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Ron Thomas


Vice President

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Blog: A key engagement question: Would you recommend a friend to work here?


One of the most important questions when it comes to employee engagement is, “Would you recommend a friend to work here?”

One of my Gen Y mentee’s called me last week. The problem was I was in Boston on business and she knew that. So when she called I knew there was a problem.
As I glanced at the phone, my thought was, “What now?" When we finally talked she told me that a friend of hers was applying for a position at her company and had asked if she could do an internal transfer of her resume to the hiring manager. She wanted to know, “what is it like to work there?”
Would you recommend your organization?
My question to her was, how do you feel about answering that? Her response, while not surprising, went to the first line in this post. Would I recommend someone to work where I work?
Hopefully we have all worked for companies where we would not give this a second thought. You love the company, you love the culture, and the executive team is collaborative. While it may not be perfect, it could be the closest to perfection that you have encountered.
And regretfully, you may have also been part of an organization where, if someone asked you that question, you would tell them to stay as far away as they could.
As the economy starts to show signs of recovery, organizations may believe that they will be able to revert back to their normal people practices. However, this is a different workforce than they have ever witnessed. They will be challenged to attract and retain critical talent to grow their businesses, while at the same time, they will continue to face enormous pressure to hold down costs. On top of that, engagement is at an all-time low.
So it may not be a potential employee contacting an insider about your organization because there are numerous websites — Vault and Glassdoor, to name a few — that will give you an unvarnished opinion of the culture in just about every company today. While not scientific, it does give you a snapshot view.
Is your workplace appealing and unique?
Employer branding is a much discussed topic today. Should organizations treat their customers the way they treat employees? I think not. Some of the stories that we have all heard, and some that I have written about from time to time, causes passionate HR folks to just shake their heads.
When a company undertakes employer branding, the “product” it is selling is the employment experience it offers, and the “customers” of this product are current and prospective employees. As a matter of fact, your customers are often prospective employees.
A company that manages layoffs poorly and gains negative media attention will likely see an impact on their employer brand. And, this could very well create a negative image for their consumer brand.
With today’s online communication tools and networks, negative publicity can be circulated globally — and instantly. If that happens, the damage to your reputation can take years to restore. Not only that, but your former and current employees could be the drivers for this message because they have lived it each and every day.

The employment experience
While we all look at surveys for nuggets of insight to help increase employee engagement, one thing that I have noticed is that the same drivers keep popping up. On top of that, we all know that the culture and industry can have a tremendous effect on all of it.
Companies can measure employee loyalty and engagement by asking one simple question rather than relying on lengthy satisfaction surveys. This question gives you all you need to know to start this process: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend us to your friends or colleagues to work here?”
The findings from the response to that question should enable companies that are “really serious” to start listening to both ends of the spectrum. They have all the answers; they know it all. They are the only ones that count in trying to get it right.
So, back to my phone call. My mentee responded to me by saying that she told her friend the truth about layoffs, the atmosphere in her department, and gave her an overall snapshot of the organization. She told her it is not a pleasant workplace. She told the truth as she sees it having been employed there only nine months.
Hearing this reminds me of some wisdom I remember from a 2008 Deloitte report: “Only those companies that win the hearts and minds of their talent will be able to deliver value over both the short and long term.”

Ron Thomas is vice president of StrategyFocusedHR.

We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.

One Response

  1. Couldn’t agree more…

    ….advocacy is one of the most important indicators that you have engaged emloyees (and customers for that matter).

    Too many leaders worry about the metrics of surveys rather than just getting on with the asking.

    Better to ask 1 question and listen to and act on the feedback than ask 20 and do nothing!

    And there can be fewer better questions to ask than would you recommend us to a friend".

    Nice post.




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Ron Thomas

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