There’s a lot of talk these days about employer brand. It’s become a hot topic as companies have, willingly or unwillingly, become much more transparent in their practices thanks to social media and review websites like Glassdoor. In fact, employer brand has become so crucial to recruiting talent that it has created an entire industry of organizations like The Muse, a company that works to connect job seekers to companies that tell “a more authentic and compelling employer story.”
Marketers are already more used to this kind of public scrutiny, particularly in the age of social media. Where consumers used to call customer service directly, consumers these days frequently use Twitter to complain publicly to companies – and expect a speedy response. Everyone has an opinion that they’re willing to share in reviews on sites like Amazon, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, and marketing’s job has evolved to handle the brand’s public image outside of its own website.
Now, talent managers are facing the same battle with their employer brand.
As a marketer, one of my main concerns always is marketing ethically. Ethical marketing is the concept of maintaining honesty, fairness, and responsibility in all of your company’s marketing efforts. Basically, you shouldn’t lie to potential customers and you shouldn’t claim things about your product or service that aren’t true. It’s sort of a good-person marketer’s creed.
Take this for example: think about every diet plan ad you’ve ever encountered on the Internet. Many diet plans make claims about how their customers will shed a thousand pounds in a week just by following their instructions – oftentimes accompanied by “real stories from real customers!” An ethical way to market the plan, by contrast, would be to explain realistic weight loss expectations and how using the plan to create a sustainable lifestyle might give customers the results they’re looking for.
Ethical marketing extends into your employer brand, too. Unethical employer brand practices show up in actions like making promises to candidates about perks, potential promotions, or company culture without the intent to follow through. Plenty of new hires realize a few weeks in that the image they originally received of their new company doesn’t quite line up with the actual experience of working there. I don’t have to tell you what happens to employee engagement at that point.
The scariest thing your disengaged, disillusioned employees can do is to leave an honest review on Glassdoor or a similar company review site. The impact of that action is even worse than if the employee just leaves the company to work somewhere else - because the employee’s words have the ability to influence countless other potential candidates who come across the review, and they’ll be twice as trusted as anything your CEO or senior executives post.
Online review expert Joel Cheesman calls it “the Yelpification of everything.” Just as they look at customer reviews on Amazon and restaurant reviews on Yelp before making a purchase, job candidates are using online reviews from both current and past employees to help inform their decisions about the next step in their careers. In fact, according to The Modern Job Seeker Report from iCIMS, 92 percent of working Americans consider employee reviews important when applying for a job, and 1 in 3 have actually declined a job offer based on negative online reviews.
And keep in mind, the people who go out of their way to leave a review, whether consumer or candidate, are the ones who either loved or hated their experience. There isn’t often an in-between.
As a talent manager, you may be reading this thinking, “well, my employer brand accurately depicts our employees’ experience!” Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your employees disagree; a recent survey from KRC Research and Weber Shandwick, The Employer Brand Credibility Gap, revealed that only 19 percent of employees today see a strong match between how their employer presents itself in the market and their actual experiences of working at the company.
Taking your employer brand to the next level starts with an honest look at your company’s inner workings. Are your employees actually engaged? Is your organizational culture truly what you claim it to be?
If those questions don’t give you the answers you were hoping for, it’s time to define your organizational culture, assess your employee engagement, and maybe even consider implementing an employee advocacy program.
You can’t be a fitness brand that doesn’t concern itself with its own employees’ wellness. You can’t be an environmental agency that dumps its trash into the ocean. And you can’t be a company who describes one employee experience and delivers another.
Of course, can’t is a strong word. I could say you shouldn’t. But the reality is that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for companies to hide.
The candidates you are hiring want transparency. Plenty of articles focus on how millennials want to know they’re working for a company that cares about them – and yes, for the most part, that’s true. But everyone, regardless of age or generation, wants honesty from their employer.
The only thing worse than an employer that doesn’t care about you is one that pretends it does.
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