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Are Employers Really Comfortable Telling the Truth?

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Employer Branding, Talent Attraction, Brand Authenticity

How many companies are prepared to be transparent in their recruitment process? Dare they tell the truth about their company culture to get the right people? We asked around…

It is said - and it might well have been us that said it - that talent is the only competitive advantage left in business.

After the upheaval of the last two to three years, most companies are now acutely aware that finding and retaining the right staff is of paramount importance to business success. According to one study, by Kronos, 87% of HR leaders have earmarked employee retention as their number priority.

But how are companies tackling that problem? Here at Ph.Creative, our Give and Get approach to employer branding necessitates that truth and authenticity are at the heart of what we do, and we demand it from our clients too.

They understand that building an employee value proposition that is not just a sales pitch, but an honest appraisal of a company’s culture and a true reflection of the workplace day to day, is the best way to attract and retain talent.

It’s an approach that demands a high degree of faith in the process, even though, (at least initially), it sometimes feels counter-intuitive for management, and requires bravery and openness at all levels of the operation.

Not every company does it. Not every company wants to do it. But how many of them understand the need to reveal the truth about their employment experience to potential new hires?

Warts and all recruitment

We wanted to wet a finger and test the weather by asking a random selection of companies about their approach to talent attraction and whether they favoured an open and honest ‘warts and all’ recruitment policy.

“If you're honest about your company—warts and all—you're more likely to attract the right people from the onset,” says Sam Feldotto, the Chief Revenue Officer of outsourced sales and lead generation specialist, SalesHive.

“Besides, anyone who comes to work for you will eventually discover it for themselves. If you can be open and honest about the good and the bad, you'll ultimately create a stronger, more sustainable company culture. While it’s not always easy to reveal flaws, we’ve found that candidates appreciate the transparency and start their working relationship with us on the right foot.

“You need to create an environment that will appeal to top candidates and give them a clear path to grow,” he adds. “It should be apparent why your company is a great place to work. While other companies are forcing employees back to an office and keeping them stagnant, we’ve kept a fully remote environment, prioritized work-life balance, spent time investing in our employees to develop them for the next step in their - and acted on it by promoting them.

“When candidates see that there’s no risk of being forced into an office in the future and that they have a clear path to grow in the company, it makes SalesHive a compelling place to work for top talent. Because of this approach, we can intentionally be specific with the talent we hire, provide them an environment they stay engaged in, and a path to grow so they don’t leave for the first opportunity that comes their way.”

Feldotto says the sales work that the firm does is not for everyone, so it is essential to be upfront about the perceived negatives.

“Hundreds of cold calls every day can wear people out and dealing with client challenges can be demoralizing at times. Loyalty is earned, not bought - transparency in the recruitment process on the good and bad helps us begin to build that loyalty from the beginning.”

Always sell the truth

Kelly Robinson, CEO  of recruitment specialist, Panna Knows, is even prepared to audit herself as part of the recruitment process.

“I have been known to have someone else come in on interviews,” she says, “to make sure that the candidate really knows the truth about me and how I work.”

Which might, in itself, ring some alarms bells for candidates.

“I have high expectations, but I would never ask anyone on my team to do something that I wouldn't do or haven't done, and I make sure that they know that. If you are looking to find long-term employees, one of the best things you can do is to be completely honest about the job description and about the company. Most job seekers know they aren’t going to find the “perfect job”, so just be honest and highlight what your company can really bring to the table.”

At Snackmagic, which allows customers to build their own gift boxes according to their tastes, CEO Shaunak Amin has a less specific approach to the job description, preferring to let employees create their own path.

“Personalizing roles and responsibilities enables us to retain our team members longer. Fluid job descriptions empower employees to explore beyond their assigned duties to carve out their own niche within the company. We have a three-month job description where each new hire starts in a pro tempore area and receives initial training. Our goal is to use those first few months to discover what somebody is really good at. Then we work together to write personalized job descriptions centred around their strengths.

“By not cementing roles and responsibilities at the outset, we're enabling team members to cross over into various functions for hands-on training that adds to their skillset and encourages them to make decisions independently. This work lets them work autonomously toward team outcomes, helping our business get new products and iterations to the marketplace faster.”

It's an inside-out approach that seems likely to mean employees are making the decision about whether to take the job, after they’ve taken it. Which can be appealing, for those who want greater control over what direction they are steering their ship.

If it’s a career catalyst role, rather than a long-term hire, then maybe it works, but retaining employees in the long-term demands a degree of certainty about the role and the environment.

Purpose-driven employer branding

Maria Shriver is co-founder and CEO of “brain wellness” company Mosh Life, which is a “purpose-driven” company that promotes brain healthy snacks and lifestyle choices. The firm’s employer brand is all about that mission.

“Our success in retaining talent is because our entire organization is mission-driven and committed to our cause rather than the bottom line.

“While it's more important than ever to tell consumers why your business is socially beneficial for the long term, putting purpose first gives employees something to aspire to outside of making money.

“When they know they're working for something bigger than themselves—not just the bottom line—they're more willing to stick around and go the extra mile. But it's essential to reinforce your mission and values daily to keep the momentum going strong. And we're proactive about this in the office, outside the workplace, and across our social media channels. Doing so keeps our team members and audience engaged in our wellness journey.

“Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek says, ‘People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it’. And the same goes for attracting and retaining talent. As more employees continue to leave their jobs to work for companies that effect positive change in society and the environment, building your purpose into your brand story helps to attract people motivated to work for the greater good.”

Even purpose-driven companies still need to outline what it takes to really thrive within a company – the strengths, benefits, and opportunities on offer beside the knowledge that you are doing something that you believe in.

To really tell the truth about the employee experience, here are five aspects that will accurately reflect the reality:

  • Vulnerabilities of the organisation
  • Harsh realities of the organisation
  • True behaviours found throughout the organisation
  • Strengths and benefits that make a difference to the employee experience
  • Opportunities appreciated throughout the employee experience
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