State of Recruitment: Operating with Integrity
(originally published on ERE.net) By J.
James O’Malley, Andersen Alumnus and Managing
Director at Comhar Partners
missteps have hit the headlines recently in the traditional press, not to
mention social media channels where numerous cringe-worthy incidents are shared
around the globe in a matter of minutes. No industry is immune: the airline,
automotive, accounting, pharmaceutical, banking, broadcast, and transportation
network industries have all been in the hot seat most recently. In situations
like these, PR crisis specialists are typically called in to handle the
aftermath and to minimize the harm done to the customer brand.
What’s often overlooked,
however, is the damage such actions inflict on what’s known as the employer brand.
The employer brand is “essentially what the organization communicates as its
identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an
organization’s mission, values, culture and personality. A positive employer
brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place
to work.” (Source: SHRM)
Since the employer
brand is inextricably tied to the external customer brand, hoping that you’re
going to solve a crisis by focusing only on the external front is short-sighted
and can be lethal to the whole enterprise.
It follows that, in
times of crisis, organizations also deal with all possible repercussions on
their employer brand because, ultimately, corporate values are at stake.
Everyone understands that, short of large scale intentional institutional
corruption, individual employees can be dishonest, mistakes are often made, and
even the best-intentioned policies can backfire. But how the organization deals
with the crisis, from admitting wrongdoing to apologizing and offering
restitution, is a reflection of its core values – most notably, its integrity.
A real or perceived betrayal of integrity will always have a negative impact on
both the ability to recruit and retain talent.
Ramifications on Recruitment
In most industries
today, it’s a seller’s (candidate’s) market, and great candidates have lots of
options. This is especially true for positions in upper echelons and/or when
there is a need to hire executives with very specific skills. Considering (as
reported by Hunt Scanlon) CareerBuilder’s forecast that 45 percent of U.S.
employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter,
recruiting top talent is becoming an even greater challenge. In a dramatic
reversal from just a few years ago, candidates today have many choices —
including staying put in their current jobs — and don’t want to associate their
personal brand with an employer that has a real or perceived issue with
In fact, job seekers,
many of whom experienced professional stagnation during the recession, are far
more concerned with their own personal brands than ever before. They want to
make wise career moves by working for industry leaders whose names will amplify
their social media profiles, rather than detract from them. Candidates today
can and will evaluate your company’s reputation not just by scanning the
headlines in the Wall Street Journal but through their
personal experience as a customer, via online reviews by current employees
(Glassdoor.com alone has 22 million members and data on nearly 300,000 companies
in 190 countries) and through reference-checking via their professional
As a result, we see a
lot more candidates opting out of active discussions when they feel that
working for a particular organization, because of its reputation, or perceptions
formed during the interview process, will taint their resume and make it more
difficult to find their next position.
Ramifications on Retention
As far as retention,
workers as a whole aren’t particularly engaged at work. The most recent report by Gallup shows that 51 percent of U.S. employees say they
are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings.
The situation is even
more critical in the ranks of up-and-coming employees, especially when you
consider the cultural attributes of younger generations. Seventy-one percent of
millennials, according to Harvard Business Review, are either
not engaged or actively disengaged at work, making them the least engaged generation in our domestic workforce. Culture and values have
a very different meaning for millennials than they do for generations before
them in the workplace, and many will depart their jobs if they view their
employer’s actions, responses to issues, and overall agendas inconsistent with
stated corporate values and/or their own personal values.
We see strong
evidence of this in the proliferation of contract workers and independent
consultants. Employees no longer consider that they work for “the company” as
they did in the past; this generation’s perception of their employment
experience is that they work for the client, their colleagues, and their boss
and they are constantly checking that all are aligned with their sense of
culture and values.
You Can Do
all-encompassing, here are several action steps those readers associated with the
HR function can take:
First, routinely evaluate your employment and HR operations from top to bottom to analyze risk and do as much as possible to make sure that they are scandal-proof. Admittedly, there are no guarantees that something bad can’t occur. But pay particular attention to policies that have the potential to lead to bad behaviors. Compensation practices, for instance, motivated a prominent bank’s frontline office staff to open up over two million bogus customer accounts. As part of your risk management process, also focus on the assessment of people, by, for example, conducting iron-clad independent background checks as part of your hiring process.
J. James O’Malley, Managing Director at Comhar Partners, has been developing HR and talent acquisition solutions for global consulting firms (including Huron Consulting Group, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte and Lante) since the mid-90s. Jim has seen firsthand why consultants are frustrated by and don’t “get” recruiting. Based on his experience, he addresses the differences between large and boutique recruitment firms below. It’s his intent to dispel myths that consultants hold about recruiting while, at the same time, ensuring that recruiters who work for firms are free to do their jobs, which is hiring the “best and the brightest”.