The survey fieldwork for the Randstad Employer Branding Report (REBR) survey took place between November 2019 and January 2020. Traditionally, this constitutes a good climate for employer branding. People are thinking about their career choices for the next year and companies are starting to focus on employer branding after they found themselves struggling to fill their vacancies.

However, our world has changed dramatically. The coronavirus has largely crippled the global economy and the labour market. The number of vacancies is in free fall, many people are (temporarily) unemployed. Many companies are fighting to survive. Does it make any sense at all to think of employer branding in times like these?

It is completely understandable that companies might pay less attention, or maybe even no attention at all, for employer branding during this hectic period.

First things first. Reality is that the number of hires is going down dramatically during this time. And chances of talent leaving the company of their own accord, have suddenly become much smaller.

why employer branding is important
why employer branding is important

3 reasons why you should not ignore employer branding for too long

1. employer branding is about engagement

Employer branding isn't just about recruitment and retention, it's also about engagement, and it's exactly this engagement that is severely tested during times like these. Whether companies will make it through this period, depends partially on the engagement of its employees.

2. employer branding can be damaged in a short time, but takes a long time to generate results

Consistency and coherence are the two key terms here. If you completely ignore employer branding during this entire period, you'll interrupt the process, which means you'll be forced to go back to the drawing board again. Not to mention the loss of confidence and credibility as a result of unfulfilled promises.

3. employer brand promises may become irrelevant

Any company that wants to be strong at a time when the labour market is reshaping itself, simply can't do anything about its employer branding. If original promises can't be fulfilled due to the pressure caused by the coronavirus, new and altered promises must be formulated and shared with employees in parallel.

Even at this early stage, it is clear that this crisis is going to have a very negative impact on companies' employer brands.

what can we learn from this period?

The criteria for choosing a certain company will change, albeit not in a revolutionary way. In times of recession, job security gains importance and wages become less important. The importance of a good work atmosphere, however, remains unchanged.

The companies' attractiveness scores decline as well. In the 2008 Randstad Employer Branding Research, for example, the winner in Belgium had an attractiveness score of 47%. A year later, after the crisis had hit, this had gone down to 43%. That was also the lowest winning score ever in the entire history of employer branding research. By 2010, there weren't too many signs of recovery yet. The tide only began to turn in 2011. So, it will take some time for companies to recover from an unpredicted setback.

As expected, the downturn was also reflected in the scores for the various criteria. The fact that job security decreased, won't come as a surprise. But the decline was also visible in other criteria (work atmosphere, wage, work/life balance, job content, future opportunities, attention for environment and society). Incidentally, the scores for most criteria were lower in 2009 than in 2003, during the recovery of the dot-com crisis. This suggests that the depth of the recession plays a role, too. The deeper the recession, the greater the damage to companies' employer brands. All of this does not bode well for next year's employer brands.

There's no getting away from the fact that this crisis is going to have a huge impact on companies' employer brands. Companies that are consistent with their employer branding efforts and demonstrate their commitment to the workforce and greater societal good will become the leaders of tomorrow’s labour market.

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