Layoffs and hiring freezes happen. But the truth is, you never stop recruiting. Because your employer brand—aka the perspective that past, present, and future employees have of your company—doesn’t ever go on hiatus. And neither should your employer branding efforts.
We understand that hiring freezes or layoffs are sometimes unavoidable. And we get that when a budget crunch means new people won’t be joining for a while, you might logically conclude that now is not the time to focus on employer branding.
At Job Portraits, we believe it is always the time to focus on employer branding, because you always have an employer brand. And it is especially important to consider your employer brand during sensitive times for your company—times like when you have to publicly announce that you can’t currently afford to grow.
When you manage your employer brand during layoffs, you get to control the narrative
A hiring freeze or a round of layoffs is not likely the end of your company. But if you don’t own you employer brand now, this unpleasant moment in time will define you and your culture for much longer than you want it to. When the next round of funding comes and it is time to re-staff, it will be extremely important that candidates remember more about your company than just that time you sacked a ton of good people.
In fact, the moment when you are facing a round of inevitable layoffs is actually a great time to focus on your employer brand. And you should use the truth to do it.
At Job Portraits, we think the most important, accessible, and powerful tool to apply to your EB efforts will always be the truth. Because, just like some layoffs, the truth is not avoidable. The truth of what it’s like to work at your company exists alongside everything you do and say. And every current, former, or future employee is going to feel the impact of that truth. So use it.
Some leaders believe their companies are such great places to work that employer branding is unnecessary. This makes sense to an extent: If the truth is that your company is seen as a desirable place to work, employees will say so. But they probably won’t volunteer the information. Most of the time, when things are going well, people don’t think to speak up.
Alternatively, if the truth is that your company is not seen as a desirable place to work, you can be sure that your employees, particularly your former employees, are going to spread the word.
In either case, it makes sense for you to actively own and control your employer brand, rather than allowing your employees to passively create one for you. Especially once layoffs or hiring freezes enter the conversation, since there will likely be some negative chatter, and you’ll want to be heard above it.
How to make the most of truth-based employer branding during layoffs and hiring freezes
An event like layoffs will functionally change the culture of your organization. This gives you the opportunity to assess—or reassess—where you stand in terms of what you have to offer as an employer.
When it comes to truth-based employer branding efforts, your Employer Value Proposition, or EVP, is the best place to start.
If you already have an EVP, that’s excellent. Now is the time to ask whether it’s still true. Are the people you had to let go willing to tell you what went well for them and where they feel like the company failed them? Are the people who are still around able to maintain the culture and promise of your employer brand? Consider conducting surveys and encouraging honest feedback in order to determine whether your EVP needs re-evaluating.
And if you don’t already have an EVP when layoffs happen? Well, now you kinda do, because there’s a fresh supply of former employees out there talking about your brand, and whatever they’re saying is going to communicate your value, for better or worse. Gathering insights from employees past and present will help you begin to move toward establishing a formal EVP, one that uses the truth to acknowledge your weaknesses, express your strengths, and attract the candidates who are genuinely aligned with your company.
Whatever you do during layoffs and hiring freezes, don’t do nothing
We get that it might not seem feasible to dive right into developing an EVP during the stress and chaos that often accompany layoffs and hiring freezes.
But please, do something.
When it comes to attracting the best hearts and minds to your workplace, employer branding is a multifaceted gem of opportunity. And every aspect matters.
Yes, of course your EB efforts will be stronger if they are based on a structured EVP. But any effort—blog posts, social media engagement, even internal memos—can shine a light on the truth of who you are as an employer.
And shining a light on the truth of who you are is important. Because you might not be hiring right now, but you will be. And when that time comes, you want future employees to already have a solid sense of why they want to work with you.