When it comes to crises in 2020, no industry or organization has been left untouched.
For some, business is booming and it's a struggle to keep up. For others, the opposite is true, with a slump preceding waves of layoffs over the course of a few months.
No matter how 2020 is affecting your organization, it's becoming very clear that how your company acts during a crisis is how it will be remembered by your industry, your customers, and - most importantly - your existing and prospective employees. The future of hiring talent literally comes down to how you behave today.
Here are three questions your employer brand must be prepared to answer if you want it to resonate with your ideal prospective candidates:
1. Are you doing your part?
Employees increasingly want employers to take a stand on political and social issues. In the 2017 Glassdoor poll by Harris Poll, 84% of those surveyed believe companies have an important voice in proposed legislation, regulation, and executive orders that could affect the employer's business or the lives of employees. And 75% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 expect their employer to take a stand on important issues affecting the country and their constitutional rights, including immigration, equal rights, and climate change, more than any other age group.
Organizations that want to invest in their employer brand should invest time in supporting the stances and causes that align with your organization's values. And not just social media support, which is increasingly regarded as table stakes. Your organization should be prepared to explain how you support meaningful causes with internal change and financial backing. That's the most effective way to make sure that when you're in the position to hire again - whether that's tomorrow or two months from now - prospective candidates will know where you stand.
Read more: How to Build an Employer Brand
2. Do you put employees first?
Employer brand is not just about attracting new talent, because employer brand also encompasses how you treat your existing employees. One of the first things in-demand candidates will want to know is how you treated your employees during a crisis. Or, as businessman Mark Cuban was famously quoted, "How companies respond to [this crisis] is going to define their brand for decades…. If you didn't take care of your employees or stakeholders and put them first, you were that company."
Consider another example of this, the call to action by Amanda Webb, Head of People at GymShark:
HR executives and hiring managers may very well be asked directly about how they responded to COVID-19, and how you respond will speak volumes about your employer brand.
For businesses struggling with layoffs, don't assume you can't do right by your employees. Often it's not what you have to do - such as layoffs, furloughs, and more - but how you do it. Are you compassionate about the decision, or delivering executive bonuses at the same time? Are you fastidious in connecting your laid off employees with new opportunities, like Airbnb's alumni list, or did you cut your losses and move on? If your employer brand claims that you put people first, make sure your actions do, too.
3. Are you consistent?
The third and most challenging aspect of maintaining a strong employer brand during a crisis is the fact that the world of business today has a long memory. You can't simply opt for the popular stance and ride out the crisis or you invite criticism, such as Starbuck's recent back and forth about whether or not employees can wear clothing that supports political causes. Current employees, prospective employees, and industry experts are standing by and ready to report on how your organization acts - and whether or not it is consistent over time.
That's why it's so important to spend time documenting your employer brand and investing in that intentional outreach - so you can confidently organize your response in a way that honors your company values, mission, and employee expectations. As Link Humans CEO Jörgen Sundberg points out in his interview for HCA Magazine, there's no running away from how you respond to current events: "If there's anything we learned from previous crises, it's that there will be a day of taking stock once things get back to some kind of normality."
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