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Talent Is talking. Are you listening?

April 2, 2015

By Dan Van Slambrook, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

More than ever before, consumers are making decisions based on online product reviews thoughtfully left for them by other consumers. So are job seekers, who are very much “consumers” of jobs and employers—particularly in a hot job market.

With potentially multiple job offers to consider, it only follows that job seekers will also rely on reviews of employers to help decide not only which offers to accept, but which positions to spend their time applying for. Sites like Glassdoor provide easy and anonymous ways for employees to sound off about employers. Today these reviews are becoming powerful factors in the job search. 

An employer’s brand used to be a one-way street of controlled messaging of its own design, but social media has opened up that street to two-way traffic.  Enter the talent brand. The talent brand is formulated by what talent sees, and then what it communicates, about an employer. It is fed from experiences and opinions posted by employees, former employees, and job candidates on social media. Those individuals form the collective talent brand of an organization, and a negative talent brand can cripple an organization’s ability to attract high caliber talent.  A  Cornell University  study  underscores the powerful effect negative messages have on job consumers, finding that exposure to negative information impacts potential applicants more powerfully, and longer, than does neutral or positive information. 

Direct control of the employment brand lies with the employer in terms of the “official” message it conveys to job seekers. But the talent brand is harder to directly affect, because it comes from the employee’s perspective. Still, employers must take a proactive position in influencing the perception the talent pool has of them. If they do not, they will find it harder and harder to compete for, and hang onto, talent.

Consider doing the following to bolster your organization’s talent brand:

Maintain Awareness

Assign a responsible party in the organization to monitor sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Google, and CareerBliss and capture what is being communicated about the company.  
Categorize comments to help identify trends and build a baseline from which to track what direction your brand is moving. 


Thoughtful responses to negative comments shows that you are taking concerns seriously. Offering a sincere acknowledgement and mentioning an accompanying solution will help show that you are committed to positive change. Even if you have not yet identified a solution, recognizing the need to explore one buys more credibility than simply ignoring the comment, which leaves readers to make judgments based on only one side of the story.

Give Employees a Platform to Be Heard

Employees may feel compelled to use social media to express negative feelings towards an employer because they were never given the opportunity by the employer.

Providing an environment where employees feel that they can safely provide constructive feedback (such as with anonymous employee engagement surveys), or inviting departing employees to participate in exit interview where they can vent may curb the desire to publicly get things “off the chest.” 

Make Leadership Part of the Solution

The talent brand is not just an “HR thing.”  It affects all leaders in the organization who need to hire people, retain them, and keep them engaged.  Communicate the perception that exists about the firm—the bad along with the good.  Garner buy-in at senior management levels to help analysis of what’s working and what needs to be addressed, and to support needed change initiatives.    

Encourage Positive Comments

Too often, employers let opportunities to capture positive feedback pass by.  If an employee or job candidate provides such feedback, ask him or her to consider posting a comment about it.  If a new hire is pleased with how you handled the selection process, for example, that is just the time to make this request while their experience is still fresh. 

Focus on the Root Cause

Finally, developing a positive talent brand is much more than doing surface-level damage control of negative online commentary. To truly establish a positive brand means creating an environment that deserves to have one. Use feedback as a guide for pinpointing issues that need to be addressed—be they compensation, culture, management style, growth opportunities, or work/life balance.  The talent brand can be a beacon for “sore spots” within the organization.

Getting in touch with your talent brand is not always pleasant. Organizations, like individuals, don’t particularly like to look in the mirror.  But when it comes to attracting and keeping talent, a good hard look will likely be much less painful than the outcomes that may result from turning a blind eye.

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