As a new graduate during a pandemic, I can tell you that my first job searching experience felt extra challenging and overwhelming.
The hundreds of job postings I’d seen felt identical to each other and most promises on those postings did not mean much after a while.
During my search, one of the things that guided me through this rabbit hole was finding about employer branding…what it means, how it's built, how it can influence and be influenced. One of the first things that I learned early on was that a company can guide and balance the conversation around their employer brand through honesty and transparency.
The Real “About Us”
We live in a time when our choices about where to eat, see a movie, and even where to work are more impacted by online reviews shared by peers rather than corporate influence. The power balance has moved from employers to employees, who are rightfully becoming more outspoken and honest about the firms they work for, especially with The Great Resignation.
People expect and are drawn to integrity and self-awareness from companies and when creating a company image, being overly ambitious or formulaic is a disservice. While it may be tempting to build a brand on what is believed to be appealing to job seekers, and it may be easy for the seeker to go through the meticulously edited “Who We Are,” “About Us,” or the “News” sections and believe in the magic. It certainly doesn't work in the long run for either party if the information is inauthentic. Instead, having an authentic brand that honestly portrays what a company is about while being open about areas of development is smarter and more attractive to job seekers and encouraging for current employees.
Even then, how was I supposed to trust the identity and credibility of a prospective employer? The answer was: the role that people play in defining and representing an employer brand.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
It's not enough for a company to discover certain outlets that appeal to candidates and showcase an overly idealistic brand. It's critical to understand what current and past employees at every align your messaging to what you know about how employees feel. When people feel tricked or betrayed, most won’t shy away from expressing this discontent on platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed or LinkedIn.
In this Information Age, it is much easier to conduct a background check on companies and see the good, the bad and the ugly for themselves. From my experience, further Googling and scrolling through social media, going through the recruitment process with an HR team, or having a chat with a current or past employee have all offered me a different and more grounded sense of brand compared to the many dreamy “About Us” pages out there.
“Much as satisfied customers often make the best salespeople, satisfied current and former employees can be an invaluable source of candidate referrals, strengthening your ability [as an employer] to attract top talent.” - HBR
But when the vision, mission, culture, and employer value proposition are communicated effectively and realistically, it's easier for people to see how their values match (Glassdoor, 2019). When workers have a clear understanding of the employer identity, they will be more likely to see working for the company as a pleasant experience and be the best advocates in attracting like-minded people and supporting the areas of development. In the end, honesty and transparency create a fair playing field where all members can track goals, principles, and workflow, and have the opportunity to offer feedback on brand.
Long story short, as more people seek significance in their work, it's more important than ever for workplaces to be transparent, honest, and self-aware, and lead with their sincere principles and promises. While it is undeniable that everyone wants to work with a great business with no downsides, no company – or brand – is without its flaws, and current, past and prospective employees are all aware of this. They can choose to accept, adapt to and work with these flaws under the right conditions created by truthfully sharing the good, the bad and the ugly.