READ: Are You Being Dishonest In Your Recruitment?

I’ve recently met a number of senior managers who left a new job after only six or nine months because of the dishonesty of the leaders and the recruitment. It reminded me of the interesting story about an unfortunate HR Director who died, and it goes like this . . .

When he got to the pearly gates an archangel greeted him and asked his profession. When he gave it the archangel smiled and said, “Ahhh we have a very special choice for you, let me show you around”. They went down some steps to a beautifully ornate door, and as it opened, it revealed a magnificent high-ceilinged hall with a sumptuous buffet laid out with a variety of the HR Directors favourite food. There were lots of tables with groups of people laughing and beckoning him over to join them. A DJ started playing his favourite dance music and lots of people got up to dance. The archangel asked the HR Director if he would like to join the party and informed him that this was a place called Hell. The HR Director was a little confused and asked, “If this is Hell what is Heaven like?”

The archangel just smiled and said, “Follow me . . . ”. They went up a long staircase and at the top there was a rather plain-looking door. The archangel beckoned the HR director to open the door and see what was on the other side. As he opened the door he was surprised to see a number of people sitting quietly on little stools. They didn’t even look up at him and seemed to be in deep contemplation.

The archangel whispered to the HR director that he should step back out and close the door behind him. As they started to walk back down the staircase the archangel said, “So, because you are a HR Director, you now have a very special choice to make – would you rather go to heaven or hell?” HR Director thought about it for a moment and weighed up the pros and cons of what he had seen. He then said “It may sound strange but heaven looks very boring and hell looks so welcoming and friendly with everyone having a great time. There were far too many times when I was working so hard that I didn’t get a chance to have some fun, so I’m going to choose hell ”. The archangel nodded indicating he had made a good choice, smiled encouragingly at him and said, “Are you sure? It is for eternity.” When the HR director confirmed his decision the archangel said, “Okay come back tomorrow and we’ll get you sorted.”

The next day the HR director came back to the pearly gates eagerly looking forward to the buffet and meeting all the friendly people he had seen the previous day. The archangel took him down the steps to the ornate door. When the door opened the HR director was horrified to see that the large hall with the buffet of his favouritefood and all the friendly people dancing had disappeared and he was faced with fire and brimstone, with people wailing and the gnashing of teeth. He looked at the archangel with panic and asked, “What happened to the beautiful buffet and all those wonderful people? ” At that moment the archangel transformed into the devil and replied with a vicious grin ”Oh, that was yesterday, when we were recruiting you”.

Employers Dilemma

There is a real dilemma facing many employers today. The labour market is so tight that they want to attract the best candidates so they use marketing techniques like creating an employee value proposition or a brand promise. While this is a good idea, it needs to be true. It needs to be honest. There are far too many organisations that have fancy values plastered on the walls, with wonderful sophisticated employer branding. But the reality of the job is very different. This only leads to disappointment and frustration. I’ve heard some horror stories of a restaurant group run by a celebrity chef that is run purely on fear. The promotional material for employees will talk about the career opportunities and the development they will get. But the reality is a lack of leadership, very poor management with lots of unnecessary yelling and public humiliation for mistakes. It’s no wonder that they have chronic labour turnover and keep very few people for more than a year.

Have you checked the reviews about your company on www.glassdoor.com? It is a website for employees to check out what other employees say about a company that they may be thinking of applying to. There are lots of other ways that employees can now find out about what it’s like to work in your company, like contacting employees through Linked In.

Developing an employee promise

So what are you doing to develop your employee promise? What are the key engagement factors that your best employees need to have met? How open are you to receiving feedback from staff about what would make their jobs easier, their working lives better so they can have more job satisfaction? There is now plenty of research, with hard statistics, about the value of staff engagement. But it is also about getting the right people into your business in the first place, the sort of people who will enjoy the job, the sort of people who will contribute to and enhance your business.

The development of a strong employer brand begins with being really clear about your strategic narrative. This means clearly articulating the following:

Purpose – why does your business exist (beyond profit)
Vision – what does success look like?
Values – what is most important, and how do you want people to behave in order to achieve the vision?
The latest studies from applied neuroscience are identifying that our brain can only hold about three things in our mind – that is our working memory. So, all of the above need to be very succinct and memorable. Otherwise they will remain pretty words on a page on a shelf somewhere but not actually used in day-to-day decision-making and behaviour with colleagues and customers.

Leadership Habits

The next key element of an effective employer brand is the habits and behaviours of leaders and managers. It is important that there is no ‘say-do’ gap. This means that leaders and managers need to role model the values, and consistently remind people about the purpose and vision, so they can see how their job fits in and contributes to business success. This is the bit where most organisations struggle. All too often leaders want other people to change behaviours but don’t feel it is necessary for them to change their own behaviour.

This brings me back to the point of the senior managers I recently spoke to who left their jobs only shortly after joining. Their experience of working in the business was very different to what they had been told during the recruitment process. When people like this leave they will discuss their experience with all of their contacts and this damages the business’s employer brand, making it difficult to attract good people.

Inside-out and Outside-in

If you are interested in developing a strong employer brand there are a number of tools and techniques you can use to explore and identify the key motivations, expectations, values and working preferences of your people. Once you know this you can also check if these expectations are being met and if people feel they experience the values for themselves during their day-to-day work. This combination of engagement ‘from the inside out’ as well as ‘from the outside in’ can help you identify an honest employee ‘promise’ or ‘value proposition’ that you can then use to attract and retain the best people.

To find out more about how we are working with clients to develop strong employer brands, robust recruitment processes and powerful engagement throughout the organisation, just drop me a line on david@talent4performance.co.uk and we can arrange to have a chat.

Remember . . . Stay curious!

With best regards,

David Klaasen 

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©David Klaasen – 2014