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Network effects

What Your Employees Say About You Matters More Than You Realize

One of the benefits of the digital era is that is has been shifting the power dynamic more into the hands of employees…and not every company has caught on to this yet. Platforms like LinkedIn provide a way for people to accumulate their digital rolodex of people they meet throughout their career. Platforms like GlassDoor show anonymized salary and employee reviews on what it’s like to work there. Pay transparency has become normalized in the last few years, where people have more data points on how much people get paid for specific skillsets. Tools like ClubHouse are gaining momentum as people have informal networking conversations including taboo topics.

What this means: the digital-savvy Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace are more educated than previous generations and know what they are worth in the market. We won’t be duped by PR stunts and #1 Place to Work ratings from out-of-touch publications.

According to LinkedIn the average employee has 10X more connections than the company has followers. This will only continue to compound with digital-native generations and will remove cross-country borders to truly reflect an international network connected through technology. What this means is that what your employees say about what it’s like working for you has more scale and validity than what you say on your social channels. In fact, people are three times more likely to trust company information from employees than from the CEO.

This includes your company culture, but it also includes your reputation as a leader. What your team says about working for you will impact your reputation and credibility more than you realize. And some of your reputational damage can last for years if not decades. “Cancel culture” in today’s modern age will quickly hit the workplace, as savvy employees opt-out of joining teams known to have toxic leadership and cultures.

What does this mean for you?

It’s simple: genuinely invest in your employees and nurture their experience on your team. You can’t fake it anymore. People can smell bullshit within seconds. If you don’t genuinely care about and invest in your people, they will catch on. Start to see your employees as people with their own skills, development opportunities, and interest areas. Get curious about who they are and how you can support them. Invest in their skills development, fight for fair pay and merit-based raises, provide them tools for leadership development, and make it safe for them to have work-life balance that helps drive long-term productivity. Support them meaningfully during lockdown. Create a psychologically safe environment for them to thrive as their authentic selves.

And also this: prioritize your employees as highly as you do your shareholders. AirBnB recently announced that they had multiple shareholders that they served: Guests, Hosts, Communities, Shareholders, and Employees. For Employees, they identified three principles: championing diversity & inclusion, living their core values everyday at work, and enabling long-term growth and career opportunities. They then created KPI’s as targets for their employee goals. This concept is not new in theory, but it is often not reflected in actual corporate cultures.

Could you and your company be so bold as to sign up for real, tangible and measurable KPI’s and priorities that serve your employees and put them on equal footing as your shareholders and consumers? If you do this, you will be on the frontlines of something radical and needed: actually practicing what most people preach. And if you really do this, then watch what happens with your talent acquisition and talent retention as word spreads and people genuinely feel valued for who they are. It may sound radical right now, but I have a hypothesis that in a few years this will become the norm in the future workplace. I suppose time will tell, but like many of you I hope to be on the right side of history on this one.

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