Our 2020 content has largely been ‘COVID free’ on purpose. We saw an explosion of articles when the first lockdown was announced and we didn’t want to get swept up in the ‘working from home’ content tsunami. But, nine months on, so much has been affected by the pandemic – and the employer brand is no exception. What we all hoped would be a temporary problem really has become the ‘new normal’ (other ‘COVID cliches’ are available).

With all that is going on with redundancies and major employers going into administration, recruiters are often being asked…

“Why should we be investing in our employer brand in an apparent recruitment downturn and recession?”

It’s not the first time that recruitment and the employer brand have been viewed as something that can be switched off at will. However, history teaches us that short term cuts often come at a far longer term cost.

So, let me answer the question by re-framing it like this. Stop viewing your employer brand through purely a recruitment lens. It matters to your existing employees, it helps retain the talent you want to keep hold of – and it’s increasingly being noticed by your customers who you really don’t want to be losing, particularly now.

My advice isn’t to put your employer brand on ice, but instead to re-define it, accepting that the effects of the pandemic are here for the long-run. Here’s how to do that:

Re-visit your employer proposition

Your employer proposition answers the question ‘why would somebody work here as opposed to somewhere else?’ That may well have changed across the year depending on how your organisation has fared during the pandemic and particularly, how you have treated your people. It’s quite possible that their answer now might not be as positive as you’d have liked.

Even in a recession, candidates will be doing their research and your existing people will be weighing up their options. After all, remote working has widened their choices in many cases. So it’s worth asking for candid feedback – find out what’s it been like working for you throughout the lockdowns this year, good and bad? Find out what has engaged them and what could be done better. Get them involved in the conversation and show that you are addressing any issues they have.

Your proposition is based around you being authentic, attractive and distinctive. If you are falling short in any area your employer brand needs some TLC. I’ve covered employer proposition in more depth in this post ‘Understanding your employer proposition – a practical approach.’

Address the post COVID realities

If you’ve revisited your employer proposition you’ll have a clearer picture on what working for you looks and feels like now. Over the past few months organisations have largely dispersed to a remote or part-remote model. That has been a success for some but not everyone is doing so well on their own with minimal contact from their line manager and colleagues. You can only achieve so much via Zoom and many of us are now thoroughly fed up with seeing our teams via a screen.

Earlier in the year we addressed the topic of what makes a great place to work, 2020 style. It was a COVID related blog in essence as we came to the conclusion that this year, the question isn’t so much about a great place to work – it’s more now about a great way to work. That includes how supportive your culture is, what trust has been shown during remote working. Your people need to feel they can be trusted to work on their own initiative to resolve problems and do the right thing. Like any relationship, without trust there’s very little to hold it together.

What’s more, life outside of work sees levels of anxiety running high. Organisations that have emerged with compassion towards mental wellbeing issues will find their employer brand enhanced. How are you addressing what it’s like to work for you in the post COVID reality? Read more in our blog ‘What does being a ‘great place to work’ actually mean?’

Re-visit your values and purpose

Increasingly your employees and candidates are motivated by your sense of purpose. Research has shown that this is something that ranks higher than reward and it’s particularly important to the millennial workforce. Research by CONE found that 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company, compared with a 55% average across all ages.

Earlier this year, Personnel Today carried an article showing that employees are turning towards more socially conscious employers as the pandemic changed their expectations around their careers. They found that organisations such as the Environment Agency, Oxfam and the British Council have risen up the rankings of most desirable employers – while formerly popular businesses such as Facebook have dropped out.

As you re-define your employer brand, ask yourself are you communicating your values and sense of purpose? That’s what your employees and candidates are looking for, particularly this year.

Re-authenticate your brand experience

In an increasingly remote based world, the organisation has to look like its people more than ever before. The cool looking HQ matters far less when they won’t be spending much time there. So, are your employer branding messages featuring real people, real stories, real experiences? Are they telling their stories first hand – and does your current careers site reflect this?

There’s no doubt – your candidates will want to hear from people like them and their experiences and perspectives. They’ll be looking on social media, on sites like Glassdoor, etc – and what will really engage them is authenticity. This isn’t anything new but it matters far more now post-COVID.

If your careers website is looking a little too much like a brochure, lacking video or a blog and missing out on showcasing your people as your employer brand ambassadors, it might be a good time to audit it. We can help with that with our free careers website audit. You’ll find the results interesting, based on the best practice in site design, structure, functionality, content and candidate experience.

In conclusion

As we approach what will be the most disconnected Christmas season in memory, there won’t be any morale boosting office parties to lift spirits. Indeed, it’s looking like whatever lifting of restrictions are allowed over Christmas, January is going to be another lockdown month to pay for it. For employers re-evaluating their employer brand, their values and purpose, this represents an opportunity to be more inclusive and supportive of those facing mental wellbeing challenges at what can be the loneliest time of the year.

So, while there may be calls to de-prioritise the employer brand in the next few months, we say resist that. Recruitment and career options are no different to any other product. If you take your foot of the pedal, your competitors can steal a march – and it’ll be harder re-establishing your brand visibility. And don’t forget, just as a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, your employer brand isn’t just about recruitment.

For further information

If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around protecting your employer proposition just drop me a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea and a biscuit (in person or over a Zoom call).