South African organisations have experienced what feels like decades of change since the start of the pandemic. Most have shifted at least some of their employees to more permanent work-from-home models. Others have restructured to cope with the financial effects of the lingering lockdown. As they get used to an unstable form of normality, the question they face is what it means to be an employer of choice in these unsettled times.

Even if the pandemic is ended relatively soon through a rollout of vaccines and other measures, its effects will linger. Work has changed for good! For instance, it has proven that many jobs can be done remotely with no loss of productivity—employers and employees alike might be in no rush to bring everyone back to the office.

As such, companies may need to rethink employee engagement and employee value propositions (EVP) to cater for a more mobile and virtual workforce. And of course, many of the other forces changing the workplace before COVID are still in play—for example, digital-savvy Generation Z joining the workforce and millennials moving into positions of seniority.

Here are a few suggestions from HR experts and business leaders about how organisations can re-position their employer brands to address the needs of an evolving workforce:

  1. Learn from the marketing team 

Attracting and retaining the right talent is at least partly about your employer brand—how your company is perceived as a place to work. This brand is shaped at every point of the employee journey, from interviewing to onboarding to performance reviews and offboarding. Many HR teams are looking to marketing for inspiration about creating good employee experience at every touchpoint.

One example is the growing emphasis on storytelling, messaging and tone of voice to create an employer brand that resonates with the marketplace. Getting this right is more important than ever at a time where emotions are running high. This therefore elevates the need for organisations to prioritise the use of data and sophisticated marketing automation tools to deliver personalised messages to different audiences. It is simply no longer acceptable nor wise to use the spray and pray methodology.

  1. Map an employee engagement journey

Given the changes many organisations have gone through during the pandemic, many of the ways in which they used to engage with employees have become outdated. This is an opportune time to map the employee journey and think about the employee experiences the company will offer at different touchpoints.

“Journey mapping helps organisations to consider the moments that matter most to employees. Employee surveys should measure engagement at critical points in the path. It should be carried out based on where the employee is on their journey, as opposed to the yearly company-wide surveys,” says a blog post from HR software company, Vantage Circle. As important and effective as surveys are, I would go even further and challenge organisations to find ways of proactively collecting insights perpetually, without having to pause for surveys at specific given times.

  1. Re-evaluate the EVP

In the same way as the pandemic has reshaped many consumer needs and expectations, it has also changed what many employees are looking for. Stability and remote work, for example, have become more important to employees. Plus, many of the younger people entering the workforce have different values and outlooks than older peers.

As such, many companies are rethinking their EVP to cater for new expectations and values.  An international survey from Weevr found that:

  • 73% of respondents changed their EVP to include providing flexibility with remote work hours;
  • 59% are putting more emphasis on diversity as part of the EVP;
  • 53% are promoting work-life balance;
  • 35% are promoting company stability; and
  • 18% provide remote work stipends.

This said, most central in the re-evaluation of an organisation’s EVP is mental wellness. All of life, both personal and professional contributes to how well one is mentally. Within the ambit of mental wellness is resilience. How do we as leaders empowers our people to be resilient.

  1. Take technology more seriously 

Recent times have highlighted the importance of technology in our lives and raised people’s expectations as well as understanding of what digital tools can achieve and enable, both on the work front and personally. Leading companies have to think more carefully and quickly about how the tools and apps they provide to employees affect not only their productivity, but also their experience at work. At the same time, organisations must enable them to fulfil their expanded roles in the home context.

As such, executives should be asking what advantages could they gain by empowering their people through accelerating the adoption of technology. This starts with using the right channels and tools during the recruitment process, where recruitment efforts commence long before the vacancy is posted as an advertisement.

Technology is more important than ever with people collaborating remotely—it’s the glue that keeps virtual teams together. In HR, it can also be used to make processes like claiming expenses, asking for a payslip or applying for leave simpler and more convenient for employees.

Vantage Circle lists the following benefits of technology in the workplace:

  • Top young talent is attracted to companies that use technology well.
  • The right tools make employee training easier.
  • Technology streamlines the onboarding process.
  1. Focusing on building the right culture 

David Brown, CEO of US-based recruiter Hays U, says that driving a strong company culture is challenging when teams are scattered in a number of different locations. However, it remains important in building a happy, engaged and productive workplace. “The focus should be on building on a company culture that celebrates and appreciates learning, inclusion, wellbeing, compassion and trust,” he adds.

He suggests some ways of building culture in the remote work era:

  • Record short introductory videos with key team members as part of your induction processes;
  • Run virtual coffee meet ups;
  • Celebrate success;
  • Create ‘water cooler moments’;
  • Do what you can to make everyone feel included, no matter where they are;
  • Conduct virtual office tours for candidates and new starters; and
  • Incorporate ‘small talk’ into remote job interviews.

If you as an executive are not intentionally working at building a specific culture, you can bet your bottom dollar someone else and or something else is building a culture within your organisation which at some point will collide with all your efforts.

When all is said and done, an employer’s brand and reputation is to a large extent a function of perception. The best advocates for that perception are those walking your corridors, whether actual, virtual or somewhere in between.

Your EVP therefore, has a dramatic impact on the quality of applicants your company attracts, employee productivity, job satisfaction and retention. Ultimately your organisation’s bottom line. Given that so much has changed over the past year, many organisations need to proactively augment elements of their EVP if they are to establish and or retain their status as employers of choice in a new landscape.

References:

https://blog.vantagecircle.com/employer-of-choice/

https://weevr.io/how-is-covid-19-changing-employee-value-propositions-evps-hiring-leaders-weighed-in/

https://social.hays.com/2020/09/11/build-stronger-employer-brand-new-era-work/

[Photo by fauxels from Pexels]