Employer Brand Perceptions From A Temporary Employee's Point Of View

February 15

People in Business is a wholly-owned company in the UK.

One of the biggest traps any management can fall into is creating an Employer Brand which does not deliver on the detail of the employment experience. This summer, I saw this happen in a great company who is a leading brand in the global hotel and restaurant business. I got an inside account of this company's employer brand from my 21-year-old daughter who just worked there for a month as a temporary waitress.

Here's the good news: on day one, she returned with an experience to make any EB professional proud and in particular, me as the originator in the first place. The whole session (for both full-time employees and temps) concentrated on the brand and what it meant: the standards, the values, the support and rationale. She came home proud as punch and really understood what I had been going on about for years.

That weekend, Management held a party in the park for the new team — including the temporary employees. They served superb food and drink and most of management attended. Not many companies would include a temporary waitress in such an event.

Regarding the work itself, she was a 'runner', making sure that the food was delivered to the right person, at the right table, at the same time as other diners in the same party. Working to the precise and high standards of this fashionable restaurant demanded attention to detail, teamwork, speed, good personal appearance and the ability to help others. Furthermore, it required quick learning and the preparedness to take detailed criticism on the minutiae of how the brand and its' customer service standards were maintained. Not everyone survived these first weeks and my daughter was proud she did.

Shouldn't every employer strive for an employer brand like this? It's a brand to be proud of - providing excellent training on the job, high standards and working with bright, ambitious colleagues. That was 'the give' from the employers' point of view, what was 'the get'?

She was paid at the rate of £12,000 pa ($19,285 per year) meaning around £6 ($9.60) per hour for a 39-hour working week. Her shifts covered breakfast and lunch until 4pm, then she was given a two-hour break. She worked again starting at 6pm until 2:00 the next morning. Awkward shifts come with the territory in the restaurant business, but she had no complaints. Her only problem was with the unpaid hours. The contract stated that employees would be expected to work longer when that was necessary — but would not receive overtime pay.

Yet some weeks she was working 55 hours. As the weeks went on, her respect for the brand, which the company had done so much to describe and burnish, started to decline.

However, her standards did not decline and she left in the good graces of other staff and management. In my view, the balance between 'give' and 'get' was not right. Maybe unpaid long hours are a rite of passage in the hotel and restaurant business, particularly where the standards are high and the brand on your resume is a benefit. Trainee solicitors in magic circle firms (the leading law firms in the UK) experience the same pressure, though the prospects for them are perhaps more enticing in the longer term.

Did the employer pick up on how my daughter's view of the employer brand declined? Not really. She politely asked HR if there was an exit interview and was told 'no you're only a temp' (subtext, plenty more like you).

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