Employer Branding in 2017: The Battle for Talent has Changed

As the US Economy continues to strengthen and unemployment rates fall, the days of easily hiring a highly qualified person and getting them to stick around are all but gone. 2017 will be a challenging year for attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. It may be time to accept that Employer Branding is no longer expected of only large businesses, but of us all. .

Employer branding is a new concept to some, but it’s actually an old term (circa 1990’s) with a renewed popularity. It describes a company’s reputation as an employer and serves as a value proposition to employees (both current and prospective). While the term might not be new, the rules have certainly changed over the past 25 years! The transparency we now have with social media, coupled with websites like glassdoor.com which not only allows for anonymous reviews of companies and management but also provides salary information and job boards, has completely transformed employer branding. What was once a controlled and calculated message from a company is now an endless stream of current and former employee perceptions. For many, this could mean that marketing efforts typically associated with brand management are now a requirement for HR management as well.

TimesJobs.com recently released a list of things that will change recruitment in 2017. Among the items discussed was the continued shift from employer to candidate when it comes to Employment branding. “The candidates will feel empowered to seek new opportunities and hence employers need to work on building their brand.”

First time you’re considering your employer brand? You’re not alone. LinkHumans.com recommends starting with a basic understanding of how you’re currently perceived. “You’ve got to understand what your ratings are in terms of things that you want to be associated with. So if you want to be innovative for example, or you want to be seen as a good development company, then you’ve got to measure those things.”

While you may not be ready for a complete employer branding campaign, at the very least you need to be aware of this power shift and begin to discuss what it could mean for your organization! Perhaps it’s time to do a little research and see what perceptions are currently being shared about your organization?

popdevteamEmployer Branding in 2017: The Battle for Talent has Changed
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HR’s Role in the Wells Fargo Debacle

wells_fargoBy now we’ve all heard numerous tales of the fake accounts created by Wells Fargo employees in order to meet unrealistic sales quotas and the subsequent firing of more than 5,000 as a result. Millions of phony deposit accounts. Hundreds of thousands of phony credit card accounts. Phony pin numbers and email addresses too.

If you’ve ever worked in an environment where meeting goals, especially sales quotas, was given high priority, then you know what that type of culture can breed. Even the best of employees can engage in dishonest practices when their paycheck is on the line.

The workplace psychology experts at the Faas Foundation say that the bank is a perfect example of systemic bullying, defined in this case as “setting unreasonable expectations to get rid of employees who do not deliver and causing others to resort to questionable practices to meet the expectations.”

As more details become available, it turns out that the fraudulent accounts weren’t the only issue. If we’re talking about things that fit the definition of phony, perhaps we need to look at the company’s Code of Conduct and its Ethics Hotline as well.

As the dust settles around this case and the investigation and hearings play out, we find a CEO who assumes little to no responsibility, customers who are due recompense, hundreds of millions of dollars in fines assessed and past employees whose voices are finally being heard. From these past employees we now know that multiple attempts were made to blow the whistle on these fraudulent accounts through calls to the company’s ethics hotline and emails to their human resources staff. In return for following the company’s ethics policies (let’s not mention the law!), those employees were reportedly rewarded with termination[1].

Reporting under the condition of anonymity, a former Well Fargo Human Resources employee told reporters at CNNMoney that the bank had a plan in place to retaliate against those who used the tip line for reporting sales related issues. To make a long story short, the HR staff helped managers find ways to fire those tipsters.

All of this only proves what we already know: The existence of a code of conduct isn’t enough to create ethical behavior. The code must be also enforced and supported by company culture. And if a company’s upper management isn’t enforcing the code, then it is HR’s job to do so.[2]

Enforcement is one thing, but creating a supportive company culture is another. The experts at the Faas Foundation suggest that not only was the culture at Wells Fargo not supportive, but that it actually had all the necessary components of a hostile work environment (unreasonable expectations put on employees, an acceptance of questionable practices, and reluctance to complain out of fear of retaliation). According to Andrew Faas of the Foundation, “Wells Fargo has a much bigger issue than the fraudulent accounts—they have a culture of fear. If this is validated, it puts to question the credibility of their leadership’s response[3].”

Pointing the finger directly at the CEO is easy and justified, but it doesn’t change this simple fact: A very different story would be playing out in the news right now if the HR staff had been responsive to the complaints and willing to take a stand the very first time they heard of a violation.

This extends beyond HR’s role in building corporate culture, helping managers with realistic goal setting and providing code of conduct training. If the accounts of former employees are true, then complaints from internal whistle-blowers were communicated to Wells Fargo’s HR staff many times over the past several years.

While standing up to corporate executives requires tremendous courage, it is a professional responsibility of HR professionals to do so. We, too, are safeguarded by laws that provide strong protections for those who face retaliation for reporting these issues up the chain of command.




[1] https://my.capital.org/community/advice-resolution/newsletter/blog/2016/09/26/retaliation-lessons-from-the-wells-fargo-debacle

[2] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Wells-Fargo-code-of-conduct.aspx?utm_source=SHRM%20Wednesday%20-%20PublishThis_HRDaily_7.18.16%20(15)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=September%2014,%202016&SPMID=&SPJD=&SPED=&SPSEG=&spMailingID=26504954&spUserID=ODY2OTYwOTQ1NDkS1&spJobID=882202904&spReportId=ODgyMjAyOTA0S0

[3] https://www.fastcompany.com/3064175/how-wells-fargos-cross-selling-scandal-grew-out-of-workplace-culture

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What do applicants take away from your interview process?

Unemployment is down, and the labor market is tightening. What does that mean for you? What should you be doing as a result?

Well, as the supply of available labor shrinks if you are going to land the cream of the crop- now is the time to review your recruiting and hiring processes to ensure you build the best employer brand that you can. And let me be clear- nothing will damage your employer brand more than a broken recruitment and communication process with potential candidates.

Data compiled for The New York Times by Glassdoor found that an average interview process in 2013 lasted 23 days versus an average of 12 days in 2009. And in today’s 2016 world, the pressure is on everyone- not just hiring managers, to make quality hiring decisions and quickly.

Here are five things you should be doing today to ensure your employer brand is working in you favor to attract the best and brightest talent:

  1. Never allow a candidate to leave an interview without knowing the timetable for you making a decision on the position.
  2. If your interviewing process goes beyond the timetable you gave to candidates, proactively update candidates.
  3. If you are going to have candidates deliver work sample to gauge their ability to perform- limit the scope of the work; Candidates don’t work for you yet and tasking them with completing one of your deliverables on a project is unethical.
  4. Be reasonable with your timeline for delivery of any work samples— 3 to 5 business days, never tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, show some respect to candidates. Every candidate who took the time to interview with your company should get a definitive response within the timetable you gave them. Preferably via a telephone call, but at the very least an email thanking them for their time and informing them of your decision on the role.

One last question you want to consider- the first experience candidates have with your company’s culture is during your hiring process. What are you communicating about your company and its culture to prospective candidates?

Take a look at this video by Heineken®. What did they just communicate to their new hire? How did they make their new hire feel- at the end of the process?

popdevteamWhat do applicants take away from your interview process?
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