The CEO of Great Rated! talks about the central role of employee surveys in employer brands, how Great Rated! works, and about the growing importance of employer brands in the era of the “naked” corporation.
Ed Frauenheim: What is an employer brand?
Kim Peters: Quite simply, it is how people feel about working at an organization. You already have an employer brand, even if you’ve done nothing about it.
Some people think that you can create a brand in the market that is independent of what your actual employees think – but that isn’t true. Social media has made the internal workings of any company very transparent – we are in an age of “naked” corporations. So it’s critical you understand the true brand you have in your current employees’ eyes and work with that to compete for new talent and retain existing top talent. In many instances, your employer brand will even help you with your consumer brand — Zappos is a classic example.
EF: What does it take to manage an employer brand in the era of the naked corporation—of growing transparency into companies?
KP: Today, most people turn to the Internet when they’re going to research a major purchase or investment or decision. People are doing their research, essentially. And so employer brand is no different. People’s experiences from a product perspective or workplace culture perspective are being talked about online. Typically people share the extremes—the highs and the lows. So if you’re doing any kind of research into a company at all, you’re going to find that type of information.
Organizations may be tempted to counter negative opinions on the Internet with positive content on their careers page or advertorial placed elsewhere. But distorting your brand in a positive direction is risky in an ever-more transparent world. You don’t want to be in a position where you are telling your workforce and prospective new hires that your brand offers one thing, while employees are telling the world that it offers something else. You won’t be credible and new hires won’t be a good fit.The best approach is to be honest about what your employer brand is, even if you are working to improve it.
EF: How can companies understand what their actual employer brand is?
KP: If you’ve never done any employer branding work before, the best place to start is by surveying your employees about a variety of topics that reflect workplace culture. It’s not something you can guess at. And certainly one individual or a small group of individuals is not going to give you a holistic picture. You have do a representative, anonymous survey of your whole employee population.
EF: How does Great Rated!’s approach to presenting and publishing an employer brand work?
KP: We start by asking the employees in an organization a set of questions about their workplace using the Great Place to Work® Trust Index©. This is an employee survey that measures the extent to which a company is a great workplace, focusing predominantly on workplace trust, and is a very strong research tool to assess companies’ overall workplace culture. (This is the tool we’ve used for over 15 years to select the companies that appear on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.)
We anonymously survey a statistically relevant random sample of employees. We take those results and write a review of the company that accurately reflects what employees say are the best attributes of working for their organization.
Companies also provide us with details about many of their best programs and benefits, so that if employees say they really appreciate their workplace flexibility, for example, we can explain their telecommuting or compressed workweek programs. We include pictures, infographics and employee quotes that really round the review out.
And because the reviews are written by workplace culture experts (Great Rated! is part of Great Place to Work®–authors of the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list), people can trust that they truly reflect what the employees tell us.
EF: Where is employer brand heading?
KP: Employer brand is becoming more and more important, simply because companies need the best talent they can attract in order to achieve their goals. That’s going to be harder and harder to do. We know that because we look at the changing demographics. Hiring is increasingly competitive. And so companies look to employer branding to help candidates choose.
This trend to transparency, this thirst for knowledge, this desire to live a life where you feel like you’re making a positive contribution and that you’re working in a positive working environment—all of these things are coming together today. And they mean that companies are going to simply have to be focused on their employer brands and creating great workplace experiences. It’s just essential. And it’s fundamental that people want to understand what workplaces are like before they join them. It’s just part of the same movement.
(About the Author: Ed Frauenheim is editor at workplace research site Great Rated!™, where he produces content and reviews companies.)
(About Kim Peters: Kim Peters is CEO of Great Rated!™, at Great Place to Work®, where she is focused on helping job seekers understand companies’ workplace cultures and find their best fit. Kim has over 15 years’ leadership experience in the online recruitment industry, and has launched and led a number of successful businesses including Workopolis.com, Canada’s leading job board, where she was founder and President, and Canwest Mediaworks where she served as Vice President Online Classifieds. Kim most recently was CEO of Eluta.ca, a Canadian job search engine combining reviews and job listings.)