Employer Brands: Forged by Fire
They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. But in the world of business, the strength of your brand will define your survival.
And right now, the mettle of every business is being tested by the pervasiveness of the pandemic. Long slumps of little to no income, widespread layoffs, and the closure of too many doors to count. The obstacles to retain your audience, investors, and talent seem, at times, insurmountable. Crisis is nothing new for businesses, but this year has been extraordinary.
But it’s here — in the middle of crisis — that you will define your brand.
The way you choose to react, and the way you shepherd your flock through the fire and flames, will show people what your brand is all about. And never has the message you send been more important for attracting and retaining the top talent for your team.
If you’re wondering how to broadcast the right message so that you can attract the strongest potential recruits, you’re asking the right questions. Now, here are 3 specific questions that job seekers will have for you. Reflect on these and how your employer brand would stack up.
1. Did you do your part?
2020 is a time of great social unrest and turmoil — driven by factors that go beyond just COVID-19. And workers are looking to employers to see how you actively participate in positive social change.
In 2017, Harris Poll surveyed professionals and determined that 84% believed that companies had an important voice when it comes to the law. Particularly when the laws will have a direct effect on the business itself, or the lives of its employees.
And 75% of young professionals, between the ages of 18-34, expected their employers to use that clout to take a stand on important issues. Issues such as climate change, equal rights, and immigration. They felt stronger about this than any other age group, and they make up the majority of the workforce today.
If you want to bolster your brand image, you need to put your money where your mouth is and rally for causes that align with your company’s vision. And no, posting about them on social media isn’t enough. It’s assumed you’ll share your support online, but you need to back it up with meaningful change — both internally and externally.
2. Did you put your employees first?
Have you ever read a review?
Silly question — of course you have.
But did you notice how important it was to you to know how someone who’d already had a certain experience, or used a certain product, felt about it? Because it’s that crucial desire to understand before we invest that job seekers feel when investigating potential employers.
And if your employees were to write a review of what it was like to work for you during the pandemic, what do you think they would have to say? Or if an interviewee asked you how you helped employees survive the pandemic (literally and figuratively), what would you have to say about it?
Let’s be honest about the economic downturn here — we’re not saying that layoffs won’t happen, or that hours won’t be reduced. Things will very likely be difficult for your business, and difficult decisions will have to be made which will affect the people who make up that business. These things are outside your control.
What you can control, though, is your decorum and diplomacy. How tactful were you about the changes being made to your business? How steadfast was your resolve to put employees’ needs and wants first and foremost? Was compassion a common theme?
As always, actions speak louder than words here. A good example of a company taking action despite difficult times is Airbnb’s “Alumni List”, where they go above and beyond to help their laid off employees connect with new employers. Helping your current employees move forward through the crisis, even if it’s in a different direction than that of your company, is how you show future employees that you would take care of them.
3. Were you consistent?
Crises are usually accompanied by an anxious sense of disjointedness. When presented with a landscape of shifting obstacles, complex perspectives, and evolving rhetoric, we start to feel adrift, unsure of where to head next.
This is a normal response to the complications of 2020 — it’s cognitive dissonance on a global scale. But once you’ve taken a step back, and really decided who you want your business to be, you need to stick to it and see it through despite all.
They say elephants never forget, but in today’s society of cancel-culture, the memories of the consumer are even longer. They will remember if you flip-flopped on social justice issues. They will remember if you say you believe in something then changed your mind when the opposite became more popular. They will remember if you only shaped up because you were called out.
They will remember hypocrisy, virtue-signalling, and words of hate, long after the dust of 2020 settles.
In the world of the single-minded employer, consistency is king. When you’re looking to invest in your business’ brand, you can measure its worth by how long you’ve stuck to a singular vision.
When you’re striving for success in your business, and to successfully find the top talent for your team to reach that level of success, be mindful that anyone who is considering investing their time or their money in your company is going to be looking at the consistency of your track record. In turbulent times, people will admire those who stood fast.
During a time of crises, your employer brand will be forged by fire. It’s up to you whether you’ll simply throw your fuel on the fire, or use it to rev up and make it out the other side alive.