Aug 9

Employer Branding during Recession

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

Even senior managers – this is what I experience – misunderstand employer branding as a mere recruiting tool designed with the purpose of “selling” the employer to selected candidates. In this perceptive landscape the employment becomes a product sold by the company as employer. In this landscape a working contract – money for my time, expertise and action – becomes a mere deal. A contract lacking true contact.

And clearly, in this landscape, during a recession, which forces companies to execute mass lay off and short-time work, a tool called employer branding used in that narrow understanding of marketing and selling an employer might thus appear as use-less.

“In branding and in leadership you always need to hold up the contact with the people you want to reach. This is 80 % of the job.”

In branding and in leadership you always need to hold up the contact with the people you want to reach. This is 80 % of the job. And staying in contact is something you have to do as an employer brand not only on the job market and the field of competitors, but also inside your company: with all the well-known  instruments like your website, your intranet, your newsletters, your personal communication platforms and last but not least your leadership style.

During times of recession, the organizational system is filled up with outspoken or held back fear and insecurity as market and stocks are going down and companies start to lay off people. Fear and insecurity are no means to generate trust and belonging. These are two things a strong employer brand needs beneath of the brand´s appearance.

If then it comes to lay off and short-time work in your own company – this is what the German automotive industry has to undergo with pain at the moment – fear and insecurity do consequently arise tremendously. Those, who have the chance to find a safer job will change the employer. Others might do that, when the situation becomes less tense. – And the time after the recession will show how deep trust and belonging are concerning your employer brand and what you call brand credit.

In the end, it is not what a smart marketing strategy is telling candidates and employees in high gloss formats, but is the own experience with these words inside the company. This is what marketers call keeping a brand promise.

In the end, for creating brand credit – and hence trust and belonging – what counts is the company´s behavior and lived culture, all what is happening every day. And what really matters is that leaders do walk the their talk – all the words in the glossy media. In other words, if employees do experience a corporate attitude which makes it safe and balanced even and especially in periods of crisis with lay off and short-time work, they will go along and through the crisis with a feeling of trust and belonging, and that means: with positive motivation.

A crisis always shows how strong a brand is and how strong a leader is – this is, by the way, how assessments work.

A crisis brings to light what really is part of your corporate culture and constitutional of your employer brand credit.

So, the focus of employer branding during a recession needs to be on various ways to inform your people on what is going on: newsletters and even more one to one and direct, personal communication. The HR-department may accompany corporate communication with own platforms mediating and listening to people. It is essential to listen to your people, and again listen where the deeper needs are and how the mental state is, because this is exactly what is inside your organizational system and this is what builds up the employer brand´s credit. Being curious and showing high interest is what is crucial in a period of crisis more than in normal times.

So, binding people and creating trust and belonging can be reached by creating perspectives for those whom you identified as crucial employees or crucial potentials. And it is necessary to work out and implement strategies how to develop these people during the crisis making strong within the crisis. This is how you create positive motivation.

So, leaders are well advised when they speak and act with empathy for these needs and mental states of subordinates, with respect for these needs and mental states, even if they do not share them. And what they do should be congruent and in line with what they have said yesterday and say today.

Never forget, that the organizational system consisting out of as many thinking and feeling sub-systems as employees and this system is as sensitive in its perception as a seismograph especially during a recession.

And here, at this point, it can be seen, that the definition of employer branding as a mere recruitment tool reaches out too short: if you start the employment in the mental landscape of a mere deal you will lose your people, sooner or later, because you do a contract but without true contact. By this attitude, you may generate a short term win  and- on the long run – you weaken your brand credit and your staff turn over rate will show this cruelly.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 9th, 2009 at 14:34 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Print This Post
Email This Post
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati
  • MisterWong

Leave a comment

Comments are closed.