Why your reputation as an employer is more important than ever

Workers are increasingly willing to spill the beans about a bad workplace.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 19 Jan 2017

Imagine you’ve been approached about an exciting new job opportunity. The role sounds fulfilling, you’ll get a £10,000 pay rise and the interviewers seemed like a decent bunch of people. But how can you find out if the company is a good place to work?

In the past you might have asked friends of friends, colleagues or other acquaintances who used to work for the same company. Failing that, you wouldn’t have had much to go on. Nowadays it’s much easier thanks to the web. You can look up your future colleagues in a matter of seconds on LinkedIn and ask them for a natter. And sites like Indeed and Glassdoor let people review their employer and give them a star rating out of five, acting like a sort of TripAdvisor for jobs. Thanks to the anonymity of the internet, few reviewers hold back their feelings.

‘Horrible supervisors, with [a] really bad attitude! A little circle of family and close friends run the site and use bullying tactics on other employees,’ wrote one reviewer of outsourcing firm Mitie. ‘Had a very boring and unmotivated life experience being employed here...everyone has no motivation to improve and thrive the business, let alone improve their career,’ wrote another, of WHSmith.

And workers are becoming increasingly outspoken about bad employers, according to new research by the HR consultancy Lee Hecht Harrison Penna, which found that around three quarters (76%) of workers admit to having badmouthed a previous employer. Those under 35 are twice as likely to share their opinions about their employer online than their middle aged colleagues and 69% of them admit to taking heed of negative reviews about a prospective employer.

‘What our research highlights is how that feedback is to become even more critical to managing an employer brand with the rise of social media, and in particular networks that specifically target a professional audience like LinkedIn and Glassdoor,’ said LHHP’s UK CEO Nick Goldberg. ‘Negative ratings of an employer can seriously impact its ability to encourage the best people to join its ranks and stay there.’

At a time when employers are falling over each other to hire the best talent it’s even more important than usual to keep your staff happy. But this is much more than a HR issue – it can feed into a business’s wider reputation too, damaging relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

That’s demonstrated by figures in Edelman’s ‘trust barometer’, published earlier this week to coincide with World Economic Forum at Davos. Trust in businesses and business leaders is on the wane, the report found, but the group the public does trust to tell them the truth about a company is its employees:

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer

While crafting the right corporate messages and spending cash on your consumer branding are equally important when managing your reputation, don’t neglect your most important spokespeople - those at the coalface.

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