The pandemic has presented unique challenges to human resource staff in terms of brand promotion. Most critically, how to keep employees feeling supported and engaged while also creating a strategic plan to promote your brand as an employer of choice to potential candidates during the crisis. Employer branding influences employee productivity, job satisfaction and retention rates and has a significant impact on the quality of candidates your facility will attract.
To be effective with brand promotion it’s important to recognize that modes of communication have changed. The global crisis has resulted in greater reliance on social platforms and technology. Social media, digital content, email, text and video apps are not only channels of communication but important tools for managing your organizational brand and value proposition during this period of social distancing. The numbers tell the story -- people are relying more on their smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Research by IZEA Insights shows that 66% of social media users expect their consumption across all channels to increase “slightly to significantly” during the pandemic. This shift means that employers need to adjust their branding strategy, support current staff remotely, and engage and build rapport with their target candidate pools.
A New Approach to Employer Branding
As noted, employer branding isn't just about recruitment but should include an employee engagement strategy which, in turn, improves retention. The degree of success your organization achieves in terms of employee retention and hiring greatly depends on developing a strong brand message that resonates with internal and external audiences.
Below are several tips and best practices that will help your organization redefine the branding strategy.
Support and value your employees
During crisis situations, most organizations tend to focus on external factors, such as customers, suppliers, public (especially candidate) perception. Certainly these are valid concerns, but you must not forget to also recognize that your employees need to be supported as well. This support can be in the form of virtual team meetings and virtual lunches to foster a sense of team and reduce isolation. For example, Twitter has developed #FlockTalk, a virtual employee support forum to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting both their professional and personal lives. Within the healthcare sector, these support sessions are of critical importance as they provide a forum allowing employees to unleash frustrations and stress to reduce burnout.
Whether your organization is implementing a large-scale branding strategy or making a modest change, the critical factor is to provide support and show employees that they are valued as they are the driving force behind future success. It’s important that all employee-centric efforts be highlighted on the organization website and social media pages as both active and passive job seekers would see the messages as they spend more time online.
Deliver consistent and transparent communications
In the absence of consistent communication, rumors fly that can negatively impact employee morale, fuel uncertainty and undermine efforts to manage the crisis. Transparency is important so be proactive in communicating any news or updates that directly affects employees.
The first step is to outline the most important messaging you wish to share and develop a list of FAQs. How will COVID-19 impact our facility? How will our jobs be impacted? Within the healthcare sector we already know the virus has resulted in an even greater staff shortage in certain areas of the country. All modes of communication, whether in team meetings, facility-wide emails or social media announcements should be consistent, transparent and aligned with overall messaging.
It’s important to also develop a communication plan to share the same information with prospective candidates. As noted, the use of social media platforms has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic, and therefore it's important to leverage as many available channels as possible, ensuring that the content aligns with previously defined messaging to internal teams. Provide direction with regard to tone and style of the messaging as you want the content to be shared in a way that is motivating and inspires confidence and a positive mind-set in your target audience. Every video or image projected on your website or social media pages should account for situational awareness; e.g with many people still required to keep social distancing, it is not the best time to display pictures of the team having fun at a company picnic. Be mindful of the visual associated with recruitment messaging.
Keep lines of communication open
Ensure that lines of communication remain open across the organization for internal teams and monitor social media comments posted by prospective candidates. Monitoring feedback regularly helps reduce stress for internal teams and reduces confusion for external audiences.
A crisis period provides an opportunity for your organization to evaluate its recruitment process and focus. Emphasis on diversity and inclusion is essential to attracting and retaining talent from different cultures and ethnic and socioeconomic groups. The way that employees and candidates are treated during the crisis forms the message regarding the organization’s value on diversity and inclusion. In sum, valuing a diverse workforce means that the organization embraces differences and rewards differences. The messaging needs to be consistent with actions so pay attention to content and optics across all communication channels. For example, use language that is comfortable for a wide audience and include multi-ethnic group photos.
Share stories and build meaningful connections
Every interaction with candidates influences their perception of your organization in terms of culture and brand. Consider every communication with candidates as an opportunity to promote your organization by highlighting its culture and sharing its values. The goal is build loyalty and be perceived as a great place to work.
Find a meaningful connection between the actions your organization takes with regard to its handling of the crisis and the positive impact these actions have on your organization and its staff. According to a LinkedIn study published in April, the posts that have resonated the most with audiences have been those that illustrate how organizations are playing an active role in helping relief efforts and offer messaging that “puts people first” as well as posts that promote public health. For healthcare organizations this almost goes without saying as the day to day work of clinical staff is to care for those most affected by the virus. However, posting stories and social media updates keeps the audience engaged and allows them to see the direct actions your clinical team is taking and how it affects them both personally and professionally.
Implementing a new approach to employer branding requires strategic planning, especially during periods of transition or crisis. Proactively listen to employee and candidate concerns, communicate consistently and openly, and share organizational goals and vision for the future with internal and external audiences. If your organization is able to do this you will build a strong employer brand that will stand the test of time no matter the storms that may come our way. The good news is that this is not a solo effort but should enlist the participation of company leaders, employees, as well as candidates who can provide an honest assessment of how well your talk matches the walk!
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