Originally published in In-Business Magazine, Australia
International Employer Brand Strategist and Chairman/CEO of Employer Brand International, Brett Minchington offers readers some insight and tips on how to maintain employer brand equity during the financial downturn.
Don't do this!
In the wash up of the shifting of financial markets over the past 12 months there have been massive layoffs by companies once seen as the 'poster child' of their industry where everyone wanted to work but only the top talent could get in. How times have changed in such a short period of time, these same organisations (and whole industries) who once enjoyed 'preferred employer' status are now off the list of talent looking to switch jobs or graduates looking to enter the job market for the first time.
It amazes me just how quickly brand equity can be eroded by actions taken so swiftly without any thought to the impact on the employer brand of the organisation.
For example consider an organisation that needed to lay off 500 staff quickly and the responsibility was delegated to the HR department who then delegated it to line managers to cross off names on a spreadsheet which contained only names, job classifications and salaries. Akin to placing the list on a dartboard and taking aim to reduce the list from 800 to 300, managers simply had to make staff redundant, many who they had never met before and had no knowledge of their capabilities (we all know salary level does not always reflect capability level!).
Whilst the task achieved its objective of reducing head count by 500 people think about the damage done to the company's employer brand!
Consider when the economy turns and the economy improves, the time it will take for this type of company to restore confidence that it is a 'great place to work,' and the impact it will have on their ability to compete for talent and stay competitive in their industry.
Whilst the scenario described above would likely win an award for 'best practice' on how not to reduce head count during an economic downturn, leaders must be conscious of how they managed these situations more effectively during these times to risk undoing all the hard work to build employer brand equity.
10 Tips to stay on track
Minchington suggests some initiatives companies can undertake to manage their employer brand during the downturn and actually build employer brand equity during this time.
- Ensure open communication across the lines. This will help to squash rumours in their tracks before they spread and be perceived as fact.
- Continue to undertake staff research to ensure you have a good handle on how employees perceive the employment experience.
- Treat people with empathy, respect and communicate honestly if layoffs are necessary and provide every opportunity to ensure they are 'fit' to move to another role outside the organisation - treat them like family!
- Undertake audit work on your employer brand to develop your strategy for implementation so in 12-18 months you are best positioned for when the economy improves.
- Invest in building capabilities in your employees through integrated learning and development programs.
- Encourage coaching and mentoring programs to keep your leaders close to their people and enhance engagement.
- Audit your existing materials, channels, themes and messages to ensure these are best-fit for the next 12-18 months and ensure your internal and external communication strategy is relevant.
- Continue to celebrate individual and team success. A simple 'thank you,' or 'well done' can be much more powerful than a movie ticket!
- Use the time to get good stories about your employment practices out into the media, and
- Most of all, stay focused on the tasks at hand, keep an open mind to what's reported in the media about the crisis and let your staff feel confident you have a well thought out strategy for managing the company through the next 12-18 months.
Brett Minchington will be joined by 13 International and National employer brand specialists to Chair the 2009 Australian Employer Brand Summits in Melbourne (31/3/2009) and Sydney (7/4/2009).