Employer Branding Amidst COVID-19: 3 Brilliant Examples

Discover 3 companies that really stand out from the crowd with their impeccable employer branding - even in the middle of a crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic. Airbnb, Marriott and Walmart are definitely the examples of employer branding done right!


Employer branding in time of COVID-19: More important than ever!

The current and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put every company's employer brand to the test. According to the Guardian, the coronavirus is a human crisis beyond most of our scariest dreams. 😷

However, did you know that in Chinese, the word for crisis (危机), also bears the meaning of opportunity? 🤔 How you communicate with your employees, your candidates and the public in a crisis time can make or break your employer brand for the years to come.

In this blog post, I’ll provide examples of the 3 companies doing the employer branding right - even in the middle of a crisis! Keep reading, because you’ll walk out with a bunch of great ideas you can use to manage your own employer brand during these challenging times. 💪

Top 3 examples employer branding during COVID-19 crisis

Here are the examples of 3 companies acing their employer branding in the middle of COVID-19 crisis:

  1. Airbnb
  2. Marriott 
  3. Walmart.

Example #1: Airbnb

The first, and definitely my favorite example of great employer branding done right in the middle of a crisis is Airbnb. ❤️

🧐 What’s the story here?

Unfortunately, this is a story about firing people. 😢
Airbnb has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. A few days ago, the company announced it will have to downsize 25% of its workforce. This will be one of the largest layoffs in Silicon Valley.  

🏆 What’s so great about it?

Well, the way Airbnb handled the situation and informed their employees about it. Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky sent this note to Airbnb employees to address the impending layoffs. So what is it that makes his note on firing people such a good example of employer branding?

First of all, Chesky was completely transparent. He explained exactly how the company made the cuts, making it clear the goal was to eliminate the positions, not the people. He also provided clarity on the next steps and explained exactly how and when the layoffs will be made. Finally, he described how Airbnb will support the employees who are being laid off.

But what stood out the most was his personal, empathetic and compassionate tone of voice. His approach really showed that he cares. This is how he ended his note: 


I suggest you read the whole letter here - it’s worth your time, trust me on this one! 

Example #2: Marriott

The second example of great employer branding in a time of COVID-19 comes from Marriott. 🏨

🧐 What’s the story here?

Unfortunately, this is another story about firing people. 😢
Just Like the Airbnb, Marriott also had to furlough tens of thousands of employees due to the abrupt stop in travel, as a result of coronavirus, which has significantly impacted the hotel business.

🏆 What’s so great about it?

So what makes this terrible situation a great example of employer branding? Well, this is the story about solidarity and shared impact. This is a story about the company's leadership acknowledging it and recognizing the importance of sharing the burden with its employees.

So without further ado: Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson announced that he will relinquish his whole salary until the end of 2020! 😮 Additionally, his executive team will take a 50% pay cut. Hear it for yourself:

Although not a solution, this gesture shows that the Marriott’s leadership was ready to dive into their own pockets to help cut costs in a difficult situation, not just stand there while their employees were being fired. So whatcha think about that? 💭

Example #3: Walmart 

Last, but not the least: An example of Walmart employer branding in a time of coronavirus! 🛒

🧐 What’s the story here?

Luckily, this is not another sad story. 🙂

Quite the opposite actually - Walmart is one of the companies that experienced extensive growth due to the coronavirus pandemic. In order to handle the increased demand for everyday goods such as food and house essentials, Walmart had to hire additional 150,000 employees! 🙌

🏆 What’s so great about it?

Being one of the rare companies mass hiring during COVID-19 is surely good for your employer brand. However, there is more to this story! This right here is the story of great leadership in uncertain, challenging and downright scary times. 

For the past few weeks, Doug McMillion, the President and CEO of Walmart visited numerous Walmart’s stores and talked with his employees working on the front line. He writes about it on his LinkedIn profile, so his employees can see exactly what their CEO is doing in the midst of the chaos around him - taking care of his people.

This is just one of the messages he posted recently on LinkedIn:

Employer branding during COVID-19: Walmart example

McMillion’s visibility is intentional and designed to demonstrate empathy as well as focus. But the point here is that he doesn't just talk the talk, he also walks the walk. Walmart’s employees received a COVID-19 bonus. Now, this is the right way to show appreciation for your employees' hard work. Agree? 

What can we learn from these 3 employer branding examples?

A LinkedIn report published April 21 found that employer brand messaging in posts began to change to themes of community, support and care in mid-March. "In short, it looks like messages that put people first perform best," the report said.

The importance of employer branding during and after COVID-19

⚠️ How you handled the impact of coronavirus on your business and employees will have a lasting effect on your employer brand in the years to come. In the words of Brian Kropp, Group Vice President of Gartner: 

Employer branding during COVID-19

Companies have to be aware that the question:

“How did you treat your employees during COVID-19?” will be the most popular interview question posed by candidates post COVID-19.

What will be your answer? 🤔

You better think about it carefully, because your current employees are already asking this question. They are closely observing every little thing your company does, and so are your potential candidates. Prospective and existing talent is watching carefully how companies are navigating the COVID-19 crisis. 🧐

Don’t believe me?

📊 Here are a few stats to support my claims:

Importance of employer branding

This data clearly demonstrates the need for efficient employer branding, especially at challenging times such as this COVID-19 outbreak.  

Best practices for managing your employer brand through the coronavirus crisis

So what can you do to successfully manage your company’s employer branding efforts in these challenging times? No matter what type of coronavirus challenges your company is currently facing, here are a few best practices you should keep in mind:

Best practice #1: Put people first

Show how you are supporting your employees, candidates, customers and giving back to the community. Talk about the people, not numbers and business. 

Best practice #2: Demonstrate great leadership

In times of crisis, people need guidance and reassurance that their leadership is able to handle the crisis. Lead with confidence and determination, but also with empathy and compassion. 

Best practice #3: Communicate proactively

Communicate proactively, consistently and considerately. Avoid sounding too formal and cold. Tell stories - don’t be afraid to be authentic, empathetic and personal. 

Best practice #4: Be honest and transparent 

Crisis times require straightforward, open and sincere communication that leaves no room for improper assumptions or even anxiety and panic.

Employer branding guidelines in a time of crisis

Hopefully, these 4 tips will help you navigate these uncertain and unprecedented times and manage your employer brand successfully - just like Airbnb, Marriott and Walmart! 🙂💪

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