Adelaide is a city of more than a million people. Its citizens often (fondly or not so fondly) think of it as a big country town and we talk about 1 ½ degrees of separation.
However, as someone pointed out to me the other day, Dublin is the same size and, in terms of the Western world, Adelaide is not that small. What I’m leading to is that this issue is not necessarily an Adelaide thing, that it can be extrapolated to many other cities.
In my work with senior executives looking for another role, we generally come up with a hit list of key targets that fit their identified needs. Bear in mind that there are not a lot of Head Offices here, so we Adelaidians are generally more accommodating than many.
“And he had a gun in his desk drawer!”
Yet, over the last 18 months, whenever I mentioned a particular large organisation as a prospect, 100% of my clients responded in the strongest terms that they would never dream of working for them. They would then proceed to tell me some extreme stories about the organisation that surely must have been exaggerated, so far-fetched did they sound.
In the case of this example, all of the executive team of the organisation are men, hence the title of this blog. But the concept holds true no matter what the gender of the Leadership team.
I often work with employees in the Local Government sector. There is one particular council with the reputation of being both extremely inefficient AND of bullying its employees. You can just imagine how well known that would be in the relatively small world of local government. And, don’t get me started on how quickly reputations can be ruined in the private school sector.
We all love a gossip
The world is a small place these days. Even if you operate in a very large city, you’ll generally find that many members of a profession know each other. Chartered Accountants, for example, often spent years training with each other and keep meeting each other at Professional Development activities. And they talk to each other…
What that means for an organisation with a bad reputation is that they restrict their access to talented, skilled employees. Before long, if they don’t watch it, they have started a downward spiral of diminishing performance. They attract ever more poorly skilled and poorly principled employees, as they are shunned by the good and the great.
There’s an often quoted rule of thumb that an unhappy customer will tell 8 – 20 people about a negative experience. If we replace “customer” with “employee” we get the following numbers.
1 complaining employee +
26 other dissatisfied employees =
27 unhappy employees
27 complaining employees tell up to
20 others =
540 who have heard complaints about your organisation.
How can you find out what reputation your organisation has? And what can you do?
I’d start with an internal employee culture survey. I’d bet that if your leadership team is not highly regarded by its own staff members, the word would have spread to the external market.
Then, if the results are not good, I would engage a reputable firm of consultants who can help your leadership team to take a good hard look at themselves and who can help you and your staff to move along the path to good governance, behaviour and performance.
Start from the top, with the Board and the executive Team and work your way down. Organisations morph and change all the time, and they make hard decisions. It’s never too late to do some navel gazing and embark upon some hard decisions that improve the fundamentals of your organisation.
aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au