As a UK based business who operate as part of the staffing and recruiting sector, we have already witnessed dramatic changes to the industry from the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. UK cases and deaths are rising daily, and people at risk (over 70’s, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women) now need to self-isolate for the next 12 weeks to avoid catching the virus. We are all going through a huge period of uncertainty, businesses are having to make massive adjustments and it’s almost impossible not to feel panicked. The MD of our parent brand Searchability Martin issued a statement on this last week coupled with some solutions to help clients’ future proof their hiring plans (read more here), so as the employer brand arm of the business we wanted to examine the impact this could be having on your employer brand too.

Employee safety

The safety of your employees should always be a priority, and companies that have been handling this developing situation calmly in a way that shows employee trust have seen a positive impact upon their employer brand. This includes ensuring the workplace is a safe as it can be (enhanced and more frequent cleaning, hand sanitiser and hand washing facilities etc.) and ensuring there are clear guidelines for absences caused by exhibiting symptoms etc. Overzealous policies surrounding the coronavirus coupled with a perception of distrust that employees aren’t always being honest about symptoms have caused some organisations a big problem. Not only can this approach damage your reputation through word of mouth, but it can also encourage spread of the virus, which needs to be avoided at all costs. We are now at a stage where most employees are having to take action on this, but it is clear that some organisations have handled this stage much better than others.

Delivering information to employees

In times like this there is a lot of anxiety in the air. People are concerned about the virus itself, and without clarity on safety procedures or reassurance from management it can heighten this even further and build tension amongst your workforce. Take a leaf out of the governments book and deliver clear updates to your people regularly, whether that is in person, through individual departments or through email. With news of organisations taking the tough decisions to make redundancies, or put employees onto statutory sick pay, your employees probably want to know where they stand in terms of job security and their future with your company. Avoiding tough conversations will only hurt you in the long run, so aim to keep employees updated to show how much you value them.

The financial impact

Unless you manufacture hand sanitiser, chances are you have seen a financial hit as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus on your business. This might have caused you to cut jobs, stop hiring and put a halt on marketing spend for your employer brand. There are certain things that cannot be avoided, however it’s important to not let all of your hard work and efforts go to waste and keep things ticking over where you can. Continuing to update social media platforms with organic posts for example will help to keep your following engaged without eating into your budget. Open up a talent pool function on your careers page so that you can capture the details of interested candidates ready for a time when you are in the position to hire again, and ensure you are still responding to candidates who apply even if it is to let them know you aren’t hiring right now.

Remote working that works

Employer brands are naturally shaped by your people and influenced greatly by your environment and culture. If you have had to take the decision to move to a remote working approach, then you will want to ensure that you don’t lose collaboration between teams or see a breakdown in communication as a result. Tools such as Slack / Microsoft Teams are a great way to stay connected and collaborate on projects if you are forced into working from home. Encourage video calls and regular team catch ups in an effort to maintain a positive working atmosphere.

Team spirit and camaraderie

Whether you are still in the office, or working from home, it’s hard not to succumb to the doom and gloom of what is happening in the world with COVID-19 Coronavirus. If you can, aim to lift spirits and encourage a “we’re all in this together” approach. This could be as simple as managers leading motivational meetings or even offering a small gesture to your employees to help them navigate their way through these difficult times. The companies that champion the approach of all pulling together will come out the strongest at the end of this.

Adapt and change

Marketing will be a big part of your employer brand strategy, so chances are anything you had scheduled for the coming weeks will need to be re-evaluated. Content needs to be extra sensitive to the current situation, and you should be communicating clear messaging around your approach to handling COVID-19 in your business and how this is affecting your employees. People are crying out for good news and positivity, so aim to lift spirits by showcasing a little happiness in your posts. You might share your working from home stories along with images of your employees adjusting to new working environments with their pets and children. Whatever you do, you need to be ready to adapt and make changes to what you do and how you promote your employer brand, because the tides can turn very quickly.

In times like this it’s important to appreciate what we all have, and when that comes to employer branding it is the people in your company that make you who you are. We hope everyone stays safe during these confusing times and try to keep as positive as you can. If we all look after each other and focus on being kind we will come out the other side ready to do great things for our employer brands.

Sophie Hopley

Founder & Employer Brand Director

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