By communicating and acting on company values during times of crisisÂ and uncertainty, organisations will bolster their reputation amongÂ employees and candidates.
By Michael Switow
At a time when hiring and recruitment have slowed forÂ many companies, Asia-Pacific businesses are redeployingÂ staff and resources to the community.
Singapore Airlines, airport services provider SATS Ltd.,Â and taxi firm ComfortDelGro Corp. are among theÂ companies that are reassigning underused staff to helpÂ Singapore overcome the new realities of the pandemic.Â Flight crews assist nurses in hospitals and promoteÂ safe distancing in train stations, whilst taxi and GrabÂ drivers have supplemented the cityâs ambulance fleetÂ by transporting people who suspect they could haveÂ COVID-19 to the hospital.
Initiatives like these provide continued employmentÂ to staff during a time of uncertainty when business isÂ down, and offer a sense of meaning for those involved.Â On top of the initial benefits, industry experts sayÂ companies are likely to reap long-term rewards byÂ increasing employee loyalty and positioning themselvesÂ as good corporate citizens. Few good deeds goÂ unreported; companies showcase their initiatives inÂ media releases, newsletters, and social media.
âItâs an opportunity for companies,â says JacquelineÂ Gwee, director of the Singapore-based aAdvantageÂ Consulting Group. âEven if theyâre not hiring immediately,Â activities like these will definitely build brand value forÂ the employer. Then, when the time is right, when they doÂ need to recruit, this will go a long way.â
âDuring a time of crisis, how a business treats itsÂ customers, suppliers, staff, and the broader communityÂ has significant potential to influence how your staff andÂ future talent prospects feel about you as an employer,Â and whether you are a business they will feel proudÂ to work for,â adds Kate Beattie, the group head ofÂ marketing for the Harrier Group. âIf an organisation canÂ successfully integrate talent strategies with authenticÂ CSR efforts, just as Singapore Airlines has done, thenÂ they are likely to have greater impact.â
Recent corporate community initiatives go beyondÂ volunteer service and redeploying workers.Â DBS Bank is pledging additional funding to assist socialÂ enterprises; donating test kits and providing meals toÂ daily wage workers in Indonesia; and building an appÂ to reduce food waste and simplify the food donationÂ process in Singapore.
âThe collaboration between Bank DBS Indonesia andÂ various parties is expected to encourage other parties toÂ step forward to help people affected by the COVID-19Â pandemic,â says Paulus Sutisna, the president director ofÂ PT Bank DBS Indonesia.
âSocial enterprises are working harder than ever duringÂ this period to protect jobs and do their part for society.Â As a bank that has contributed to the developmentÂ of Singapore, it is necessary for us to stand by theseÂ organisations,â adds Paulusâ colleague Joyce Tee, who isÂ the group head of DBSâ SME Banking division.
PropNex Realty is allocating nearly S$30 million (US$21Â million) to assist self-employed property agents whoseÂ incomes have plummeted at a time when they cannotÂ physically show flats to prospective clients. SomeÂ 8,500 realtors are expected to benefit. The companyÂ is donating an additional $750,000 to communityÂ initiatives that assist âfrontline heroes,â familiesÂ affected by COVID-19 and underprivileged children.
âWe are concerned for our salespersonsâ cash flowÂ situations,â remarks PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor.Â âWhilst there are a lot of uncertainties, it is our utmostÂ priority to assure our salesforce that the PropNexÂ Resilience Support Plan is aimed at easing their financialÂ commitments during this unprecedented period.â
The property agency is also encouraging its sales teamÂ to take an online seminar to improve their skills. Itâs aÂ curated a 28-day programme. âWe are confident thatÂ this is the best time for our sales force to recharge,Â relearn, reconnect with their clients, and spend qualityÂ time with their loved ones in preparation to serve ourÂ clients when the restrictions are lifted,â says Ismail.
Firms like DBS Bank and PropNex are likely to build up aÂ reservoir of goodwill from employees, both current andÂ future. Research indicates that the public will not forgetÂ how companies reacted to COVID-19. In a recent surveyÂ by The Harris Poll and Just Capital, nearly 85 per cent ofÂ respondents say they will remember which businessesÂ treated their employees right during the crisis, whilstÂ three-quarters say they will recall corporate misstepsÂ âlong after (the crisis) is over.â
The trend is not limited to southeast Asia. ChineseÂ companies are emerging as global donors. Major brandsÂ like TikTok, Tencent, Lenovo, and Huawei have donatedÂ ventilators, masks, cash, and other supplies to hospitalsÂ in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Online retailerÂ JD.com has done the same, in addition to providing freeÂ online counseling and medical services.
Communicating Employer Brand
âCompanies have had to scrap their old employer brandingÂ plans and focus on meeting the moment at hand,âÂ writes LinkedIn Insights Analyst Stephen Connaughton.Â âThe tone has also changed, with themes of support,Â community, and care on the rise.â
âEmployers are experiencing a paradox right now,â addsÂ Alpar Major, co-founder and vice president of enterpriseÂ sales for SmartDreamers, a recruitment marketingÂ software firm. âMore people are engaging with socialÂ media than before, yet recruitment ads and digital contentÂ are performing at sub-optimal rates compared with thoseÂ seen before the COVID-19 crisis.â
Corporate posts about community initiatives are receivingÂ significantly more engagement in social media, though.Â In Asia-Pacific, posts about COVID-19âparticularly thoseÂ related to how companies are helpingâreceive 28 perÂ cent more engagement than the average post on LinkedIn.Â Social media posts about working from home are one of the only areas performing markedly better.
Empathetic employer branding is resonating, notesÂ Connaughton, as well as messages that âput people first,âÂ like honouring essential workers, caring for employees, orÂ supporting communities.
Social media, of course, isnât the only way that employerÂ branding messages are spread.Â âThere are a lot of little things that companies do at theÂ very operational level, like giving care packs to their staff,Â and I think thatâs where the word of mouth plays a strongÂ part,â notes Gwee.
âIf the global COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, itâsÂ how many options we have for remaining connected withÂ the people (and brands) in our lives,â adds Major.Â And as Asia-Pacificâs companies look ahead to betterÂ days, the success of tomorrowâs recruitment will beÂ defined today.