Over the past six months, organizations have been forced to reassess their business strategies. Companies went into survival mode, implementing hiring freezes, layoffs, and furloughs to manage their business in a time of deep uncertainty. But now, the conversation is shifting from survival to growth and continuity in what may be the new normal — and HR leaders are left to consider how they can do more with less while preparing their businesses for the future.
“With the fiscal and budgetary considerations that we have in this downturn, people are naturally looking to where they can cut costs—but neglecting the talent pipeline can add a lot of risk,” says Andy Curlewis, senior vice president of brand, digital, and communications at Cielo. “If you don’t invest in building talent pools and talent pipelines, you won’t be able to maintain your business critical talent or quickly accelerate your hiring if needed—you need people to deliver on customer expectations, deliver the new contracts that you win, and keep driving innovation, you are putting your business at a material risk.”
But building a healthy pipeline requires good company culture, brand, and reputation. In fact, Ocean Tomo’s Intangible Asset Market Value Study says that corporate value is 85 percent determined by intangible assets like brand, leadership and innovation. To communicate these elements to the greater talent marketplace, HR leaders need to develop an employer value proposition (EVP) and branding strategy that is clear, authentic, and personalized.
“In today’s business climate, we have to manage bigger talent pools for longer with highly nuanced messaging—messaging about COVID-19 or Black Lives Matter which we need to be deeply considered about,” says Curlewis. “We can’t just create bland or reactive communications because people are looking and if they are not happy with what they’re seeing or don’t believe it’s authenticity, the propensity for talking about it online is exponentially higher than it has ever been. That means we’ve got an imperative to think about employer brand and what we’re saying to people and how.”
He says that to succeed in this highly digitalized and connected climate, organizations need to have a great story to share, be hyper-personalized with their approach, and understand what candidates want and need in an employer. They also need to be genuine, with a mission and values that truly reflect the culture within the organization. Otherwise, they risk getting exposed in the press and ruining their reputation as both a company and an employer.
How can HR leaders enhance their branding efforts to attract the best-fit talent for their pipeline?
Keep the EVP clear and simple. In today’s world, employees are constantly overwhelmed with communications, tools, reports, and complexity—so organizations need to make sure that their outreach is clear, simple, and engaging. “We need a clear vision and purpose and a set of values that we hold ourselves to. If you don’t have your north star arranged in that way, none of this will work,” says Curlewis.
He recommends that organizations remain transparent, using the EVP as a blueprint of their policies as well as cultural norms. For example, the remote working environment should be a key component of employer branding in the COVID-19 era. “You have to be really clear about what your flexible working policies are and make sure that is present in the EVP,” he explains. “Many people say they have a policy for flexible working, but in practice, it’s no great benefit because they have a culture of managers thinking people should be checking into the office at 9am. The culture and policies need to align.”
Engage your leadership. In order for a branding campaign to be truly effective, the message has to be communicated and owned from the top—a CEO who holds the organization and themselves accountable to a mission and set of values. But Curlewis says that messaging should also cascade down to empower all leaders across the business so that all employees feel represented.
Personalize the message. “The third thing HR leaders need to think about is that their communications need to be localized,” explains Curlewis. “Especially if it’s a global organization, you have to make sure that your leaders in-country don’t roll out an employer brand which doesn’t resonate, doesn’t speak to, and in fact alienates local countries and segments.”
Utilize a variety of channels. Last, HR leaders should make sure that their talent pipeline outreach efforts meet candidates where they are. Because people across the world prefer different communications platforms, organizations should adopt an omni-channel approach with messaging that is repeated frequently and validated by behaviors and culture.
Marta Chmielowicz of HRO Today contributed to this article.