Changing Negative Perceptions About Your Workplace

February 15

Last month, my colleague Alec Drummond discussed the deep dissatisfaction of the American worker and how this issue impacts engagement of your current employees. The focus of his piece reminded us that it is important to continue to communicate with employees during times of change in an effort to increase engagement. Appropriate messaging and an effective communications strategy can surely increase engagement. As many firms expect to start growing as the economy turns around, we need to work harder to change potential negative perceptions that have been created about a place to work during this time of turmoil in the workplace. You need to focus on delivering a strong internal brand message to help employees talk about your organization in a way that represents your employment brand — and hopefully with positive messages.

Traditionally, companies have relied on a centralized command and control structure to develop and market an employer brand but in today's digitally connected world, people within our networks are often drowning out these messages. We tend to rely on our networks as the most credible source of information. We do this when it comes to choosing a restaurant or a travel destination and now also as we research a potential employer. Beyond our own networks, we know that when someone has something to say about a company, service or employment experience, they increasingly turn to social media vehicles to have their say.

Besides the ability to post comments on twitter, Facebook pages or blogs as well as upload You Tube videos, we have seen a rise in employee opinion web sites such as Jobvent and Glassdoor where users go to so they can openly discuss their employment experience. More and more candidates are turning to these sites to find out about your company before making a decision to apply.

Negative messages spread like wildfire through a social network and with access to digital social networks these perceptions are propagated even faster than before and tragically these stories stick around a lot longer than any positive change that might take place in the organization in the short term.

Once these opinions about work are communicated on the Internet, this content can appear in a search result. Search being as dynamic as it is, means that these comments are starting to come up in search results when a user searches for information about a company. (This is another great reason to take advantage of paid search in your marketing mix.) The chatter in the open social digital environment is what shapes the perceptions about your company and this effectively becomes your employer brand. It is your reputation as a place to work and it may not always be what you'd like it to be.

What can companies do to change the way their organization is represented in the social media space? And how do you leverage this to begin to build relationships with those passive job seekers? How do you build these relationships today when we have so much information coming at us all the time? How do you get in front of the top performing people and convince them that your organization is a better place to work than where they are now? How do you build trust when people are becoming cynical about marketing messages?

The most important thing you can do is to actively participate in the conversation. One of the ways you can do this is by activating your employee base to be "brand broadcasters" for your organization. Be open enough to allow them to broadcast your employee value proposition in the social media space and allow them to speak about your organization using messages that are true to the core of your organization. Messaging that is based on research and meets the attributes your employees believe you deliver on are key.

A study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council indicated that the drivers of attraction and commitment to organizations have changed over the last three years — many companies have not managed their employee value propositions effectively and the messages are becoming less effective and less believable so you have to be really focused on being authentic about your employment promise. Ensure that the company can deliver on any promises made about the employment experience.

A well-mapped out broadcast strategy that takes advantage of the various social communication tools available can help you begin to build that relationship with your target audience. Companies that are getting involved and are training their employees to become broadcasters of the message about the employment experience can actively manage the tone of the conversations that are taking place in the social space, ensuring these messages help to strengthen the employer brand.

Ultimately, how you manage your brand within the context of the conversations that are taking place is becoming one of the most important tools companies have in their recruiting toolbox today. If you ignore the digital chatter and don't actively participate in the conversation, your current or ex-employees may well be creating a perception about your employment experience on your behalf and that is too important to be left for someone else to do.

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