This article originally appeared in Human Resource Executive.
Across every industry and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fundamentally alter workplace culture. In many ways, it has caused leadership and HR professionals to take a critical look at their employer brand—in other words, the employee experience they promise for their people and what they’re doing to deliver on it.
The start of a new year is traditionally the busiest time for talent management, and 2021 has been no exception. If anything, the pandemic has intensified the competition to attract and retain top talent, so it’s more important than ever to be an employer that stands out for all the right reasons.
Now is the time to reflect, assess and pivot your employer brand. Here are three key priorities to build a resilient value proposition.
1. Reflect on what you’ve done so far
Every employee will remember where they were working and how they were treated by their company in 2020. As an employer, what do you want to be remembered for? What are you doing to help your people feel supported and confident amid so much uncertainty?
While states and cities reopen at different rates, Costco was the first retailer to require face masks for employees and shoppers in all locations. By doing so, they not only demonstrated their commitment to the health and safety of their people, but also provided consistent guidance for what employees should expect in the workplace. In another unfortunate, yet common case, Airbnb made the difficult decision to have layoffs. What stands out is how it was communicated: in an open letter that explained the decisions that led to that outcome, as well as specific benefits and actions to assist alumni in finding new jobs.
With constant change in the world, employees look to their employer for guidance and stability. Providing transparency around your decision-making and future goals can help people feel confident about the direction you are all headed in.
To understand the current strength of your employer brand, we recommend:
- Reviewing 2020 communications and actions to identify how well you lived up to your employee value proposition
- Looking across the competitive and peer landscape for best practices and learnings
- Tailoring research to understand how potential candidates perceive you as an employer
2. Understand your employee engagement
When “shelter in place,” “social distancing” and other pandemic-related terminology entered our vocabulary, many companies went into over-communication mode. It was a great start, but as an employer, what have you done to also listen to your employees? How are you planning to engage with them going forward?
Companies like Jacobs Solutions and Chevron maintain weekly all-hands meetings to share updates and provide a platform for others to share a work experience or learning. Other organizations are conducting regular pulse surveys to assess how people are feeling about working from home, as well as their readiness to return to a shared work environment. CVS Health is going a step further, actively taking feedback and using it to inform the employee experience, from working hours to childcare and bonuses.
It’s one thing to ask employees for their feedback, but quite another to give them a voice and active role in how their experience is shaped. Putting their insights to work can be a powerful and positive differentiator for your brand.
To assess and track employee engagement, we recommend:
- Designing employee listening studies that can help inform 2021 plans, including where to focus or invest
- Assessing which channels and platforms are most relevant
- Evaluating the level of understanding and commitment to your brand purpose
3. Use brand to set a new course for the future
Over the past year, it’s likely your employer brand hasn’t lived up to its full potential or provided everything your teams have needed. That’s OK, because the best EVPs are a little aspirational. What’s important is what you have learned and what you’ll do with this knowledge to set course for a better future.
Twitter has supported remote work for a while, but COVID-19 pushed the company to make this option permanent. At the same time, they are keeping some offices in recognition that some employees would rather work in those dedicated spaces; instead of choosing one option over another, Twitter is embracing a flexible model for its diverse workforce. When it comes to recruiting new hires, many companies are also going virtual, pursuing online informational sessions and video-screening calls. Practices once thought to be undesirable, or even impossible, may be here to stay thanks to supplemental benefits including access to a broader talent pool, faster candidate identification and lower costs as a result.
As an employer, now is the time to think strategically about your employee experience. How you communicate, act and invest today can help position yourself as an employer of choice in the future.
To begin to thoughtfully infuse the brand into the future employee experience, we recommend:
- Creating experiences that bring brand to a distributed workforce
- Elevating the heart of your brand—the people—through the digital experience
- Ideating and implementing new pillars, including values, purpose and experiences that stay true to the company’s past, but help it transition for the world into the future
For some, the pandemic required new action and ways of working. For others, it provided an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of their employee value proposition. No matter what lessons 2020 taught you, this is the time to put those learnings into practice, strengthen your employee culture and make meaningful decisions about the future.
Christine Lim is a Senior Strategist