A dynamic look at the need for employer branding in post pandemic times
A standing challenge before employers is and has always been the question of motivating their employees and keeping them motivated. Human beings are not machines that can be programmed and set on a task, the only requirement thereafter being keeping them well oiled and free from disrepair. Motivation is one of the basic needs of the human mind. It is a natural challenge before each human being to keep themselves motivated every single day. It is no wonder, therefore, that employers around the world should face a problem in this regard.
Employee motivation is especially a problem when they fail to identify with the mission of the employer. Employees, as individuals, have their own personal goals and aspirations which drive them to work at all, and cannot be ignored in any way. Suppression or repression of natural instincts always leads to disaster. Motivation is a clear and present challenge.
Change in the office structure
An office of a company is an assortment of individuals who have gathered there with their own individual aspirations, expectations and purposes. The employer cannot simply presume that employees would automatically have an affiliation for the company’s mission. It would be unrealistic for the employer to hope that employees would align themselves with the company’s mission simply because they are now employed by it.
In the post Covid world this challenge has been made more difficult by the many social restrictions imposed by the perception of threat to public health due to contagion. All companies have had to completely change their working strategies and environments. Companies have been forced to make their employees work from home, because social contact has come to be perceived as an imminent threat to personal health and well being. As entire work forces have become confined to their homes, their working environments have suddenly changed and are no longer controlled by employers. As a result, all motivational cues that the workplace could be used to give to employees have become redundant. With the changed workplace, the employees must adapt and so must their employers on several levels.
Is the workplace becoming redundant?
The psychological effects of the workplace – the impressive office building with it’s formal and swanky exteriors and interiors, the perks of working there like good food, unlimited coffee, games for recreation, workplace colleagues and friends, actual personal interaction, etc. – are no longer part of the employee’s work environment. So, what possibly motivated them before to get out of their homes, apart from work itself, and head for work is no longer available to them or their employers.
The work cultures of companies have become almost nonexistent as a result of the severe restrictions on HR activities, employee outings, interpersonal interaction between senior and junior employees.
Visual cues such as quotes on walls or pictures used at the workplace that motivated employees and reminded them of their work goals can no longer be effectively employed.
The workplace is now empty and the employer can no longer showcase the workplace on social media through pictures and videos in an attempt to lure prospective employees to join the company as a fun place to work in. Screenshots of video call meetings would have no such effect on one. Since the workplace is no longer in the hands of the employer to use as an asset to optimize productivity and professionalism, the adaptation has to be more conceptual and the change in design directed towards the work ethic itself rather than a physical workplace.
Office Hours and Personal Time
The idea of office hours has become nonexistent, too. Earlier there was a more or less distinct demarcation between office time and non-working hours. Employees had a routine in place that helped to organise their day. Now, since there is no travelling to be accounted for, travel time may be used for getting work done which before was a time to just relax, perhaps catch up on sleep or just look out the window and drift. Employees are now complaining about increased workloads. The situation outside has made things no easier and has only increased levels of stress for employees. Travel time served as a natural convenient buffer between the home and work environments of employees and was a refreshing interval which possibly generated enthusiasm for the work day, may have also served as a brief recess in which the employee, who had just walked out of their home, could recondition themself for work, think about the tasks of the day, scheduled meetings, important issues to be discussed in them, or just rethink a practical approach to a task in hand. Travelling to work afforded all these unconscious benefits to the employee.
To add to this, the reduced levels of actual contact between employees and the employer have made it difficult for employers to imbibe their value system in their employees.
Changing Employee Experience
The overall result of all these factors is that an employee working for a big company like Infosys would feel no different than one working for a small IT company.
The cumulative consequence of the changing situation is that now companies will have to take more effort to deliver a more remarkable experience to their employees. How they manage to do that is one of the new challenges of the post-Covid times.
Employers need to be proactive to acquire and retain talent
The human mind, on account of being human, has it’s human needs which need to be respected. Any naturally occurring human activity is preceded by the conditioning and reconditioning of the mind in accordance with the nature of the activity. Naturally, the body, too, needs to be conditioned for every specific activity. For instance, rigorous exercise must be preceded by an adequate warming up of all the muscles in the body, which includes aerobics to prepare lungs and heart for exertion, stretching, and a light flexing of all muscle groups. Similarly, the mind needs to be preconditioned for every specific activity. The very organisation and nature of the workplace, it’s physical differentiation from one’s home, it’s difference in spirit and tone used to help somewhat to precondition the employee’s mind for the work day. Such preconditioning undeniably helps productivity. Now that employees are working from home – which norm seems to be here to stay – there is nothing to conveniently precondition the employees anymore for the day’s work.
One factor which probably encompasses all others and also stands alone as the most vital in the work experience of people is work satisfaction. No matter how adequate other factors may be they cannot supplant the importance of job satisfaction, the joy of the work itself. It is a psychological fact that a person searches for a sense of self worth in whatever they do, consciously or subconsciously. This need for a secure sense of self worth is very natural and cannot be ignored or repressed. A person values that work which gives them a wholesome sense of self worth. The more self aware a person is the more they will expect to gain a sense of self worth from their work. Not only that, but the more self aware a person is, the more creative and productive they will naturally be, too.
Part of the self worth comes also from a sense of personality development arising from the work one does.
This is a deeper, more intellectual human need which employers must respect and cater to. Employers can adopt a more proactive approach towards employer branding, rather than let it take care of itself. They can look at work and employment as a more human activity, than merely economic or corporate. It would certainly lead to more empathy in the overall interpersonal interaction between employer and employee and help transform the workplace for both. It is always possible for the employer as well as the employee to improve the quality of their work experience and work satisfaction through changes in outlook and approach. It is a practical, everyday necessity. Considering these changes that the world, and as a result the workplace is going through, attracting new talent will need to be approached with respect to the same challenges of the changing times, as retaining employed talent.
Attracting new talent, however, has its own peculiar set of considerations and scope for innovation and creativity. It could be an all new direction that the employee as well as the employer could take. It could transform not only their work life but could also be intensely dynamic and life changing in a broader personal and universal context.