“As an early-stage tech start-up in elder care, communicating our purpose to potential candidates is essential,” says Jennifer Cain Birkmose, CEO of VivaValet. “We rigorously vet for qualifications and experience for our roles, but if a candidate doesn’t have shared values of respect, reverence, and a desire to support the elderly to live at home independently, we will not advance their application.”
Birkmose’s remarks speak to a growing interest — among employers and candidates — in values-based hiring. And LinkedIn has noticed.
“We’ve seen that when a company’s values don’t align with [candidates’] own, it’s a dealbreaker,” said Rohan Rajiv, LinkedIn’s director of product management. “Values really matter, and they have increasingly mattered.”
For instance, a recruiter reached out to job seeker Alicia Every and presented a seemingly great role. “But the company required me to sign a document stating I wouldn’t engage in homosexual behavior,” Every reveals. “I’m not gay, and I’m in a heterosexual marriage. But it didn’t sit well with me and my belief in marriage equality. I was grateful to the recruiter for stating that up-front and declined to go further with the process.”
To support a focus on hiring for values, LinkedIn recently rolled out a new “Commitment” feature, which enables companies to select from a list of five values to display:
- Work-life balance
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
- Career growth and learning
- Social impact
- Environmental sustainability
Job hunters can then filter their job searches for companies with the stated values (or commitments) in their job descriptions.
In theory, this tool would help align candidates and companies. In practice, it may not go as planned.
Talk Is Cheap
The 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement attracted commitments from many tech companies. However, a study published by MIT Sloan Management found that “the tech companies that made Black Lives Matter pledges or statements have 20% fewer Black employees on average than companies that did not make similar pledges and statements.”
Likewise, employers have been caught “greenwashing.” That is, saying that they support environmental causes while doing the opposite. Volkswagen’s scandalous emissions testing cheat scheme is a prime example of a company that pretends to be environmentally friendly.
A McKinsey study further found that less than half of employees agreed that their employer lived up to their stated values.
In other words, no regulation or checking informs candidates if the company’s commitment to any of these values is real or for show.
Proof of Value Commitment
To address the above, LinkedIn recommends —but does not require — companies to provide “proof” that they live up to their stated values. The platform recommends providing links to company information that shows a commitment to the values. If such information is not available, LinkedIn suggests that you write proof that is relevant, objective, and tangible.
The problem is that employers are the sole judges of what they choose to link to. LinkedIn isn’t fact-checking such “proof,” which can simply amount to corporate propaganda. For instance, here are some examples of how LinkedIn recommends proving a commitment to career growth and learning:
- Learning and development stipends
- Mentorship opportunities
- Employee tuition assistance programs
- Learning courses and classes
- Training programs and initiatives
And here are ways that companies may demonstrate a commitment to work/life balance:
- Flexible working hours
- Collaborative working space
- Dedicated focus hours
- Company offsites and events
All of these things can demonstrate a genuine commitment to the values, but they can also show nothing more than lip service.
The Money Question
LinkedIn says that 80% of Gen Z candidates said a company that aligns with their values was their top priority. Indeed, there has been a 154% increase in entry-level job ads that reference company values globally. Because Gen Z is the overwhelming majority of applicants for entry-level jobs, they are the ones that see that value push.
However, another survey said that the top priority for Gen Z was salary. In other words, it may well be that with wages being equal, they’ll pick the company that supports their values, but otherwise, compensation, benefits, and flexibility are at the top (just like for other generations).
All this ultimately means that LinkedIn’s new tool does not prioritize the Number 1 concern for many candidates — salary. This could be something companies could more easily verify, as payroll data is available. Additionally, requiring companies to post salary ranges for all positions could also fit these criteria.
It will ultimately be interesting to see how LinkedIn’s new tool evolves.