Minimise the brand fall-out from industrial disputes
When an organisation has a very public industrial dispute its employer brand will be damaged, but the impact doesn't have to be long-term, says branding expert Brett Minchington.
Public perceptions differPotential employees who aren't "in the know" or don't have an informed view of a dispute will likely be persuaded in some way by what they read in the media, Minchington says, "but I think increasingly people are becoming more savvy to the unbalanced view of how media can report these types of things".
A dispute will "mean different things to different people", he points out, and it's not all negative.
"The strike was limited to ground staff, pilots and engineers - three pretty critical areas of the business - but on the flipside, Qantas has put out the stats saying 'We're losing a lot of money; our overseas operations aren't competitive, so we're going to take this direction to remain here in the future.
"The action they took, which was unprecedented, was probably quite a good strategic one. It's paradigm shifting. The media around it has really died down... They'll work through and weather the storm on this one."
Some people will see that as attractive, Minchington says.
"They think, 'I'll go work at Qantas because they've stood up to unions and they're changing strategy' - whereas other people, if they've got a choice between Qantas and one of the other airlines, might join another company."
Further, the position level and role criticality can affect a potential employee's view.
"For example, an executive might be attracted to work at the company based on the challenges of leading a company that is going through industrial action, as they may see it as a way to advance their career."
The biggest impact is likely to be felt at the critical role function level, for example where pilots and engineers are in high demand and can move to other airlines, he says.
"Rival airlines will use the dispute as an opportunity to attract talent (and customers) from Qantas, so it is important that leaders lead during a time of dispute and keep open lines of communication with their staff."
Brand disengagement doesn't necessarily affect performanceWhen a dispute is in progress it can't be assumed that employee performance will be affected, Minchington says.
"It actually comes back to the individual, and their pride in performance, and how they deliver service.
"If they're a disengaged employee it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to deliver poor service. I know from experience that a lot of employees are disengaged - in technical roles like ambos and firefighters and radiologists, for example - but their customer service is first-class.
"With the engineers, people might be thinking, 'If engineers aren't happy what's that going to mean for the quality of their work on planes?', but I think it gets back to pride in performance."
How to weather the stormAccording to Minchington, the steps employers should take during and after a high-profile dispute to keep their brand intact include:
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