Category Archives: corporate brand

Speaking Up in the C-Suite

A recent series of experiments, which we wrote about here at HRE, sought to get a sense of employees’ feelings about corporate leaders who base business decisions on their moral beliefs.

In that study, researchers found that workers saw executives who staked out positions on moral grounds and later changed their minds as being hypocritical, and “less effective and worthy of their support than leaders whose initial stance was pragmatic.”

So, CEOs take a chance when they choose to travel the moral high road, especially if they flip-flop on an issue in the future.

A newer survey, however, finds that, yes, there are hazards that come along with speaking out on controversial subjects. But there are also reasons to remind your CEO that saying something might be better than staying quiet, at least in the eyes of some (mostly younger) employees.

In partnership with KRC Research, New York-based public relations firm Weber Shandwick polled 1,021 U.S. adults, gauging respondents’ attitudes toward “the trend of chief executive officers speaking out on hot-button societal topics,” according to a Weber Shandwick statement.

They ultimately found that one generation of employees in particular—millennials—feel that CEOs actually have a responsibility to make their voices heard on matters that are important to society. Nearly half of millennials polled (47 percent) said they feel this way, while just 28 percent of Generation Xers and baby boomers agree. And, given the current cultural climate, it’s not exactly surprising that a larger portion of Generation Y (56 percent) feels that CEOs and other business leaders have a greater duty to take a stand on societal concerns now than they did in the past.

In addition, the report sees 51 percent of millennials saying they would be more apt to buy from a company whose chief executive spoke out on an issue they agreed with; an 11 percent increase from a 2016 Weber Shandwick survey. From an employee perspective, 44 percent of full-time Gen Y workers said they would be more loyal to their organization if the CEO took a public position on a “hotly debated current issue,” in comparison to the 16 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of boomers saying the same.

What exactly is the cost of a CEO’s silence? Overall, 47 percent of respondents said that some form of criticism—from the media, customers, employees or the government—would be the biggest downside to a CEO’s decision to sit out a social debate. Another 20 percent suggest that the organization could be hurt financially, while 14 percent reckon that potential job candidates would instead shy away from applying with the company. Twelve percent foresee current employees quitting.

The risk of incurring such damage apparently depends on the issue at hand. When asked which topics—all of which relate to the workplace in some way—that CEOs and other business leaders should express an opinion on, job and skills training was the most common response among all respondents, closely followed by equal pay in the workplace, healthcare coverage, maternity and paternity leave, and gender equality.

That said, there seem to be instances when executives should think carefully before entering the fray. Less than 35 percent of all respondents said business leaders should weigh in on immigration, for example, with roughly 25 percent saying the same about LGBT rights, gun control and refugees, respectively.

As a PR firm, Weber Shandwick is happy to offer tips on how to approach activism in the C-suite, of course. And this report does just that. But, however they decide to broach thorny subjects like those mentioned above, CEOs and other executives should be aware that the call for them to take at least an occasional social stand is only going to get louder.

“CEOs are expected to make a strong business case for any environmental or social issues they speak up about or which they commit time and resources to,” says Paul Massey, global lead of social impact at Weber Shandwick, in a statement. “This research tells us that millennials, more so than older generations, will also be vigilant when it comes to CEOs being held accountable for defending corporate values and conduct.”

 

Recruiting Takes to the Air

Recruiters dreaming up new ways to reach passive talent are going to have to dig down pretty deep—or go sky high—to top Kiwi.com.

The online travel agency, based in the Czech Republic city of Brno, recently deployed a fleet of “HR drones” in hopes of catching the attention of technology developers who were about to be relieved of their jobs at a handful of area companies.

Just to clarify, the agency sent actual drones—unmanned aerial vehicles, not spiritless employees from the HR department—to hover around the nearby offices of organizations such as AVG Technologies and NetSuite, after catching wind that the recently-acquired companies were laying off developers.

These drones came with a message, delivered via the blue banners affixed to each of the undersized aircraft. On one side: SMART PEOPLE WANTED, along with the email address join@kiwi.com, for interested applicants. The other, meanwhile, promoted the company’s website, www.kiwi.com.

Captured for a YouTube video, the recent “stunt,” as it was described in a Kiwi.com statement, was meant to give would-be candidates a taste of the creative climate they would find if they became one of the organization’s roughly 750 employees.

“To get smart people, sometimes you need to do something really stupid,” according to a Kiwi.com employee appearing in the video, which notes that the competition to find developers is “fierce” in Brno, “the Silicon Valley of Central Europe.”

“Recruiting the best in the industry is always a challenge, as smart people need to work somewhere that challenges and inspires them,” adds Kateřina Gábová, head of HR at Kiwi.com. “We wanted to dramatically show that, at Kiwi.com, we foster an environment in which clever people will thrive, and that we are looking for the brightest new talent in technology.”

This recruitment mission just took place less than one week ago, so we’ll have to wait and see if it ultimately draws developers to Kiwi.com. But you have to give the company credit for trying something bold to set itself apart from the pack.

Ratedly Review-Tracking App Rates

I guess my biggest surprise after speaking recently with Joel Cheesman — creator of the new Ratedly anonymous employee-review monitoring service for employers that launched in May — is that competitors don’t seem to be furiously chasing or even nipping at his heels since the launch.

Joel Cheeseman and his Ratedly app.
Joel Cheesman and his Ratedly app.

Equally surprising is Cheesman isn’t that concerned about competition or heel-nipping at all. He’s doing just fine with the 10 primary review sites he spiders to — including Glassdoor and Indeed — and Ratedly’s slow-but-steady clientele growth.

But the app — which he was good enough to demo for me — is so simple and straightforward, and the most logical next step for helping employers through the employee-review revolution, you’d think other vendors would be clamoring to partner with him or give him a run for his money. If either of those things happens, he tells me, “we’ll welcome it.”

Bottom line, he adds, “we want to be the best at what we do, so we’re not against people looking into what we’re doing and trying to take us on.”

At the same time, says Cheesman, without giving away too many numerical specifics, “there’s no pressure to make a ton of money real fast here. We’re building customers at a rate that I’m comfortable with. It’s all going well, and self-funded, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

It didn’t take long for Cheesman, a 20-year veteran of the recruiting and employment industry, to walk me through his brainstorm several days ago. It’s really that basic. Resembling a Twitter feed, if you will, Ratedly is, in essence, a mobile-enabled real-time index for iPhones, iPads and iPods that constantly checks for subscribers’ company pages and or company mentions on anonymous employee-review sites.

“Employers waste so much time these days hitting the refresh button to track reviews about them online,” he says. “We saw a real need out there to take that task off the plate of HR professionals across every industry category. No one is immune to anonymous reviews.” He adds:

“The days of putting your head in the sand are over. Companies NEED to know what’s being said out there. If you have someone flaming your company and you don’t know about it, you’re at a real disadvantage. People you’re interviewing are going to these sites. That’s your brand … not what you’re spending on your website. If the community at large says you ‘suck,’ all that [other] branding stuff [you’re doing and paying for] doesn’t do any good or make any sense at all.” 

Anyone who signs up for the $150-a-month service gets automatic access to the data Ratedly’s bot scrapes every day from the 10 main review sites in its arsenal. Clients can also ask that custom feeds be added if their company happens to be showing up regularly on an additional site as well. They can bookmark whatever comments they choose and/or share them with whomever they want.

They also get push notifications whenever their company is mentioned so they can get on with the work they’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to constantly watching and waiting for what employees and job candidates think of them. Or worrying about missing another anonymous review. In addition, Ratedly will warn them if their reputation appears to be trending up or down on any given week.

Next on Cheesman’s to-do list is enhancing the analytics and metrics with word-search capabilities, being able to tie an organization’s trending reputation to stock fluctuations and company news, and getting more consultancies and agencies involved with the product.

“A lot of agencies are being sought right now to help employers with their reputations and employer brands,” Cheesman says, “so working more with and in that space will be our next big thing. That will be huge.”

He also plans to work harder with clients’ CEOs and other top leaders such as CHROs to get them more personally and regularly involved with social media, especially as it pertains to employee-review sites. In his eyes, this will speak volumes to younger workers and job candidates. Think about it, he says:

“You’re a CEO. You go out and find a positive comment posted by one of your younger employees on Glassdoor. Instead of moving on, you take the time to post [to Twitter, Facebook, etc.] something like, ‘Hey, another happy employee!’ with a link to Glassdoor. That shows that young person [and all his or her friends] that you’re a CEO who’s on top of social media and took the time to notice someone’s post; that looks really, really good in the public eye.”

Are You Giving Job Seekers What They Want?

The gender gap. The generation gap. The wage gap. The skills gap …

Disparities abound in the workplace, unfortunately. And, according to Randstad U.S., we can go ahead and add “attributes gap” to the lengthy list.

The HR services provider’s recent survey of more than 200,000 respondents—designed to measure “the market perception of employers with the largest workforces” in 25 countries, according to Randstad—found salary and employee benefits, long-term job security and a pleasant working atmosphere to be the top three employer characteristics that job seekers value most.

These same attributes, however, scored fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, on the list of attributes that would-be employees feel companies actually offer.

The same poll finds employers excelling in other ways, of course. The problem is that job seekers don’t seem to care that much about the things that organizations are good at delivering.

For example, the attributes that job seekers feel U.S. employers score highest on—financial health, strong management and quality training, in that order—rank fifth, ninth and seventh on jobseekers’ list of most-desired employee attributes.

“These findings reveal an ‘attributes gap’ between what U.S. job seekers want and what they perceive potential employers to be best at providing,” says Jim Link, chief human resource officer at Randstad North America, in a statement.

“What this should signify to employers is a growing disconnect that can be detrimental from an employee engagement, retention and, ultimately, cost perspective.”

Naturally, Randstad offers employers and HR executives suggestions on bridging this gap, such as “evaluat[ing] where you stand versus companies with which you compete for talent and determin[ing] the best steps to take to improve upon performance and/or perception.”

In addition, the firm recommends developing a three-year plan to “anticipate the future needs of your employees and what employer attributes talent will view as most important,” advising HR leaders to “arm yourself with insight leveraging talent analytics and predictive workforce intelligence to stay ahead of changing workplace dynamics.”

While organizational and HR leaders “may not be able to influence every workplace desire, managing workers’ wants and needs should not only be done from a macro-level by the organization,” says Link, “but also much more frequently from a micro-level by managers to ensure alignment.”

3M Displaces Google Among Millennials

220px-3M_wordmark.svgThe maker of the Post-it Note has displaced the world’s best-known technology company atop the list of organizations that millennials most want to work for. 3M, which in addition to the aforementioned product makes Scotch tape, packaging products, laminating systems and a whole host of other things you can actually touch or hold in your hand, has displaced Google for the No. 1 place in this year’s 2016 Millennial Career Survey, conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars. Google was the top choice in the 2015 survey.

3M CEO Inge Thulin was so delighted when he heard the news that he walked over to CHRO Marlene McGrath’s office and gave her a hug, he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a big, big statement,” Thulin told the paper. “This is incredible. It’s fantastic. When you look at Google and Apple and the others, we left them in the dust.”

Google didn’t do so shabbily, actually: It ranks No. 2 on this year’s list, followed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at No. 3, Walt Disney Co. at No. 4 and “local hospitals” at fifth place. The FBI, Buzzfeed, Apple, Amazon and the Central Intelligence Agency also made the top 10.

The NSHSS defines “millennial” rather generously as people ages 15 to 32; other definitions of millennials identify them as people who were ages 18 to 34 in 2015 while those born after are called Generation Z.

3M appeals to young people because of its sustainability projects and its three-to-12-month leadership development program, Thulin told the Star Tribune. Its commitment to diversity is another big attractor for millennials, he said. Indeed, research has confirmed that young people are very interested in leadership development, as well as diversity, and that they’ll look for the exit signs if they find the development opportunities at their current employer lacking.

The NHSS survey results are based on responses from a big and diverse group: 13,000 high schoolers, college students and young professionals ages 15 to 32, 48 percent of whom are African-American, Hispanic or Asian, 23 percent first-generation college students and 39 percent multilingual.

“Currently, the top career interests of this group are STEM, business and arts, and entertainment and media,” says NHSS president James W. Lewis. “Millennials hope to find in the workplace fair treatment, corporate social responsibility and strong company benefits, which include flexible work schedules.”

Job Candidates’ Rising Expectations

If you’ve become accustomed to having job candidates jump through hoops in order to land positions at your organization, then you might want to brace yourself for change: Candidates are simply less willing to put up with lengthy application procedures and cumbersome hiring processes than in years past.

466488753That’s one of the major findings from CareerBuilder’s 2016 Candidate Behavior study, which is based on surveys of more than 4,500 workers and 1,500 hiring managers. The study shows that employers are continuing to struggle: Although 76 percent of full-time, employed workers are either looking for a new position or are open to new opportunities, nearly half of employers (48 percent) say they’re unable to fill job vacancies.

In today’s market, companies need to present their best faces to candidates. “It’s important to remember that the candidate experience starts from the very first click and can impact how effectively a company is able to recruit quality candidates, the popularity of its employer brand, the strength and quality of its referrals, and even the bottom line,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s VP of HR.

Candidates are more quicker to walk away from applications that are too cumbersome, with one in five telling CareerBuilder they are not willing to complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more, while 76 percent want to know how long it will take them to finish an application before it starts. However, the majority say they’d be willing to endure a lengthy application process if the company is offering a higher base salary.

Candidates are also less willing to wait around: 66 percent said they’re willing to wait less than two weeks to hear back from an employer before considering the opportunity a “lost cause” and moving on to another. HR must also ensure that information on the company is easy to find, with 37 percent of candidates saying they’ll move on to the next opportunity if they can’t find the information they need on the company.

Candidates also want to see more information in the job description: 74 percent want to know the salary, 61 percent want to see the total benefits package, 46 percent want to see employee ratings, 40 percent want contact information for the hiring manager and 39 percent want information on work-from-home options. They also want to see how the company provides work/life balance (35 percent), photos/video of the work environment (31 percent), team structure and hierarchy of the role (27 percent) and how many people applied for the job (25 percent).

SHRM Speaker: Culture Must ‘Rock’

Many people think their company’s culture is about its heritage, about “the way we’ve always done things.” Jim Knight thinks those people are wrong.

“At its core, a company’s culture is about the present — it’s really a collection of individuals and, as they join or leave the organization, it changes,” said Knight, the opening keynote at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Talent Management Conference and Expo in Orlando, titled “Culture that Rocks: How to Amp Up or Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture.” “People say ‘My culture’s not the same as it used to be.’ No duh, sister! People come and go all the time!”

Because culture is shaped by the present, it’s malleable, and HR has an opportunity to shape it through constant communication, said Knight, former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International and author of the book Culture That Rocks. “You have to let people know what you’re trying to do, otherwise people will make it up on their own.”

A shared mindset is the key to success, Knight said. “Individual agendas produce random results, but a shared mind-set produces aligned actions.”

He cited fast-food chain Chik-fil-A as a prime example of a successful company culture that drives performance. Despite the company’s policy of having all stores closed on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath, the average Chik-fil-A restaurant generates $1 million more in a typical year than an average McDonald’s restaurant, said Knight. The company builds its culture starting with the entry-level employees at its restaurants, who receive two days of onboarding.

As part of their onboarding, the new employees watch a company video titled “Every Life Has a Story.” In the video, set to a violin score, a camera pans over a scene of customers at a Chik-fil-A restaurant, pausing over each one briefly as a bit of text appears over each person summarizing their story:  “Just lost his job and is wondering how he’ll support his family,” “Only son recently deployed to a war zone,” “Parents divorced when he was 7 ,” etc.

The video, which closes with the message “Every person has a story … if we bother to read it,” left a number of people in the audience visibly moved.

“As a training guy, I so wish I’d been the one to make that video,” said Knight. The take-away, he said, is that customers crave differentiation and that employees should want to give customers “a little more than what they were expecting.”

Mercer: People Risks Can Undermine Mergers

Last year saw a veritable “merger tsunami,” including health-insurance giant Anthem’s proposed $47 billion acquisition of rival Cigna Corp., chemical giants Dow and DuPont becoming one and Dell’s announcement that it would acquire EMC. The trend is expected to continue through 2016, as low interest rates and volatile capital markets spur companies to grow via mergers and acquisitions.

A failure to address people issues can lead to a merger's unraveling.
Failing to address people issues may lead to a merger’s unraveling.

Mergers can and do go wrong, however, and one of the most volatile components are the people, especially the talented and experienced ones necessary for making it work in the first place. This risk is magnified when the necessary planning for employee retention, cultural integration, leadership assessment and compensation/benefits is given short shrift. However, in its first-ever People Risks in M&A Transactions report, Mercer finds that corporate leaders are being given less time than ever to properly address these risks.

The report finds that 41 percent of buyers report less time to complete due diligence compared to three years ago, while 33 percent say sellers are providing less information about assets for sale. Notably, more than one-third of sellers (34 percent) say more and more of their divestment resources are needed to address HR issues.

For buyers and sellers alike, a plan for clear and consistent communication is necessary for minimizing disruption, says Mercer. Beyond that, the companies doing the buying should use skills inventories and competency assessments to gauge the capabilities of leadership teams and key employees on factors such as their ability to govern, lead people and drive cultural change.

Buyers also need to “adopt an enterprise or global view” to effectively manage benefits, the report finds, and develop effective retention strategies for key stakeholder groups beyond the executive team during and after the transaction.

Sellers also need to identify critical employee groups and consider a retention program, says Mercer, and document a clear talent management/staffing plan to establish the infrastructure of the entity being sold and determine which employees will stay and which will join the new organization.

“The people risks highlighted in our report are clearly part of our conversations with the deal community here in the [United States],” says Mercer’s Chuck Moritt, North American multinational client leader. “The good news is that both buyers and sellers are fully realizing the urgent need to address them in a thorough and thoughtful manner.”

Uber’s Horrifying New Headache

It seems the revolutionary ride-hailing app is once again in the headlines at the start of another week, and for all the wrong reasons.

As was widely reported over the weekend, Uber is now dealing with the PR fallout from the shootings in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday night, allegedly by an Uber driver who may have even picked up a fare in between shootings.

(Indeed, one passenger’s harrowing tale of his trip with the alleged gunman, identified as Jason Dalton, on the night of the shootings, can be found here.)

According to the story in the Chicago Tribune, a spokeswoman for Uber confirmed that Dalton was a driver for the company, but she declined to say whether he was driving Saturday night.

The Trib story also notes:

Uber prohibits both passengers and drivers from possessing guns of any kind in a vehicle. Anyone found to be in violation of the policy may be prohibited from using or driving for the service.

While the alleged shooter had no criminal background, this incident nonetheless brings up a very difficult question for Uber going forward. Given the loose structure and general lack of corporate oversight  of Uber’s workforce, how can the company assure its customers that the next time they get into an Uber driver’s vehicle, they won’t be entering a possible crime scene?

Maersk Goes Global with New Maternity Benefits

You might say the parental-benefits bandwagon has just charged into the world arena. Copenhagen, Denmark-based Maersk Group 505017852--pregnancyannounced recently that, starting April 4, it will be implementing a new global guaranteed 18-weeks-minimum, fully paid maternity leave  for all its female employees.

Worldwide, the maternity policy would affect more than 23,000 employees. Once implemented in the United States, it will boost the current six-weeks leave to 18 for more than 1,200 women. It will also improve terms for women working for Maersk in at least 51 countries.

In addition, it will include a return-to-work program, giving onshore employees the opportunity to work 20 percent fewer hours at full contractual pay within the first year of birth or adoption.

“This new policy supports our aim to retain our talents and attract even more in the future — this way, strengthening our business results,” says Michael White, president and CEO of Maersk Line North America.

Maersk Line’s Asia Pacific Chief Robbert Van Trooijen, in a recent story on Seanews.com, says the new policy “supports our aim to retain the talented women working in the group and attract even more to gain access to future and wider talent pools … .”

The move was predicated on research conducted for Maersk by New York-based KPMG suggesting maternity-leave policies have an influence on the labor-market participation by contributing to higher employement rates of women.

The move doesn’t mark a first in the recent march by large, big-name companies to enhance parental-leave benefits in an effort to boost retention, reputation and employer brand. A search of this HRE Daily site yields numerous posts about this march, some might say race, to board the parental-leave bandwagon. So too does a search of HRE‘s website, HREOnline.com.

So will there be more bandwagon jumpers globally, what with Maersk leading the charge? I put this question to Kenneth Matos, senior director of research for the New York-based Families and Work Institute. What he had to say is worth sharing, particularly as it applies to HR leaders:

“I do believe that more multinationals will be pursuing improved maternity-leave and other benefits policies. One, because centralized and standardized benefits programs are easier to manage than a grab bag of varied policies impacted by an array of international legal frameworks. Offering everyone a high-end multinational program is easier to manage, avoids lawsuits from accidentally violating a country’s laws with a policy legal in another country, and avoids organizational culture clashes as employees around the world compare their benefits.”

He goes on:

“I believe that a single, affordable, multinational benefits program is the holy grail of the benefits industry. Second, there has been a recent wave of organizations attempting to outdo each other on employee benefits. The battle for talent is reigniting as the predicted retirement boom begins to pick up steam — reducing the size of the workforce –and more jobs require uncommon skills that take years of education or experience to cultivate — a major problem for a shrinking labor force.

“Organizations will want to be seen as leaders and many HR executives and benefits teams should prepare for calls from senior executives to benchmark their benefits programs against their competitors.  It is essential for HR executives to keep cool heads and examine their benefits in terms of what their people want and need rather than offering extensive benefits just to make a social or political statement. Especially if the organizational or local  cultures will suppress the usage of these elaborate offerings or interest will wane over time and leaders might call for a reversal if the benefits structure doesn’t work for their organization and staff.”

Sounds like advice worth heeding, or at least considering.