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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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How technology is changing the way HR works
Article Type: e-HR From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 9, Issue 5
Employee video testimonials – a powerful recruitment tool?
Judith van RoyMapi Values
Due to tight labor markets, globalization, the growing skills gap and the shift from the manufacturing to the service industry, recruitment is one of the most urgent problems for human resources professionals today (Boxall and Purcell, 2000). Not being able to recruit enough competent employees might jeopardize the organization’s performance and growth (Williamson et al., 2002). As a result, organizations are looking at new approaches to attract suitable and competent employees and employee testimonials on the corporate career website are rapidly gaining popularity.
The majority of the organizations listed in the top ten of the 2008 Great Place to Work lists (Great Place to Work Institute, 2008) featured employee video testimonials on their corporate career website. These video testimonials provide the potential applicant with a preview of the organization.
According to the Great Place to Work Institute (2008) model, trust, pride and camaraderie are the main value propositions to create a great place to work. In 2008, the International Centre for Talent Management and Development at Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, carried out an analysis of the employee video testimonials of six organizations listed in the top ten of different “employer of choice” lists, with the aim of exploring the structure of these employee video testimonials. The findings show that the value propositions trust, pride and camaraderie were also used in the video testimonials to attract possible applicants.
Demonstrating the value proposition
The employee video testimonials were structured around the value propositions pride and camaraderie. Pride focused on the reputation and achievements of the organization and its employees. Comparative adjectives or powerful words, such as “you build products that change people’s lives” and “it is very satisfying to be able to say to your friends and your neighbours and your family: I work for the best company in the world” were frequently used. The testimonials also contained many claims regarding teamwork, colleagues or the culture of the organization, such as “the culture here is very competitive” and “the people I work with are scary smart”. An atmosphere of competitiveness was created by placing a lot of emphasis on the employee’s skills and knowledge. Pride and camaraderie were thus not solely used to attract applicants but also served as an instrument of selection by discouraging non-suited applicants.
The analysis did not disclose significant evidence that the employee value proposition trust was used in the video testimonials. However, an extensive review of the literature on corporate and product branding and trust indicated that the employee testimonial itself could be seen as a tool to enhance the level of trust at the start of the recruitment process. This is because the testimonials come from an unbiased and expert source with whom it is easier to identify than with the CEO or management of the organization (d’Angelo, 1978; Salminen and Möller, 2006). The trustworthiness of the employee testimonial depends on an honest and realistic preview. The following ethical implications were raised during the research:
The analysis showed that the employees featured in the video testimonials were real employees of the organization, but whether these employees are actually aware that personal and private information is displayed online is unclear.
All video testimonials featured a number of employees of a different ethnic origin, but is this a representative sample of the workforce or were these employees chosen to portray the diversity of the organization?
To further determine the trustworthiness of the employee testimonial, discourse analysis was applied to research whether the testimonials were statements directly from the employees or whether the testimonial was pre-scripted by, for example, the HR or marketing department. The discourse analysis indicated that the video testimonials were at least partly pre-scripted but it did not disclose who was responsible for the pre-scripting. How ethical would it be to ask an employee to read out a pre-scripted message that might not reflect his or her opinion?
Taking a considered approach
The employee testimonial can be a powerful tool for HR professionals. It is an honest statement from an employee about the employment experience with the organization that contains numerous social and emotional employee value propositions but also contains selective elements in order to discourage the non-suited applicant. The employee testimonial should not only contain positive elements to attract as many applicants as possible but should also contain selective elements to attract applicants that fit the organization and to discourage non-suited applicants.
The ethical implications with regard to the selection of the employees featured in the testimonials and their statements should also be taken into consideration. A dishonest and unrealistic representation of the organization will surface either during the recruitment process or when the applicant has been employed and this will shatter the carefully built trust relationship between the organization and the applicant.
About the author
Judith van Roy holds an MSc in Strategic Human Resource Management from Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Employer Branding at the School’s International Centre for Talent Management and Development. Her interest in employer branding developed during her MSc research for which she analyzed employee video testimonials. Besides her PhD study, she works as HR manager – Europe for outcomes research company Mapi Values. Judith van Roy can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boxall, P. and Purcell, J. (2000), “Strategic human resource management: where have we come from and where should we be going?”, International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 183–203
d’Angelo, F.J. (1978), “Advertising and the modes of discourse”, College Composition and Communication, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 356–61
Great Place to Work Institute (2008), What makes a Great Place to Work, Great Place to Work Institute, available at: www.greatplacetowork.co.uk/great/index.php (accessed: 15 July 2008)
Salminen, R.T. and Möller, K. (2006), “Role of references in business marketing – towards a normative theory of referencing”, Journal of Business to Business Marketing, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 1–51
Williamson, I.O., Cable, D.M. and Aldrich, H.E. (2002), “Smaller but not necessarily weaker: how small businesses can overcome barriers to recruitment”, Managing People in Entrepreneurial Organizations, Vol. 5, pp. 83–106