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Employer Branding Mistakes Your Company Can Learn From

Companies are well aware of the impact their brand can have on the bottom line—and they know that missteps may be costly. The last thing an organization wants is to alienate current and potential customers, but some notorious branding mistakes threatened to do just that for several companies. For example, incidents such as when H&M used a Black child to model its “coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt, Dove soap released an advertisement showing a black woman being changed into a white woman after using the company’s body wash, and Pepsi seemingly co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement to sell soda all caused massive backlash from the public –and left these companies scrambling to do damage control as consumers became outraged by these avoidable branding mistakes.

It's important to also keep in mind that mistakes companies make with their employer brand can also have serious consequences—especially when they’re trying to fill open positions, create a recruiting pipeline of qualified talent, and meet DEIB hiring goals.

The importance of your employer brand should not be ignored. First and foremost, a negative employer brand can cost your company great talent: In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, people admitted that they would not even consider working for a company with a negative employer brand—and even offering more money is unlikely to dissuade them. In fact, the survey also found that if a company with a negative employer brand bumps up the salary offered to candidates by 10 percent, only 28 percent of people will agree to take the job.

Not surprisingly, an employer brand also impacts retention. According to LinkedIn, almost 40 percent of young professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 are willing to take a 2 to 5 percent pay cut to work for an organization with a more favorable employer brand than where they currently are. 

In addition, the cost of a bad employer brand can add up quickly. LinkedIn also found that a company can lose $7.6 million annually from a negative employer brand because of costs related to increasing the salaries of new hires and existing employees, turnover, and addressing negative stories in the media. 

But what does the impact of a negative employer brand actually look like? The following are some examples of employer branding mistakes that made potential candidates think twice about working for the organizations that made them.

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Yelp

In 2016, Yelp came under fire for its dismissal of two employees who complained about their treatment at the company. In one incident, Talia Jane, who worked for the Eat24 delivery service, was fired after posting an open letter on Medium detailing how her pay was so inadequate that she was unable to afford basic monthly expenses. In the letter, she described often waking up with hunger pangs because she wasn’t able to buy groceries, and being forced to sleep under several blankets while fully clothed since she couldn’t risk amassing a high utility bill. Although Yelp denied that she was fired because of her accusations, she was let go soon after posting them.

In another incident, Jaymee Senigaglia, a single working mom, also took to the Internet to complain about how she had been treated at work. In her case, she claimed she was fired for taking time off in order to care for her hospitalized boyfriend. The company countered that accusation, stating that prior to her boyfriend becoming ill, she had already racked up a significant number of repeated absences that led to her firing.

Since these firings and very public claims about a bad work culture, Yelp managed to improve its employer brand and has gone on to receive several best place to work awards, thus proving that public perception about an employer brand can improve over time. 

GoDaddy

The case of GoDaddy is an example of what happens when consumer branding and employer branding collide. Years ago, GoDaddy was known for its provocative advertising featuring scantily clad women making sexually suggestive overtures for viewers. Although this may have been a hit among some football fans during the company's Super Bowl spots, the organization was not doing itself any favors when it came to recruiting women. In fact, job seekers and employees alike were so offended by the ads that they were turned off to the idea of working for the company.

When there was a change in leadership in 2012, GoDaddy worked to repair its image among women by changing its advertising strategies, publicly showing support for women in business, and fostering a work culture that values women. As a result, the company was able to significantly increase the amount of women in its tech positions and today boasts that around 40 percent of its tech hires are female.

Employer branding is not something you should take lightly, and it's important to remember that one negative story can have ripple effects that put a damper on your recruitment. It only takes one misstep for your company to go viral for all the wrong reasons, so pay close attention to your employer brand to avoid turning off the talent you want to hire, as well as your current staff.

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