Building a Strong Employee Brand Across the Entire Employee Lifecycle

MICHELLE MOORE, Lee Hecht Harrison
In recent years organizations have significantly increased their efforts to build strong employment brands in order to attract and retain key talent. Often these strategies focus on developing an employee value proposition and then using social media to promote the message in order to attract the best talent possible.

In some organizations the value proposition even extends to the employee on-boarding experience. The further into the employee lifecycle you go, however, the more organizations struggle to deliver on their employment brand promises. By the time you get to the employee’s exit from the organization — whether it’s through retirement, voluntary termination or involuntary termination — the value proposition is usually completely forgotten. Ignoring the back end of the employment lifecycle can pose significant risk to an organization as an employee’s bad experience can go viral globally very quickly in today’s interconnected and social world. British retailer HMV learned this lesson the hard way in 2013 when they decided to do a mass layoff which ended up being live tweeted by an employee.

If I think of my own experiences where I have voluntarily left organizations, the way I was treated as I left ranges dramatically. In some cases I was made to feel like I was one of the most valued employees the organization had ever had, and it was made very clear that I would be welcomed back at any time. In other cases the experience was far more disappointing, for example not getting a call from my manager on my last day or being told by HR what to do with my laptop and security pass. There is no doubt that those experiences impacted how I felt not just about my immediate manager, but about the organization as a whole – and in some cases caused me to doubt my decision to leave, and in other instances accelerated my sprint to the door.

Even if an employee’s exit is involuntary, HR and line managers need to think carefully about how they engineer the exit process, not just to avoid significantly damaging the departing employee’s perception of the organization and brand, but to ensure that what the remaining employees experience and perceive is in line with the employee value proposition.

Of course using a professional third party to provide day of notification support for all stakeholders (i.e., the employee being exited and the remaining team members), and offering the best career transition program possible (i.e., from a reputable organization with a proven track record of success) is the best place to start. But don’t stop there. Think about the entire sequence of events starting from pre-notification right through to the point that the separation agreement is signed and fully executed, and identify how each milestone will impact every stakeholder involved in the process. If there are any significant disconnects between your employee value proposition and the likely experience of any of the people involved, you need to adjust your plan.