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Post-COVID, here’s why employer brands will never be the same again

Post-COVID, here’s why employer brands will never be the same again

How did you treat your staff during the pandemic? From now on, people will want to know. They’ll want to know before they decide they want to work with you. And this will be a huge factor in how you reposition your employer brand.

We’ve all had to make tough decisions during this period. For many, that’s included pay cuts and redundancies or long furloughs. Potential employees and customers will remember what you did and why for some time – which means your company may have some explaining to do, and a refocusing of your employer brand may be needed to take mistakes into account.

Don’t worry: people understand that redundancies have been inevitable. It’s how you handled them that matters and will impact your brand. The ‘COVID-19 test’ will be a way for candidates to rank employers.

For instance, as Rolls-Royce faces 9,000 job cuts and a massive reduction in recruitment, they’re looking to put a positive spin on the need for an agile workforce by repositioning their employer brand. Rather than offering a defined job path, the emphasis will be on a career with Rolls-Royce and an opportunity to build together.

With many more job losses still to come, it’s vital to reflect on how to position your employer brand around recovery and get top talent interested in supporting your recovery plan. BP notably failed to do that after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with the result that top talent actually left. So while recruitment approaches will need to be more focused on flexible working and job security, they’ll also need to take a back seat to employee engagement and talent retention.

That means brands will need to rely more on employee advocacy – which means creating employee advocates. Many employees will have started to question their “why” while away from the workplace, so internal employer branding needs to remind employees of the higher purpose of their work.

However, it’s worth looking at this like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Make sure basic employee needs like fair pay, benefits, and wellbeing are met before focusing too much on higher purpose.

The actions of leadership during the crisis will be under scrutiny, with many executives having learned the hard way that if you claim to espouse certain values, you need to stick to them when the going gets tough.

Ultimately, though, it’s candidates themselves who’ll teach us what employer branding needs to look like post-COVID. What people look for in a role is going to change fast; we need to let go of assumptions and expectations, stay flexible, and keep a close eye on the landscape. There are likely to be surprises we can’t predict yet.