As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, many employees are working from home, managing caring responsibilities while they work due to closed schools, and are acutely aware of how their employer is supporting them through this turbulent time.
For employers, this represents a unique opportunity to really demonstrate to your people that you care about them… and to attract the best talent from less supportive employers when you’re ready to bring more people on board.
Maintaining Your Employer Brand Through COVID-19
Employer branding is all about how you’re viewed as an employer, and it lives in the minds and hearts of former, current and future employees. It’s based on everything from salary and benefits packages to development opportunities to company culture and how you treat your employees.
In this time of COVID-19 shutdown your employer brand will be hugely impacted by the way you manage the stress, transition and increased pressures on your staff as they work from home, often with partners and children there with them, and deal with a number of non-work concerns.
Brand awareness is key in the current market, so when you are hiring again you’re front and centre in candidates’ minds and consideration. Building that awareness back from scratch if you’ve taken a break from branding activities leaves you behind competitors who sustain their brand identity in the market during this period.
Nhi Hemingway from NAB stresses;
The importance of employer brand and the communication of it doesn’t change during a crisis like COVID-19, it is crucial that we maintain our employment brand for both employees as well as for external talent. How NAB responds to the crisis and how we treat our employees will be highly visible and will be a factor in retaining staff as well as attracting talent. By being genuine and open, as well as aligned with our overall employment branding, we can ensure that the message is consistent.
Maintaining your focus on longer-term strategies such as on EVP, D&I initiatives, recruitment processes and talent communities remains important while you respond to the short-term pressures of COVID-19, as companies that disappear during this time of crisis may find it takes twice as long to get back to the same position you were in before.
When hiring resumes, you can either be a company talent flock to as they look for new opportunities, or a company that dropped the ball and along with that lose your top talent.
How to Hang on to Your People
A large financial services employer did anonymous post-exit interviews with their top female talent during 2018 to determine why they were leaving, and overwhelmingly discovered that women were leaving for better opportunities and conditions elsewhere, even if they weren’t particularly unhappy at the bank.
Research by the Work Institute estimates the cost of staff turnover is 33% of their salary, while other estimates for mid-level role turnover suggest it costs up to 125% of salary. We also know that people leave for reasons including management behaviour, wellbeing, compensation & benefits and work-life balance, along with the expected career development opportunities.
In this time of heightened stress and pressure there are some key things you can to do ensure you retain your top performers:
- Display increased empathy
People are working from home, often with partners and children also at home placing demands on their time. Some people may have lost someone close to them or be fearful about high risk family members. You won’t always know what is going on in someone’s personal life, so offer a lot of empathy and compassion at this time.
- Communicate openly
Reach out to your employees, show you care, ask what you can do to support them and what they need. You want your employees to feel cared for, valued and included, especially while they’re working remotely.
- Display genuine care
People need to know right now that they are not just a number on a budget line. While cost savings are a focus for many organisations, the cost of not looking after your team will present a much greater long-term cost.
- Maintain your long-term focus
While there are immediate pressures that need a response, it’s also important to maintain your position on D&I programs, talent nurturing and sustaining EVP to demonstrate that you are looking beyond the short term and focusing on the ongoing support of employees.
While everyone is a bit more stressed and a bit more distracted than normal, focusing on your people, demonstrating you care, and valuing wellbeing above productivity is crucial for retention.
Your Value Proposition, Brand Awareness and Positioning
Retention is a huge trigger for maintaining your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) during this time. If employees don’t feel cared for, valued and included then when the market turns your top talent will be out searching for new opportunities with those organisations that have held a strong EVP position throughout this time.
Attracting top candidates from companies that haven’t focused on retention is the second major value in maintaining EVP and brand awareness. Top talent looking for new opportunities will start with employers who have been vocal in the market about how they value and support their employees.
Those companies continuing to focus on EVP demonstrate it through their commitment to employee wellbeing, offering increased flexibility and empathy while pressures are increased, and continuing to focus on longer-term priorities such as gender equity, improvement of flexible work options, paid parental leave options, and equal opportunities.
Employers who are inspiring Australians right now through actions that support their employer branding – by demonstrably supporting their employees – will be the bright lights attracting top female talent when people start job searching.
Be a bright light by focusing on Inclusion, and take an HR Health Check here
Subscribe to our HR professionals newsletter and keep informed about the latest news and information on inclusion and diversity, hear what other employers are doing to attract women into their organisations and read inspiring stories from candidates.
About the author
To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on flexible working, pay equity, paid parental leave, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.