Any good candidate is going to look you up on LinkedIn at the very least, and the most prepared of them will be Googling, studying your website, and even reading reviews and looking for clues on compensation and work culture on sites like Glassdoor or Indeed. The latter provides a rather telling snapshot of employee experiences with the Work Happiness Report. This survey is completed by current and former employees and allows them to rate their experience in more than a dozen categories including learning, flexibility, purpose, inclusion, management, appreciation, and belonging. These areas of workplace satisfaction may not have been so important to the typical employee 10 or 20 years ago, but they are certainly taking precedence today. People want to be appreciated for the work they do, feel supported by management, and know that they are part of something bigger than themselves in a way that is not harmful to others or to the environment.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a buzzword, but a serious consideration for top talent in any industry. Just a few years ago, Cone Communications conducted a survey among Millenials to find out what they looked for in potential employers. Key findings indicate that this age group is dedicated to making the world a better place, and they expect their employers to join in that effort. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said that they “won’t take a job if a company does not have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) values.” Furthermore, 83% of respondents would be more loyal to an organization who helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. More than one-third of today’s workforce are Millennials and by 2030, they will make up 75% (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2020). Particularly poignant is that the Baby Boomer generation will still make up the second largest group, with an increasingly strong demand for healthcare services.
The easiest way to demonstrate that you run a great company that people should want to work for is to actually run a great company! No amount of PR will erase a toxic company culture, or a lack of accountability for environmental impacts, for example. The benefits industry (and all industries, really) has become more transparent as a result of the expectations from candidates about accessing information and details about potential employers. The availability of first hand accounts through various career websites and social media channels means it's more important than ever to operate with integrity, and engender a company culture people actually want to be a part of. Running a genuinely great company will attract genuinely great talent.
Define Your Core Values
Clearly defining your core values is an important step in leading your team to success, and demonstrating your commitment to consistently running a good company. Your organization’s core values will serve as guidance when the time comes to make tough decisions, keeping your team focused and on the same page. Communicating company values is also a great way to ensure that any potential candidates align with your beliefs. One way to do this is to create a mission statement that will be appropriately forward-facing as well.
Information about your mission and core values should be easy to find with a few clicks on your website, or a quick Google search. IMA does a great job of describing what their company stands for and presents it in a visually appealing way that is easy to follow.
Chances are, if you’re hunting for top service talent in the benefits industry, your company is profitable. If you are a smaller benefits consultancy be aware that candidates will be concerned with the ability of your company to manage the day-to-day and still make a good profit. They want to know that their paycheck will clear, no matter what. Stability and growth are huge factors for a talented professional looking for a long term landing pad. Candidates might not look into your detailed public financials, or ask for statements, but they will be generally aware if your company is struggling. Part of running a great company is making money. They want to see that you'll still be there at the end of the month, so be prepared to discuss certain aspects of the financial wellbeing of the company.
Many smaller agencies have been acquired by larger ones. If you haven’t yet, that will also be on the mind of candidates. The first year or two after an acquisition is fraught with merging cultures, politics and uncertainty which is not a selling point. Most likely you can’t promise that you won’t be selling ever, but if there are no plans in the short term, it is usually helpful to convey that.
Nurture Your Own Good Reputation
If you’re running a great company to begin with, you’ve already earned your good reputation. If not, then there’s no time like the present to make things right. Top talent usually has a good deal of choice when considering employers, so it’s incredibly important that your company shines brighter than the rest. There are a few actionable items to start with to build or repair your company’s reputation.
Thought Leadership, if executed correctly, will result in broad brand awareness and affinity, boosting your reputation without even talking about your specific services. You must have something unique and insightful to contribute to the broader conversation. Your expertise, sources, and personal presence will all lend credibility to what you’re saying and, by extension, how you represent your company. Think about how your CEO can contribute new and invigorating insights into the challenges facing the healthcare industry in the coming years, delivered expertly with such authority on the subject that people ask, “Which company does she run and how can I land a job there?”
Corporate philanthropy is not only an inherently good thing, it will also boost your reputation with current and prospective employees. Team up with a charity for a long lasting partnership, or allow your employees to choose an organization for a donation matching program. Put your company in the right light so that the top talent in your field can be sure your company takes corporate social responsibility seriously. Consider Alliant’s wide variety of causes they support to benefit the communities around them. They support the efforts of their employees through corporate giving and matching gift programs. They also encourage their employees to engage in community volunteer work, whether through time served, mentoring, leadership, or simply lending a helping hand.
Employee reviews can be a powerful recruiting tool, that is, if the reviews are positive. There are more than a dozen reputable websites that job candidates can visit to read reviews of companies. Glassdoor may be the most well known of these sites and they boast reviews of more than 600,000 companies. Some of the others use a 5 star rating system across a variety of workplace considerations like “vision & strategy” and “work environment” as well as things like culture and colleagues. A few of the top job listing websites provide open-ended questions and allow for commentary. If you are confident that you have maintained a positive relationship with former employees, you can ask that they go to a few of these review sites and leave some words of wisdom for job seekers. You could even make it part of your exit interview process. Recruiting is an intricate process, and is relevant in almost all aspects of employee relations, even when they’re leaving.
Brand-focused ads, or messaging on your website can inform potential candidates of your culture, values, and mission. Doing the right thing is not always enough to spread the word. Companies must be intentional and strategic in building a good reputation, and then letting the world know about it.
Address the Real Internal Issues
If you are serious about earning a good reputation there are some difficult decisions to make. You might have a culture of long hours, or limited resources to support your clients, or most likely, you have a manager who is difficult to work for. The latter is the most common.
In a perfect world we have a client we are recruiting for whose reputation is so stellar we could attract anyone. In reality there are factors of push and pull. We try to work with clients who have enough attractive ‘pull’ features, but to get someone to go through the life event of changing jobs, there usually needs to be something the employee wants to leave as well. Most often it’s a boss who is difficult to work for. In our experience firms usually allow top talent to leave them rather than dealing with the source of the problem. When we hear about these situations from employees and out in the wider marketplace, odds are that the agency is aware of the problem, and is choosing to ignore it. The longer employees see the problem not being dealt with, the worse the culture gets. The best talent gets picked off and you are left with the lower performers.
These are sensitive issues. How do you fire someone just because they have a poor management style? Perhaps they can be reassigned, taken out of management (and if they leave that solves the problem.) However, what if it stems from a leader or a partner? Perhaps you can initiate 360 degree reviews so they can hear feedback. Get them executive coaching. This is beyond the scope of our expertise, but I’m sure there are consultants who can help with this. This could be affecting your company's reputation, which trickles down to the ability to recruit and ultimately profits, so ignore it at your peril.