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5 Ways to Make Ex-Employees Brand Ambassadors
 

By Karen Stevens  6/6/2014
 

Employer branding should be one of the top concerns for every executive in today’s highly competitive and social talent market. A strong employer brand cuts through the noise of social media, creates opportunities for recommendations, and gives talent (past, current and future) a sense of positive identification with your company.

The way employees are treated and transitioned affects a company’s reputation in the talent marketplace. Employees who leave organizations—whether by choice or due to a layoff—very likely could become customers or partners one day, or could return to your talent pipeline in the future as a potential candidate. So it is imperative to consider all employees as potential ambassadors for your brand. As such, companies should:

Be transparent. A culture of transparency is critical to long-term loyalty—even after an employee has left the organization.

CEOs should be transparent with employees regarding both the state of the organization and future goals. Transparent communication from executive management encourages managers to treat direct reports with the same level of trust and transparency. And once the door for transparency is open, difficult conversations become much easier for all parties.

With transparency guiding your company’s communication policy, when it comes time to relay a difficult message during a downsizing, employees are more likely to understand the business decision and less likely to leave the conversation feeling blindsided, resentful or angry—even if one of the eliminated positions is their own. 

Facilitate mobility. The paradigm has shifted, and people no longer stay in the same jobs their entire careers. Instead of waiting to lose employees, improve retention and build loyalty by alerting them to internal opportunities (or giving them the opportunity to test out new roles while still in their current positions) to show that the organization cares about their career development. Employees should be encouraged to engage with others across team lines and pursue opportunities to learn something new.

Prioritize redeployment. Depending on the size of an organization, a division that is hiring may not be aware that there is available internal talent elsewhere experiencing  a downsizing.

Placing employees whose jobs are being eliminated into open positions in another department reduces severance, recruiting and training costs. Review the company talent pool to help redeploy top performers into positions of need.

Communicate authentically. Providing notification training to managers is one of the most important steps a company can take during a downsizing event.

A trained manager approaches the conversation with confidence and can handle his or her emotions. A trained manager knows how to tactfully communicate the message while giving the affected employee room to absorb the information. A trained manager knows how to be compassionate without commiserating and can make sure the affected employees have knowledge of all the resources the company will be providing, as well as proper guidance about how to take advantage of them.

Provide transition assistance. Before planning a reduction in force, it is important to make certain that the organization’s outplacement solution fits the needs of today’s job-seeker at all levels.

Whenever possible, employees should be given assistance, including a severance package and help navigating the new realities of the online and social job search. They deserve an outplacement program focused on helping them land a new position quickly.

Respect and support go a long way. In today’s connected world, a company can only have so much direct control over the way its brand is viewed. Instead, people (including current and former employees) help to create a company's reputation through what they say to others about that company—especially what they say online. To maintain a positive employer brand, you will want the people who are associated with your company to have great things to say. And giving people great things to say starts with one thing: respect.  

Treating people with respect and offering them support through tough times—even when business decisions call for a reduction in force—will create genuine good will, which will be reflected in the company’s reputation and how its brand is talked about for years to come.

Karen Stevens is vice president of strategy for RiseSmart.

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