The Best Employer Brands Repel Talent

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series highlighting speakers at the upcoming ERE Recruiting Conference. Click here to view other articles in the series.

Employer branding is something we all strategize and even fantasize about as people and culture practitioners. Your organization’s employer brand is supposed to draw in all these amazing potential candidates like a moth to a flame. It should gain you followers on social media. It should have hundreds of your top candidates joining your talent communities, seeking you out at recruitment fairs, applying to all your job postings, and advocating for your services and products. Sounds ideal, right?

The one thing we’re not talking about enough when it comes to employer branding is its connection to the law of attraction (the belief that your thoughts or intentions might create the experiences you’re focused on). And I’m not going to put the spin on this that you’re expecting. I’m not going to state the obvious, that you want to attract only your most relevant candidates. Nope, not going to say that, no matter how true it may be. I’m also not going to take this down the hippy-dippy-vibe-energy-karma path (although if you know me at all, you know I gave this some serious thought!).

What I’m going to say instead is that a powerful employer brand is so clear and so specific that it actually repels talent. Seriously. Hear me out.

At my company, Kolmeta, we’ve implemented a total salary transparency model. Everyone knows how much everyone else makes — and why people make what they make. When we’re recruiting, we talk openly about this with candidates. And sure enough, most people we talk to in the interview process are surprised by our transparency. 

Now that we’ve approached almost a full year of using this philosophy, here’s what I can tell you: Transparency is easier said than done.

On the surface, individuals indicate that they want transparency from others, but it turns out they aren’t quite as willing to show it themselves. Our employees and potential candidates have clearly demonstrated and vocalized that they love the idea of knowing what their salaries will be and why, how they can make more money or create more flexibility for themselves, and what their peers in other roles make so that they can know if they are being treated fairly. But having their own salaries front and center isn’t so easy for everyone. After all, we’re taught to be protective of our finances and keep our personal information private. 

As such, our total transparency model is actually contributing an interesting dynamic to our employer brand. We leverage the law of attraction in a way that allows us to live and breathe our value system. Everyone who works for Kolmeta, and the company itself, is definitely known for demonstrating a high level of transparency. By our evaluation, this has actually repelled talent from us. 

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We’ve begun to understand that some individuals, even if they value a transparent culture, are just not ready for a total transparency model that involves their compensation. And that’s OK. As I said before, a bold, clear, and unique employer brand isn’t always established to attract. Sometimes it serves to push talent away, to deter individuals who would ultimately be unhappy, unfulfilled, or not have all their needs met by a particular work environment. This doesn’t mean the environment is bad; it simply means that there’s a misalignment between what the company offers and what those candidates are seeking in an employer. 

We want our talent to be happy, fulfilled, motivated, and have a sense of belonging within our teams. And if we can give such a good window into what life is like in our organization that prospective talent can self-select to opt-out early, that’s indicative of a truly powerful employer brand. It really turns out to be a win for everyone. 

This is just one of many incredible observations we’ve made through our extreme experiment in total salary transparency. Join me at the upcoming ERE Recruiting Conference to learn more about all the ups and downs of a total salary transparency model and how you can apply the learnings to your company culture and create a powerful employer brand for your organization.

Interested in learning more about Kim’s extreme experiment in salary transparency and its impact on employer branding and recruitment? Come see Kim and network with tons of other great speakers and attendees at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego, April 15 – 17. Use code ERESD10EXTRA to receive 10% off your ticket price. 

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