What are the communication channels that deliver the biggest payoffs when recruiting top talent today? Don't count on the messaging that employers publish on their websites. According to research by CEB, an advisory company that specializes in transforming enterprise performance, that channel makes up only 20% of a candidate's decision to apply. What accounts for the mysterious other 80%?
Actually, there's little mystery at all. Today's high achievers routinely bypass company websites and instead scour a rich vein of online resources to gauge the attractiveness of potential employers. Options range from financial reports published by independent analysts to the insights of current and former employees available via professional and personal social networks. By combining these and other sources, professionals can find an answer to almost any important question about a particular organization.
That's great news for job seekers, who now have high expectations for transparency about the companies they work for, or are considering joining. But it's a potential challenge for chief human resources officers (CHROs) who aren't necessarily making fundamental changes to their recruiting and employee-evaluation processes. For this group, the message is clear. There's one simple reason why CHROs must embrace transparency?they don't have a choice.
The Transparency Age is being driven by distinct and disruptive trends. Information about individual employers is everywhere, and as the CEB survey points out, the vast majority isn't controlled by the organization. Social networks make it more likely that an applicant can find someone who has direct work experience?or knows someone who does?at a particular employer. In addition, employment forums like Glassdoor provide reviews and ratings for a wide range of employers, including insights about their compensation policies and culture.
The key takeaway is that when job seekers have unprecedented access to insights about a workplace, they also develop an extremely low tolerance for blatantly promotional messaging and gaps between what an organization says about itself and what's being conveyed online. Additionally, many large organizations market very similar employment value propositions, so differentiation starts to disappear pretty quickly. According to recent research by Glassdoor, 61% of employees still say job realities differ from expectations set during the interview process. And 96% of jobs seekers say that it's important to work for a company that embraces transparency, while 78% say reviews from people on the inside are influential when deciding where to work. This last finding is consistent with the CEB research.
But actively promoting transparency isn't just a defensive move. The CEB research shows that organizations often see significantly higher-quality applicants if they manage their employment brand effectively. One explanation is that transparency helps candidates make better decisions about which organizations suit them best.
Expectations for greater transparency don't end once someone is hired. Today's top talent wants performance feedback early and often?a far cry from the opaque performance reviews of the past that typically happened once a year. Instead, workers expect continuous insights about how they fit in from a performance perspective?requiring transparency about which stakeholders and what performance data guide conclusions and compensation decisions.
Three Transparency Catalysts
What should CHROs do to meet transparency expectations? Three steps are key.
1. Create branding for influence, not for appeal: CEB equates branding for appeal with the messaging posted on corporate websites that sell the organization as an attractive place to work. This represents the paltry 20% of content that influences application decisions?much too small a net to bring in the best and brightest candidates.
By contrast, what CEB calls ?branding for influence? is exemplified by brand ambassadors?current employees whose management encourages them to use social networks to honestly communicate the pros and cons of their jobs. Think about it: Your top systems engineers or sales reps probably know other all-stars. So ask employees to say what they like about working at the company?and what they don't like. This not only helps employers find people with the right skills, it's a big step toward finding the right cultural fit as well.
2. Learn valuable lessons from consumer marketers: To successfully sell consumer products today, companies must not make a brand promise and then fail to deliver on it. The backlash will be immediate and splashed over social media. The same is true with employment branding. Employers cannot say theirs is an agile organization with a culture that encourages independent thinking, for example, if that's not the case. The disconnect will go viral and prospects will question anything else the company has to say.
3. Understand the impact of technology: The transparency trend is largely technology driven, thanks to social media, ubiquitous information, and an e-commerce mindset for review-driven comparison shopping fostered by online retailers.
This requires CHROs to redesign recruiting and performance-review processes with openness in mind. It also needs human capital management systems that support brand ambassadors and make it easy to syndicate employment branding across social networks.
Opaque Is Not an Option
CHROs are being challenged to recognize the importance of ?other,? the vast majority of communications channels where professionals look when they're evaluating employers. There's zero tolerance for dissonance between the employment brand message, employment brand promise, and the reality of working for the company. The antidote is access to accurate and detailed information that's of interest to both prospects and employees. And make no mistake: Transparency is not a request, it's a demand. Given the current gap between expectations and reality on this front, this area remains one that's conducive to achieving that all-important differentiation.