The job market is on fire in Silicon Valley. This can be seen and felt by almost any company trying to hire, and on the candidate side by the influx of LinkedIn recruitment messages, emails, and calls that workers receive. It’s no surprise that companies are investing in employment branding more than ever.
I’m super passionate about employment branding, and originally intended to round out my employment series Ten Tips for Landing Your First Marketing Job and So You Landed Your First Marketing Interview. Now What? with a post on employment branding. However, I realized that before I could cover branding, I had to touch on corporate culture. Without a positive (or at least neutral) culture no matter how great you are at marketing or spinning things, you can’t build a positive employment brand. Companies with the best culture need less branding, as their happy employees are their brand. On the flip side, word travels fast when around companies that no one wants to touch with a 6’ rod.
So how do you foster an environment of passion and positivity?
First you’ll need to take an honest assessment of where your company is. Sure every company faces natural churn and some departments face this more than others, but if your company is bleeding talent and losing people at a faster pace than you can replace them, I think it’s safe to say you have a challenge on your hand. However, every challenge is an opportunity for improvement. If your company isn’t bleeding talent, take a deep sign of relief. But, if you have lost a few talented employees to the competition, or get the sense that employees are frustrated, you may also gain a few strategies by reading on.
Here’s what I believe are the top four most common corporate culture challenges, along with suggested ways to address them:
1. A lack of transparency around business goals and trajectory. Why not setup a company meeting where your CEO presents on recent company accomplishments and milestones, and shares future initiatives? Marketing can help create a great PowerPoint deck and test/refine the messaging on a few employees in advance. Of course, this cannot be a one-time event, but should happen on a regular cadence. This is a great way to get your employees bought into your company goals, to feel like they are working for a shared cause, and then start evangelizing your brand.
2. No sense of team. Your company may have different offices and/or teams with competing agendas or political motives. Or, within an individual group employees may feel like there is a lack of cohesiveness.
I’m not going to lie, this is a challenge that will not get resolved overnight. However, there are things that can be done to turn this around. Why not pull people together for weekly lunches and scheduled offsite activities? An annual holiday party just doesn’t cut it. I think companywide activities should take place at least 3X/year and team activities should take place at least 1X/quarter. Things like a BBQ picnic in the park, or catered lobster fest on the beach are great activities.
Hands down, I think the best way to bring people together is by participating in community service. Pairing people up with colleagues they may not or interact with on a daily basis, gives employees a chance to step outside their comfort zone, and come together for a good cause. I’ve found that no matter how bad you may think your problems are, when you are helping people less fortunate, it really puts things into perspective, and brings teams together.
3. Lack of opportunity for growth or mobility. This is a decision from the top (as a marketer or hiring manager, there’s not a ton that can be done without executive buy-in). However, from my perspective it’s a far better outcome to at least consider internal candidates for advancement or transfers to other teams, than to let them walk out the door. Of course, the candidate has to be qualified, but you may be surprised with the number of talented candidates that are right under your nose.
I worked for one company that advertised every job internally via a companywide email before posting the job externally. By transferring internal employees your business saves time on industry training, and eliminates the unknown, as you already have a gauge for that employee’s strengths and level of engagement/commitment.
4. Lack of recognition/appreciation. It’s human nature for people to seek out affirmation, to want to feel valued, and that their work matters. If a manager spends the majority of their time criticizing employees, rather than sharing accolades, they might as well put on a countdown clock for when their A-team will leave. And, I don’t think most managers want to be left with a team made up of primarily C-players who can’t get a job anywhere else.
So, why not showcase employees each month that have contributed something special/extra to the business? You could highlight employees that have done things such as: launched a creative new campaign, saved the company money, closed a huge deal, referred candidates, helped out their peers in other departments, etc. Employees could be recognized during an All Hands lunch, by sending out a company-wide email, by hanging up photos in the office, or by showcasing key contributors in an internal blog or wiki. Your company could also put together an award where employees can nominate others, with a cash or prize component to it (CareerBuilder does this with their Above and Beyond Award). I think appreciation or lack there of is the primary reason people stay or leave their jobs. I’ll cover the topic of appreciation in more detail in a future post.
I sincerely thank you for reading. Stay tuned for my next post on employment branding best practices.