Post-COVID Marketing: Starting from within

Last February, the unemployment rate in Quebec fell to a record-low of 4.5%, the lowest since 1966[1]. We were far from thinking that a month later, the situation would make a 180 turn and that we would reach 8.1% in March, with a growing projection for the month of April. In addition, only 1 in 2 Canadians worked in March; only 58% of Canadians over the age of 15 were employed, while others have been laid off or forced to work on reduced hours.[2]

Nowadays, we’re drawing rainbows and we’re collectively telling ourselves that   it’s going to be okay, and it’s true. The exceptional mobilization of all the people of Québec has been remarkable. Even Google pointed this out in a recent report.[3] However, the largest employer in the province, represented by the consolidation of all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will still suffer from this crisis. The job market will be greatly disrupted.  For employees, yesterday’s needs are unlikely to be tomorrow’s. 

Let’s take a look at some pre-crisis trends, post-crisis projections and solutions on the horizon, including those funded by the government.

Before the crisis – attraction and retention

For decades, organizations have invested heavily in HR, focusing on role definitions, salaries, benefits, organizational charts and special team building activities. Then one day they thought, “Rather than HR management, why don’t we do the human management of our resources?” They realized that to be interested in the personal background of the employees, their ambitions, their opinions, was also to encourage them to develop a sense of belonging to the organization that employed them. Based on this premise, they felt that an organization should make the same marketing efforts to its staff as it does to its customers. In other words, a modern company had an interest, particularly in a context of labour scarcity, in investing in its employer brand.

If a company was successful in distinguishing itself to consumers by the promise it made on its products or services, it was also consequently responsible in distinguishing itself to its staff by the promise it made as an employer.

All of this is still true. But the dynamics will be different from now on. In fact, just a few weeks ago, employees had a choice of jobs.  They could shop for them at leisure. The challenge lay in attracting and retaining the workforce. Everything seemed to go through the employer brand.

The situation has changed: economist Pierre Fortin projects a 20% to 30% decline in GDP in Canada.[4] Some Québec companies will not survive the economic shutdown imposed by emergency health measures. There will be a decrease in job offerings in the market across the province. In the economic recovery, we have every reason to believe that there will be a sharp correction and that we will move from an employee-friendly economy to an employer-friendly economy. How should we think about the post-crisis in this evolving context?

After the crisis – belonging and security

The employer brand remains important, but the perspective will have to change. While we are all contained in our houses until May 4, the return is to be expected at some point in time.

First, a complete paradigm shift has taken place. While telework at home was generally only available as a special arrangement or only in a small handful of companies, in just a few days, the COVID-19 crisis precipitated the organization of teleconferencing and telework technologies across all industries. And we all realized it worked.

After working from home for weeks, we will need to see our colleagues again and to feel like we still belong to the organization we work for. We will also want to re-understand the meaning of our work and the purpose behind it. It is therefore imperative for leaders to keep their company’s culture alive during the crisis so that their actions remain meaningful in the resumption of economic and normal activities. Employees who have not cultivated their sense of belonging to their employer will be more likely to want changes in their lives, or to return to work strongly disengaged.

On the other hand, the whole question of security will arise once again.  Indeed, the employment situation will be different and the unemployment rate higher since, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 1 in 3 SMEs are at risk of having to declare bankruptcy before the year end.[5]. This new environment will make employees more interested in working for strong and sustainable businesses. They will seek job security in a weakened economy.

What if, then, we wouldn’t go back to the good old base with the Maslow Pyramid.

According to Maslow, after basic physiological needs,  come those of security, and then those referring to the sense of belonging, the needs of being loved and listened to. Then follow the needs for self-esteem associated with the feeling of being useful and contributing to a mission greater than oneself, to have value within the group. Finally, there is the ultimate need to fulfill, the self-realization to develop one’s knowledge and values.  While the last decade has forced employers to care about the needs of their employees from the base of the pyramid to its top, it appears that the post-COVID era will bring us back to basics.

And the main thing will be to feel reassured, to have an employer that protects its employees and deploys measures to take care of them. More than that, to be part of an organization that cares for real, that has this ability to demonstrate to everyone the importance of their role in a global perspective of the development of the organization. We will therefore face a challenge of security and belonging not only to a group, but also to the mission of the latter.  And to do this, there are proven methods, with a no-bullshit approach, to get back to basics and bring mobilization to the heart of your organization.

Invertizing – organizational communications

All this goes through invertizing marketing, commonly referred to in HR jargon as “organizational  communication.” The main objectives are to:

  • Unify employees;
  • Create a climate that fosters the development of a sense of commitment to the organization;
  • Promote the rapid and efficient transmission of information in a two-way manner;
  • Communicate messages that spark employees’ interest in getting to know their organization better;
  • Build professional relationships between them;
  • Achieve organizational goals.
  • Transmit messages that relate to the special interests of the targeted employee groups.6

But obviously, in order to be able to achieve the above objectives, it is important to question yourself, to make a pre-crisis diagnosis and to establish a post-crisis ambition in terms of employee relations. The current period is the perfect time to ask these kinds of questions since such an audit requires (quality!) time, a commodity that we have a little more nowadays — which is not the case when we are completely immersed in the action and moving full throttle.

PACME Program – A subsidy created to support organizational communication

Of course, to make such a diagnosis, external support can be useful in order to fully understand where you are starting and better align where you should be going. We have developed a collaborative methodology that builds on 5 steps that have enabled several small, medium and large companies, such as,  Desjardins  Insurance, Robitaille, Bota Bota, Seduction Shops, Cirka, and many others, to carry out such a process.

The PACME program, announced on 7 April by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity,  offered in collaboration with the Commission of Labour Market Partners, provides direct financial support to promote the training and implementation of best HR management practices, and to optimize the functioning of businesses and the labour market. For the Enterprise component, eligible HR management activities include organizational communication and employee mobilization mandates. [6]

The post-crisis organization in terms of communication and mobilization can be subsidized, in part or in full. And we are ready to support you in the process, to ensure the creation of strong bonds and commitment in your organization, as well as to support the relaunch of your activities to support your growth.

Simon Sinek said: “We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.” It’s time to make sure you communicate well, in authenticity, collaboration and through the development of promising programs for your organization.

Contact us to find out more.

[1]Businesses Quebec. (2020, April 9). Employment decline and unemployment rise in March 2020 [Press release]. Viewed at https://www2.gouv.qc.ca/entreprises/portail/quebec/actualites?x=actualites&e=2224313587.

[2]Schmouker, O. (2020, April 14). Are we already in recession? Consulted on April 15, 2020, at https://www.lesaffaires.com/blogues/l-economie-en-version-corsee/sommes-nous-d-ores-et-deja-en-recession/617032?utm_source=Linkedin&utm_medium=Social&utm_term=14-04-2020.

[3]Google LLC. COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. Viewed at https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/.

[4]Fortin, P. (2020, April 7). The pandemic and the economy: we’re going to get through it. Consulted on April 15, 2020, at https://lactualite.com/lactualite-affaires/la-pandemie-et-leconomie-on-va-passer-au-travers.

[5]Halin, F. (2020, April 11). Thousands of small and medium-sized businesses wiped off the map. Consulted on April 15, 2020, at https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2020/04/11/des-milliers-de-pme-rayees-de-la-carte?fbclid=IwAR0ROQPkzAcaiW7ZxBY5i-4Url4wEw5NM7_Nxlc5FGKkXxgx-T-NNj2x3o4.

6 Paquette, P. (2010, February 8). Organizational communication – an update on this powerful asset. Consulted on April 15, 2020, at https://ordrecrha.org/ressources/developpement-organisationnel/2010/02/la-communication-organisationnelle-le-point-sur-cet-atout-allagmatique-puissant.

[6]Ministèreof Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity. (s. d.). Joint Action Programme for Employment (PACME-COVID-19). Consulted on April 14, 2020, at https://www.quebec.ca/entreprises-et-travailleurs-autonomes/programme-actions-concertees-pour-le-maintien-en-emploi-pacme-covid-19/#c50703.