Having been a recruiter for a large regional Contingent Recruiting Firm for over 4 years, I had the opportunity to recruit for many different technology companies and brands. One of the single biggest challenges to the role was articulating the work environment and culture at an organization to candidates I was working with. That fact was made infinitely more challenging with the popularity of social outlets that gathered employee feedback and reviews. Glassdoor was the most popular of these outlets, and remains a major source of intelligence for candidates looking to make a job change – and a challenge for organizations looking to recruit the best talent.
The old adage that the first step in fixing a problem is realizing that you have one certainly applies here. In the beginning, many organizations chose to ignore the problem and the social networks that were providing the reviews. As with anything, ignoring a problem does not make it go away.
For example, one client I worked with was a large global technology organization that had two divisions filled with some extraordinarily talented engineers. The core of their problem was that their internal division, working on a B2B technology, was large, mature, and filled with long time, toxic employees. It was out of this division that a mass exodus of employees left the company. Unfortunately for my client, the former employees chose to leave a written repository of complaints, horror stories, and scathing reviews on Glassdoor on their way out. This created an enormous recruiting challenge.
One by one, all of the candidates we discussed the company with expressed deep concern and reservations due to the reviews they had read online. The issue became so severe that we scheduled a strategy meeting with the new Head of Engineering and the SVP of HR to discuss ways that we could address the reviews. The results of this meeting helped frame strategies that would be useful with many more clients over the years. Here are some of the steps they took, and how you can learn from their own Glassdoor disaster.
Recognize the situation:
My client was very forthcoming in admitting that they had neglected their B2B Division for a number of years while the focus of the organization was on the consumer side of the business. To correct that situation, the new CEO had made a change to the Executive Engineering Leadership and charged the new leader with promptly fixing the situation. The Head of Engineering clearly articulated what he found when he arrived. A culture of mistrust with Directors who were silo’d and unwilling to work with other Directors. The lack of collaboration and apathy had settled in with the rest of the staff and it was an every-employee-for-themselves environment. My client had identified the problem; here are some things you can look out for in your organization:
- Has there been a large increase in employees leaving? If so, why?
- Have there been an increased number of negative reviews online? If so, are the reasons listed things you are aware of and/or believe to be true about your organization?
- Have candidates you are interviewing referenced any negative things they have heard about your organization?
Put a solution in place and be able to clearly articulate it:
With the help of the SVP of HR the new Head of Engineering made some aggressive moves to change the leadership team underneath him. If he wanted an organization that collaborated and worked together to achieve common goals, the existing leadership team was not willing or able to get that done. So he made changes and made them quickly. He very intelligently assembled a team of Engineering leaders who all brought success, teamwork, and a clear sense of purpose to the company. These leaders were empowered from day one to change the way business was done to create a positive, collaborative environment. Those changes lead many of the toxic employees to leave the organization. We also know that they were vocal on Glassdoor on their way out.
Have a strategy to address the elephant in the room with candidates:
When a candidate expressed any concern or reservation during the interview process, we set up a system where the SVP of HR, or the Head of Engineering, or both in some cases, would call the candidate directly to discuss their concerns. They would start by acknowledging they had discovered a problem in their organization last year. They then discussed all of the positive changes that had been put in place since recognizing the situation. There was a heavy emphasis on the new leaders and the clear mandate to create a powerful and collaborative environment where engineers could thrive and grow. Guess what, honesty and candor worked. In most cases, the candidate’s concerns were alleviated and many of the candidates accepted offers with the company. As an organization you should have a well-articulated strategy to address negative perceptions in the social networks. That message needs to be communicated to all employees and hiring managers who will participate in your interview process to make sure a clear and consistent message is delivered to candidates.
Address the issue in a public forum:
In this example the SVP of HR took a more aggressive step to offset the impact of the negative reviews. She posted a well-written and honest response on Glassdoor. In her response, she acknowledged the mistakes the company had made but was clear in addressing and articulating the culture they were building now. It addressed the major themes highlighted in the negative reviews but it also highlighted the changes that were underway to build a collaborative and innovative team moving forward. I believe that it went a long way to improving their Employer Brand perception and certainly helped reduce the number of candidates who expressed concern. If your organization faces some of these similar challenges, you may need to decide if you want to take the step of responding directly to a negative post(s). Don’t worry, there are some fantastic resources and tips provided by most review sites like Glasssdoor, you can check out their website for best practices.
It is clear that the rise of the social forums is an ever-evolving challenge and fact we all need to be aware of, especially as Gen Xers and millennials continue to expand their footprint in the workforce. To some it feels like the ability to control your employer brand has been taken away. While in some ways that may be partly true, there are many steps your organization can take to control the narrative and address any obstacles first hand. Your strategy should be based on an open and honest discussion of your company, your culture, and the ways your organization is building a great company to work for. Lead with a strong message and make sure it is backed up by honest employee interactions with candidates that validate your position. No challenge is insurmountable, and with the right strategy you can turn an obstacle into a marketing and recruiting success story.
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