Overcoming a Tarnished Employment Brand

Even a highly polished employment brand can get a bit dinged up every now and then; just ask Uber. When adversity strikes, top tech recruiters don’t retreat—faced with positions to fill, they tackle the issues head on.

“Recruiters aren’t just sourcers or position fillers, they’re brand ambassadors,” noted talent acquisition leader and SourceCon contributor Evan Herman. “It’s up to you to change the mindset of candidates when your brand is damaged by telling your side of the story.”

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to overcome a tarnished brand, here are some ways to restore candidate trust and interest in working for your company.

Develop a Game Plan

While being transparent and honest with candidates is critical to rebuilding trust after an incident, simply acknowledging the problem doesn’t go far enough.

If current or former employees call out your work environment for its lack of ethics, or accuse your company of sexist practices, you need to be able to clearly articulate what the company is doing to investigate those claims and resolve them.

Apologies mean nothing without actions to back them up. As Herman pointed out, being able to convey a clear solution can actually help to turn a negative event into an asset.

For instance, will management hold employee focus groups to understand workers’ complaints? Will they issue stronger policies against sexual harassment, or terminate supervisors who were accused of misdeeds? Is your CEO onboard with the process? How about your line managers?

“You can’t give tech pros a bunch of baloney; they’ll see right through it,” warned Adam Glassman, recruitment strategies manager for Alorica.

To restore your reputation, every business unit and line manager must be on the same page and committed to change. If management seems unaware of the problems and the potential impact on talent attraction, it’s your job as a recruiter to educate them, Glassman added.

In fact, this is the perfect time for an alignment checkup, advised Stacy Parker, managing director of Blue Ivy Group.

Employment brands built on a solid foundation of executive support and synchronized, realistic EVPs are somewhat easier to repair, Parker noted. But if your promises are broken repeatedly, or merely serve as unproven talking points for a recruitment-marketing program, your brand will eventually break down. If you don’t have a real brand, this is an opportunity to do things right.

Return to Your Roots

Don’t let the competition raid your pipeline; a successful crisis management and brand restoration effort depends largely on maintaining sustained, positive communications. Email won’t cut it, either: reach out early and often via phone to give existing and newly sourced prospects an opportunity to express their fears.

“You have to be ready to address the elephant in the room,” Parker noted. Don’t bring it up right away; simply asking a tech pro about their concerns might open the door to a conversation.

Even if management is still working on a solution, you can provide key prospects with regular updates or pass along what your leaders are doing. Some 80 percent of organizations don’t have their C-Suite involved in employment branding efforts, Parker said, which impedes recovery efforts.

As the latest Edelman Trust Barometer illustrates, organizations are at risk of harming their reputations if leaders don’t take action to close the trust gap. (The successful handling of a discrimination lawsuit by Texaco employees is an excellent case study in effective executive action.)

This is the also the perfect time to revisit your core strengths as an employer and what your current employees like about your environment. Publish videos, TED Talks and content on social media depicting employee success stories and the positive aspects of your technical environment. Leaning heavily on a positive history and EVP is an effective way to overcome a reputational hit.

Also, ask your current tech staff to monitor and respond to comments on employer review sites or tech forums such as Stack Exchange or Quora. If the facts are being misrepresented, enlist tech pros with street cred to set the record straight.

“If you don’t have brand ambassadors, now’s the time to get them,” Glassman advised. Candidates want to hear the positives and negatives from real staff members, not the head of PR. According to Edelman, when it comes to forming opinions about companies, consumers view experts, peers, and employees as the most trusted sources, even more so than the CEO.

Look for Change Agents

Where some people see problems, others see opportunities. Changing your hiring profile can be a viable strategy for overcoming a tarnished employment brand, at least in the short term.

“Once a problem is recognized, companies often need new people to drive change,” Herman explained. “You can attract a different type of prospect who likes the idea of being a change agent by describing the opportunity and communicating a clear vision of the future.”

Finally, a temporary setback with a particular candidate is not an excuse to stop calling. Stay in touch with the candidates in your pipeline and keep providing them with proof of change. It may take a while, but time and consistent effort can restore the luster to a tarnished employment brand.

One Response to “Overcoming a Tarnished Employment Brand”

  1. For the company to overcome their tarnished brand, they need to liquidate the company, and start over again under a new name and brand. It comes a point where a name is so toxic that nobody will do business with them.

    For the employee of a toxic company: decide what kind of work you want to do, it must be in a new, completely different field. Return to university full-time, and get a new bachelor’s degree in that field. Upon graduation, get a job in the new field. And most important: on your resume, emphasize that you are a new graduate (as you are), and don’t ever mention a connection to that previous, toxic company.

    I worked for a toxic company 20 years ago. It didn’t start out that way: I was just working as a staff engineer in industrial electronics for a friend I knew. My friend was so bad with the business side of things that he sold the entire company to another company. The new company was a lot bigger, and had a very rigid management. They took on the remaining skeletal staff of my friend’s company, including me. My friend was no longer involved. He went off and formed a new company. After a few months, I found new work: I stayed to finish up projects I was deeply involved in, but then I couldn’t handle the 100-mile-per-day (one-way) commute that I was then required to make, as opposed to something that had been less than 1 mile from my home. But what I really wanted to bring out about this is that everyone that had worked for my friend, including myself, was constantly finding employment difficult because the new-ownership was receiving reference requests for everyone, including those that had been agency temps from before acquiring my friend’s company, were giving as a matter of policy, very unfavorable references. I got feedback myself from one such temp agency when I attempted to become a temp through that agency: the agency CEO said he couldn’t do anything that would help someone who worked for XYZ-corp.