The UK’s workforce is becoming increasingly outspoken online about dissatisfaction with employers, according to new research.  

The study, from  global people management business Lee Hecht Harrison Penna (LHHPenna), reveals Millennials (18- to 34-year-olds) are twice as likely to share their true feelings about an existing or previous employer on the internet than their older colleagues aged 35 to 54 (41 per cent versus 21 per cent).  

This means the challenge of managing an employer brand is only set to get harder for employers. What’s more, that challenge is to become more important if an organisation is to attract and retain the best talent available in the future. The study went on to identify that, when it comes to reading negative employer reviews, it is again Millennials who are most likely to sit up and take notice compared to older employees – 69 per cent versus 47 per cent.  

More specifically, the study found a third (33%) of prospective or current employees aged between 18 and 34 could be put off from accepting a job offer with a company that they have heard a lot of negative things about, compared to just one in five (21 per cent) of 35- to 54-year-olds.  

Furthermore, three-quarters (75%) of Millennials will take the time to actively seek out the opinions of existing or previous employees about a prospective employer before applying for a role. 

Nick Goldberg, CEO UK & Ireland of LHHPenna, said: “The opinions of employees is something employers have long been concerned with, yet what our research highlights is how that feedback is to become even more critical to managing an employer brand with the rise of social media, and in particular networks that specifically target a professional audience like LinkedIn and Glassdoor.  

"This also makes it even more important for organisations to look after their leavers, who will have much less to lose in letting the world know what they really think about their ex-employer. 

“Bearing these developments in mind, negative ratings of an employer can seriously impact its ability to encourage the best people to join its ranks and stay there. Organisations need to acknowledge this growing issue and then take the vital steps of engaging and developing their employees to future proof themselves.” 

The research shows taking the time as a manager to foster good relationships with direct reports and between colleagues should continue to be a top priority in order to avoid high staff turnover. It finds two in five (41%) workers would leave their job due to a poor relationship with their manager and a further 31% over a poor relationship with a colleague.  

Looking at the broader picture, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of workers have admitted to voicing a negative opinion about a current or previous employer. The study highlighted how, for those who are vocalising these negative opinions, more than half (54%) are taking their grievances home to their nearest and dearest, while a further 50 per cent moan to their colleagues, with three-quarters (75%) of workers admitting they would share, or even have shared, a negative opinion of an ex-employer with someone who still works within an organisation.  

The survey also identified the growing trend of ‘boomerang employees’, as almost four in five (78 per cent) workers would consider returning to an ex-employer if the timing and deal were right, further highlighting the importance for organisations to consider leavers within their talent pipeline programmes. 

Goldberg has the following tips for ensuring employers manage their brand in changing times: 

Look after your leavers  

Leavers can be some of your best ambassadors. You should do everything you can to smooth their transition and ensure the relationship ends on a good note. When they reach more senior ranks, they may get in touch with new opportunities 

Engage with social media  

One of the most vital online reputation management tips is to be active on social media. This means you can create a positive buzz surrounding your company, while also creating genuine engagement with external stakeholders, which will include previous employees 

Celebrate success  

In an environment where almost every organisation (94 per cent) is undergoing some form of workforce change, it has become vitally important to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of those employees who both embrace and thrive in this situation. This injects life into the organisation, making it worthwhile for employees to contribute to the long-term success of the company 

The power of positive press  

Take control of your online brand by communicating positive news on your website and social media channels, and specifically stories that reflect how you operate as a good employer 

Fostering good working relationships  

Employee retention remains at the front of every leader’s mind. Our research shows talent might exit your organisation on the basis of poor relations with a manager or colleague so encourage a culture that breeds healthy cooperation and collaboration within the workforce  

Alumni programme  

Establishing a corporate alumni network, which requires relatively little investment, is the next logical step in maintaining a relationship of mutual trust, investment and benefit with leavers in an environment where lifetime employment is no longer the norm