I value a genuine answer over an answer that’s been spun off in a certain way. I think there are definitely times and places for each case, but when it’s something like ‘What do you like about this?’ or ‘What don’t you like about that?’ I will value the answer that doesn’t sound spun.
This, my friends, is where I think some companies will fall down when they attempt to engage people, whether employees, potential recruits, or the public using social media. It’s so OBVIOUS when we’re being marketed to. Social media exploded because people were tired of corporate speak, tired of hearing some wordy answer that didn’t actually tell them anything, or wasn’t reflective of the way things really are. That’s what I LOVE about where social media and the internet are going to take us. We get to talk to real people. And if they sound fake… we can then head in search of an actual real person. One who will tell me what they think. It’s at the click of a button. It’s that easy.
If I wanted to know, for instance, what it was like to work for a company, I wouldn’t go to their careers site. I don’t trust the spin they put on it. As well intentioned as it is, I know the kinds of people they look for. The ones who stand out as good employees. They’re well spoken, well liked, of all different ages, generally on a good career path… but who would really believe that all of your employees are like that? It looks great on the company website, and you know what? That’s probably the right place for it. After all, there’s a brand to represent.
Now, what about sites like glassdoor.com? I first came across this site in June, 2008. I was surprised that employees were allowed to rate their CEOs, submit salary reviews, etc. All anonymously. You couldn’t see what others were saying about other companies unless you contributed something about your company. It’s now about a year and a half later. The site is still there… and it’s still growing… and everyone can see the reviews. The top of the page now says ‘A free inside look at over 28,000 companies’. 28,000!!!!!
I did a search for reviews for ‘Communication in Calgary’. There’s a review from a “Shaw Broadcast Services Communications Specialist“. What this person had to say about the company on September 30, 2008 was:
The leadership team at Star Choice is very accessible. They are genuinely interested in the welfare of their staff and appreciate their contributions. Star Choice, a Shaw company, offers a wealth of advancement opportunities and offers a top-notch benefits package which includes an employee share purchase program, stock options and an educational reimbursement program along with the more traditional health and wellness benefits.
Somewhat lower than industry standard salaries for some positions. Being a Shaw owned company, the big decisions are often made by stakeholders outside of Star Choice. Promotions are not always given to the best qualified candidate.
Advice to Senior Management
Keep up the recognition. Engaged employees stick around for the long haul.
Now being that it is only one review about Star Choice, and I, being the average person, would probably poke around a bit more to see if anyone else had similar experiences. But you know what? This idea… this being able to seek out independent information on the internet. It’s not new. Shocking, isn’t it? Where’s the first place you go to look for information for a new car you’re buying? Or maybe you want some reviews on a travel destination? You look it up online. And there are THOUSANDS of independent reviews that you use in your decision making process. If there are enough good reviews, or enough negative reviews, chances are there’s something to them and you’ll most likely take their advice. If it’s one or two, most people would give it the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to just one bad experience. We’re all human after all. But, we’re making our decisions before we ever even go talk to the company directly. Why? Because most of them aren’t involved in the conversation.
Now, we’re gaining the same types of reviews for other areas of our lives. We’re able to make important decisions that we often base on the feedback from others. How is it any different from asking your neighbour working at XYZ Company how they like their job when you’re doing your job hunt? It’s not. If your neighbour said he hated it and was on the hunt for a new job because management was terrible, what’s the likelihood that you would then apply for a job there? Pretty slim. What’s the likelihood that you would discourage somebody else from working there? Much higher. (Given that you actually trust your neighbour as a source).
So, with enough positive reviews, or enough negative reviews, that becomes the trusted viewpoint. All areas will eventually follow the same trend as travel and product reviews. What’s our defense? Create a positive experience. And ensure the message you are portraying is actually the message that your customers (employees) would also give. It’s too easy to poke holes in a message that isn’t backed up by experience these days.
Maybe you’re an employer looking to kick start some new messaging? Or maybe you know one. Here’s an idea: start with your employees. Find out why they love working for you, and base your messaging on that. It’s what they’re out there telling people anyway.