3 strategies for becoming an employer of choice in these uncertain times

Despite the disruption of the coronavirus, employers must take care to show internal investment and strive to become highly reputable to attract top talent.


If you thought the competition for the best talent in your industry was competitive before, consider how the challenge shifts during a global pandemic.

Every element of the talent acquisition cycle—from the workforce needed to recruit candidates, to safe interviewing processes, to onboarding—it all changes right now. The smartest companies now are taking an inside-out approach, doubling-down on support for their current team and bolstering their employer brands so that their employees can best represent the company to the outside world.

APCO Worldwide recently fielded a national survey of 2,000 U.S. employees to better understand the expectations of the workforce and trends shaping the future of work. The findings are extremely informative and timely.

Overall, 77% of U.S. employees feel that the future of their chosen career is bright, a finding that is particularly true among millennials. But to say that current dynamics of day-to-day work will be the same in five years is simply not accurate.

Though tens of thousands of service industry and manufacturing employees find themselves on the brink of being displaced by the impacts of the coronavirus, the evolution of the nature of work seems much more immediate—and likely feels more drastic—for these individuals.

So, what can employers do to rise to the occasion in these uncertain times and differentiate themselves as an employer of choice?

In the current climate, inclusivity in how your company accommodates the needs of employees is paramount—and should remain an enduring “North Star” for any employer.

For some organizations, this requires a new mindset, centered on empathy. However, you will derive extensive value by simply recognizing that the differing life circumstances of your individual employees must factor into how you communicate with and support them.

For instance, consider a large urban hospital. The needs of a 44-year old mother of two young children who serves as a charge nurse—expected to continue showing up on site daily—is likely quite different from a 23-year-old entry-level accountant who can likely work from home with minimal disruption to workflow. A strategic segmentation exercise that really digs into the dimensions of a company’s workforce is likely the best place to start to build effective strategies.

Given that workers who are open to exploring new jobs heavily crave visible, trustworthy leadership in a prospective employer, here are key steps that companies can take right now to differentiate themselves in the marketplace:

1. Clarify the support systems you have in place or are developing for employees to adapt to the new circumstances.

These measures should be proactively conveyed through established internal channels that feature the voices of key leaders and allow all employees to provide feedback on the support’s effectiveness. According to APCO’s survey, 33 percent of respondents said it was important that their employers encourage diverse perspectives.

Currently, employees are craving guidance on how to remain effective while incorporating more flexibility into their schedules. Reinforce your concern for their well-being by offering an explicit plan to support these needs, and involve leaders in delivering these messages.

2. Ensure you keep a healthy focus on learning and development for your employees during this challenging time, and be cognizant of differing needs and circumstances.

All employees want to advance in their career. In fact, continuous learning is the top-ranked factor in APCO’s workforce research for respondents when considering a prospective employer’s reputation. Include nontraditional learning regimens, even those delivered solely through virtual methods. The augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) industry has developed a range of interesting approaches.

3. Show your employees that your duty of care to drive the health of the business is not rooted in complacency.

If there ever was a time to galvanize an internal conversation within your organization about innovation, now is that time. You can find interactive and inclusive ways to engage your workforce in this discussion and showcase for them that the company leadership is proactively exploring ways to be creative and mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus on your business.

In times of uncertainty, the inclination to turn inward and “refocus on the business” will be quite natural for companies.

This is a tendency that companies should embrace with a purpose—ensuring an effective bridge between leaders and the broader employee community. This focus will not only work to meet the needs of workers during an unpredictable moment, but also empower them to represent you as an employer of choice to candidates who you will want to pursue as the economy reverts to normalcy.

Jason Meyer is a director in APCO Worldwide’s Washington office.



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