Would your employees recommend your company?

While listening to recruiter Bob Beaudine‘s Entreleadership podcast this week, some comments he made about recruiting and networking suddenly mixed themselves together. When your company is looking for new people to fill positions, do your employees recommend your company to their friends and family?

While such recruiting would be dependent on whether or not your friends and family are qualified to do the work, in many companies, that isn’t a problem. When a company needs a receptionist, mechanic, manager, or salesperson – there’s almost always someone in your circle of family and friends who could be interested in that opportunity.

Question is, do your employees recommend your company? I suspect you’d be interested in hearing what they might say to a friend or family member about their work and their employer. Chances of you hearing that verbatim are probably not good, yet it’s something worth pursuing.

Make it easier to recommend your company

Put together a brochure, something on letterhead or a web page that elaborates on why you encourage employees to recruit friends and family. Your reasons for encouraging this may resonate with your team. For example, you wouldn’t expect an employee to recommend someone who won’t reflect well on them. If they will be working together (something to be careful about), you wouldn’t expect an employee to recommend someone they’ll have to carry or that they can’t depend on.

Rather than leaving that unsaid, discuss it in your recruiting communications and in staff meetings. Make it clear that you understand that employees aren’t going to recommend someone they don’t trust and believe in. Be sure your employees understand that their recommendation is a function of their reputation in the company. Not only will this likely make the employees more selective about who they recommend, it will also reinforce your belief in them and in who they recruit.

What if they aren’t recommending your company

If your employees aren’t actively reaching out to friends and family to suggest they apply for openings, there may be good reasons. Some folks don’t like to combine their work and personal lives. That may seem a little odd to company owners, but it is your employees’ choice. However, if you see or know of your employees socializing outside of work, then it’s unlikely that combining work and personal lives is a concern. For those employees who mix socially, do you get recommendations for job candidates from their friends and family? Presumably this would come out in interviews or recommendations, so you would know most of the time.

Find a way to ask your employees why they aren’t recommending that their friends and family apply for work at your place. You may need to make this confidential – there are easy to use online survey tools that can help.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons why an employee wouldn’t recruit friends and family. I would be wary of suggesting that both people in a couple work for the same company, particularly if the company isn’t on very solid financial ground. The last thing a couple needs is for both of them to be worried about losing their job, or worse, having it happen to both of them at the same time.

Whether or not your staff recommends the company to friends and family, it’s worth discussing with them. Focus on the employees who will be frank with you. You need someone to tell you want you need to hear, even if you don’t want to hear it. Be sure they know that you won’t hassle or punish them for their comments – but you may ask for their help. You want honest feedback. If your staff wouldn’t recommend your company, you need to know why.

They need to understand that the lack of recommendations is serious, and that you want them to share with impunity. That doesn’t grant a free pass to be mean-spirited, rude, or abusive – and you should advise them of that in advance. Communicating bad news properly is an important life skill. Done poorly, this discussion will be tough for an owner to forgive and forget. What you don’t want is information presented in a way that will derail the goal: the need to learn what’s holding back their recommendation to others. Remember, the reasons they don’t recommend you are probably the reasons people leave.

A handshake and a thank you

Last week I was talking with a friend who was celebrating, or at the very least – remembering, the fact that a certain day this week marked the 10th year on the job at his employer’s business.

10 years. How many people do you know that have had the same job for 10 years? I’ll bet the number is smaller than it used to be.

A decade or two ago, it was commonplace to have the same job for 10 years. In the decades of my parents’ work life, 25 or more years wasn’t unusual at one job.

Recent research indicates that people entering the workforce will have as many as 30 jobs during their lifetime. Meanwhile, some of today’s employers are often heard lamenting the attitude of the supposedly uncaring young people they employ, not realizing that their actions often provoke the attitude they perceive.

The “all corporations are evil” tribe members out there will likely be quick to paint all employers with this uncaring brush, but that would be intellectually dishonest of them. While some certainly fit that mold, numerous large businesses treat their employees as if they’re critical to accomplishing their mission. You already know their names.

To be sure, some companies struggle with ethical, accountable behavior. When businesses hit rough times, some organizations will have employees who continue to show loyalty and deliver quality work. Guess which ones? The rest may look like a rodent-infested, Renaissance-era sailing ship slipping below the water – people won’t be able to leave fast enough. But they will, because their management will have made it so it just isn’t worth it anymore.

Is that really what this birthday thing is about? Of course not. It’s about common courtesy. Remember that?

Little Things

As I learned more about this employee’s work anniversary and how the day went, it became clear through the conversation that no one at this business remembered the date (who would after 10 years?). No wonder there was no mention of the anniversary.

No, it’s not a huge issue, unless you’re that employee.

Keep in mind that:

  • Someone who feels valued, even by the smallest of occasional gestures, will think nothing of doing a little extra when asked. Sometimes even when not asked. Remember, they’re the front line between you and your customers more often than not.
  • Someone who feels like they are just another brick in the wall tends to be made to feel that way over time. Little signals like the anniversary thing send the message that staffers are taken for granted are received, perhaps intermittently, but they continue to arrive.

For most adults, work is more than a paycheck. It’s part of who we are at some level. If it isn’t for someone on your staff, ask yourself how that adult came to feel that way about their work.

What you are vs. who you are

Sometimes the little things people do to recognize events like this 10 year anniversary are the ones that remind them that they’re more than a “(whatever you make/create/repair)”.

Imagine the conversation I would’ve had with that person if their general manager, regional manager  or (gasp) the home office sent the guy a hand written note. Two minutes to write it. What message does that send?

Imagine the value of a phone call or an off-location cup of coffee with an employee who has seen your business change and adapt over the last 10 years. Remember the year. This particular anniversary means the hire happened just after 9/11, when very few were hiring.

Any number of small things could have been done. A small “10” on a new name tag. A name badge that’s a different color, with “10 years” on it. A custom fitted company ball cap with “10 years” across the back. Any number of inexpensive gestures.

Perhaps something as inexpensive and priceless as a handshake and a sincere “Thank you”.

How difficult?

How difficult and expensive would it be to put every new hire’s start date into a private-to-your-business Google calendar? Hark, I hear the cries of privacy advocates, so talk to your HR folks before making this egregious error (that was sarcasm, mostly). That Google calendar will automatically email or text you to remind you of each date.

Your work is almost done, but keep in mind that your Google calendar can’t put meaning into that handshake.

You have to do that.

UPDATE: Want some hints on how to improve how you thank your staff? Check this out:

Learning from Google

Today’s guest post is a brief story in Baseline magazine about how Google treats their employees.

Unless you work in an IT shop (ie: a geeky guy like me), you probably haven’t read Baseline, but I highly recommend it.

It was the source of the excellent coverage of the Delta Nervous System years ago that changed how Delta captures and utilizes info about their business, from all parts of their business.

This article, however, is about a visit to Google and some insights gained by observing how things work around there. To be sure, when you have enough cash to wallpaper the Pentagon, your business might do things others wont do, but the details of the implementation can be overlooked in this case.

Look at the consideration taken for the employee. For Google, or for you, they’re a critical piece of your business.