How To Revitalise Your Employer Brand & Employee Engagement In 2021 [Employers Share Their Advice]

Employers around the UK had a horrendous 2020 so it’s only natural that the areas of employee engagement and employer branding have lost some of their shine. 

Today we’re sharing some powerful insights and advice from other UK employers to help you reinvigorate your employer brand and employee engagement in the year ahead.

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Before we dive into a series of excellent ideas from UK business leaders, let’s take a quick look at four key areas that will help you re-engage your staff and have a better workplace in 2021.

4 Focus Areas For Revitalising Your Employer Brand & Employee Engagement In 2021

With the pandemic leading to tremendous changes in terms of how the world works, there also comes change in the sort of experience employees look for in new opportunities. While the core drivers for engagement have not changed, there are factors now, whose importance has been elevated as a result of the pandemic.

Now more than ever, employer brand plays a crucial role in the health and survival of your organisation, as well as your future success.  With the pandemic bringing employer responsiveness to the spotlight, the communications you make during this time with your employees will shape how these perceive your company, your culture, and your brand more than ever. This is therefore an extraordinary time for you to reiterate your identity to your people and to the world. Use it as an opportunity to walk the talk and show people who you are. 

Employer branding not only makes a difference to employer productivity, job satisfaction, and retention, but it also affects the volume and quality of applicants a business attracts. You do not need to spend a large budget on employer branding, as long as you address the most basic needs of your employees, they will do most of the work for you. They will feel proud to be part of a business that really cares about them, and at least some of them will spread the word. 

Research carried out by the CIPD highlights an increasing demand for responsible businesses, transparency, and accountability, suggesting areas for employer brand management where attention is required.  Taking these into account, below you can find a few suggestions which will help you maintain a strong employer brand in these difficult times.

Be Transparent About Your Business Situation

Having a candid and clear communication plan in place will keep your stakeholders informed and reassured that you are being honest. Clear communication is vital in uncertain times and the way you are showing yourself now to your different stakeholders will differentiate you in the labour market, enabling you to recruit, retain, and engage the right people. 

Be careful how layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts are communicated both internally and externally. Glassdoor highlighted that there has been an over 70% increase in reviews mentioning layoffs. Employees and candidates are aware that this crisis has affected revenues and that certain decisions might need to be taken, however, it’s about how employers react to these challenges, how they handle layoffs, rather than the decision to lay people off. The actions you take today will stay in your people’s memory. 

Being open and honest with the team about where things are for the business is crucial. The team should know how the business is performing, in detail. They should understand the implications of that performance, and also know how they can help. Javan Bramhall

Here’s a handy free resource for you: Top 10 Tips To Boost Employee Motivation. We’ve all been through some terrible times recently. This quick guide shares some simple but very powerful ways to help your staff get back on their feet and feeling good about work again. 

Focus On Employee Experience Before Candidate Experience

You cannot attract new people to your business without building a strong internal brand first. Simply put, you need to put your people first.

The way you treat your employees right now will have an impact on your employees’ perception of your business and on the perceptions of your future candidates. If you treat your employees poorly, you risk reputational damage.

A strong employer brand is highly dependent on your employees’ engagement in the workplace. And while corporate transparency has always been crucial in employer branding, it takes a front row now. 

So, as mentioned previously, communicate openly and honestly with your employees as this is critical to a healthy workforce wading through unprecedented waves of workplace transition and change. 

Your employees need to have access to all important company and government updates, and they need to be kept in the loop of your business continuity plan. We are going through uncertain times, and not keeping them up to date can only make the situation worse and as a result have an impact on your employer brand. 

Ask your employees to put their health first and play an active role in their physical and mental health by enforcing government rules, organising social activities, offering support, etc. You could, for example, arrange various virtual events ranging from virtual meditation or yoga on Zoom, virtual coffee breaks, etc. By doing this, you are not only telling your employees that you are there for them, but you are also keeping them engaged. And remember that employees that are proud to work for your business will be happy to share their voice with the external audience. 

As humans, we’re social animals and collectively our teams are always greater than the sum of the parts. Without the energy created by team interaction and the proverbial ‘water-cooler conversation’ creativity and productivity are likely to be in decline.

What can we do to rekindle that creativity and re-energise our business? Communication is key. Making time to communicate is vital to ensuring you and your teams don’t lose sight of who you are, what you stand for and how you are different. Any old Joe can churn out work but only you can do it in this unique way. When you are not meeting face to face, you have to work harder to make sure everyone is understood, everyone is heard and everyone has the opportunity to interact. Make time for differentiated communication tactics, building in work focused meetings, benchmarking meetings, regular social chat sessions, and one to ones cascading through the organisation and feeding back. Leave no one behind – it’s the quiet ones you really need to listen to. Felicity Read – Managing Director – Leapfrog PR

Here’s a handy free resource for you: One-To-One Coaching Meeting Script & Planner. Use this document to prepare for your next one-to-one meeting with a team member. The document also gives you a conversational script to use so you know exactly what to say. Download it from here.

Use Social Media Wisely

We know that social media consumption has increased during confinement. So, recognise the role of social media as an efficient platform for the purpose of enhancing your employer brand. Use it to inform your stakeholders about how you are managing the current situation. And show, don’t tell. Values in action are more potent than words on paper. 

Your reputation as to how you look after your staff is worth its weight in gold. With all the uncertainty that this year has created your health and wellbeing policies are as important as ever. Build your reputation as a caring supportive business by using social media platforms to promote practical examples of how you are helping your staff cope with changes and how you are supporting them through tough times. Kathy Scott – Director – Hands On At Work

The type of content your audiences engage with has changed as people worldwide stay or work from home. So, adapt your communication to the current situation. According to an analysis carried out by LinkedIn, the posts that have resonated the most with its audience throughout the pandemic are about how companies are supporting employees, customers, and communities, people-centric messages, as well as posts about working from home and promoting public health. 

Share posts regularly but be mindful of both the optics and the tone you use. Your social media and company page should focus less right now on self-promoting, and focus more on human beings and the impact your business and its products/services have on people’s lives. Explain how you are supporting employees during these times. Find powerful moments, both big and small. Showcase your employees’ stories. As previously mentioned, your employees are your most important advocates when it comes to employer branding. So, find ways to empower them to create their own employer branding content and share it with their networks. Furthermore, when your employees engage in this process, they have the potential to reach a wider audience and expand your employer brand presence and awareness. 

Regardless of what you want to communicate, keep it authentic and simple. In this way, your employer brand will be more relatable to your audience. 

Support Your Local Community 

People are interested now more than ever in the actions that companies take throughout this period to support their communities.  

You could, for example, (if you have the capacity) launch a local effort to deliver groceries to isolated people, organise food donations from the entire team, or provide some other form of help. By demonstrating a commitment to a cause beyond revenue growth, you highlight the importance you attach to corporate social responsibility within your business. This cannot only help you in reinforcing your identity and culture, but it can also have a great impact on your ability to attract talent. 

When teams are fractured and working from multiple locations, it’s even more important to reinforce a sense of unity through your brand and what it stands for. Spend time on revising your core purpose, mission, vision, and values, and ensure that they’re up-to-date and communicated thoroughly to your team. Set clear expectations and publicly reward those who operate in-line with them. The more team members who embody these, the easier your job becomes. Advocates are contagious. Alex Minchin – Zest Digital

Now let’s look at some powerful insights and advice from other UK employers to help you and your employees in the year ahead.

But first . . .

Want Some HR Help?

If you’d like to talk to us about resolving any HR matters in your business, contact HR Star here.

Advice From UK Employers

 

Christopher Smith – Logical Utilities

Understanding what drives your employees, praising their success and ensuring a strong workplace culture is key to encouraging staff engagement especially during these difficult times.

 

Peter Hodgson – Managing Director – Sureteam

Our team has been using solid communication processes to ensure we stay connected; we have some working in the office and some at home others out at clients working in safety-critical roles. Hence, we have team calls managed by each person so they can control connectivity and comms. We also have a team meeting each week to catch up with job-specific questions and support.

Our main aim has been support based rather than check-up based. Even during the full lockdown, we had evening drinks and chat sessions for those who wanted to attend.

It has all been about finding a way for the team to keep in touch in a way that is supportive, not policing, and that includes everyone but allows for one-to-one support.

 

Nicholas De Swart – Director – Berkeley Square IT

Working remotely is not rocket science; you need to have clear lines of communications with your staff, one-to-ones, and team briefings on a regular basis. As a manager/owner setting clear objectives that are measurable to allow for performance to be monitored is key. What has been apparent for many companies is that managers often simply don’t have the technology in place to monitor staff remotely effectively other than looking at sales on the board. This can often not be a true reflection of how hard your staff have been working and can mask issues that they are struggling with through no fault of their own, so keep these lines of communications open and be approachable.

 

Nicala Clapperton – Account Manager (for Barry Johnson who is an Appointed Representative of the WPA Healthcare Practice)

Do you want to support your staff, but unsure where to start? How about an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)? An EAP is a valuable tool for any business to promote and facilitate staff well-being. It also helps minimise the impact of personal or work-related issues on an employee’s ability to function while at work.

An EAP can feature:

  • Free independent and confidential telephone assistance covering a wide range of areas
  • Telephone counselling
  • Wellbeing and Health information
  • Debt and money advice
  • Manager support

An EAP gives a great return on investment for employers as it is low cost but effective at helping reduce employee absenteeism and increasing staff engagement. 

 

Felicity Read – Managing Director – Leapfrog PR

Communication, culture, and isolation.

As lockdown and Tiers, in their various guises, trundle on, we are getting the work done but what’s happening to our corporate identity, our shared values, and our culture? If we are not careful, we’ll be harking back to the 1980’s where work was functional, communication was one-way and values were imposed top-down. I know, I was there.

We’ve come a long way since then, but continued remote working is threatening to undermine the culture and values we share, simply because we are not there to share.

In recent weeks, businesses are reporting (I’m picking this up through social media, webinars, and meetings) that as their people continue to work from home where they can, that staff are feeling disconnected and not part of anything. Being ‘on your own’ even if surrounded by dogs, toddlers, and the general chaos of home life, isn’t easy and has an effect on both quality of work and productivity, we’re getting stuff done, but have we lost the edge and if so, how can we get this back?

As humans, we’re social animals and collectively our teams are always greater than the sum of the parts. Without the energy created by team interaction and the proverbial ‘water-cooler conversation’ creativity and productivity are likely to be in decline.

What can we do to rekindle that creativity and re-energise our business? Communication is key.

Making time to communicate is vital to ensuring you and your teams don’t lose sight of who you are, what you stand for, and how you are different. Any old Joe can churn out work but only you can do it in this unique way. When you are not meeting face to face, you have to work harder to make sure everyone is understood, everyone is heard and everyone has the opportunity to interact. Make time for differentiated communication tactics, building in work focused meetings, benchmarking meetings, regular social chat sessions and one to ones cascading through the organisation and feeding back. Leave no one behind – it’s the quiet ones you really need to listen to.

Top tips for effective team communications:

  • Daily team visual meetings on Zoom, Teams etc
  • Timetable benchmarking/catch up meetings to ensure progress is being made
  • Daily team social chats – leave the work aside and just talk – clocking where extra support may be needed
  • Regular one to ones – a business and personal health check – mental health is taking a real battering in this pandemic
  • Top-down – regular note from the boss on how the business is doing, recognising achievement.
  • 360 feedback – encourage feedback and make sure it’s listened to
  • Mix it up for pastoral care – sometimes change of leader and change of reporter can help  identify something that otherwise might have been missed
  • Recreate the water cooler moments through hangouts and social time – start a team gaming league or online forums/challenges to keep up motivation
  • Sense of community – what can you do collectively? Continue your charity support in creative ways and give back where you can.

 

Serena Gay – Made4U Podcasts 

Produce an internal podcast for staff. It’s great for internal morale, can be listened to while you are multitasking, and is much quicker and less complicated to produce than a video.

 

Alex Minchin – Zest Digital

When teams are fractured and working from multiple locations, it’s even more important to reinforce a sense of unity through your brand and what it stands for. Spend time on revising your core purpose, mission, vision, and values, and ensure that they’re up-to-date and communicated thoroughly to your team. Set clear expectations and publicly reward those who operate in-line with them. The more team members who embody these, the easier your job becomes. Advocates are contagious.

 

Fanny Snaith – Certified Money Coach 

There is much talk of financial wellbeing in the workplace, but what can you actually do to help your staff feel financially well and that they have control over their financial future?

My experience as a money coach has revealed over and over that people know that they should spend less than they earn.  They know that they need to create a budget.  What they don’t know is HOW to do it or HOW to beat the resistance that keeps them from starting.  A combination of both those “don’t knows” leads to living in a financial fog where there is no clarity around their income or outgoings which leads to a lack of confidence in themselves resulting in worry, fear, anxiety, and a feeling of being inadequate. 

A small amount of financial education could get them on the ladder of learning about money and their personal finances and also get them on the hook of wanting to know more. Here are 5 simple steps to get them started:

Start saving every day today – even 1p into a pot is fine.  Building a habit of daily saving is known to encourage people to save more over time.  Also, daily habits are more likely to become residual.  Focusing on money every day is a start to embracing looking after their finances better overall.

  1. Start tracking their money – either using the bank’s facility or an app like Money Dashboard.  Noting what they spend each day again attracts interest in their money.
  2. Adopt a healthy lifestyle.  Feeling better generally encourages a desire for total wellbeing.
  3. Encourage learning by allowing time on money websites like MoneySavingExpert.com
  4. Set up money conversation sessions at lunchtime to open the door to talking about money and discover how we are all different when it comes to money – and that is ok.
  5. Encourage thought about mindset.  A growth mindset will allow personal development, a fixed negative mindset where language like “I am rubbish with money” will not facilitate change. Focusing on thought and listening to self-language can be a great catalyst to change.

 

Sadie Skipworth – Sadie Skipworth Social Media

From a marketing perspective – to maintain a strong employer brand in reference to Social Media, is to make sure that websites are updated with the correct information, and any social media icons associated with the website are kept up to date with the current trends, current news, etc. People are watching, observing all the time. 

If there are too many icons like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram for example, firstly research the target market/audience and secondly, cut it down to 2 or 3 as it is best to do two well than five not so well. This will then reduce the stress of those who are doing them. 

From an HR perspective, leaders must listen to their employees and come up with a set of initiatives that will fulfill the need of how they can best perform to the best of their ability.

 

Paul Bence – Managing Director – George Bence Group

I think now is the time to really embrace the emotional intelligence (EQ) with your staff, being empathetic, and displaying flexibility with their needs outside the workplace.

All businesses are looking to survive, sustain or prosper in these difficult times for the economy but there is a real balance between meeting workplace goals/targets & achieving an added level of staff compassion & consideration. This isn’t an extra overhead to the Company, rather a change in staff engagement for the senior management teams which will add value in the long term.

 

Javan Bramhall – Managing Director – Digital Glue

When it comes to internal communications, I think a few things are completely key, and this is true at all times, but is only more acute during this WFH marathon we’re all in.

Transparency – Being open and honest with the team about where things are for the business is crucial. The team should know how the business is performing, in detail. They should understand the implications of that performance, and also know how they can help.

Share the triumphs and the challenges equally.

Regular – For me, communication with the team needs to be very regular. At the start of lockdown this was a daily video. As things have normalised that’s been the weekly team meeting and some additional updates when needed.

Personal – Knowing your team members and knowing what makes them tick means you can communicate with them individually. The same message to two people in your team can be received completely differently and can cause completely different results.

Understanding this marks the difference between being an employed brand and simply a person.

 

Jon Leamon – Deputy Chief Executive – Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

At these difficult times, the most important action you can take with your staff is to stay close to them. It can be very lonely working at home so a regular phone call (not Email) to say hello is vital to boost morale. Don’t wait for some important business issue to prompt you to call, it can just be for a chat about family, health, sport, etc.

 

Paul Morris – Managing Director – Superb Digital

During the course of the pandemic and lockdowns we’ve had to get good at managing our team remotely.

We’re also fortunate to have seen the business grow this year thanks to the rush to online and digital services. So it’s meant we’ve had to increase the size of the team.

To help us manage effectively we’ve invested in incorporating project and task management software, this helps as tasks are passed around multiple people who can be miles apart and now even in different countries.

We also make heavy use of video chat/meetings. We speak to team members daily to catch up as now we can’t just turn around and speak to them.

The thing I’ve found is that you have to be really on it. Making the time and effort really pays off in terms of the quality of the output and the sense of team. It’s too easy to fall into a siloed way of working.

 

Emma El-Karout – CEO – One Circle HR

Remote teams have become the norm whether they integrate within an on-site structure or the full structure operates remote. They are now mainstream and need clarity and leadership. While the obvious difference between a remote team and a traditional team is that one is physically present in the office and the other is not, leading a virtual team comes with its own skills and challenges.

Some debate that it is far easier to motivate and communicate within a traditional team model. A traditional team enjoys emotional resonance through direct engagement and the immediacy that enables clear calls to action that expedite workflow.

It is common knowledge that the benefits of a virtual team include greater agility and access to resources, thus enabling cost savings. Remote teams however are as well-known for their focus on output and being highly efficient. This is not a given though. Becoming a high-performing team requires effort to overcome the challenges of distance and virtual working.

The team leader must have the appropriate characteristics and skills required to manage a remote team without relying on physical cues.

  • Ability to effectively communicate with empathy in a remote set-up
  • Develop relationships with team members, recognizing their opinions and suggestions
  • Identify and address issues of low motivation, isolation, and conflict within the team
  • Encourage self-leadership and drive accountability
  • Recognize emerging leaders
  • Promote and maintain team trust and cohesion
  • Monitor team performance against desired output to deliver on business strategy
  • Respect individual boundaries and ensure that the team members do so as well

Appropriate tools are required for all aspects of the work to be performed by a remote team and it’s a leader’s responsibility that those are made available. Including the use of collaboration tools as those become critical in leading virtual teams.

A leader should ensure that the team members selected to work virtually have the right level of skills for working on a virtual team or are coached and trained to get there:

  • Ability to self-manage and have self-discipline
  • Being individually accountable
  • Open to use and learn new technologies and tools
  • Participate successfully in team communication and collaboration by using technology tools to communicate
  • Have confidence in other team members to get their tasks done – TRUST
  • Have suitable personality traits: patience, perseverance, persistence, tolerance, flexibility, respect, empathy, and understanding.

 

Phil McCormick – Managing Director – Nicks & Company (Timber) Ltd

We have been one of the lucky sectors where Covid brought a massive jump in activity as the major merchants closed and the independents were left to supply a market devoid of its major players, and a population stuck at home wanting to do DIY. That and the construction of Nightingale Hospitals requiring large volumes of timber. As such the pressure was on the team to step up with extra effort hours and tighter, safer working practices.

Some key activities that helped:

  • Keeping EVERYONE fully informed each day on the full picture on supply-demand and health & safety issues.
  • Keeping customers fully informed to reduce ‘aggressive’ incoming calls.
  • The Managing Director personally making every employee a bacon & egg roll on Saturday mornings from March to December made everyone feel that we are all in it together and all pulling in the same direction.

I have never had a more connected team!

 

Steve Ackroyd – Managing Director – The Job Guru and Taylormade Legal Recruitment

Maintain communication and engagement with staff working remotely. I have had applications from a number of people that are looking to leave their job because they feel isolated from their manager.  This isolation has led to them losing confidence in the work they are doing, feeling that they are seen as irrelevant to the company, and lacking a clear direction in their work.  

Companies that maintain good communications with their staff (whether during a pandemic or not) consistently achieve higher levels of staff engagement and productivity while reducing churn.  They are also much more attractive to candidates when recruiting.

 

Kate Peregreen –  Business Development & Marketing Manager – Colour Connection

From our perspective, being flexible has been one of the key factors this year which has contributed to Colour Connections’ survival and success throughout 2020. It’s been a challenging year for everyone; businesses and individuals. In particular, the business has required flexibility from staff, likewise, staff have required flexibility from management. This flexibility has meant that families have been able to remain everybody’s top priority, work has continued to adapt and thrive; deliveries have been amended to home addresses, meetings have been part in person and part on-screen, hours have been adjusted where necessary which has supported both needs for families and production.

 

Kathy Scott – Director – Hands On At Work

Your reputation as to how you look after your staff is worth its weight in gold. With all the uncertainty that this year has created your health and wellbeing policies are as important as ever. 

Build your reputation as a caring supportive business by using social media platforms to promote practical examples of how you are helping your staff cope with changes and how you are supporting them through tough times.

 

Dave Townsend – Managing Director – Creative Mettle & Enjoy Recruitment Group.

Maintaining a robust EVP is even more important during difficult times such as those we’ve seen this year. It can be easy, especially for smaller businesses to overlook investing in their people when the business demands you focus on weathering the storm. However, it is no coincidence that our most active, fastest-growing clients during the pandemic have chosen to maintain or improve their “people deal”.

Some have managed an unexpected Christmas bonus, some granted time off to say thank you and get with family, others arranged a home visit from a director to drop off a small thank you gift. Certainly, those companies who have been most conscious of the wellbeing of their people, are often the same who have approached us to recruit key hires to support continued growth.

Want Some HR Help?

If you’d like to talk to us about resolving any HR matters in your business, contact HR Star here.

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