Not all publicity is good publicity after all — in fact, bad publicity can hurt a company's chances of hiring the best employees.
"Money is not everything," said Richard Dukas, CEO of Dukas Linden Public Relations. "We've heard many times that today's employees want more than just a paycheck. Employees want to work for a company that they're proud of and which has a strong reputation."
More than 70% of U.S. workers say they would not apply to a company experiencing negative publicity, according to new numbers from a CareerBuilder survey. Female workers are even more likely to bypass applying to a company experiencing negative press, as 79% said they would not, compared to 61% of men.
"In this work, we have heard with increasing frequency from our clients that a company's reputation is a factor in whether or not they would seek to work there," said Martha Schmitz, a senior advisor at Mentat, career services company. "Companies that receive bad press are losing access to the best talent."
The stories can be varied, she adds.
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"In some cases, folks may shy away because of corrupt business practices, that could tarnish an employee's work history by association," Schmitz said. "Likewise, talented women and people of color are likely to avoid work places that have a reputation of discrimination, as they know they won't be able to develop as fully if they are constantly battling to be considered an equal and to have their voices heard."
Schmitz said today's workers see their jobs not just as a means to a paycheck but a part of their lifestyle.
"Company culture and values matter, as does the ability for an employee to grow a network that aligns with their ultimate career aspirations," she said. "It's important for companies to seek to maintain a strong reputation that demonstrates that they value their workers and the public good."
Stephen Elliott-Buckley, a labor studies professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said he thinks the numbers may be high, since people can sometimes answer questions based on what they should think instead of what they do. Nevertheless, he adds reputations have become important as people know more than ever about their workplace and seek more in their work.
"Social media has certainly contributed to how a company can be harmed by bad behavior that in the past may not have been newsworthy for the traditional press," he said. "So there are more instances of black eyes for companies now."
While many might think this trend is attributable to Millennials, Elliott-Buckley said many are seeking more meaning from their work.
"Other generations of workers are struggling with personal alienation at work, in part due to globalization of labor," he said.
"Millennials and others are being criticized for being narcissistic and disloyal," he added. "This too reflects how people feel loyalty and values must be reciprocal to be valid. When reciprocity isn't there, people will quit. And at the start, they may not apply to work at companies that demonstrate themselves as immoral or weak on key values."
Dukas also said reputation issues are now front and center.
"20 years ago — perhaps even ten years ago — a prospective employee may not have been aware of a firm's reputational deficiencies," Dukas said. "But a simple Google search today can present legacy issues that last for years, and companies need to realize that and be proactive."
When it comes down to it, so many opportunities exist, and Dukas reminds companies that people have a lot of choice in today's market where they want to work.
"Given the increasingly entrepreneurial nature of business and low unemployment levels, employees have choices and they can be selective about where to work," Dukas said.
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Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 8.