Are You Letting Poor Leadership and Onboarding Practices Sabotage Your Employer Brand

Leslie Carter Article

A year ago a friend of mine was interviewing for what seemed like a dream job at a large global pharmaceutical company. She is an expert in her field and the company’s search firm had aggressively pursued her to lead an important new drug trial.

As one would expect for such an important role, she went through a rigorous interview process meeting with approximately 10 potential colleagues from the company over a two month period. The day she got the job offer she confided in me that she was a bit uncertain about taking the job. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I haven’t talked to the person I will be reporting to”. Not one of the interviews she had over the two month interview process was with the person who she would be reporting to! She said HR told her it was not necessary and that her boss was too busy. Are you kidding me? I told her she shouldn’t take the job. She did anyway and it turned out to be a disaster. She resigned this week.

Now, I realize most HR leaders would never let this happen. Obviously the HR team at this company was weak and lacked influence. However, I was surprised to learn from some of our Executive Search partners at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge that this happens more often than you might think.

Talk to any CHRO these days and chances are one of their key priorities is improving their company’s employer brand. Talent has become a competitive advantage in the “knowledge economy”. It’s on the CEO’s agenda and HR leaders more than ever before are being tasked with not only finding the best talent, but attracting it by building a strong employer brand.

To be seen as an employer of choice, companies are investing big money in better working environments, benefits and perks, more training and development, and sophisticated recruitment campaigns and tools, all in an effort to woo the best talent. While these things are all well and good, all too often these great initiatives are sabotaged by bad bosses and HR departments that don’t call them out, just like my friend experienced. As a marketer who is passionate about building brands, actions speak louder than words. So the behavior of your leaders has a much greater impact on your employer than what you say.

So how do you avoid the risk of sabotaging your employer brand? I canvassed some of my colleagues to get their advice on what HR leaders can do to ensure that poor leadership behaviour and on-boarding practices don’t sabotage all the great efforts and investments in building your employer brand and attracting talent. Here’s what they said:

  1. Be explicit about the expectations you have of those that lead others. As my colleague Dr. Vince Molinaro explains in his book “The Leadership Contract”, leaders need to make a conscious decision to lead and must understand their obligations as leaders. Our research shows that the most successful companies clearly articulate how they expect their leaders to act and behave so they are accountable to the company, themselves, and their direct reports.
  2. Managers are responsible for hiring, on-boarding, and developing their talent, not HR. While HR can take the lead on recruiting talent, and establishing the best process for evaluating, hiring, and on-boarding new employees, managers have to take responsibility for their talent. They have to take responsibility for ensuring they are properly on-boarded and set-up for success, monitoring and coaching them to perform at their best. HR plays a key supporting role, but not the lead role.
  3. HR needs to hold Managers accountable. While HR plays a supporting role, they need to be accountable for calling out managers that don’t follow the company HR practices and exhibit poor leadership behaviours that undermined not only the company’s employer brand, but their success as well. I realize this can be hard if HR doesn’t have a seat at the boardroom table, but HR never will if it doesn’t make itself and others accountable for bad behaviour and HR practices.  

While I’m sure this advice is obvious to most, I realize in today’s world of complex, matrixed organizations, sometimes what is obvious is still hard to do.

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