Get Your Message Right: Considerations For Your COVID-19 Employer Brand Strategy

Woman making notes while working from home

The new coronavirus has radically disrupted the work of many businesses. While firms such as Coles or Woolworths make headlines with their hiring plans, others face a great deal of uncertainty, and it may not always be clear what to do next. Feeling like you’re stuck in the “Twilight Zone” can be very frustrating and unnerving.

Each employer will respond to the crisis by making decisions based on their specific situation. But whether you’re in the position to hire right now or are planning next steps, it is still important for employers and job seekers to build and maintain relationships. There are steps you can take, both to address the situation in real time and to prepare for when the world returns to the office.

Let’s take a look at how we can do just that, with a special focus on messaging and its potential impact — positive and negative — on your employer brand.

It’s not business as usual

Here’s one thing COVID-19 hasn’t changed: each day our inboxes are bombarded with marketing and sales messages. If you’re anything like me, you will have seen some pretty cringe-worthy stuff. Some are very superficial, and sound as if nothing has changed. The worst are clumsily trying to exploit the crisis for their own benefit.

If you’re in the business of hiring, it’s critical to get your messages right. Remember — your employer brand is an investment; you may occasionally change your employer brand strategy, but you need to think long term. What candidates or employees see today could impact how they think about you months from now.

Failing to acknowledge the current work environment and limitations could cause a negative reaction from candidates and employees. So first ask: Is there any insensitive messaging that could seem inappropriate in today’s climate? Check your social, your website and your Company Page — anywhere you have a presence. If there’s anything that seems off, make sure you take it down.

Speak to all your audiences

Next, put yourself in the shoes of all your audiences. Think about how you could use your brand platform to assist those in need. Many people in different situations will be looking at the messages you put out there. Are you speaking to all of them? Whether or not you are looking to expand immediately, the same rules apply.

Think of these categories of candidates and employees at this time:

    • Those who have been stood down or laid-off due to corporate re-evaluation or necessity.
    • Those concerned that they may be stood down.
    • Those that have been considering other career options and suddenly find more time on their hands to act.
    • Those that are evaluating other companies because their company is not reacting to the situation as they think they should.

Even if you are not in a position to hire right now, the situation will change — and candidates share information with each other about how they are treated.

Tell your story

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the crisis, though. Is your organisation doing something to help? Talk about it. Tell your story via social media, blogs, or on your Company Page. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your resilience as an organisation, to let people know about your values and what you stand for when the going gets tough.

Here at Indeed, we rapidly launched a resource centre for job seekers and employers, to help our users navigate these difficult times. Some retailers have used increased profits to pass on bonuses to the staff standing in the front lines of the crisis. A few months back, when Australia was fighting bushfires, several employers, such as Johnson & Johnson, took this to heart and used their employer brand platform to address the crisis and show what they were doing as a company for the public good.

So what are you doing? What are your employees doing? Tell the story, but always: be straightforward, honest, sincere and — above all — helpful.

Monitor the conversation

Nowadays, employees and candidates alike have the opportunity to tell their stories in the form of reviews on third party websites. You should always be responsive to what people are saying on your Company Page, but at times like this it is extra important.

These are difficult times for everyone. Lots of people are stressed. So it’s all the more important to make certain someone is available to respond to reviews from those who may have had a negative experience after being stood down or laid-off.

First of all, it’s the right thing to do from a human perspective. It’s also important for maintaining your organisation’s reputation. Silence or indifference is never the right message to send, but it’s worse at a time like this. So be responsive, and be empathetic, even if it’s difficult. Candidates will see that people matter to you. That could make a real difference to your ability to attract talent, both now and long term.

Look to pipeline talent

Be transparent. If you are still hiring, or utilising your talent network, let candidates know if (a) response times are going to be affected because of current working conditions and (b) if they will be considered for future roles if there is not a current opening/requisition.

The number one complaint most candidates have about employers is the “black hole” — the experience of sending in an application only to receive no response.

It may be tough to respond to every applicant, but by doing so, you demonstrate that you value the time and effort they took to reach out to you.

Remember: candidates share their experiences. Make sure your reputation reflects a caring, supportive, empathetic attitude.

Review all your options

And finally, even as you are thinking about the messages you are putting out there, don’t forget to stop and take stock of all the options that are available to you.

Do you have jobs that can be performed remotely? Indeed is closely monitoring job search traffic and has seen a huge surge in job seeker interest around terms such as “work from home” or “remote” — while employers have lagged a little behind the trend. Make it clear in your listings that this is a possibility. We have also seen a great deal of interest following recent retail hiring announcements.

Candidates are searching. It’s important to help them find the information they need. For however long the coronavirus situation lasts, Indeed is here to help. Many of these messaging options are available at no cost, and without long-term contract commitments. Whether it’s through your job ads or Company Pages, you can put your organisation’s information where it can be seen, enabling you to reach candidates you may need now — while maintaining a conversation with those you will need in the future.

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