, through social posts, articles, and rewards and recognition, just how your workers are pulling together, how star individuals are going the extra mile to supporting each other and your organization. How some are making a real difference giving back to the community. And don’t forget the story about how your organization’s leaders have gone the extra mile to support staff and foster collaboration, creativity and connectivity, through virtual meetings, check-ins, events, and other unique and creative remote working solutions.

Closing Thoughts

Even after lockdown ends, the COVID crisis will continue to change the way people live, think and work. Once you take time to, understand what matters to your people now, revisit your brand message and take stock of the little acts of heroism that have helped your organization survive and even thrive over the past 8 or 9 weeks, you’ll be closer to that treasure at the end of the rainbow: A new employee brand message that reassures, inspires – and attracts top talent to your company, today and tomorrow.


Author: Leandra Harris, Co-Founder of Blu Ivy Group
Image: Razvan Chisu
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