Why Employer Branding Just Became a Matter of Life and Death
The change in US abortion law is forcing companies to choose sides, making employer branding a vital part of that process
The US Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe Vs Wade ruling has denied millions of women across the country the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies.
It is a seismic ruling that will have huge repercussions for American women and the shockwave is already being felt elsewhere in society and even in business.
The impact of the decision by nine Supreme Court Justices to effectively ban abortion in the US, is nothing less than the start of a new age of capitalism, where organisations are being forced to hold a political view and have the conviction to stand behind it.
Organisations are now expected to take a political stance, and to show conviction that, ultimately, may split their audience.
Employer Branding will play a vital role in helping organisations navigate these new waters with congruence and authenticity.
The net result is that people (all employees, candidates and customers alike) will begin to make choices (career and consumer) based on how brands choose to show up (or not) for this fight.
Why Employer Branding matters
It also shows that employer brand is emerging as the new and most powerful means of corporate communication.
Several organisations and their leadership have publicly stated a position of support for their staff. It has triggered an unprecedented level of public positioning from commercial leaders that were not previously political.
Dicks Sporting Goods announced that it will reimburse employees up to $4,000 in travel expenses if they need to travel to the nearest location where abortion services are legally available.
Lauren Hobart, President and CEO of Dicks Sporting Goods, said: “We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them.”
The firm has already been praised for its swift action and as long as it is honest and congruent with the culture of the organisation it will only be a positive for the business.
The only note of caution to organisations that have not been vocal on political issues before is that they must follow-through on their rhetoric. If not, they run the risk of being seen as simply news jacking a topical issue in order to increase brand awareness.
Brands that are not genuine in their sentiments will suffer because battlelines have been drawn and they will be found out. There will be repercussions for any organization that over promises and under delivers.
Taking a stance on Roe V Wade
For companies such as Patagonia which has a proud history of political activism woven into its brand values, it further demonstrates and reinforces its employer brand, culture and beliefs in a very simple clear and powerful way. Conversely, if it had opted to try and sit it out, it would have raised questions about the authenticity of its activist credentials.
Disney, Zillow, Meta, Comcast, and JPMorgan Chase are among a growing list of other companies that have picked a side and will cover employees’ expenses if they have to travel for abortion services.
This moment in time is forcing organisations that have been quiet and apolitical up until this point, to start thinking about putting the well-being of their people ahead of any concerns for brand reputation.
Action is far better than no action at all. This issue is being forced and it can only be a good thing for organisations willing to make choices for the good of their people.
Employer brand is now emerging as the most important side of the coin, from a branding perspective.
How you view the world, the lengths you go to do the right thing, will reveal who you are as an employer, and how you can be expected to treat your people.
It is emerging as the key metric in whether your brand is seen in a positive light or negative light. It’s a pivotal time for all manner of companies.
Corporate activism matters
In addition, it also rearranges the playing pieces in favour of candidates and employees. What has emerged is a growing list of standard questions such as ‘how did you treat people during COVID?’ ‘How did you show support and change as a result of Black Lives Matter?’ And perhaps most importantly, ‘How did you respond to Wade versus Roe?’.
Whether you take action or not, these are top of mind judgments in the eyes of your audience and you need to strategically decide, are we neutral? Can we stay neutral? And if we’re supportive how do we prove we were supportive?
This is forcing transparency and authenticity to the front and centre of employer brand values and it is creating a resurgence in the concept of citizenship. It is rising in priority and importance to people, therefore, it's rising in priority and importance to business strategy.
Employer branding has suddenly moved beyond the usual questions of what's in it for me, how much do you pay, is there free gym membership or blue M&Ms in the canteen? It’s suddenly a whole lot more serious than that, but now more vital than ever.