Through the Looking Glass(door)
If you’re like most HR executives, logging into Glassdoor can be like one of those vanity mirrors with the bright lights: even the tiniest imperfection is magnified beyond belief, leaving you gasping in horror at what you see.
Many of these executives who read the entries on Glassdoor are shocked to find that those reviews completely contradict how they think their employment brand is perceived. Negative feedback by hires who turned out to be a bad fit or disgruntled past employees can drive a wedge between your recruitment marketing efforts and savvy candidates that use every available avenue to vet an opportunity. Prospective employees are no different than consumers today: they check online reviews and will trust them more than any marketing collateral, believing it to be more authentic because it comes from “real people,” not a “faceless company.”
Harsh reality or not, it’s life in the digital age. So how can you defend the honor of your employment brand while redefining who you really are in the employment world? Thankfully, Hollywood can give us a little inspiration:
- “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” (Michael Corleone, “The Godfather”): While this has to be the most overused movie quote outside of “greed is good” when it comes to business, it definitely fits our topic really well. Before you work to understand or fix any problems around your employment brand, you have to take a step back and see this online feedback for what it really is: a branding challenge. Taking it personally will only lead to a state of denial and inaction. Like it or not, these comments reflect how your brand will be perceived by prospective (and current) employees and even, potentially, investors.
Pay attention to what is being reported and if you’re getting similar comments from multiple reviewers. Are there any recurring themes? Is everyone complaining that your culture promises one thing and delivers a less than satisfactory experience?
- “I’m Batman.” (Bruce Wayne A.K.A. Batman, “Batman”): First off, I’m not advocating that you hunt down these Glassdoor reviewers and dispense some vigilante justice, Dark Knight-style. But, let’s face it: The quote is as simple as it gets, and the Caped Crusader’s brand is pretty simple to understand: bat-themed crime fighter inspiring fear in criminals everywhere.
Shouldn’t your employment brand be just as simple to understand?
Start by thinking about what encapsulates your employment brand today. What are your real differentiators when it comes to a work environment and company culture? Do you offer a supportive environment where collaboration is key to shared success? Or is it a formal, process-dictated world where everyone has an individual responsibility defined at all times? There’s no wrong answer…unless you have lost touch with what exactly that culture and employment brand is and are communicating it incorrectly!
The next step is to focus on differentiating your company with concrete, measurable terms. Specific salary and bonus ranges, development opportunities, unique benefits (medical and dental don’t count!), actual work/life balance examples, and cross-training/professional development opportunities should all be highlighted. Prospective employees are looking at investing a good chunk of their time in your company. They don’t want big, fuzzy promises that claim to make you different. They also won’t wait around long enough for you to prove what you can’t explain. Talent will go where they get the best measurable deal for the time they want to invest working.
- “It’s not the years baby…it’s the miles.” (Indiana Jones, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”): My favorite adventuring archaeologist may not want to admit it, but time changes everything.
When was the last time you considered updating how you describe your company’s culture and employment brand? Does it reflect where your organization is today? Start-up companies that evolve and mature from an office where beanbags are office chairs and Nerf footballs fly around to a more buttoned-down, traditional culture are especially vulnerable to having an outdated employment brand.
That being said, even if you’re a 100-year-old household consumer brand, employment brand evolution is still something you need to actively think about. Millennials’ desire for flexible, technology-integrated work environments are dictating how these types of companies brand themselves to candidates and employees in order to keep their top young talent engaged and happy. It’s not enough to assume that people will want to work for you because your company has tenure in the marketplace. In fact, that reputation may play against you. How many of us have had misconceptions of workplaces as “old”, “stodgy”, or “too conservative” when we were younger and looking for a place to jumpstart our careers? The answer: a lot.
- “Cats and dogs living together…MASS HYSTERIA!” (Dr. Peter Venkman, “Ghostbusters”) – It’s easy to go straight to hyperbole when ghosts are rampaging through the Big Apple. It’s equally as easy to read one or two bad reactions online and think that it’s a representation of a larger trend.
At the same time, discounting negative feedback and hoping it doesn’t influence anyone, or assuming that your employment brand is bulletproof despite these isolated blips of negativity is just as dangerous.
This is where proactively soliciting feedback from people across the enterprise at all different levels can help you identify whether or not it’s truly an isolated case. Be sure people can submit their opinions anonymously and ask for specific feedback on how they perceive the culture. Would they refer people to work for the company? Why or why not? Senior executives often hear only praise; they need to solicit, and accept, that there are negatives, too. Ask what employees don’t like about working at the company, and what they would do to change it. Sometimes people will surprise you with their creativity!
Bottom line: nobody, and no company, is perfect. Period. No matter what you think of the culture and employment brand you’ve created, it’s never going to be Shangri-La. Additionally, some industries face an inherent negative connotation in the talent world. Either overreacting to it or completely ignoring it won’t make it any easier for your recruiters to do their jobs.
- “For a 45-minute fight, you gotta train hard for 45,000 minutes, 45,000!” (Mickey, “Rocky II”) – Training is the lifeblood of good performance, whether we’re talking about sports or business.
Train your recruiters to be open and honest about the public perceptions of your employment brand and company culture. Give them the information they’re going to need, like the specifics in the Batman example, to facilitate direct conversations around the negative feedback and any misperceptions that it’s created. Educate them on how to address issues tactfully. Instead of viewing it as a debate that they either win or lose, your recruiters should be focused on discussing how an employee thrives in your company and how that matches up with that candidate’s expectations. In other words: accentuate the positive.
The other aspect to keep in mind, particularly for companies with multiple locations across different global regions, is how the employment brand changes from region to region. Recruiters who operate remotely, or who recruit across different areas, both in North America and globally, need to be careful that they don’t fall victim to corporate-office tunnel vision. Culture is easy to experience first-hand and understand when everyone’s under the same roof. But what are employees experiencing in Cleveland, or Boise, or London, or Bombay that’s different? Make sure that your recruiters are prepared to speak to regional differences and preferences.
While online reviews aren’t going to go away, you don’t have to feel trapped by them. Taking time today to address what’s already out there from a feedback standpoint, and then proactively evolving your employment brand is well worth the investment to ensure that you continue to attract and retain the best talent.
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