Employee branding has never been ad important for organisations as it is now. How companies behave during a crisis, impacts their employee value proposition.
“Crises create opportunities for employers to communicate what has been done for the welfare of the employees. These acts are further amplified during normal times and enhance brand equity of the organisation, leading to attraction and retention of the best talent,” says Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR consultant.
An employee will only work with you if you have the right culture. It is all about whether you are transparent and fair to your employees. Just because of COVID, you will not change your employee value proposition.
He further explains, “A company is known for the way it handles challenges during a crisis. It defines the approach of the organisation. If the company takes care of the employees during such times, its employees become its brand ambassadors and continue to remain so for a long time.”
However, one should remember, employee branding is not an overnight activity. In fact, many companies tend to create some spikes through an activity or a special leave policy, and expect some positive review almost instantly. However, while these activities do create some kind of positivity during the interim period, they are not a long-term gameplay.
Ravi Kyran, president-HR, Bajaj Auto, believes ‘consistency’ is a long-term strategy in employee branding. “Any organisation has to stick to its core philosophy, and have a consistent approach towards employee branding even during a crisis, such as COVID-19.”
For instance, an organisation which boasts about having employee-friendly policies over the years, but does not think twice before laying off people during the COVID pandemic, implies it’s going against its own beliefs and policies.
Kyran suggests that organisations own up, both during good and bad times. He cites an example of how some companies announce a certain special leave just to prove that they care about their employees. However, Kyran rightly points out that such tactics hardly work, because employees look for long-term commitment, whether times are good or bad.
It is understood that layoffs are a business decision, and sometime they are totally inevitable. However, layoffs can also paint a negative image of the company among job seekers. The manner in which layoffs are handled also counts.
Any organisation has to stick to its core philosophy, and have a consistent approach towards employee branding even during a crisis, such as COVID-19.
During this pandemic, the hospitality industry was the worst affected, and like many other players, Marriott had to furlough tens of thousands of employees. However, what made a difference was that the Company’s CEO, Arne Sorenson, also announced that he would relinquish his entire salary until the end of 2020. In addition, his executive team volunteered to take a 50 per cent pay cut. What made this layoff and the entire episode stand out was the fact that Marriott’s leadership was also ready and willing to face the brunt, and not just at the cost of the employees, who were asked to leave.
Similarly, the President and CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillion, visited many of the Walmart stores to engage with the frontline employees. The act was a statement that the CEO was also out there to show solidarity during chaos, and not just sitting in his closed cabin simply passing orders.
Rohit Suri, chief HR & talent officer – South Asia and Corporate Communications – GroupM India, says, “An employee will only work with you if you have the right culture. It is all about whether you are transparent and fair to your employees. Just because of COVID, you will not change your employee value proposition.”
“The fact of the matter is, how you deal with your employees should be fairly consistent. If it is in your organisation’s DNA, it will continue to be so irrespective of the time frame,” Suri adds.
Crises create opportunities for employers to communicate what has been done for the welfare of the employees. These acts are further amplified during normal times and enhance brand equity of the organisation, leading to attraction and retention of the best talent.
So how do employees perceive employee branding during these COVID-19 times?
As per Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR) 2020, 50 per cent of candidates say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation – even if offered a pay increase.
Priyadarshi opines, “Employees do not join a company only for compensation. There’s always more — what the organisation offers to an individual apart from the salaries.”
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