Attracting talent begins with public relations

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Ever met a successful professional who became depressed and complained about their dead-end situation a few months after taking a new job?

Or, after settling in, are they boasting about their work culture, opportunities for promotion and bosses who help them become the best versions of themselves?

How employees talk about where they work greatly determines whether their company will survive the ongoing labor shortage. Their language determines whether anyone with whom they speak would consider working there or whether they would refer anyone they know to work there.

The ability to influence how your employees talk about you represents the core function of public relations. It doesn’t begin with words. It starts with action. Your message to new talent begins with how you treat your current team.

Their words influence the actions of others. What they have to say speaks much more to potential employees than advertising $18-per-hour jobs with starting bonuses.

They won’t sing the praises of businesses that deliberately suppress wages and benefits. Likewise, a lack of opportunities for professional development and career advancement will repel the best recruits. Nobody jumps at the opportunity to join an organization with toxic middle managers who hold the most talented people back.

Employees of such businesses are more than likely to discuss their poor treatment with their colleagues, friends and online networks. It represents a potential problem because 69% of recruits will not accept a position with a company that has a bad reputation. A full 84% will consider leaving their current jobs to work for an enterprise with more credibility.

The bad news is nearly all professionals engage in at least one social media site. Half of them post regularly about their company.

It’s also some of the best news ever.

A workforce so active on online networking sites offers incredible options to build your company’s reputation and credibility.

Encourage your employees to talk and post about your business. Engage them in sharing open positions, photos from company events and your latest news. They want to be proud of the company for which they work. It’s where they spend one-third of their lives. Colleagues, friends and potential hires also want to see authentic information about your business, not marketing collateral.

Organizations with employees who promote them are 58% more likely to attract, and 20% more likely to retain, top performers.

Talent has more options than ever right now with Michigan’s unemployment rate at 4.8% and a 5.4% national rate. The additional federal unemployment benefits didn’t help in closing a growing labor gap, but their recent expiration will help encourage more participation in the workforce. However, if the people you’re trying to get to work for you smell a poor work culture, they won’t come in at any price.

How do you get your team to speak highly of you?

Respect every member of your team as critical to your mission. If they’re not mission critical, they probably shouldn’t be with your company in the first place. Pay them competitive wages in good times and bad. Give them the latitude to attend to personal matters during the day without requiring a reason. Provide opportunities to grow and succeed. Get to know them. Be honest with them.

Take a few lessons from “The Great Game of Business,” “Traction” or “Good to Great.” Gamify your work by hosting competitions that support your company’s bottom line. Publicly recognize individuals in your organization when they exceed expectations.

Many West Michigan firms adopted such an approach long before the market required them to. They consistently offer some of the best career opportunities in the country. It’s never been a better time to recruit and retain the right talent to succeed over the long term.

Treat your current workforce professionally, authentically and gracefully. They will return the favor in spades in their personal and online social interactions. It’s public relations at its finest when it operates as a virtuous circle that invariably attracts professionals who brag that they get to work for you.

Dave Yonkman is president of the digital public relations firm DYS Media, a former Capitol Hill communications director and former Washington correspondent for Newsmax Media.

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