What’s in the secret sauce to developing a great employer brand? To find out what the ingredients are, we sat down with Adam Glassman of Alorica; a global customer service BPO with over 100,000 employees in 16 countries around the world. For a full summary keep reading below and remember to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
At my core, I’m a recruitment marketer, a passionate crusader for the candidate experience. A digital, social and content strategist, and all of that really in the name of trying to turn around our industry, which I think has struggled for quite a long time at this point.
Employer brand is essentially the human story behind the big faceless companies. Companies often times sell products or they offer services of some kind, but ultimately behind that are people. Right? And that’s what makes our companies go. To me, the employer brand is the story of those people. So why do they work there? What do they get out of it? When you put all of those personalities together, what kind of culture is formed? What’s the culture like? The overall values of the company, what do people respond to? What do the executives and the owners of the company value, kind of what their mission is? So for me, it’s really the human story behind the company itself.
Employee branding has always been important. But I think there’s been more emphasis placed on it now for a couple of reasons. I think talent acquisition has been struggling probably for the last couple of years in particular. It’s always been difficult to find and hire the right individual, increasingly so over the years. But now the majority of our economies are improving. The unemployment rate is lower, and candidates have more choices than they ever have before. So they research, and they ask around. And most candidates have decided that they’re not going to take a job if the culture isn’t good, or it’s not a good fit for them, or there aren’t strong brand elements in place there. I saw a study not too long ago that showed around 70% of people wouldn’t take a job with a company that has a bad reputation even if they’re unemployed. So think about that for a second. You have no job. You may not be able to pay your bills, but you’re willing to turn down an offer if you feel like people are telling you they’re a bad company to work for. So I think there’s an increased emphasis today on the branding because of a lot of those factors.
I do have a secret sauce. I don’t know if it’s so secret or just my impression of it, but for me at its core, a strong employer brand, again, tells the stories of those people behind the company. And generally throughout history, good stories have some kind of a hook. They have something to keep us interested. And today even more so, our attention span is so limited, it’s so small that anything we can do to attract some attention and keep somebody interested in watching a video or reading some content is all the more important. So for me, the secret sauce really comes down to three things. And the first one is finding and collecting the stories of your people. So who are they? What do they do? What makes that story interesting to somebody who’s never met that person, and again, probably has a very short attention span. So it can’t just be, you know, this is John Smith, and he’s from London, and he’s 33. Well, that’s not really interesting. You need to dig a little bit deeper behind the story. In doing so, the second piece is what I like to call “sharing the why.” And when you’re telling those stories, the why is really one of the most critical elements of that story. So why do the employees do their job? What motivates them to do it for this company? What compels them to get up every day, early in the morning and maybe fight through traffic and trudge to work? There’s a reason, right? And it can’t just be a paycheck. You could get a paycheck anywhere. Certainly, your pay scale could go up or down, so maybe benefits is part of that story. But generally, there’s a reason. There’s a why behind why your employees do what they do, and that should really be one of your hooks. The third aspect is that the best stories have some kind of an emotional pull to it. It tugs on your heartstrings a little bit. It has something you can connect with, you can emphasize with, and it really makes you feel a certain way. And so each company has to kinda decide what is that feeling that they want their audience to have, and it’s really important to tie your stories to that feeling.
You know, for us, there are a couple of different factors there. First and foremost, we are a very diverse group of employees, and we welcome that because a lot of our employees are call center agents and they’re on the phone all day. You can bring your purple hair or your tattoos all over your face or your earrings or your cutoff shorts, and it really doesn’t matter to us, as long as you’re providing great customer service to your customers, and you’re making lives better every interaction that you can. That’s important to us. The other piece for us is that we have absolute real career growth opportunities here. So we often times hire individuals right out of high school, with maybe a couple of months of customer service experience. Within a couple of years, they could easily advance within the organization. We’ve had individuals come in, and within a couple of months become a team leader. They’re managing others, and then there’s growth from there. We have site directors who run the entire operations of some of our call centers who actually started on the phones. So we have real examples of that within our organization, and we take pride in that and really providing some career growth for a lot of our employees as much as we can.
I think there are a lot of things that companies can certainly do to hurt themselves here. I actually wrote a piece on this for the Undercover Recruiter not too long ago. But a couple of things, when I think about some of the things that I see, probably the most common mistake is that companies still think that they can control their brand. Some of them, even in this day and age, don’t want to get on social media for fear of negative criticism like somehow that stops a bad review from happening, right, simply because they don’t have a Facebook page. They don’t let their employees have the freedom, like responsible adults, to talk about the company or share information about the company, and they live in this reactive mode like they’re living in a turtle shell petrified of coming out. So I think that’s probably first and foremost. They’re afraid of getting out into the marketplace and sharing positive stories for fear that it could turn negative.
I think the second thing is probably not understanding how to properly leverage your brand and share some of the EVP that you’ve probably put a lot of work into. There are a multitude of different ways to do that, but for me, if you have developed a solid EVP that truly reflects your company and your employees, you want to infuse that into everything that you do. So all of your external communications, your website, your ads, your social media, any interactions that your recruiters have with candidates, it should really reinforce that message over and over again.
Another point that I see where companies struggle is they try to be something that they’re not. Being authentic and being real to me trumps almost everything else. I see that a lot especially lately where there’s this increased push on trying to attract millennials and how do we hire millennials and how do we employ millennials, and companies are trying to jump on that bandwagon. And you know what, it’s okay if your brand isn’t for everyone. We obviously have to adjust to a changing demographic or changing generations, but if you are a very conservative bank, don’t go out into the marketplace and talk about how your employees played ping-pong every day, you know, and we provide M&Ms for lunch or whatever it is that you think you’re doing, if that’s not true to who you are. Because at the end of the day your EVP should be matching who you want to hire because it doesn’t do anybody any good to attract people who are not the right fit for the job.
Lastly, I always think it’s a good idea if you can somehow connect your employer brand to your consumer brand. So again, kind of telling those stories of why most people, particularly for retail organizations, know the consumer brand much more so than the employer brand. So they know what products you sell or maybe they have an affinity towards your brand because they like that product or they’ve walked into your store. Being able to tell the story of the people who make those products or who sell those services, and really sharing some of that story and connecting to what people already know from a consumer perspective is always a good idea. I see that mistake a lot and that’s a missed opportunity for a number of organizations.
Our case is a little bit different because we don’t sell to the general public since we’re a BPO. We are an outsourced customer service call center organization, so we essentially have two audiences. We have clients, large organizations who want us to help them with their customer service interactions. Our second audience are our candidates. Job seekers, people who are looking for employment. So in truth, we have one brand. We don’t necessarily have a consumer brand because we’re not selling products or services direct to a marketplace, and our brand is our brand. We have some subtle shifts as we think through the employer side of it, like I mentioned some of the career growth aspects. Obviously, that’s not relevant to, you know, the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, but ultimately, those organizations who do business with us do want to know how we are treating our employees and they want to know that we’re treating them well and we’re providing a growth path for them, so the two do connect in our world still.
I think this one’s always tricky. For me, there are a number of variables. Sometimes, it’s hard to separate the brand’s influence, the employer brand’s influence and some other factors like if you’re increasing your advertising spend, how do you allocate what is happening from advertising versus your employer brand? So I think there are some variables there that you’d have to separate. For me, from an ROI perspective, it all depends on what your goals are and where you are as a company in that employer journey. So what is your maturity with your employer brand? So for instance, some companies are just starting out, and perhaps they’re somewhat unknown in their space. Then their goals should probably revolve more around brand awareness and getting more people interested in their opportunities. So some of the ROI for that would be how many people are seeing your ads or connecting to your social pages? Are you getting an increased number of visitors on your careers website? Ultimately, are you increasing the number of applications you’re getting? So from an awareness perspective, you could look at ROI in those metrics. Some companies might be trying to attract a certain niche or a certain segment of their audience, and their goals might be different. The numbers don’t necessarily matter as much, and maybe it’s more about quality. And you know, it’s interesting when we think about quality ultimately, I think the employer brand efforts should in some way track back to a quality of hire because like I said if you’ve crafted your brand in the right way, you’re trying to attract a specific job seeker. Do those people perform well in the job once they’re hired? Do they stay longer? If not, you may be attracting perhaps the wrong audience. So the measure of quality is also something to consider too.
What’s my take? Glassdoor has its place. I think sometimes we get a little bit too caught up in it to be honest. In general, we know most people who leave reviews particularly on Glassdoor tend to be upset about something. So I think it’s kind of a magnet for some criticism and I think you see that in customer service all the time. Right? How many times have you called a customer service rep just to say, “Thanks, I had a great experience in your store.” Right? It doesn’t happen. So I think Glassdoor is naturally a bit negative, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. So from my perspective, I think there are a couple of opportunities to leverage Glassdoor from an employer perspective. The first is I always recommend using Glassdoor as a listening post. So if you are listening to what people are writing, there’s probably some truth behind it. Again, they may have some negative perceptions or perhaps they weren’t hired, and they’re, you know, a little frustrated. Whatever the case may be, there’s probably some truth to what they’re writing. So if you as a company are listening to that and you’re taking it to heart, they’re telling you exactly what to fix about your brand. They’re telling you exactly what to improve upon and to take action where you can to correct some of those critiques. Then from there, it’s always a good idea to respond where you can and engage with some of those reviews and say, “Hey, look. I hear what you’re saying and here are some of the steps we’ve put in place to improve over the last 12 months, and here are the things we’ve done, one, two, three.” So you help shift that potentially negative comment into a positive. My personal take is I wish Glassdoor frankly would lower their prices a little bit because I think more companies would use it and buy in to some of their enhanced profiles if they weren’t so expensive, but I certainly have no say in that.
That’s one of those things where it’s lower than what we would like it to be. Part of that is based in our industry. You know, what our customer service agents go through is difficult. A lot of times, they’re answering some angry phone calls. They are taking some critiques. They are perhaps getting yelled at. There’s some high turnover within the industry itself simply because of that. We actually pride ourselves in doing our own research internally, and so we listen to our employees, all of our employees, not just the ones who take the time to go to Glassdoor. But we do regular surveys internally where we listen to all of our employees, and we give them a chance to voice their opinions. Again, we do listen to that. We know we’re not perfect, and so we take those opportunities to learn from what our employees are saying and learn from what they’re suggesting we do better and take that to heart and where we can really put some real improvements in place.
You know, I think, and maybe I’m just cynical, but I think we tend to have moments of doing it right. But like I mentioned, we don’t control the brand anymore. Right? So one slip-up or one argument your employee gets in or one bad experience, and all of a sudden we’re “a bad company,” and it’s posted on YouTube for millions of people to see. I think of some of the experience that Uber and United Airlines has gone through recently. You know, did anybody think they had such terrible brands a year or a year and a half ago? Probably not. But your question was who’s doing a good job today? So I’m maybe a little bit US-centric, but I have a couple of brands that I see out there who are telling some good stories. The Home Depot tends to tell some good stories about their associates and their employees as does Thermo Fisher, who has been written a lot about lately particularly in the U.S. There’s a lot of good stories that they’re pulling out, and that’s an example of a company that’s really pulling out the why. Right? Their employees are working there for a reason. You know, these are very smart people who are innovating research and working on diseases and cures for diseases, and things like that, so there’s a lot of real stories and real emotional pull there. Who else? I see Taco Bell is actually pretty innovative in their career space usually on social media. They’re usually some of the first people to or one of the first brands to hop on like Snapchat and try some different things like that. I like Target too which is interesting because I think for me… It’s in the U.S. in particular. A lot of brands have started to become more vocal publicly about where they stand with some of their core values particularly when political issues arise or social issues are coming up publicly. A lot of brands interestingly enough in the last couple of years have started to really take a stand where in years past, you couldn’t get a brand to comment on it for fear of losing business or getting criticized. Now, brands are saying, “Hey, look this is where we stand. This is who we are. We will fight for those values, and we will fight for what we believe in,” and I think Target’s one of those brands. So I do value that.
Look at the Paris Climate Accord, a lot of CEOs are publicly criticizing President Trump over this and coming out against it and saying, you know, “We would still support this.” Elon Musk of Tesla was on an advisory committee for the White House, and basically he said:
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
So it’s interesting to see how companies are more comfortable in that today, and they’re really taking a stand on some values that they find important.
The next big thing? Well, I think there’s a ton of room for us to improve what we’re doing today. So you know, like I said, telling better stories and understanding who our employees and our candidates are is probably a great place to start. But if we’re looking ahead, I actually see a world where our EVPs may start to become a little bit more personalized, and so when we think about our values, our brand’s values in certain cultural components those may be standards. But as we get a better understanding of who our candidates are and personalizing some of that experience, we may be able to personalize the EVP a little bit too. Right? So why can’t we provide relevant components of that EVP if for instance, we know that a candidate likes, I don’t know, Habitat for Humanity and building for the communities. Why can’t we personalized some of that EVP and talk about our community work a little bit heavier in our content messaging and our content marketing to that candidate because we understand who they are and what they value? So I think probably in the coming years as we get more data and we start working artificial intelligence into more of what we’re doing in talent acquisition, I see a little bit more of a drilled-down EVP that could be more relevant to each of our candidates.
Follow Adam on Twitter @aglass99.
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