The way that job seekers learn about a company and its opportunities, culture and reputation has changed drastically in recent years. It used to be that such information was available only through word of mouth, like a friend of a friend who knew someone who worked at the company, or widely known reputation based on the company brand. But, these methods don’t provide the insight contemporary job seekers are looking for; a real glimpse inside the company and what it is like to work there.
Job seekers today now benefit from a much greater level of transparency. Most every company is now virtually visible. Sites like Indeed, Google, LinkedIn and Glassdoor give candidates access to an unprecedented level of information that help potential applicants form their decision to apply or not. They can easily learn everything they would like to know about a company, including the work culture, salary information, and reviews written by current and former employees.
In this age of corporate culture transparency becoming the norm for corporations, what can employers do to ensure the right message gets across to job seekers? The first step is understanding that there is no going back. As our society continues moving toward full disclosure, trying to avoid this trend or holding back information can be detrimental to the organization as a whole. Instead, HR must embrace this transparency, leveraging the newest channels of information to ensure the accurate employment brand and message gets through to job seekers while encouraging the best talent to apply.
Importance of brand and culture
The job search process is now very similar to the online consumer experience. Before making a purchase, shoppers will search for a product, consider the different options available, and read online reviews by other shoppers to help them make decisions. The same holds true for job seekers, who leverage information to determine what company they are most interested to work, and just as important, where they would not. More often than not, the leading factors driving such decisions are the company’s brand and culture.
The company can promote a certain image, but job seekers will seek ways to validate if employees and leaders live up to those ideals. Consulting employer review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed will give potential employees the insight to gauge whether that messaging is authentic and shape their decision to apply or not. As such, employers must be able to reflect their brand and culture accurately. If not, candidates will pick up on the charade and look elsewhere.
A shift in power
The new level of transparency also signifies a shift of the power in employment structure. Because employees are now able to vent about their company anonymously, even the most junior member is more likely to influence policies, procedures, offerings and culture as a whole. In other words, employers no longer hold all the power. Transparency has helped to tip the employer-driven job environment from bosses having the final say, to one of empowering internal staff and potential new hires to speak up for change.
Unfortunately, negative employee reviews often have the most impact at influencing job seekers. After all, negative comments are often viewed more authentic than positive ones. Corporations are not likely to falsify their own negative reviews, but are more likely to produce glowing reviews of themselves. The challenge for employers is learning how to leverage today’s growing transparency to their benefit. Instead of fearing what gets out there, utilize information sharing as a way to promote a corporate marketing strategy that elevates the brand and positions the company as the employer of choice.
Dealing with negative reviews
Given this unavoidable rise in transparency, what can companies do to ensure a positive reputation and accurate messaging? The right strategy entails understanding the key stakeholders who should be involved, from where the necessary information comes and how that information should be managed.
Everyone in the company should be concerned with negative portrayals of them, from the CEO on down. After all, everyone’s job is dependent on the company’s reputation. It is crucial that all departments get involved and understand the issue. HR can take the lead in to learn which departments, or who within a department is mentioned in negative online reviews. Understanding all perspectives—even those outside the organization—can be a valuable way to start the discussion about what is really happening and what needs to improve, ultimately helping to gain buy-in across the organization.
The marketing team and anyone else involved in brand messaging, should also be interested, engaged and listening closely. After all, it is through those external conversations that the company gains feedback, whether positive or negative about how a corporate brand and culture are viewed by employees and candidates alike. The entire talent team should also keep an eye out for what is being said, especially on Glassdoor where candidates can comment on the interview process and the overall candidate experience. Through gaining interdepartmental buy-in, HR can help to identify potential problems and facilitate prudent improvements. All stakeholders should be aware of evolution of transparency and the impact negative reviews can have on the company.
Find out which sites comments are coming from, and determine where they might come from in the near future. Glassdoor and LinkedIn are not the only potential hot zones. ‘Googling the phrase, ‘What is it like to work at XYZ Company?’ can uncover even more comments and discussions. Pay attention to conversations on Facebook and Twitter, too. Dedicated resources should be put in charge of monitoring social media and career sites, compiling feedback, and reporting findings to the department heads, up to the CEO to review and coordinate action.
Regardless of what site comments are found and what was said on those sites, manage and respond to all comments. This includes thanking those who have shared something positive and devising smart responses to repair negative feelings. Asking for more information or details from those who made negative comments will help them feel their voice is heard, while showing that the company takes their concerns seriously. Moreover, it is important to see if those negative comments point to a larger trend. However unpleasant or fallacious comments might seem, that person’s perspective provides the chance to learn from mistakes and continually improve the recruiting process.
Staying ahead of the curve
The ongoing transparency revolution can bring about some significant challenges for companies today, but it also introduces new opportunities for early adapters. The information that companies have previously had to learn through employee surveys or third party marketing companies is now readily available in real-time. Unsolicited feedback also enables employers to learn about the real concerns in the company structure. By staying ahead of the transparency curve organizations have a key advantage to shape, improve, and maintain their public perception, which is integral to attract the best talent and increase employee retention rates.
Christine Nichlos is founder and CEO of People Science, a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) business. Founded in 1997, People Science partners with corporations and becomes their fullcycle recruiting department either for a segment of employment or a company’s entire effort.