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Employer Brands planning for the ‘new normal’

We asked employers to share their thoughts on reopening and how this will influence their employer brand activities.

As the hospitality sector inches closer to a return, employer focus is in operational mode, putting actions into place to get venues up and running and people back to work in a safe and controlled environment.

With so many variables, it’s hard to be certain what the new normal will look like.   During a recent webinar ‘The importance of emotional connection in tough times’, Steve Ward UK Director of Universum* and Jon Dawson, HR Director at Mandarin Oriental London discussed the opportunities facing the industry and how best to position employer brands as the sector prepares to reopen.

Q: Why should my employer brand matter during a crisis?

Steve Ward commented “In a downturn an employer might ask themselves who cares about employer brand right now? Who cares who is the best employer… people just need a job. Brand perception didn’t get COVID-19 and it didn’t go on furlough. People will always have an opinion on your business and whether it’s an attractive place to work”.

Steve continued, “Hospitality recruits are looking for brands that resonate with their core values, even more so now as candidates have had time to consider their options and the type of business they would like to further their career with.”

Authentic employer brands that demonstrate inspirational leadership, and have transparency in their communications, will score highly with potential talent and be better able to attract the right people to strengthen and grow their brand in the future.

Q: How should employer brands communicate as hospitality embraces the new normal?

Jon Dawson shared his view, “One of the major upticks during lockdown has to be the increased use of technology to keep in touch with our hospitality people.  Simple messaging delivered quickly and clearly has meant employers have become trusted sources of information. Communication through technology is the way employers express their brand and keep their people informed.”

“As we approach a return, employers will be focused on managing customer and employee safety and ensuring guidelines and regulations are met. This may result in a loss of connection with employees currently working or on furlough. Great employer brands manage both the operational tasks and team communications equally well.”

Q: Will investing in training benefit your employer brand?

Steve Ward explains  “It’s about perception and employee allegiance. The upside of continuous training and development during lockdown is an increased sense of employer brand loyalty.  ‘My employer has thought about me, organised some training so that I can develop my skills and I’m grateful that they took the time to think about my situation and train me up.’ That said, it’s never too late to start training and as we approach re-opening, workforce training to get people fully prepared will be vital.”

Employer brands that have continued to offer training and development throughout lockdown will have teams eager to get back to work and try out their new skills in kitchens, bars and cafes.

Hospitality training providers, Umbrella Training have been delivering online training for hundreds of apprentices throughout lockdown.  CEO Adele Oxberry commented, “Overnight we had to move 400 apprenticeship courses online. Our commitment was to the apprentices who needed ongoing support despite being furloughed. We aimed to ensure that they didn’t miss out on their training and will be ready to return to work as soon as they can.”

Employer brand is more important than ever

The current pandemic has shone a spotlight on hospitality and its value to society.  It’s also highlighted employer brands that are authentic and live their messaging. The goal, post-COVID-19 is not just to attract the very best talent, but talent that is the right ‘fit’ for your business and will thrive.

As hospitality approaches and moves into re-opening, supporting and connecting with your people throughout the coming weeks and months will be more important than ever. This will strengthen your employer brand and ultimately help businesses achieve the strong industry return and future everyone is looking forward to.

Top employer brand tips for the ‘new normal’

Jon Dawson and Steve Ward share their tips on how to develop and maintain a successful employer brand post-COVID-19.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. As attention shifts from maintenance to operations, and we move closer to and through the re-opening phase, don’t lose sight of how important your employer brand communication is. Using what you’ve learned during lockdown, now is the time to rethink your internal comms strategy to include all the positive elements that worked well.
  2. Put your employee experiences first. How do they feel about you as an employer?  COVID-19 has had a profound impact on your people and their focus has shifted to how their employers have performed and will care for them in the future. As you move forward, their opinion matters even more.
  3. Engage your people in your brand strategy. Lockdown has been a time of innovation and creativity with brands pivoting to meet new demands and new ways of working.  Use that internal creativity to maximise your employer brand by engaging your people in discussions around business strategy and any challenges you are facing.
  4. Be realistic and focus on your Employer Value Proposition. Use what you’ve learned during lockdown to adapt your EVP to enhance your brand. Does it still sound authentic and genuine, does it represent any changes in your values and ethos?
  5. Continue to invest in your people development. It is not too late to offer training and personal development courses that will help your teams get ready for hospitality’s ‘new normal’ and equip them with skills and knowledge they will need in the new workplace.

* Universum is the most recognised employer branding specialist in the world, with a physical present in over 20 countries to ensure employers achieve their employer brand goals, enabling them to engage the talent they need to succeed.


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