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Why Your Online Reputation Matters More Than Ever

In the past, if you fired or laid off an employee, any dirty laundry would have been contained to solely the parties involved—and maybe family and friends. Today, that laundry can be aired to everyone.

Welcome to the Social Era.

The importance of protecting our businesses’ reputation online in order to be able to attract high quality customers is nothing new. But a new study by CareerArc, a global HR technology provider of social recruiting and outplacement services, sheds light on another significant reason—online identities are crucial for hiring and retaining top talent.

According to the report, the past five years marked the longest streak in job growth on record in the United States. With the increased opportunities, comes an increased quit rate because workers want to keep their options open. As a result, employers’ reputations are more important now than ever before.

After reading the report, which surveyed about 1,600 professionals, I want to share five key takeaways that will help you protect your brand in this new era.

 

  1. Don’t burn bridges. The survey found that one in three respondents who have been terminated or laid off had left one negative review of that former employer on a review site, social media, or with a personal or professional contact. Interestingly, even though Baby Boomers were almost 2.5 times more likely than Millennials to have been reported as laid off or terminated, Millennials were more likely to share negative opinions about their former employers.
  2. Manage the relationship with the people you are letting go, as well as those you are hiring. Past employees can impact your future ones. What past employees say about you online is really important to your prospective ones. Upon hearing of a job opportunity, 52 percent of job seekers search an organization’s online properties — first, like websites and social media channels — to learn more about the employer’s brand identity and company culture. Seventy-five percent of them consider the employer’s brand before even applying for a job. (Note: Facebook and LinkedIn topped the list of social media platforms job seekers would likely visit to learn more about an employer’s brand identity and company culture).
  3. Have an effective social media platform. What you say about yourself and what others say about you online leaves an impression. Ninety-one percent of professionals viewed poorly managed or unattractive websites and social media channels as damaging to an employer’s brand. Similarly, a majority reported bad online reviews on products and services along with negative remarks on employer review sites as more damaging to the company’s brand than negative opinions from people they know.
  4. Build a strong culture that motivates your people and treats them well. How you treat your employees is really important. Working professionals, across generations and employment statuses, reported that employee treatment—which includes company culture, work flexibility, health and wellness programs, etc.—was the most important factor in considering employer brand, followed by honesty and transparency. These qualities ranked above career opportunities, corporate social responsibility programs, and strong brand recognition and popularity.
  5. Manage your communication with job seekers effectively. How you treat your job seekers is important, too. Seventy-two percent of workers reported that not being notified of the status or decision made on their application leaves a negative impression of that employer. The survey found that over a third of employers admitted to never notifying applicants, even though 76 percent of employers knew it likely left a bad impression among candidates.

Despite the advent of the Social Era and the accompanying increased significance of employer brands, only 57 percent of the employers surveyed actually have an employer brand strategy. However, 93 percent, report that they plan to increase, continue, or begin investment in social media to promote employer brand within the next year. The ones that follow through will be on their way to hiring and keeping the most talented employees in the workforce.

Click here to download CareerArc’s 2015 Employer Branding Study.

Photo by: Marcie Casas

 

The only constant is change

For years, in my work in the corporate world, I’ve heard the slogan “change is the only constant,” but it has always seemed hollow to me. Instead of developing a workforce and leaders who are nimble and capable of constantly adapting, many organizations in the business world are, in fact, having a very difficult time adjusting to change. Sudden changes in their operating environment seem to cause them to hit the reactive, panic button, laying off employees; slashing development, improvement, and quality programs; cutting off contracts with suppliers; and retreating into downsizing.

Even though companies and organizations say they will make their cuts strategically, this is most often not what happens. Instead, the cuts often turn out to be “across the board” and irrational, damaging the organization’s short-term and future interests, while preserving the deadwood and the obsolete. The best and the brightest are often the ones who “take the package” and move on.

Needless to say, this plays havoc with organizational culture. I’ve seen it happen many times: Employees quickly become anxious, fearful and cynical; they stop seeing themselves as having a long-term future within the organization. Their loyalty to the company, and sometimes to each other, declines dramatically. It’s “everyone for themselves.” The loss is more than financial. The biggest cost is to the spirit of the organization: demoralization; lost confidence, morale and investment; and a decline in people’s commitment to, and ownership of the company.

In one organization I know, the CEO reacted immediately to one of the recent downturns, pulling the trigger on across-the-board cuts without consultation. In doing so, he destroyed a brilliantly successful change initiative that was under way, which had already made a dramatic improvement in the company’s bottom line. Needless to say, when the market began to recover, he lost a significant number of his best people, who had just been waiting for a chance to jump ship.

Here’s another example: A division head of a global company took a completely different approach, for which he endured some tough scrutiny from the head office and other divisions. He trimmed expenses very carefully and strategically ‐ first by laying off a very few under-performers, and then by gathering his leadership team and having in-depth conversations about how to implement further cost reductions while boosting morale. People agreed to switch roles and take on more responsibility, working hard to make the changes successful. The division was the only one in the company to achieve its targets throughout the toughest time, and the division head attracted support and admiration from across the company ‐ as well as a promotion.

The young adults who are now graduating from universities do not expect that they will be able to stay in a firm for the long term, or that the firm will be loyal to them. The concept of “job for life” has long gone by. Therefore, they are only prepared to make a limited investment in a workplace that may well use them up and spit them out. They also want a more balanced life than their parents had, and they are not willing to sacrifice their own families, relationships and children to the interests of an employer.

In the coming years, companies will be forced to look hard at their people practices if they want to survive the ups and downs and come out the other side with an engaged, motivated, aligned workforce, and a loyal clientele that will continue to buy their products and services.

It may be too early to tell, but it seems as if we are all learning to live with more instability than before. The recession that started in 2008 has never really ended, and the roller-coaster seems constantly off again.

There is no gyroscope for managing organizations through uncertainty and upheaval, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that a set of constant cultural or people-values and a long-term vision are more important than ever ‐ because the era of constant change has finally arrived, and slogans alone just aren’t going to cut it.