Companies are not living up to their 'brand'

Employees at a call center
Companies are not always what they appear.

Employers are not living up to the reputation they publicly present, and employees are calling them out on it.

Only 19% of employees see a strong match between how their employer represents itself and what they experience, creating a credibility gap that can put employers’ reputations in jeopardy, a new survey says.

“Most employers are still figuring out their ‘Employer Brand’ and best practice is to be authentic to what it's really like to work at your company,” said Lori Sylvia, CEO of Rally Recruitment Marketing. “No company is perfect and candidates and employees know it. When you market your Employer Brand authentically, you'll attract candidates who will be a culture fit and you'll filter out those who won't—and it's better for both of you to figure this out up front.”

Definite fallout

Sylvia said ramifications for the employer are:

  • If the employee leaves, the company is back at the beginning of recruiting for the role, increasing recruiting costs.
  • If the employee stays, employee engagement will be low and will have a negative effect on the team. They will be disillusioned with leadership and potentially spread those views to others inside the company and out.
  • Inability to fill jobs: When your employer reputation is bad, the truth can't be contained, it will be harder to fill jobs, especially in the current economy where candidates have the edge. Your time to fill jobs will increase and your overall cost to hire will increase. But worse, your company will suffer by not being able to serve your customers or innovate new products—it puts your entire business strategy at risk.

Not by accident

A credible employer brand doesn't happen by accident, it is fostered deliberately through values, leadership and good employee communications, and it is externalized through efforts to align words with actions and allow employees to share their experiences.

An authentic employer brand is particularly critical in an age of extreme transparency where job candidates make reputation decisions easily based on what an organization's employees say online or through word of mouth, said Kate Bullinger, executive vice president at Weber Shandwick, which sponsored the survey.

"Employer branding has become an imperative in an era where talent is hard to recruit, change is rampant, engagement is weak and millennials have their sights on the next job," Bullinger said. "A credible employer brand revolves around a compelling narrative that is authentic, recognizable and brings to life the actual experience employees have working at an organization, whether it is the culture, leadership, training, opportunities or communications."

Changed perceptions

The study finds 7% of employees resolutely disagrees that there is any alignment between what employers say about themselves and what they experience. The largest segment—74%—falls in between. These are "marginally aligned" employees, and their employers have the chance to change perceptions by better defining and exemplifying living an employer brand that employees recognize, believe and promote, Bullinger said.

The industries in the study that have larger than average segments of marginally aligned employees are consumer packaged goods, healthcare/biotechnology/pharmaceutical, professional services, retail and industrial/manufacturing.

Much is at risk

The stakes are high:

The majority of employees (85%) experience organizational changes that affect their jobs. This high level has not changed since 2014 (84%).

  • Employee engagement is weak and declining, from an average engagement level of 30% percent in 2014 to an average of 27% in 2017.
  • Many employees in are dealing with multiple challenges facing their industry that affect how they feel about their workplaces, with work/life balance leading the list of challenges (42%).
  • Millennial employees are significantly less likely than their older coworkers to say they are 'very likely' to work for their employer for the next year (50% vs. 65% of Gen Xers and 74% of Boomers).

"A strong employer reputation is no small change,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick's chief reputation strategist. “The reputation of your employer is worth its weight in gold, but only if it turns out to truly reflect what it is actually like to work there."