Retention: Are you at war with local media outlets?

war photographer camouflaged in the vegetationI recently stumbled across an article titled “The Ten Signs that you should quit your job” on the Sydney Morning Herald. I found the article quite interesting, well written and compelling… potentially too compelling. For those of you interested in reading the original article here is the link: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/management/ten-signs-you-should-quit-your-job-20140224-33c5o.html. This article mainly got me thinking about what drives employees to consider resigning and about the fact that one of the big influencers of this has nothing to do with your company at all… it’s the media.

I will resist the temptation to critique this particular article despite the fact that there are a number of issues with the advice provided. My main point here is that with an estimated 4.75 million readers as at December 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald, like many other popular news and current affairs publications, has an incredible ability to influence its readers (who also happen to be your employees). The number of media outlets writing about this topic abounds. When I searched for the specific phrase “reasons to quit your job” on Google there were 376,000 articles listed. It’s fair to say that some of this advice is good, some bad and some down-right dangerous.

I wonder how many of us consider the prevalence and availability of such advice when we are crafting employee retention strategies? I believe that every company is at war with the media to keep their staff and if you’re going to win that war you need to have a plan. Here are three things to consider as part of the retention war:

1. The need to continually reinforce the Employment Value Proposition.

An Employment Value Proposition (EVP) is one of the most important keys to any retention strategy. The EVP is essentially your argument as a company about what you have to offer and why someone should choose to work for you. A good EVP is more than just an employment contract and salary package, it’s a well articulated collection of employee benefits, life-style, development-related and cultural offerings. If designed well, an EVP will appeal to precisely those employees the company is trying to attract and retain. The effectiveness of an EVP relatively easy to measure during the recruitment process so it is given a lot of attention during this process. However, it is rare that a company systematically markets it’s EVP during the rest of the employee life-cycle. If we honestly understand that there is a plethora of advice (good, bad and indifferent) about why to leave your company then why wouldn’t we be marketing the other side of the story almost constantly as well?

2. Seek out positive media coverage

Thankfully the media is not interested in being at war with your retention strategy. They are motivated by what sells the most newspapers or increases the ratings. Although it might feel like all of the coverage about workplaces out there is all negative, our experience has been that the media is equally willing to present a good news workplace story. Just look at how many times you’ve read something about how amazing some places to work are?! Getting positive employment-related media coverage for your company won’t just happen by accident. It means putting in place a clear plan. Investing in writing press releases, following up with media outlets and ultimately working in a collaborative fashion with the marketing and PR department at work. Ultimately, for many HR folk, seeking out positive media coverage is something that falls well and truly outside of their comfort zone. However, in today’s employment market we believe it should be a critical part of your retention strategy.

3. Make explicit the cultural goals of your company and communicate them FREQUENTLY

In today’s world change is almost the only constant. At any given time most companies are attempting one form of major change or another. Many of those changes require cultural change to enable them. Too often when we market our companies to prospective employees (and to existing ones) we talk about the positives of where we are going but fail to acknowledge that getting there is going to be tough. We then forget to continually reinforce the cultural aspirations that we have for our company to assist people in overcoming short-term discomfort. There are 376,000 articles out there waiting to give one-sided advice about quitting your job. These can be accessed any time by any employee so it means that our efforts to communicate why they should stay need to be almost continual.

Of course, no company can ever unequivocally win a war with the world wide web in the same way as no company can ever retain every one of it’s employees forever. It’s just not possible. However, if you continually reinforce your EVP, seek out positive media coverage and communicate the cultural aspirations of your company frequently then we believe that you will be better placed as a company.

When your local newspaper next writes a story about why to quit will you be the company that is prepared or will your employees only hear one side of the story?

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