A Blog by Jonathan Low


Aug 9, 2011

Bad-Mouth Blues: 75% of Departing Employees Will Not Recommend Former Employer

What goes around comes around. Employers rely on positive word-of-mouth from former employees to recruit new staff.

Whether the person left voluntarily for a new job or was downsized, that difficult transition, if handled appropriately, can positively influence lasting perceptions. But new research suggests that the tough love approach to employees during the past few years (and scratch the love in many cases)has left its mark.

That such an overwhelming proportion have negative views of their former employers means that business management itself is under an indictment of sorts. Conceding 75% of the votes in an election would be a humiliating landslide defeat for the loser. Businesses need to assess the implications. With another economic downturn looming, business may need public support - but the public has no appetite for a rescue of those it believes poorly treated them the last time around. JL

Joe Light reports in the Wall Street Journal:
More than three-quarters of departing employees say they wouldn't recommend their employer to others, the worst percentage in at least five years, according to exit interviews aggregated by the Corporate Executive Board Co., a research and advisory services firm.

In 2008, just as the recession began, only 42% of employees said they wouldn't recommend their employer. The 2011 data were based on exit surveys of more than 4,300 employees from 80 companies, most with more than $2 billion in annual revenue. A severe drop in employee satisfaction could impact companies' recruiting efforts
since prospective employees tend to trust former employees the most when choosing where to work, said Brian Kropp, a managing director with the CEB.

The scores likely reflect perceived poor treatment during the downturn, according to Mr. Kropp. "Companies were blunt and rough and tumble with their work force. They created a sense that 'the company doesn't care about me,'" he said.

Companies commonly use referrals from their current work force to find job candidates, but former employees can also be tapped to seek new recruits.

A month ago, Southwestern Energy Co. hired a new recruiting manager tasked with building a database of key alumni who left in the last few years, in the hope that they can ask them to fill or refer people for future openings, said Jenny McCauley, senior vice president of human resources at the Houstin-based energy company.

Southwestern Energy's recruiters might reach out to key alumni every six to nine months to see if they would return, and the company might continue to send the in-house employee magazine even though they don't work there anymore, she said.

Alumni could also be invited to continue contributing to company blogs and social media sites and might even continue to have access to part of the company's intranet, in the hope that they stay better connected, she said.

Southwestern Energy decided to build the alumni group after facing stiff competition for employees who specialize in petroleum and energy extraction, Ms. McCauley said.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, a network of teaching hospitals and medical schools, receives especially high ratings from employees on their exit interviews, according to the Corporate Executive Board, which processes them. Between 13% and 19% of employees who leave change their minds and come back within a year, said UTHealth chief human resources officer Eric Fernette.

With that in mind, the company calls high-value departures about six months after they settle into their new job to see if they would consider coming back, he said.


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