In two recent RiseSmart surveys of over 2,000 people, we found a strong correlation between talent mobility and the employer brand. In a recent webinar, “Five Insights to Improve Your Hiring, Retention, and Employer Brand,” Senior Practice Development Manager, Kimberly Schneiderman and I spoke about the employee experience and how it relates to the employer brand in ways that people may not have thought about before.

We discussed some things HR can do to create better experiences for employees moving into, within, and out of their organizations. We also explored how employees leaving organizations involuntarily may impact the organization’s ability to attract new talent in the future. For the full story, and a few specific survey results, you can view the webinar in its entirety here.

If you’re looking to connect the employee experience with the creation of an exemplary employer brand, here are five areas to consider:

The importance of an exemplary employee journey

When we talk about the intersection between talent mobility and the employer brand, it's important to note that this intersection begins during recruiting, continues throughout the entire employee journey, and doesn't end at offboarding.

Important aspects of building a stellar brand include:

  • Developing trust and transparency with all employees at every step
  • Communicating benefits beyond ping pong and beer Fridays
  • Putting company values into practice day after day
  • Keeping an eye on how social media is impacting the employer reputation

While it may be tempting to simply give a nod to each of these factors, Kimberly suggests you look a little deeper into how these elements of a stellar brand are put into practice at your organization.

For instance, are your employees reminded about the corporate discount programs offered? In what ways do you make them aware of benefits throughout their employment and not just during onboarding? There are a lot of corporations that have a sponsored day out of the office for philanthropic activities. Do your employees actually take a day to perform that sort of work? Is philanthropy promoted and encouraged to employees internally?

Related Content: How to Retain Employees in Today’s Employee Relationship Economy

We think a lot about trust and transparency while in the recruiting stage. This opens the door to an informative discussion about standard benefits and the practices your company has when it comes to enforced reductions. A better way to create trust and transparency with employees is to have open communication early on. It’s very important to let people know what happened in the past and how it influences the organization’s business decisions today.
 

Your brand has stickiness

Although some of our survey respondents had been laid off years ago, those who had a negative experience were able to recall their feelings, and even words, that were used to communicate with them during that time. I think this goes to human nature and shows the lasting impact of employee experiences. Individuals who had a negative experience, had a lot more to say than those having a positive one.

Especially on employer review sites, people like to talk about negative experiences more than positive ones. People tend to be driven by emotions and are more likely to race to the share button when they’re miffed – and social media has really put the employers' feet to the fire.


 
Kimberly also noted that we are all consumers and look for reviews on everything from purchases to vacation planning. In today's society, people are compelled to share their opinions and experiences, and are driven by far more than just a paycheck when searching for a new job. It's important that companies do what they can to create a positive, or even neutral, experience for employees at all phases of the employment process.

 

Related Content: How to Manage Your Digital Employment Brand After a Layoff

Creating a positive and neutral perception of the employee experience is tied to the way organizations communicate and provide outplacement, and programs and benefits the moment employees are notified about a layoff. It’s important employers ensure that employees are well aware of the outplacement services they would receive as part of the termination package.
 

The importance of a smooth notification process

RiseSmart has been offering notification training for a long time, and we've found that layoffs go a lot smoother when employers are prepared to deliver a clear message with accurate information to everyone impacted by a layoff.
 
Kimberly reminded HR leaders that when employees have a clear and concise message communicated to them, there's less confusion, less push back, and less questions during notification meetings.

“I was having a conversation recently with a manager who told me a story about when his organization didn't have a clear message for managers to deliver at the time of a layoff. The person being laid off didn't realize he was actually losing his job, and when the conversation around severance came up, the employee actually thought he was getting some sort of bonus. When he realized the meaning of the word severance, he had an aha moment that he was losing his job. The sudden turn in messaging was a shock to the employee and a very uncomfortable moment for the person giving the notification. This story illustrates the very real need for a clear, concise message that’s not muddled with a lot of other information,” Kimberly recalled.  

As part of the survey, many people shared their own stories about personal lay off notification experiences, and some of those stories were a little shocking.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • "I received a one-line email that read, 'Congrats on your baby. I'm sorry to tell you we are terminating your position.”
  • "The actual words my supervisor said were, 'Tough luck.' And this was like a week before Christmas."

To avoid these situations, manager notification training focuses on creating and delivering consistent, well thought-out messaging that conveys empathy while keeping the conversation focused and clear.

Related Content: Avoid These 5 Layoff Notification Blunders

According to Kimberly, it’s best to show some transparency with the message, and honestly communicate the reasoning behind the reduction in force. You’ll also want to make sure the message is delivered with words that will help avoid any future legal action. Untrained managers may find themselves initiating a legal issue if they’re not communicating the layoff properly and the employee feels victimized.

On the other hand, in an attempt to say as little as possible, mangers may make employees feel like their concerns haven’t been heard.

Be sure to give impacted employees a chance to express their shock, frustration, anger, and any other emotion they may be experiencing at the time. During notification training, our team discusses every situation a manager might encounter. We'll go through role play scenarios and encourage people to simulate meetings with their employees, and to think about the reactions employees might have based on what they know about specific individuals.

In the training, our team asks attendees to stop and think about which employees may have recently had a major life change, like a divorce, marriage, having a baby, or the loss of a parent. All of these things will impact how layoff notifications are heard and what different reactions managers may be faced with. Having training and fully prepared managers is one of the best ways to protect your employer brand.

Alumni employee sentiment and the employer brand

Now that Indeed and Glassdoor are owned by the same parent company, the importance of a stellar employer brand will continue to carry weight. These days, most job seekers are getting their leads through referrals. Networking is a critical component, and they’re seeking out these referrals through many different means, including through former colleagues and managers, recruiters, neighbors, professional contacts – anyone with a connection to the company could be a reference.

Priorities are shifting more than people realize. We've been giving lip service to employer brand for a while now, but our surveys revealed company culture is more important than salary. Those findings should be a huge wake up call for companies hoping to stay competitive in the modern war for talent.


 
“Although one could look at our findings and argue that there's a fairly even distribution of top reasons that a job offer is appealing to a candidate, there's no argument that the number one reason is company culture and reputation,” stated Kimberly, “People really do care where they work, and want to have confidence in the company to feel like they've made the best and most rewarding decision.”

 

Boomeranging and the employer brand

Employees returning to their former employers is one of the latest trends impacting the evolving employer-employee relationship. There are many benefits to companies when employees return after getting more experience or expanding their skill sets, and possibly even gaining competitive knowledge. It says a lot about the employee experience that an employee is willing to return to an employer that once laid them off.

Maintaining high opinions among departing employees allows companies to invite them back into the fold when the time is right. A company is at an advantage when they hire employees with both legacy and outer workforce experience to offer.

Related Content: Boomerang Employees: Two Perspectives on the Latest Talent Trend

Whether returning to a former employer or embarking on a journey with a new employer, people are looking for the right job and position, at the right company. They want to belong to an organization with values that match their own and a culture where they can thrive. In our survey results, we found the majority of job seekers are challenged with finding the job they want. Their criteria for finding those opportunities include a good company image that helps employees reach their professional goals and align with their values. 

The big takeaway from both of our studies is for HR leaders to be proactive. Be sure to communicate your benefits and encourage employees to take advantage of the benefits you offer. Provide notification and resiliency training. Prepare your managers to put their best foot forward and communicate a unified message. Make sure your outplacement provider offers services that are up to date, and that those services include support for both the HR team and employees. And, of course, we recommend that you partner with an outplacement company before you actually need the services.

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