A pandemic, or any crisis, will be an acid test for your corporate furniture such as purpose, values, principles, behaviors, etc. In the employer brand world, we have to ensure our EVP is robust and is delivering what it promises, in good times and bad.
An EVP positioning will typically consist of three to five pillars, which are several themes deemed unique enough to be used for communication purposes. They are there to enlighten talent as to why they should consider joining your organization, and of course, to remind people why they should stay.
I thought it could be useful to review some of the typical themes and how they could be perceived during this Coronavirus situation.
Some organizations are in a constant state of change and clearly communicate this in their EVP. They look for people that thrive in the dynamic environment this creates. But this type of change is not what anyone signed up for. Sure, your workforce may be more resilient, but this is the time to communicate that the business is stable, and while transformation is undergoing, those specific projects are going to be on a hiatus until the changing nature of the world has come to some kind of conclusion.
Although rarely used in an EVP, some companies do lead with being able to provide an attractive package. These organizations often tie the compensation to sales, profit, and the stock price. The trouble is, this trio of metrics are all going to take a beating. Some employees may have accepted a lower basic salary with the prospect of a higher total package, so where does this leave them now? This ties in with the long-term prospects of the business, now is the time to communicate that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and the company will survive and thrive.
We’ve heard politicians and business leaders banging on about “we’re all in this together,” and for once, it actually rings true. From an employer perspective, the question is: Are you providing the same level of support to all employees? This cannot be limited by geography, job functions, seniority, or any other segmentation. If we’re all in it together, you have to ensure this is the case now more than ever.
This one’s a double-edged sword, one the one hand, the world ‘family’ implies security and trust. But consider a family-owned company actively using the word in their EVP messaging, they could be caught out if it had to lay off staff. “Is this how you treat family?” is the inevitable backlash. I know businesses who shy away from using ‘family’ in their employer value proposition for this very reason.
What springs to mind in these times is the ability to work effectively remotely, having the right systems in place and, of course, the correct hardware to be able to do it from home. You shouldn’t call yourself an innovative company if you can’t deliver on these necessities. Take it up a notch, and Innovation is also about new ideas of working better together as a distributed team, executing on these and striving to make something good come out of this time.
Some EVPs will talk of ‘going places’ or variations thereof, and individuals can see themselves moving up the ranks and perhaps living the ex-pat lifestyle for a few years. This is going to be a tough promise to keep up during a crisis, and employees will understand that there is a pause on their career ambitions for the time being. In this case, I would encourage communicating that talent management programs will resume once we’re back to normal, and employees are keeping their place in the queue.
Plenty of EVPs contain ‘passion’ in one way or another. This ties in with the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but during a crisis, it’s more likely employees are concerned with the basics of the give and get, such as keeping their jobs, getting paid on time, the resilience of the company in a downturn. In some cases, however, the passion element will actually be more tangible during a crisis; I’m thinking of health providers, vital public services, supermarkets, and others. The unsung heroes of these companies are suddenly in the spotlight, and their passion for what they do will be self-evident.
Speaking to a higher purpose in your EVP is one of the best ways to attract and retain. For some companies, this will come more naturally than others. In these times, the organizations that provide life-saving medical equipment, that ensure food supply chains are working, that otherwise influence society’s response to a pandemic can truly speak of offering purpose-driven work. The regular ESG claims of removing plastics in the office or reducing emissions by X percent by 2030, noble as they might be, will not come close to the purpose of workplaces tasked with keeping people alive.
A few large corporates out there take Wellbeing very seriously and even incorporate this as an EVP pillar. Apart from the obvious support the company may be able to offer around the Coronavirus, there is also the mental wellbeing aspect of working from home or even in a quarantine. Do you offer any professional support in terms of therapy or other? This ought to be part of the internal communications. Then, of course, there is the financial aspect around your sick pay policy, which will also play into this theme.
The companies that were offering work-from-home options long before the situation we’re in now are miles ahead in this department. Along with Innovation as mentioned above, this will concern how people work remotely, and what the expectations are of them. Is there truly a balance between working and being at home and in close vicinity of your devices? Perhaps not in many cases, but the employer has to do what it can here to set clear guidelines. Instead of just following the manager’s example, employees should know things like when it’s OK to log off and get feedback regularly.
So what can you make of all this? I say the takeaway is that, if you’re unsure about your EVP, or individual pillars, now is the time to review and dial down communications. Any questions? Feel free to get in touch. Or why not check out our approach to developing EVP.
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