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Culture and Employment Branding – Why is it so important at this time?

by Ann-Maree Chadwick

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Culture and Employment Branding – Why is it so important at this time?

A positive company culture has consistently been shown to motivate employees to perform better and ensure customers spread the word about a company. However, sustaining this positivity is not easy, especially during this time.

Organisational responses to the current, uniquely challenging crisis have been many and varied. A lack of information and the lack of precedence from which to draw experience and ideas means there are many unanswered questions at the moment. There’s no handbook on how to manage the situation and no one has dealt with a crisis on this scale before.

However, the way an organisation adjusts in uncertain times to ensure new ways of working and support for its employees is crucial. (ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll 2020)

Employer branding

Every company has a reputation. This can include perceptions around products, services, leaders, team members, history, and more. It can even include emotional, instinctive and intellectual perceptions in the people who see their ads, use their products, and then eventually discuss the company with others. This reputation is the corporate, or external brand and can be a more powerful force than just what they sell.

Internal Branding

Companies also have a second brand which is the internal brand, or the perception of the company as an employer. It’s this employer brand that exists in the hearts and minds of former, current, and future employees.

Maintaining a positive employer brand is critical and ensures success in hiring and retaining the best employees. An employer brand that resonates defines the essence of a company, both how unique it is and what it stands for. It then aligns those aspirations with the employees they are hoping to attract.

Employer branding communicates who is a good employer and a where is a great place to work, which in turn boosts recruitment efforts and the engagement and retention of employees (Sarah Lybrand, LinkedIn Talent Blog, March 1, 2018).  A LinkedIn study of global recruiting trends showed examples of quantitative and qualitative benefits that having a strong employer brand were found to have a significant impact on the ability to attract and hire top talent.(https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/cx/2016/10/global-recruiting-trends-2017)

Whilst a company’s employer brand is separate to its consumer brand, which exists to sell products and services, the two are closely linked. Both should represent the same primary values as authentic, and the effectiveness of one can help to boost the other, and vice versa. (ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll 2020)

What should organisations want to be known for? People First, Economy Second

Whilst organisations are considering countless elements in the wake of coronavirus, in particular ensuring their business remains in operation and the wellbeing of employees is safeguarded, employer brand must not be neglected. Right now, it may not seem like a priority, but the protection of a vulnerable employer brand will minimise aftershock and enable an organisation to effectively scale up again, once we begin to return to a sense of normality. (ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll 2020)

“How [organisations] respond [to coronavirus] could have enormous implications for their employer brand, corporate reputation and even their financial survival,” says Aaron McEwan, VP of Advisory at Gartner. The choices your company makes now will determine its future and ability to bounce back once this crisis has passed. HR analyst Josh Bersin puts it simply: “People first, economics second”.

Generating Hope

Organisations, through their Leaders and Managers can increase hope through new goals, energy and ideas. Hope is more than sentimentality; it ties to work and life outcomes and generating hope in the workplace has been proven to keep employees engaged.

A Gallup study of over 10,000 employees found that they have 4 primary needs of their leaders being trust, compassion, stability and hope. These are all critical, all of the time. But since the Coronavirus pandemic, hope has been more valuable than ever because it is hope that is what will get us all through this. That's not sentimentality, hope has been well-researched and is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes from increased levels of income through to better health.

Gallup found that employees who strongly agree that “their leader makes them feel enthusiastic about the future” (Gallup's measure of hope in the workplace), are 69 times more likely to be engaged at work, compared to those who disagree with the statement.

Vital Ingredients for Employer Branding during /COVID-19

The situation that we all as individuals, companies, economies and governments are currently facing is difficult, but how we act during times of adversity says a lot about our characters. An organisation’s culture can be described as its behaviours at scale, that is, what it says and does. Culture is guided by purpose and values and is put to the test by crisis, as is happening right now.

Research by Berman and Thurkow found that companies that exhibit a winning culture, that have a strong internal compass and inspire their employees are 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders.

As leaders take the appropriate steps to survive this storm both financially and operationally, they are also looking into ways they can act that are in keeping with their culture.

They found this is helped by taking three specific steps.

1. Reflect on their purpose and values

2. Talk about their purpose and values

3. Bring their culture to life for customers, colleagues and the wider community

“As the global pandemic deepens and the human cost of Covid-19 rises, the novel coronavirus outbreak is sending shocks through the world economy. But across industries, companies can take action now to protect their employees and customers and minimise the economic damage.” (Marc Berman and Tracy Thurkow, Covid-19 Creates a Moment of Truth for Corporate Culture, 1 April, 2020)