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Building a strong employer brand in a post-COVID world

Posted by
Alex Rosen
November 16, 2021

When the pandemic swept across the world last year, there was no rulebook for organizations to play by. But we rallied and began to adapt to the new rules. We sent out safety primers to our employees. Installed video conferencing software and moved our meetings online. Hosted Mafia parties on Friday evenings.

But we did it with the underlying sense that this was all temporary and we would go back to normal in a matter of months. One quarter into 2021, no one is sure anymore.  

The new normal of a remote workforce looks to be well-established. That means we need to rally again to adapt these temporary measures for the long term. Immediate crisis management needs are behind us, but there is more work to do to keep your employer brand strong.

From candidates screened by your recruiters to employees leaving your organization, everyone carries impressions of your brand. By creating positive experiences for them throughout their journey, there is a huge opportunity to turn them into brand ambassadors.

#1 Make lasting first impressions

Job seekers are already facing uncertainty and stress. Your hiring experience should not add to this. One way to do this is by being available to answer their queries and address their concerns when they are free to engage, even after work hours. Given that in the past year, the number of job seekers in the market has skyrocketed, this isn’t easy. To ease the pressure on your recruiters, you could deploy smart tech like AI chatbots to engage with candidates 24*7. 

Take a look at our talent engagement starter kit templates here.

#2 Embrace tech to simplify processes

Between answering candidate queries and scheduling interviews all completely online, there is a lot of room for missed communication and delays, leading to a bad impression for candidates. You can address this by creating systems that are candidate-friendly and flexible. 

Glassdoor reports that 58% of job seekers apply from their mobile phones, but are 53% more likely to leave their job application incomplete. (And no, this isn’t mostly millennials: it’s mid-career candidates aged 35-44). Ensuring that your website, application portal and video conferencing setup are mobile-friendly goes a long way in making a positive first impression.

Another area with scope for improvement is screening and scheduling; these are essential recruitment activities that are incredibly time consuming. By deploying automation, you can eliminate up to 90% of the manual effort, freeing up your recruiters’ time for people-centric activities and helping them get back to candidates faster.

#3 Transform the interview experience

Video interviews have gone from being the exception to being the rule. But job seekers are still getting used to it. Remember that with everyone working from home and movement outside to cafes or co-working spaces restricted, not everyone has a beautiful, quiet office setup to give interviews from. There could also be internet connectivity issues that make the experience sub-par.

There is definitely a need to sensitize your interviewers to such challenges and coach them to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere in the interview. These interviews are also a great opportunity for you to signal your organization’s principles on diversity and inclusion. For example, by having interview panels with representation or offering additional support like text to speech or captioning for candidates with disabilities. 

Proactive measures made at this stage will reflect very well on your employer brand and make you a company that job seekers want to work for.

#4 Create policies for the new work life

Work has spilled into our homes but the reverse is also true. We have seen hilarious memes of pets and kids taking over video conferences, but behind this is stark reality. Employers can no longer ignore the families and home setups of their people. Instead of trying to create a work atmosphere that replicates the sanitized office space, it is probably smarter to embrace what is.

With pandemic anxiety and increased responsibilities, people are struggling to hold onto their mental health. Instances of depression are increasing and work focus has plummeted. A number of employers have responded to this by rolling out mental health benefits to their employees. Others like Facebook and Unum have given additional paid time off for those with caregiving responsibilities.

Yet others have become flexible with timings, changing their focus from hours worked to outcome. Identify what matters the most to your employees and craft your policies around their needs.

#5 Communicate openly and regularly

You need to get through to your people and they need to feel heard. How does one make that happen in a mostly-virtual world?

One, by creating opportunities for cross-team and cross-functional conversations through chat rooms or breakout sessions. A sort of lunch table chat or water cooler conversation if you will. Otherwise, there is the danger of employees working in silos with the people they already know from before. This leaves new joinees high and dry without a sense of belonging.

Two, by making your leadership team more accessible and reachable to employees because now more than ever, they want answers and reassurance. This can be accomplished  through communication, for example, monthly notes from the leaders and Ask Me Anything sessions.

Three, by choosing the right medium for the right message. Emails work for general updates while texting is great for 1:1 check-ins. Whatever you choose, tailor it by purpose and recipient, and ensure that it emulates the benefits of in-person communication: two-way messaging, timing and a conversational tone.

Sense Case Byte

IT recruiter DIVERSANT has long been known for their innovative culture and collaborative approach to staffing. For Marketing Director Charlean Parks, building a better relationship with their contractors and in turn, improving their NPS, was crucial. “We had a need to better engage with our consultants, proactively address issues that might come up, and do a better job making sure they’re happy,” says Parks.

We made her vision come true with a mix of smart automation and 1:1 communication. We built Sense workflows to check in with consultants over text before their assignment starts and then again at the end of the first week and every month afterwards. New hires would get a welcome note from the company president and recruiters were reminded regularly to reach out to candidates and maintain a personal connection. The result? A 33% improvement in their Glassdoor scores in just a few months.

#6 Manage exits with grace

Exits are a part of the natural employee lifecycle. During the past year, however, their number has increased and organizations are struggling to handle exits gracefully. With work moving almost completely online, exits are happening quietly with send-offs not as thoughtful or regular as before.

The thing to remember here is that send-offs are a great opportunity to show your people that they matter. Not only to thank the employees leaving but also to signal to those remaining that their contribution is valued and remembered. Encourage and empower your teams to have proper send-offs for exiting employees and make these occasions positive and memorable. This way, even those who are moving on will carry a favorable impression of your brand and continue to be a source of referrals.

#7 Keep your EVP game strong

All organizations have an Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that reflects in their values, policies and culture. Whether you are hiring now or waiting for things to get better, invest in building a strong perception of your EVP through every medium available, especially online and via social media.

“Companies have to keep a steady ‘hum’ on in the public domain,” says Joe Mullings, CEO of the Mullings Group, a search firm in the medical device industry, “They need to be on social media platforms: ‘We’re still here, here’s why you want to work with us when we come back online.’” 

It’s also important to listen to what your people are saying, be it in NPS surveys or regular checkpoint texts. Tracking sentiment and intervening early to address issues prevents escalations and keeps your employer brand perception strong.

In a post-COVID world, communication takes on an even more significant role because we no longer have the benefit of in-person conversations, breakout sessions or hanging out after work. At every touchpoint, your words matter, the tone matters, the timing matters.

If you have made significant strides in these areas during the past year, don’t lose momentum. Continue to build proactive, positive communication flows with your people and it will pay off in the long run.

At Sense, we’ve helped the top recruiters around the world strengthen their employer brand through our AI-powered communication solutions. How can we help your business? Tell us more: we’ll walk you through our solutions and together, create an action plan. 

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