Fool Me Once

by | Sep 27, 2022 | EX & EVP

Do we still have an issue with authenticity in employer brand? 

It cannot be overstated how important honesty and authenticity are when it comes to your employer brand. If your employer brand isn’t authentic, you will not be able to keep hold of your people. So much of a positive employer-employee relationship relies on trust and once that trust is broken it is almost impossible to repair.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend that took me back to experiences I’ve had in the past that I thought had been left there. He’s six months into a new job with a large, well-known organisation and the last time I’d spoken to him (a couple of months ago) he’d been really happy. His role involved an extensive training period and he’d been excited to finish and get started properly. Considering how positive he’d been, I was looking forward to hearing how things had progressed.

“I hate it”. This was the first thing he said when I asked how work was. “They basically completely lied to us, promised us all this support and it’s just not true.” This was something I’ve definitely said in the past. “The worst part of it is they convinced we were going to be doing good, helping the little people but it’s the complete opposite.” Wow.

I had a very similar experience about 12 years ago. My working life as a barman, which had started as a way of enabling my ongoing ambitions of being a rock star, had developed into the beginnings of what I thought would be an ongoing career in hospitality. I’d started looking beyond pubs and bars and found a job overseeing events in hotels. I’d been completely honest in my CV and interview about my past experience and been assured that extensive training was offered – they prided themselves on being a place where enthusiasm and commitment were most important, they could teach me the rest. Six months on and I was broken – I felt humiliated, lied to and utterly disillusioned. There had been no training, no support. There had been no help – just blame. I’d gone from being excited about the start of a new exciting journey to being sure I could never take another job in hospitality again.

Now, that ended up being the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I found a new career that I love and now find myself Creative Director of an agency doing what I believe to be genuinely exciting things. My life in hospitality is a distant memory and I couldn’t be happier but my experiences are not only far from unique, they are still happening today.

It actually blows my mind that, in 2022, there are organisations that are still outwardly bending the truth as part of their recruitment, and even onboarding process, in order to get candidates through the door. In these instances, they’re presumably just hoping their new recruits would rather continue with them than go through the whole job search cycle again. If not, they really don’t mind how much of an ongoing and significant cost recruitment is for them. We can only assume this tells us something about how much (or little) they care about their people’s happiness or mental wellbeing at work.  

If you feel unable to be honest in your employer brand then it’s important to ask yourself why that is. If it’s a matter of confidence and insecurity when it comes to competing with other organisations then it’s likely that all it will take is some time to uncover what will make you stand out to the right people. Also, by showing a little vulnerability and admitting there are things you want to improve, you’ll find those who appreciate you being authentic and want a challenge and to help.

On the other hand, if you feel you can’t be honest because you know there are deep-lying issues then guess what? It’s time to get to work fixing those issues.

Let’s make circumstances like I once found myself in, and my friend currently finds himself in, a thing of the past.

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