Employer Brand Protection During Transition Period
Much has been said about the importance of corporate branding and it’s relationship to attracting and retaining great talent. However, far too many employers forget that branding is something that must be protected at all times, especially when an organization is experiencing transition.
Corporate branding can be influenced by both external and internal factors, such as a decision to lay off a large portion of the workforce. During this time, a company’s brand reputation depends on the outplacement services it chooses to maintain positive employee relationships. There are a number of ways that this type of arrangement can soften the blow of a layoff and reduce risks, while retaining a strong positive brand and goodwill with departing employees. In this special guide, you will learn how outplacement can benefit your organization that will be able to attract future talent and retain the best performers of your company.
Safety Net That Results in Goodwill
Why are outplacement services so critical when it comes to employer branding and creating long time positive relationships with future employees? There are several ways to look at this and we will examine them all.
First, an employer brand is something that takes a lot of work and time to develop. It’s the value brand proposition for the company that proceeds and says everything about what the company is about. It’s a very public reputation that must be authentic and positive. Think of it as a billboard facing the world. Company reputation matters more than you may think. According to research conducted by LinkedIn, 60% of professionals 40 and under are most likely to associate employer branding with job consideration.
Secondly, employer branding has a lot to do with how a company treats it’s employees throughout the course of their careers. Consider that the “happy” feelings and experience of a new hire doesn’t last much past the initial few months on the job. If the brand is authentic and built on creating a lasting impression on employees, then it should last much longer than that. Why is this important? Employees can see right through inauthentic cultures and brands. If they get wind that your brand is not based on reality, they are apt to jump ship in the first few months on the job. Statistically this happens within the first 6 months of a new job, and it’s more prevalent with young millennial and Gen Z hires.
Want better outcomes? Develop an employer brand that honors and respects employees at every stage of their careers. This means find out what it is about your employer brand that is favorable to employees and build on this. Identify top performance employees and find out what matters the most to them. There are many survey tools that can be used to systematically learn what motivates employees, what they prefer, what they need, and what they are lacking. Very often, the most objective employees will be happy to share their ideas for making the workplace better and more authentic.
If a layoff is about to happen, find out what employees need to make this a smooth and less traumatic change. Be ever mindful of employee needs. An outplacement service can support the goal of a better employer brand. How? Isn't this a negative time? It doesn't have to be. Outplacement services provide a safety net and support for those facing the uncertainty of being out of work soon. Caring counselors pick up where management and HR leave off, and give departing employees the resources needed to find another job.
Imagine the amount of goodwill that outplacement services can provide to employees, now and in the future. This alone can set any organization up for success as a leading employer brand -- something that can be leveraged in recruitment and retention efforts. You’ll learn more about this in the next session.
Impact of Former Employees on Future Hiring
Company reputation and a strong employer brand can impact the attractiveness of any organization. It doesn’t take much to see how a positive employer brand connects in the complex business of hiring great people. With the right employees in place, the workforce stabilizes and becomes more productive. When managed well, a great brand can elevate the entire company and create an atmosphere that's perfect for innovation and visibility in any industry.
A Harvard Business Review article sheds some light on the beginnings of this movement to create strong employer brands in order to attract candidates. As early as the 1990s, organizational leaders recognized how an employer brand goes ahead of a company and how it influences recruitment. By the mid 2000s, brand became a stronger focus, and was handed off mostly to marketing and human resource teams to implement. Companies such as Shell, P&G, and Unilever started to apply proven marketing concepts and branding to recruitment efforts in a more consistent basis. This outward facing campaign became better known as the Employer Value Proposition.
Additionally, a recent DHI Hiring Indicators report indicated that it’s getting harder to place good candidates into jobs, especially those in the financial, information technology, and administrative support areas. Although job requisitions were filled a bit faster in May 2017 as compared to April 2017 (by 3 days), this also indicates that there is an ongoing talent shortage problem that companies need to be mindful of. Michael Durney, President and CEO of DHI Group, Inc., advised, “Culture, the opportunity to work on interesting projects and work/life balance are all [job seeker] considerations. Successful companies highlight these items in the recruiting process and place a strong focus on employer branding, gaining an edge over competitors.”
Now, the employer brand has taken on a much higher level with the inclusion of social media networks which take the control aspect of branding out of the hands of employers and into the hands of candidates and consumers. It’s all about transparency nowadays. Think about some of the reviews found on social networking sites and company review platforms and you get the idea. All of this influences how candidates see companies and if they want to be associated with them. As a result, companies have to work a lot harder to keep employees happy, especially those who may be in the process of being let go.
People are much more apt to trust organizations based on what they hear from its current and past employees. This is much like consumer reviews. Recruitment and talent retention relies heavily on employee advocacy than any other factor. If a company offers outplacement services during a mass closure of a plant or division, this alone can be looked at with much favor vs. those who leave employees hanging with no safety net.
Leaders must demonstrate that the people they employ will be valued as part of this employer brand. Even if the company must adjust and let workers go at future points, this care and concern must be protected into the public space.
Demonstrating ongoing care and concern for employees goes a long way towards attracting future candidates. Many job seekers look carefully at how former employees say they were treated by the company when making decisions about where to work. Younger employees tend to care more about this because they want to make a difference and be respected by an employer at the same time.
Insurance Policy to Avoid Panic
Outplacement services may seem like a last minute decision made to smooth things over if a layoff is imminent. In reality, it’s something that needs to be in place long before a layoff is ever considered. Think of it as an “insurance policy” for your employees who want to develop long term careers.
Outplacement services have a critical role in employer branding. For one, the perspective of employees matters. If even one employee is saved from the harm of losing their job, they will share their experiences with others and this builds the brand up. Outplacement can provide an added layer of support that the human resources team doesn’t have time to deal with when letting people go. It enables HR to focus on compliance matters and reduce the risk and cost of unemployment and wrongful termination claims.
Consider this: Employee layoffs, department closures, and corporate downsizing aren’t the only reasons to use outplacement services. In some cases, you may have an employee who has become ready for a new career challenge and your firm doesn’t have a place for him or her. Or maybe someone has simply been hired and although qualified, isn’t the right fit for your current needs. In this case, you have two choices (1) cut the employee loose, or (2) use an outplacement service to transition this talent into the right job.
It’s much more productive to use available resources to help someone gain career advancement, even if it is a small investment, than to leave them out in the cold.
Now think about what happens when there is an impending layoff scenario. People start to panic. They fear what they don’t know. Most people have heard that it can take a long time to find another job, even with staffing and talent shortages. Finances and job readiness become major concerns. Workplace morale hits an all time low as people begin to leave and those left behind are stuck picking up the extra work -- fearing they are next to hit the chopping block. It’s an ugly scene that creates an equally negative brand.
Let’s look at this same scenario with an outplacement service in place. Employees are talked to about the impending layoff, but are immediately given access to job finding tools counseling, and support for a specified period of time. Those who are not being laid off have a chance to talk and voice their concerns too. Once they know their former co-workers will be taken care of, it makes it easier to move on. It is much more positive and productive all around.
Interestingly, when employees utilize outplacement services, studies have shown that they actually get job offers at the same or higher salary rates than if they did this on their own. Employees who are leaving will do so under good terms if they know they can expect better earnings. They are treated well and don't have to suffer the financial woes of not knowing where their next paycheck will come. From a business standpoint, this also can reduce severance pay and unemployment claims.
In this day and age, it is very rare that any employees will be with your company until they retire. People average 5-7 careers in their lifetimes and this means they are moving through companies faster than ever before. If your company wants to leave a favorable impression that honors the employer brand, then outplacement services can accomplish this.
Retain Best Employees by Supporting Those in Transition
It’s natural to wonder how the notion of employer branding connects with the retention of employees. On the one side, it is easy to see how a positive brand ties to happier and more engaged employees. On the other side, it is hard to see the direct impact that employer brand has on the day to day experience of employees. In this section, we will dig deeper into what makes the employer brand so important in terms of employee retention and why this matters to your business.
Retention is not just a number. In the very real world of human resources, it’s believed that the more employees that a company can hold onto; the better. Analysts in this space spend an awful lot of time trying to calculate and predict retention rates. It comes down to the cost of hiring and training new people every time an employee leaves. This is a very simplistic view of things.
Employee retention has a great deal to do with the value that a company has based on the quality of the people who choose to remain actively engaged in the goals of the organization. The better job that a company does with engaging and keeping talent productive, the better it prospers and innovates. Now let’s take it one step higher. The employer brand should be aligned with the experience of these loyal employees. If it matches their expectations and keeps them tied to their roles at work, then it’s in sync. It’s like a well-oiled engine.
In an organization like this, retention is based on employees who stay active with the company and produce. We’ve all seen and heard about companies that don’t do a good job of engaging employees, although they don’t exactly quit. They just function on a poor level that does nobody any good. It’s like having a crowd of zombies stumbling around the workplace getting nothing done!
A good employer brand establishes and defines the culture of the workplace, as one of productivity and energy. It lets employees know that they are hired to thrive there, not just watch the company clock. It lets candidates know that strong work ethics, creativity, and productivity are core values of the company. And when the time comes that the company needs to restructure or move some people off the roles, then an outplacement service can preserve this brand by supporting employees all the way.
Honest and Caring Brands Attract Millennials
In the last couple of years, Millennials (those born in the mid 1980s to 1990s) have outnumbered all other generations in the workplace. It’s estimated by Pew Research counts that their numbers have reached an astronomical 75.4 million in the USA alone, now making up 35% of the workforce. Generation X is close behind at 34% and Baby Boomers (28%) are rapidly departing the workforce. Why is this important? Mainly because employers must be mindful of the impression that they are making through their brand on the latest and what could be the greatest generation of talent.
Millennials value organizations that offer positive employer branding. This is often an indication that they can count on a great career experience that they can take with them throughout their life. To understand how much Millennials are connected to the branding that organizations put forth, it’s important to go beneath the surface to the values that Millennials hold dear.
According to the The Deloitte Millennial Survey for 2017, experts looked closely at what means the most to Millennials, in all aspects of their lives and careers. The findings, based on nearly 8,000 Millennials in 30 countries interviewed at the end of last year, are quite interesting.
- 71% of Millennials expect to be financially better off than their parents were at the same age. Furthermore, 62% view themselves as more mature.
- 76% of Millennials believe that business is positive and getting increasingly more socially responsible.
- Millennials think that they are responsible for making the world a better place and if they can do so through their employer, they are fulfilled.
- Millennials prefer leaders who make gradual positive changes over time instead of being radicals. They also like those who recognize the ‘underdog’.
- Even though they embrace flexible work options, almost two-thirds of millennials said they prefer full-time employment. This stems from worries over job instability from the recession.
- 6 in 10 Millennials think that Gen Z will make a good impact on the workplace as they shift into leadership positions; mostly in the emerging technology markets.
Experts also advise that Millennials are not easily “fooled” by elaborate marketing campaigns or corporate cultures that are deceptive. Many will jump ship quickly if they believe that a company is not being forthcoming about real career opportunities or if there is a toxic work environment.
A Monster survey showed that 2 out of 3 female Millennials plan to quit their current jobs by 2020 or sooner, because of lack of upward mobility at their current employer. In a rocky job market, 60% of Millennials have changed jobs between 1 and 4 times in the last five years, based on data from State Street Global Advisors. They are not afraid to try new things and start over an employer offers a more authentic and rewarding career opportunity.
It’s up to employers to create honest and caring brands that speak to the career needs and wishes of Millennials. Retention of high performance candidates can only come from a workplace that respect this fact. This also applies to situations when an employee may need support moving into a higher position with another company. The relationship building opportunity that outplacement services can provide will make a lasting impression on the departing employee. This Millennial could be the next customer your company serves or the next referral partner within your industry - you decide.
Strategies for Building a Strong Employer Brand
As we come down to the actionable section of this guide, let’s stop for a moment to consider the how-to’s of building a strong employer brand. The goal is to attract and retain great people, but it’s also about building a company that’s based on authenticity. Your culture must align with these goals in order to thrive in a candidate-driven world.
Here are some steps we recommend for getting started with a employer branding strategies, using a standard SWOT method:
1. Conduct an evaluation of your current employer brand. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities? How do inside vs. outside consumers see your brand? Is it synching up? One way to get down to what is working and not working is to issue a survey and get feedback from several sources.
2. Define how you want to be seen realistically as a leading employer. What are your competitors doing that you can do better? Do you have a way of meeting a gap in the market? Ask your customers and employees what they think about your company and what it can do better. Listen to suggestions to find those that match your values.
3. Create a compelling employee value proposition that speaks to your target candidates. What do they want, need, and value the most? The data from surveys and feedback should provide a good starting point. Test different job advertisements with pain points and preferences to see what garners the best responses.
4. Proactively use social networks and your blog to develop your new brand story. Build a community that’s based on the reality of your organization. Set up a series of campaigns that introduce new brand elements and monitor activity that happens -- like social shares, comments, and new joiners.
5. Make sure all of your internal and external branding is lined up. All players need to understand the critical nature of your new employer brand. It is especially important for company leadership to get behind the improved brand. Pay attention to this influence and how marketing and HR efforts coordinate in the months to come.
In order for an improved employer brand to be successful, your organization also needs to partner with those who support these employer branding strategy goals. For example, an outplacement service that uses similar processes and tools can be a good match for sustainability. If the company needs to let some employees go for whatever reason, will they be treated with the same kind of care and concern that’s offered to incoming hires? What kind of feedback are departing employees giving during exit interviews? Can you do better? These are some of the ways you can measure the long term success of your employer brand -- a topic we will go over next.
Maintaining an Authentic Employer Brand in the Job Market
Now that you’ve gone to all the trouble of making sure your company has evaluated and developed a better, more authentic employer brand - how can you maintain things? After all, sustainability is what will provide the greatest return on investment as well as the best employees.
A good employer brand will be measurable over time, so that adjustments can be made. Your organization won’t be the same next week, or the week after, or a year from now. So, how can you make sure that the branding is working out well? What if you THINK it’s going perfectly, and then you get slapped with a series of negative reviews on a company review website? It happens all the time when leaders are not paying attention, and then it takes months of PR cleanup.
In order to maintain a truly authentic employer brand in the job market, one that will stand out from your competitors, you need a strategy.
Consistency is key - Once the employer brand has been established, it also needs to be backed up by consistent actions that reinforce it. This requires ongoing communication and decisions that are based on a new and better set of values. Employers can’t just talk the talk; they must walk the walk.
Create real change - Just because an employer brand is all shiny and new doesn't mean it can be effective. That is, until it produces real and lasting change. The organization needs to be focused on improving the life of employees as well as the communities surrounding it.
Be different - In order to maintain a strong employer brand, the organization needs to stand out in the industry. Think about ways to offer more than just job opportunities -- how do you offers a total experience for employees? What are some unique perks you can offer to shake things up?
Partner well - Your employer brand is more than what happens within the four walls of your corporate office. These values must also extend to your networks, business partnerships, and vendors. Make sure to choose associations wisely. End negative partnerships that no longer serve the employer brand you’ve established.
Monitor always - With all the transparency that occurs on social media and corporate review websites it's up to your marketing and human resource teams to keep an eye on things. Set up alerts to catch any mentions of your company, hire a social media manager to watch comments, and respond quickly and positively to any posts about your company.
Keep making improvements - A better employer brand must be continually improved over time, as feedback comes in from current, future, and even departing employees. An outplacement service can help to reduce negative feedback about the brand because it prevents employees from being left to their own resources if they are let go.
Lead the brand - All organizations that have taken the time to develop a strong corporate brand need leaders who back this up and demonstrate it on an ongoing basis. People are watching for this level of authenticity from leaders. If the head of the company doesn't believe in the brand, why should anyone else?
Outplacement Solutions for Employer Branding
Making the best choice when selecting an outplacement service vendor will preserve your employer branding. Some factors that will make all the difference include how customized and flexible the outplacement services are, if the counselors are well-trained, and if curated job matching is available for employees. One must think from the perspective of employees who have carefully selected your company to work for, but now must face the potential of working elsewhere. If your company can support a smooth transition with plenty of support, this can help reduce any negative reactions from departing employees.
The various benefits of partnering with the right outplacement company are infinite. It’s impossible to know exactly what your brand will face in the future, but a good outplacement service will be able to adapt with the changes your industry faces. Following is a rundown of some of the potential benefits of selecting the best vendor:
Experts in career placement - Imagine having a team of on-demand career experts and counselors to help your talent? The right outplacement firms can provide this cost-effective service, so whether you are restructuring your company or assisting a high-performance employee with placement with a partner firm, you can count on it. This includes access to executive level career coaching, job interview prep, salary negotiations, job matching, resume and cover letter writing, and more.
Guaranteed placement - Take the guessing game out of whether your departing employees will have a positive experience or not. A lot rides on the outplacement service provider’s ability to place talent into good jobs in a reasonable amount of time. Avoid negative behaviors and comments left by upset former employees, poor workplace morale due to rumors, and other problems.
Affordable, no surprise services - To protect your employer brand, your organization must be mindful of how it spends its staffing budgets. A responsible company focuses on taking care of it’s employees first. An outplacement service worth the effort will have upfront pricing and affordable options to meet the needs of companies of all sizes and situations. The service should also be streamlined and efficient so that everyone gets the best experience in a minimum amount of time.
We encourage you to read through this guide several times, and then select a reputable outplacement solution like VelvetJobs to complete the picture of your employer branding. VelvetJobs covers all of the above features and benefits, with customized outplacement service options that will seamlessly connect to your employer brand.