Up through the Beijing Olympics, I’d been reading stories almost on a daily basis about how China was trying to present a public image of itself that was not necessarily the truth.
- Limited access for journalists (to protect the athletes?): Really there was concern that the political environment that surrounds the country would be exposed.
- Shutting down the factories (to limit pollution output): In the weeks leading up to the games, surveys showed that air quality was as bad as ever.
- Making workers drive only every other day (to limit pollution output): Wonderful effect on the economy I’m sure when half of the population on any given day can’t get to work
- Building brick walls around slums (god forbid people see poor people): Literally, instead of helping the poor, or giving them money to make their places look better, the government decided to build brick walls around homes, force people to put tarps over their homes, and otherwise hide the poor
Every city tries to put themselves in the best light when the Olympics come to town. They highlight the best about their city, and pour money into refurbishments for areas that might need a bit of touch-up. China’s model seemed to be a cover-up, not a highlight of what was good about the city. I look at what was done there and I can’t help but to think that what ultimately got focused on was the negative which was destined to come out anyway.
(Yes, there is a tie-in). Unfortunately for HR, our own value propositions are often not close to the truth of what employees really experience. The disconnect between employee reality and the portrayed EVP is a gap between what the organization thinks they want to be. However, there is always a positive spin to the real employee culture, and always some reality to some of the negatives as well. The trick is to figure out what the cultural positives are, and also then to figure out what you want to augment that culture with. It is at that point that HR must begin their strategic campaign to shape the culture in the direction that it needs to go, rather than simply putting on duct tape and pretending the vision is reality.
The point is that if your EVP to applicants does not reflect reality, the truth will come out. Employees will see the lie, and applicants will certainly know what the actual culture is. No matter what you, recruiters and interviewers say, everyone will know. Truth simply can’t be hidden… for long. Ultimately HR needs to acknowledge truth, or transform it.