Employer Branding

Why Now is a Great Time to Live your EVP

During any crisis, leaning into communication is key. And by communication, I mean all forms of communication – verbal, written, body language and even silence. From the words used, behaviours displayed and frequency of updates – authentic conversations and actions can help bring people together. On the flip side, when communication is infrequent, inconsistent or insincere, people tend to worry and make up their own stories. It’s how we are wired. So, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with employer branding?”

Everyone is impacted during our current global crisis and impending recession. Businesses, their owners, leaders and their people. Their suppliers, partners, clients or customers, and investors. The brands they portray are monitored, scrutinized and talked about. How these brands act on the inside is a tell-tale way of understanding their ethos, values and purpose, and whether or not they remain true to their employer brand promise – the value provided to employees in exchange for the skills and capabilities employees bring to the organization. Reinforcing your employee value proposition (EVP) is not optional, ever, and especially when our society is turned upside down.

Here are 6 tips to maintain and amplify your employer brand promise during challenging economic times:

1. Always on – communicate and market your employer brand. 

There have been many studies that indicate that brands should continue brand marketing initiatives during a recession, and employer branding isn’t any different. The channels maybe different, but the methodology is similar. We’re not talking about creating TV spots here, but internal campaigns and communications to help reinforce the value you offer as an employer, internally and externally. A Millward Brown POV from 2008 still holds true from a B2B and B2C perspective. Employer branding practitioners can borrow some of these approaches but adapt for internal branding and for the 2020 digital economy. When fear is high, taking an empathetic approach, communicating clearly and openly will build trust. And this will go a long way to reinforce why employees joined your company in the first place, enable them to rally with you and become your biggest ambassadors. If immediate hiring is on hold, you can still build awareness externally and continue to build a talent pipeline for future hiring. Many companies will make the decision to pause marketing, so this is a good time to communicate your employer brand pillars and maintain share of voice. A content strategy is one of the best ways to do so.

2. Active listening and employee engagement. 

This is a great time to ask your employees questions about how they are feeling, listen to their concerns, and find out about how other members of their family are coping. Listening to posts on intranets and social media is another way to understand how your employee workforce is feeling. This allows the company to inform key messages and demonstrate care. When employees feel their concerns are heard, they can feel more at ease and maintain some level of productivity. Another way is to engage employees is through ideation. Coming together, sharing how the crisis or downturn is impacting the company, and asking for their ideas to help the company and team through the difficult period. Some of the best ideas can be surfaced and implemented, now and in the future. This participation and engagement truly empowers employees and makes them feel part of an inclusive culture, reinforcing an often popular employer brand attribute.

3. Proactive leadership. 

There’s no doubt about it. This situation is extremely tough. Just because some people are in more senior leadership positions doesn’t mean they don’t feel the fear – there are pressures from every angle. This isn’t the time to hide behind email messages, it’s time to show up, check in on people and their personal lives, and demonstrate your brand and leadership values. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Employees will appreciate the extra thought and connection and remember how it made them feel for years to come. One of the best examples I’ve seen of this is from Marriott International’s CEO response to COVID-19. Hospitality is one of the hardest hit sectors and impacting thousands. It shows vulnerability, courage and responsibility.

4. Encourage wellness.

Health and wellness in the workplace have been one of the latest trends in HR circles over the past couple years, with programs and initiatives focusing on mental health, expanded services, alternative solutions, incentives and overall promotion of positive well-being. Many employer’s EVP frameworks include a wellness pillar in one form or another. In addition to the health authority’s recommendations specific to COVID-19 virus, other ways to encourage wellness and self-care include making time for meditation, exercise or movement, regular snacks and meals, lots of water, mini check-ins with peers and staff, and providing the ability to allow your workforce to care for family. Many people are in the sandwich generation with kids, parents and extended family to share care-giver responsibilities for. Emphasis on holistic health and wellness when people are working remotely or heading to a work environment to provide essential services is a must. Providing financial health counselling is another way to help employees through planning for short-term and long-term considerations. Anxiety is at its highest. Dropping the stigma about mental health needs to start right now. This PwC study shares insights about corporate well-being programs influence on employee’s healthy habits.

5. Think long-term, not short-term.

It’s easy to panic and consider the possible pitfalls about to take place over the next couple months, but our society will recover, just as it has from the last great recession and those before it. Business plans will evolve, requiring people to deliver on those plans, some in different capacities. It may be better to stay the course with your current workforce, given the time and investment it takes to recruit and hire new employees and onboard them 4-6-8 months out. You may be looking at another year for new hires to be fully productive contributors, depending on the role type and level. So, if the average cost to replace an employee is 100%-300% of their salary, lay-offs in the short-term may actually cost more in the long-term. (Note this may not be feasible for some sectors like travel and hospitality.)

6. Treat restructures and exists carefully. 

It’s inevitable for many employers to have to make cuts, even if it’s a temporary solution. The way people are communicated to and treated can make or break an employer’s reputation. Recovering from a poor reputation takes a lot of effort, and sometimes can’t be fully recuperated. Offering support to those affected can include providing referrals, references, training and e-learning opportunities, outplacement services or coaching, and continuation of benefits for a period. Reaching out to people in your network or business partners to explore “borrowing talent” opportunities may be somewhat unconventional, but we’re in unconventional times. Some industries like transportation, supply chain, agriculture/food and technology aren’t as negatively impacted and need to hire immediately to keep up with demand.

In closing, every company is different, yet facing very similar realities right now, no matter if you are an employer of 100, 1000, or 10,000. Corporate brand promises start internally. And that begins with demonstrating your employer brand EVP – whether you have it formally documented or not, you still have an employer brand and corporate values. While now may not be the best time to take on a huge new initiative, taking small steps to embed what you already have is key. Over communicate. Bring everyone together to trouble shoot. Adapt. Pivot. How leaders and brands act now will test their resiliency and can contribute to building a stronger culture in the long-term. In the midst of this dilemma, we all have to stay true to our personal and corporate values, and brands who don’t forget to live their EVP will have a competitive advantage.

What are you doing to live your employer brand promise? 

Jill Cashman

Managing Director, Talent Advisory

ML6 Search + Talent Advisory

Building extraordinary employer communities