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03 March 2009 6:36am

Attracting great consultants might not be forefront in recruitment executives’ minds right now, but those who fail to manage their employer brand during the downturn will struggle to attract good staff when it ends, says employer brand strategist Brett Minchington.

Minchington, who chairs the Employer Brand Institute, notes that in the broader market, companies once seen as the ‘poster child’ of their industry have made massive lay-offs and are now “off the list of talent looking to switch jobs or graduates looking to enter the job market for the first time.

” With the recruitment industry one of the first to be impacted by the downturn, companies without a “game plan” to react quickly have been hit hard, he says. “How you manage your employer brand during the downturn will not only impact on current and future sales, it will determine your attractiveness as an employer when the economy starts to grow again.

“We have recently witnessed consumer boycotts of products of companies that have announced massive lay-offs. This is a good example of the link between your employer brand and your corporate and consumer brands.”

To manage your employer brand through the downturn, Minchington recommends that you:

Ensure open communication across the lines. This will help to squash rumours in their tracks before they spread and be perceived as fact;

Continue to undertake staff research to ensure you have a good handle on how employees perceive their employment experience;

Treat people with empathy and respect, and communicate honestly if layoffs are necessary.

Provide every opportunity to ensure employees are ‘fit’ to move to another role outside the organisation – treat them like family!

Stay in touch with them, as you might wish to re-hire them down the track;

Undertake an audit of your employer brand to develop your strategy so that in 12 to 18 months you are best positioned for when the economy improves;

Invest in building capabilities in your employees through integrated learning and development programs;

Encourage coaching and mentoring programs to keep your leaders close to their people and enhance engagement;

Audit your existing materials, channels, themes and messages to check these are best-fit for the next 12 to 18 months, and ensure your internal and external communication strategy is relevant;

Continue to celebrate individual and team success. A simple “thank you”, or “well done” can be much more powerful than a movie ticket! Use the time to get good stories about your employment practices out into the media; and

Most of all, stay focused on the tasks at hand, keep an open mind to what’s reported in the media about the crisis and let your staff feel confident their leadership team have a well-thought-out strategy for managing the company through the next 12 to 18 months.

Minchington is chairing the upcoming 2009 Australian Employer Branding Summits in Melbourne and Sydney.


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