Five steps to retool your employer brand for 2021

Has your employer brand held up during the pandemic? Even companies with stand-up employer brands in February need to retool them in the pandemic age. For example, how has your brand changed regarding remote work, innovation, and your new role for the office? Same old, isn’t effective anymore.

Before March, many companies believed that their customer brand would attract and retain their valuable workforce. In other words, they didn’t even have an employer brand. That was a mistake. Employer and customer brands while related are different.

Customer brands articulate how your products and services meet customer needs, distinguishes your products from competing products in the market, and provides customer testimonials. Employer brands shout out your organization’s purpose to improve humanity, the cool work your workforce does and how employees get a sense of emotional fulfillment doing this work. Employer brands also clarify the benefits, development, and career opportunities provided by your company. Extraordinary employer brands also share what it is like to work for your company and insights on its culture.

Now, your employer brand needs also to articulate your organization’s steps for pay transparency to address concerns women and people of color have with respect to pay inequity and efforts to prevent discrimination and unconscious bias. To address the pandemic, your employer brand needs to share how your organization transitioned to remote work and who can work at home, for how many days a week, and the office’s new role. layout, and safety enhancements.

I know that a strong employer brand attracts more high-quality employees and improves retention. I learned about this reality from my work leading HR at Honeywell Space Systems, Medtronic Microelectronic Center, and Medtronic’s Operations in Santa Rosa, CA and with business units in Europe and Asia. As a consultant, I saw the advantages of employer brands working with clients such as Maximus Real Estate and Samsung Semiconductor.

The empirical evidence shows that companies with strong employer brands can attract more and better job candidates, retain their employees, and also improve their sales as consumers tend to trust companies with a higher employer brand. This evidence is clear. Companies with a strong employer brand realize a strong return on investment from their efforts.

Below are five steps to improve your pandemic world employer brand:

First, The Basics. An employer brand must articulate an employee value proposition that goes beyond the pay for the job. What is your organization’s purpose of improving humanity? The cool work your employees do? If a job candidate joins the firm, how will they benefit in the long term? What features of your pay or benefits offering distinguishes it from your labor force competitors? Is it your health care benefits? Wellness incentives? 401(k) match? Does your organization invest in skill upgrades and developing employee careers? Are you committed to innovation with a transparent, collaborative, and performance-based (meaning not overly political, hierarchical, and stayed) culture?

Second, Post Pandemic. Covid19 has changed everything and exposed the weaknesses in the world of  work. While only nine percent of employees worked from home a few days a week before the pandemic, now  80% of office workers work at home, and 50% of them want to continue to work from home two to three days a week, or more post-pandemic. Will your employer brand address this workforce issue? The leading employers in remote work are investing in new operational norms, training, and new digital technologies to provide answers to employee questions 24/7. They realize it takes more than ZOOM to optimize remote work.

The leaders are hiring employees from remote cities across the country or allowing employees to move from high cost cities such as San Francisco and New York to  lower cost suburbs or even to the employees’ home towns in the Midwest. How will you address pay equity across the country and the cost of relocation for employees? Many employers such as Stripe are reducing employee pay to match their new locations’ salary but providing them relocation stipends.

Third, Racial equity. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police have pressured employers to not only make statements in support of racial equality but to take concrete actions to stop any harassment, discrimination, and unconscious bias at the workplace, and to redouble efforts to reach out to diverse communities to find, develop, and hire indigenous and people of color (IPOC). The standard has been raised. It is no longer acceptable to hire a VP of Diversity, make public statements of support, launch a few programs, and be satisfied with little or no progress.

Over 60% of the workforce, both whites and IPOC, want to see real change, according to a June 2020 Harris Poll survey. The evidence is also clear that more diverse organizations have higher performance, more innovation, and better financial performance. Companies that improve their racial and female equality succeed with a combination of targeted executive or board hires, making sure IPOC (and women) are not overlooked for development and promotions early in their careers. They also have transparent policies pay policies, and strong mentoring and coaching programs for all employees. How will your brand address racial equity?

Fourth, employees need to articulate your brand. Having statements on your company website or the companies career opportunities page won’t cut it anymore. Whether in statements on company web pages or videos (videos work better), your company’s purpose, cool work, and career development opportunities need to be articulated by your workforce.  I know from first-hand experience that this is not expensive. It does not require glitzy marketing production–the more heartfelt and genuine, the better.

Fifth, Get on social media. Where do your current and future employees hang out on the web? LinkedIn? Instagram? Reddit? Many companies will discover that engineers may be on Reddit chat rooms, and the marketing people on Instagram. Employees not actively looking for work may not be on LinkedIn or Glassdoor. The point is you need to promote your brand where current and future employees will find it. Many companies are taking their brand messages a bit further and providing helpful posts or short videos to potential job candidates on how to prepare for an interview with the company. This is a fantastic strategy to build relationships with job candidates you haven’t met!

2020 is a once-in-a-generation year and it is not over! Change is everywhere. How will your employer brand adapt?

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR, implement remote work, recruit executives, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at 

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