We all know the importance of reputation. But how many of us actually really know what our reputation is?
It is easy to fall into the trap of mistaking reputation with what is actually our own, probably more favourable, perception of ourselves – easy to do when you spend time in the business looking in. We are sometimes complacent about our reputation, believing that just because our reputation was good yesterday, it is still good. Unfortunately, reputations don’t stand still and it might be that we are out of touch with what people are saying. Whatever the reason, what we think our reputation is, might be very different to the reality..
When a business lives and dies by its reputation it seems like a hell of a thing to not be certain about. And when you are talking about attracting talent to work for you, reputation is probably the single most important factor. When I speak to recruiters who are considering a move, they will have already filed some companies under the ‘I would never work there’ category. Funnily enough it is the same companies that come up time and again.
“ Yep, fair point Luke– but I know what our reputation is in the market place”. ….sure about that ?
The MD, that I spoke to this week thought he was sure. He gushed superlatives about the agency he had built up over 10 years. According to him his business was profitable, had good clients and a smart CBD office. He paid his staff well, had casual Friday and even gave them their birthday as an extra holiday. He had even won an industry award 2 years ago. Sure they had lost some staff in the last year and struggled to find new staff – but, as he told me, that is typical of the recruitment industry.
The truth was that his agency carried a bad reputation. Why he had a bad reputation isn’t important. What is important is that I knew about it. I knew about it simply because I had talked to his employees, ex-employees and their friends. And if I knew about it then you can be sure lots of other recruiters did too. And they did. Word had got around, and the word on the street was that they were no good.
He is not alone. I know agencies whose actual reputation in the market is different to what they think it is. Sometimes not dramatically different, but different enough to be important. The dangerous thing is that often they are not aware, probably because many used to have a better reputation. But at some stage it started to change, in some cases very quickly. And a bad reputation can be a silent killer, creeping up slowly and causing significant damage to your business often before you realise there is a problem.
So how do you know what your reputation is. Internal employee surveys, industry awards, no problem attracting staff, low turnover, a seemingly happy workforce, social media ‘likings’ ….all fair enough but there is a better way. A recruiter who really knows your market, is well networked and talking to people all day long is a key asset for your business. You might not be recruiting now but these are the people who can be your eyes and ears. Engage them, ask them and be prepared for whatever they say. They probably know better than you.