Reputation key for winning new ‘war for talent’

By Lucy Monahan

One of the most important corporate resources is talent and it also happens to be one of the resources in shortest supply. With the recent headlines circulating on the turmoil facing Uber, it made me think about how American tech giants are going to remain an attractive employer in an overcrowded marketplace where competition is global and employee loyalty is low.

How many socially-conscious millennials will want to work for the embattled firm after the latest round of scandals?

With the company still in crisis mode following the departure of controversial co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, and amid endless reports of its toxic culture, Uber has another battle on its hands: salvaging its reputation to attract the best candidates.

In the months after an ex-employee wrote an explosive blog post outlining a series of discriminatory incidents, the number of people globally viewing and applying to roles at Uber slumped by approximately 15%. In an environment with as much employee turnover as Silicon Valley, the capability to attract top talent is vitally important and the failure to do so severely hinders growth.

Uber is likely to suffer in the war for talent, especially when up against behemoths like Facebook (which recently unveiled an updated mission statement “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”) and smaller start-ups such as Asana (which received a rare perfect rating on Glassdoor and a spot on Glassdoor’s Top 10 Best Places to Work in 2017). It remains to be seen whether the ride-hailing giant’s reputational damage will allow it to stay in the fast lane and hail the brightest minds.

In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the reputation of a potential employer is more important than ever as millennials become increasingly discerning in their search for a job. Although they face real concerns such as debts and unpaid internships, they’re not driven primarily by money. Instead, many millennials – who will form 50% of the global workplace by 2020 – aspire to make the world a more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable place.

For these politically engaged jobseekers, work must have meaning: they want their prospective employers to enshrine values and ethics in their business model. Crucially, the brands that appeal to young people as consumers are the same ones that attract them as employers. Whilst compensation is important and must be fair, it’s no longer the main driver for this age group, and the emphasis for this generation has increasingly shifted from money to morals.

Of those born between 1981 and 1996, more than 50% say that they would take a pay cut for purposeful work and nearly two-thirds (62%) want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world. Overlooking the work habits and personality traits of this generation will have significant implications for organisations, isolating them from two-thirds of the young talent pool.

So it comes as no great surprise that employers of all shapes and sizes are keen to showcase their ethical and cultural principles in meaningful ways. This is increasingly met with a degree of scepticism as the number of businesses promoting themselves as purposeful brands has soared.

Recent research shows that people are far more likely to trust the opinions of employees and anonymous reviewers than company CEOs and thanks to websites such as Glassdoor, this is now possible. On top of that, the rise of social media has made companies a great deal more transparent – whether they want to be or not.

There’s little point in declaring you have a purposeful mission on your website, if this is not brought to life throughout your business. Making sure employees across the company are committed to fulfilling the mission statement is vital for success. The failure to practice what you preach will soon be exposed at potentially high reputational cost.

Going forward, organisations that want to remain disruptive and commercially competitive will have to go outside of their comfort zones and reflect on what their values are and how they can demonstrate them across the business culture to attract a purpose-driven millennial workforce. For now the tables are turning – where employers once had the power to be the ‘picky’ ones, it’s now the next up-and-coming generation of jobseekers in the driving seat.

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