How companies tackle the COVID-19 crisis as a business challenge is “going to define their brand for decades,” says billionaire businessman Mark Cuban.

“If you rushed in and somebody got sick, you were that company. If you didn’t take care of your employees or stakeholders and put them first, you were that company,” Cuban warns in a recent CNBC interview.

It’s a sentiment shared by Aaron McEwan, VP of Advisory at Gartner. In this pandemic, “how [organizations] respond could have enormous implications for their employer brand, corporate reputation and even their financial survival,” he writes.

“Even in normal times, workers want to see employers acknowledge their financial concerns and respect their unique family circumstances.”

McEwan cited data from a recent Gartner Global Talent Monitor, which showed compensation, work-life balance and respect as the three biggest reasons for employees to leave their company.

Damaging the employer reputation
The concept of employer brand is “more than talent attraction,” says Jörgen Sundberg, CEO of Link Humans, a London-based employer branding specialist.

“One huge element is employee experience, which will be a focal point for talent teams in the short- to mid-term,” he says. “How is your company faring with talent in terms of supporting employees through this difficult period?”

“Stories such as [which] companies are offering sick leave, which ones aren’t, will affect the employer reputation of these companies. We are seeing a lot of commentary from talent around a number of topics relating to benefits, salary, well-being, flexibility and remote working,” Sundberg adds.

“If there’s anything we learned from previous crises, it’s that there will be a day of taking stock once things get back to some kind of normality.”

It’s logical for companies to scale back on spending amid the downturn, but experts are warning, employers should revaluate how their cost-cutting measures could also backfire.

In the end, a company’s employee experience – especially in a time of crisis – could make or break its employer brand.

“With the stock market reeling and the threat of recession looming, business leaders are bound to look for ways to minimise spend and prepare for the worst,” McEwan says, “but cost-cutting initiatives and de-investment are known to damage employee experience, which is critical for engagement and productivity.”

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