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A Tale of Two Companies: What You’re Selling Recruits vs. Your Employee Experience

July 7, 2022

There’s an old joke about a guy who’s being recruited by a company. Quickly lured by lavish dinners, event tickets, a generous comp package and promises of perks beyond his imagination, he finds the work environment equally impressive with all the comforts of home, plus a spa and gym.

Finally, it’s too much to resist. But as soon as he reports to work, the grand surroundings disappear, replaced by peeling paint, a nasty odor and rusted-out furniture. Horrified, the new employee now discovers that he is tethered to a dilapidated desk. “This is NOT what I signed on for!” he angrily tells the company’s recruiter. “What happened to all of the great things you showed me?”

The recruiter smiles and replies: “Oh, you were a prospect then. You’re staff now.”

The punchline is exaggerated, yet it drives home a very real point, especially in today’s business climate. It illustrates the need for companies to ask themselves, “Does our recruitment communication accurately reflect our employee experience?”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 47.4 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021, fueled by a constantly shifting work landscape thanks, in part, to COVID-19. “The Great Resignation” sent employers scrambling to fill jobs at a rate unseen, even during World War II. Not surprisingly, many companies have asked for help with their recruiting efforts. In many cases, companies focus solely on external messaging: How do they attract new employees?

Less frequently do they ask how to keep the employees they have. If a company is struggling to win at recruitment, chances are they’re struggling with retention, too. Realistically, you can’t solve for one without addressing the other.

In a McKinsey survey, 40% of employees said they plan to quit their jobs in the next six months. What is pushing them out the door? The top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting: They didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54%) or their managers (52%) and didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).

If this is the standard for your existing workforce, it’s not likely that new employees will feel differently. There’s already proof that they won’t. According to a Lattice report, more than half (52%) of U.S. employees who’ve been on the job less than three months are already looking for their next job

How can you manage retention and recruitment simultaneously?

  • Define your company’s employee value proposition (EVP). Your EVP describes who you are as an employer in a manner that is compelling and aligned with the talent you want to attract. To define your EVP, evaluate your current state of employee experience, understand your target talent and find intersections between the two that enable recruiting not just talent, but the right talent.
  • Talk to current – and former – employees. Don’t wait for the exit interview – they’re already gone. Ask what brought them to you and what has kept them at the company.
    • Ask what else the company can do to make their work-life satisfying. In addition to a general sense of value, employees want to feel cared for and that their overall well-being matters.
    • Share recruiting materials and get their feedback. In today’s social media-driven world, you don’t want current employees to refute your recruiting information online.
    • Identify “good” stories you can share. Employees make much better ambassadors than opponents. Let their experiences tell your company story. It brings credibility to what the company looks like inside because it’s from the perspective of someone actually doing the job.
  • Compare perception with reality. Is what you’re saying to prospects about your company aspirational or is it a real representation of today? If you address both in your recruitment materials, and that’s OK, just make sure the differentiation is clear.
    • What did current employees tell you? Review both perceptions (yours and theirs) and identify any gaps or inaccuracies.
    • Follow up with prospects who declined offers. What might have changed their minds?
  • Offer referral incentives. Many companies employ this practice for good reason. 
    • Happy, engaged employees are likely to bring you more of the same. (Hint: Another way your current workforce’s company experience can help fill company openings.)
    • While candidate competition remains fierce, consider upping the ante on your program by both increasing the bonus and by adding additional payouts at the first and possibly second anniversaries of the new employee.

People leave their jobs for many reasons, some that are beyond an employer’s control. But if you get to the heart of the reasons you can act on, you can get closer to having a more stable – and truly satisfied – workforce.