We know that businesses across all industries are suffering due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and how deeply it has affected our workforce. Some companies have slowed their recruiting efforts or put all recruiting on hold. Others –in industries on the “front line,” such as healthcare, retail/grocery, pharmacy, and/or food service—are still hiring in order to serve their communities.
There are plenty of troubling headlines about companies slashing employees’ pay, furloughing thousands from its workforce, and the record number of unemployment claims that reach the top of news feeds. But there are positive headlines, too, about companies taking actions to preserve their workforces and find ways to help.
How companies react to market changes outside of their control is critical to their ability to rebound after the crisis has passed. That’s why HR and Talent Acquisition leaders need to be especially focused on communications that can help them maintain their employer brand and preserve their pipeline.
The role of employment brand messaging
during a crisis
Consider what your employee or next candidate may be going through right now: they may be reeling due to job loss and have lost trust in their employer, or have started to reevaluate their industry career choice as a result of this crisis. Some may even be feeling that their company was too slow to adapt during a crisis to get workers into protective spaces. There is also evidence of a shift under way in how workers feel new technologies and workplace culture should improve the way they work, not only during good times but more so during a crisis.
Unprecedented events outside of an employer’s control can prompt employees and candidates to reassess and rethink memories of past events, such as converting positive memories into negative ones, or vice versa.
This is when HR needs to have a role in influencing employer brand behavior and find ways (at the right time) to infuse more meaning into messaging to employees and current and future job seekers.
In uncertain situations like these, company leadership (especially HR leaders) face questions they may not even have answers to. It’s always important communicate early and often with your employees and company stakeholders throughout a crisis. Even if you’re still trying to understand the extent of the problem, be honest and open to maintain credibility. Approach the situation with empathy. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes to understand their anxiety. You may have to change position because the situation is very fluid, but it is still better to be communicate as transparently as possible than not communicate.
The action a company takes needs to be genuine, a true expression of the company’s beliefs and values. Some of the best examples are those that show how an employer supports its employees and “has their back” when things impact their life and livelihood.
As the pandemic began to unfold, many companies began to pull down job postings and stopped communicating with candidates overall to avoid the risk of getting it wrong. Or they were so consumed on figuring how to manage employee communications, they didn’t do it in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the lack of communication in the early days of a crisis in itself says volumes. Companies that communicate with speed and agility when things go “wrong” stand out in the eyes of their audience – consumers and jobseekers alike.
There are a few easy ways you can communicate with candidates that have big impact. For example, a note to candidates in your pipeline to keep them engaged might read: Hiring may be on hold for the next 3-4 months but we still want to keep you as part of our talent pool, are you interested? Standing up a web page that tells candidates what your hiring process looks like now given the crisis will help to provide answers to candidates who return to your careers site. But I wouldn’t stop there;, be proactive and make sure your social sites are updated with the link to your new webpage and be sure your social messages and feeds are updated to include this new page link.
A company that communicates with their candidates who are in the pipeline or those who applied in the last 90 days “stands out from the pack,” gaining a competitive advantage when hiring resumes, as well a reputation as an employer of choice in the hearts and minds of candidates.
Show your true Value as an Employer
As employers learn to cope with the uncertainty of not knowing when hiring will come back and ponder the right actions to take to navigate these turbulent waters, they can take steps now to build for the future in the intersection of three things: the company’s commitment to its talent (the employer value proposition or EVP); the company’s brand identify, which is the voice and DNA that sets the brand apart; and the dynamic needs of the community during the crisis, which include current customers, employees and future candidates.
Now is the time to keep your employee value proposition front and center. Let your employees and candidates alike know what you are doing to keep livelihoods intact and share the steps you’re taking to protect your employees. Share what you’re learning; for example, if remote working options have created novel ways of engaging between managers and their team, let everyone know.
It may be months before we see a return to the hiring levels we saw prior to COVID-19, but with the right communications, your employer brand can weather the storm and put you in the perfect position to engage with top talent when you need them.