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Maintaining Your Employer Reputation

For business leaders, hiring managers, and recruiters there is an acute awareness that a positive corporate reputation, both on and offline, are part and parcel of accessing new clients, receiving funding opportunities, and conducting business in an increasingly interconnected world. Most of us care about our corporate reputations when it comes to our customers, but it's time to start treating employees more like this and not overlooking the importance of your status as an employer as much as an overall organization.

Recruiting and retaining the right talent at the right time is a massive aspect of maintaining a favorable employer brand that will allow you to source more qualified employees over time as word of your positive workplace culture spreads. From the first contact you have with a potential employee, and throughout the lifecycle of their career, you'll want to be sure to maintain an image of accountability, a supportive culture, upward advancement to those who work for you and everyone you encounter as an organization. Whether you're a small business or a multi-national corporation, these tips will help you put your best foot forward as a great place to work.

Focus on First Impressions

The power of first impressions cannot be understated when it comes to creating and protecting an employer brand to be proud of. The early reputation you create starts in the recruiting and hiring process and goes through the first months of a new employee's time on the job. How your employees represent your company's values and mission will really matter in influencing how others perceive your image and every interaction they have starting from day one will impact the experience they have.

Even if they end up not being extended or accepting a job offer, make no mistake -- potential recruits and new-hires will talk to their friends and family or even share their perspectives online (more on that later). If you want to start off on the right foot, get your current employees onboard with your brand by providing them a uniform, succinct elevator pitch they can be encouraged to use when talking about your company with others and especially when interviewing talent. Within that first interview or phone screening, your candidates should be able to firmly grasp what your organization is all about and what the benefits of working with you will be.

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Protect Your Online Reputation

In today's era of Yelp, Glassdoor, Indeed, and other review sites gaining popularity, you don't just have to be concerned about word-of-mouth, but also the fact that anything someone has to say about their experience with your organization may be shared online. Whether good or bad, someone's opinion about your company can be fired off and decimated to the world in seconds. Moreover, review sites like this have become the platform for dissatisfied workers and former employees to air their grievances, sometimes in the hopes of revenge and other times, because they genuinely do want a better work environment. If you feel that your reputation is suffering due to online employee reviews or negative feedback on social media, there are some things you can do and some things you can't do to reel it back in.

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While the law goes back and forth on whether trashing your employer online is protected free speech, going after these malcontents is usually more trouble than it's worth. Your better bet is to respond to feedback directly, honestly, and empathetically to address points of pain. While you may not always like or agree with what your employees have to say, providing a sympathetic ear can go a long way toward improving your employer brand and your overall culture and organizational performance.

Understand that many negative reviews tend to come from former employees. To avoid these in the future, you may give exiting employees a chance to discuss their experience in the exit interview to allow you to gain insight into likes and dislikes your workers have on the job. You can also consider having your new-hires sign non-disparagement agreements that can help guard your online reputation.

Keep track of what people are saying about you online, both employees and non-employees alike. Keep an eye on Yelp, Glassdoor, etc. and respond to negative reviews quickly and personable. Same goes for social media profiles.

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Be Honest About Pain Points -- And Fix Them

If you notice a recurring theme in the type of feedback you are giving, you should document this information and create a plan to address employee complaints with the attention they deserve. Sometimes, this may be a simple fix like adding more employee perks such as free snacks, happy hours, or a more comfortable break room. Other situations may require something more involved, such as overhauling your annual review or total rewards model. The underlying idea is that an engaging and effective employee brand is one that evolves with the needs of its workers and the trends of the workforce at large.

Treat your employees like you treat your loyal customers, and they will, in turn, reward you with better performance, innovative ideas, and (hopefully) by referring their most talented friends and family to join your ranks. Most importantly, don't make the mistake of leaving your employment brand to chance or waiting for the market to adjust. Address areas for development head-on and see how focusing on your reputation as an employer can help you attract top talent today.

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Julie Briggs

Julie Briggs is an independent business and HR blogger based in New York City. She is a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Purchase College with a bachelor's in Sociology. Her career has spanned internationally and across a diverse array of industries. She specializes in human capital, recruiting, leadership, and employee engagement.

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