Employer Brand Leadership During a Pandemic

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

From client work we do with the Employer Brand Index, we know how vital Management & Organization is to candidates, employees, and alumni. The leadership of a company has a direct impact on the employer brand, sometimes way beyond the control of the team in charge.

Now, more than ever, do employees look to managers for information and leadership on many levels. We’re all in this together, there is nobody to blame for this pandemic, and it’s testing for every employee of an organization.

Whenever I’m asked about examples of influential leaders that embrace the people agenda, Marc Benioff pops into my mind. He is the founder and CEO of Salesforce, as well as a very progressive and outspoken advocate of social change. He will use his (and his company’s) full leverage to influence public opinion, customers, suppliers, and lawmakers. Judging by the results of Salesforce in the last few years, his strategy is working.

If we look at what he is doing during this Coronavirus situation, it’s worth casting an eye at his online presence which is full of messaging, both from a corporate perspective and from his own. Marc Benioff is an excellent example of a leader that has always been a good communicator, now adapting to a crisis and leads from the front.

But what about employer brand leadership? Surely that is the responsibility of all managers, not just the upper echelons. Some might argue that employer branding is only required in times of large scale hiring; however, they’re missing the point. Employer brand is about the whole employee experience, and now more than ever, it’s about ensuring this experience is as good as it can be. And let’s not forget candidates, who are in the hiring process and understandably unsure about their prospects.

Here are a few tips for managers, inspired by The Economist:

  • Have a clear message. What is the company doing to support its people? What are the expectations of employees? Who is in charge of what? These are the basics that all leaders should know and communicate clearly. 
  • Keep calm. The leaders of an organization have to keep a level head in a crisis. Some have experienced tough times in the past, others haven’t, but they are typically more seasoned than their team members. 
  • Be available. There will be questions beyond the ones above; now is the time to proactively check-in with teams and individuals. Whether it’s on Slack, Zoom, Teams, or other places; team members need to know managers are there for them.
  • Listen. What’s on the management agenda may not be what worries staff on a daily basis, use your meetings and interactions to really understand what matters to your people. Consider running a Q&A session open to all employees.
  • Be transparent. First of all, your managers are not going to have all the information people ask for. That’s fine, as long as they say as much. They should let their teams know they’re working on it and will keep everyone posted.

The job of the employer brand team, together with communications, PR, marketing, HR in general, is to ensure leaders and employees are kept updated regularly.

More on this topic at Why Leaderships is Critical to Employer Brand.


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