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Industry Insights | 9 minute read

Employment branding: COVID-19's lasting effect

July 28, 2020

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your employment brand? Have you been providing authentic, timely updates to employees and prospective candidates?   

According to a recent survey we conducted to assess the impact of the pandemic on businesses in North America and Europe, just over half (55%) of respondents believe their company’s employment brand will improve based on their leadership team's response to COVID-19.   

If we break the results down further, that figure is slightly higher (57%) for HR and talent acquisition professionals, while the sentiment among non-HR/talent acquisition professionals is lower (48%) and slightly lower again for non-managerial staff (44%). In fact, 28% of non-managerial staff feel their company’s employment brand will in fact be impacted negatively as a result of their leaders’ response to COVID-19.   

It takes longer to build your employment brand than it does to damage it, and periods of uncertainty require care. If your go-to-market message is about how you’re supporting employees but that’s not really happening behind the scenes, candidates will find out. What comes out of challenging times will stick with your reputation, so make sure you handle hard situations with grace.   

Best practiceTransparency is key at the best of times, but even more so during times of uncertainty. If you don’t handle the tough decisions and conversations in a caring, genuine way, the reputation of your brand could take a hit. In short, you must put people first. And remember, all employees – current and former – are brand ambassadors.  


Share updates regularly. 

Whether or not hiring has been put on hold, you should communicate regularly to candidates during the pandemic. Just 36% of organizations have messages relating to COVID-19 and the impact it’s having on recruitment displayed on their career sites, according to a survey by the Talent Board. And while 74% of organizations have implemented an up-to-date communication plan for their candidates and employees relating to the pandemic, 26% still haven’t done this.   

In terms of reputation management, it’s also worth noting that some review sites, such as Glassdoor, have dedicated sections or filters so candidates can view COVID-19 responses. It also has a COVID-19 badge that allows organizations to share company updates, learning and development opportunities, information on work from home policies, and so on.  

How are you making a difference?  

Today’s candidates want the opportunity to truly make a difference. In fact, almost 90% of candidates want the company they work for to be a good corporate citizen, according to research from FlexJobs. And this is heightened during this unprecedented time. 

Further, from a generational point of view, 76% of millennial job seekers consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work. Showing potential candidates that corporate social responsibility is important to your organization, is now a business must. Include details of your CSR efforts within your employment branding, including anything you’ve done to relieve the burden associated with COVID-19. 

Evaluate, analyze and optimize.  

Your employment brand may not change during uncertain times, but what you share about it should. Showcashow your company remains strong through these turbulent times. Remember, the definition of strong is going to be different for each generation in your talent community. Boomers will want to know it’s financially strong before applying for a role and millennials will want to see how you partnered with the community during tough times. Of utmost importance is that it’s genuine.   

Use video. 

Companies have had to be creative with video during the pandemic, with many making use of video conferencing technology to record content. Consider doing an interview-style video to showcase the career paths people have taken within your company or record parts of a virtual happy hour or town hall meeting.  And remember, video content does not have to be heavily edited, the best content is that which is filmed by employees themselves. This is the authentic content that today's candidates want to see. 

Virtual tours of offices are also a good option if your physical locations aren’t open for business as this gives job candidates the chance to see what your office looks like.  

Ask yourself these questions. 

Have you published clear messages on your career site about your company’s state of recruitment during the pandemic, and what will happen as the economy starts to lift? 

Companies with strong employer brands communicate to its candidates and employees regularly. They are transparent and forthcoming with information, as this is especially important when people are feeling uneasy about what’s going on in the world around them.  

Have you taken an agile approach to your employment brand?   

A nimble approach is key during periods of uncertainty. Beyond the career site, revisit recruitment marketing campaigns, job descriptions and the hiring process to ensure it aligns with your company’s current state (e.g., virtual working arrangements, whether or not you’re hiring or pipelining positions) and includes information about what’s relevant to jobseekers right now 

Do you have engaging videos on your site, such as employee testimonials and virtual office tours? 

Complete an audit to determine exactly what video content you have and consider if it’s still relevant in this state of the market. Companies are using video conferencing technology to create unedited footage of what it’s like to work there right now, and that’s what people want to see 

The economy is starting to lift. Is your talent acquisition function ready for the hiring surge over the coming months?



About Lesley Taylor

As the senior vice president, talent operations, EMEA at WilsonHCG, Lesley is responsible for the delivery of WilsonHCG's talent solutions across EMEA. She helps clients in the region improve business outcomes through better talent.