September 27th, 2022 | Sterling

Improving the Employee Experience is Critical for Boosting Retention: Social Media Screening Can Help

Sterling and Fama have returned from the HR Tech Conference hosted Sept. 13-16, 2022, and we find ourselves acutely aware of the unprecedented hiring and retention challenges facing HR leaders today. After reflecting on our own original research and direct experiences, we’ve found at least two things to be true: first, cultivating an optimal employee experience and demonstrating authentic, consistent company values have become more important than ever. Secondly, in order to overcome rising attrition rates, businesses are increasingly seeking to leverage modern technology including automated background check tools and AI-powered social media screening solutions.

At HR Tech, we set the stage for these discussions. Now let’s explore the growing importance of positive and sustainable employee experiences, along with how advanced technologies like Fama’s social media screening services help to improve retention while also providing business leaders with a unique opportunity to strongly define their company culture and values.

The “Great Reflection”

By now, most HR professionals have become all too familiar with the dreaded phrase “Great Resignation,” referring of course to the fact that tens of millions of workers abruptly decided to quit their jobs throughout 2021. However, the more we learn about the shifting mindset of today’s workforce, the more that speaking of the Great Resignation in the past tense feels like a mistake — a potentially costly one.

The fact is that attrition rates remain uncomfortably high, and according to new research from McKinsey, at least 40% of employees are still considering leaving their jobs. Moreover, initial assumptions about the primary cause of rising attrition — namely the claim that most employees are merely looking to renegotiate wages and benefits — are turning out to be flawed.

While compensation is undoubtedly an important factor contributing to mass quitting, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that retention challenges more often relate to poor employee experiences, which themselves directly result from toxic workplace cultures. Take a recent report from Pew Research Center, for example, which identified “feeling disrespected” at work as a top 3 reason for employees resigning in 2021. Or consider two separate studies from Glassdoor and MIT Sloan, both of which suggest that company culture and values are beginning to hold more weight among employees than salary and benefits.

As more time passes, the more we are beginning to realize that the so-called “Great Resignation” may merely be a symptom of a deeper-rooted phenomenon happening in the workforce, one which we might describe as the “Great Reflection.” Put simply, in the wake of an unexpected global pandemic, workers from around the world are pausing to reflect on their own personal values and to reevaluate how well those values align with the company culture maintained by their current or potential employers.

It naturally stands to reason that, upon sustained reflection, most workers are going to be less likely to tolerate an unpleasant work environment, or more specifically to remain in a workplace which hires (or worse, tolerates) toxic employees. As Fama has highlighted, the costs of a toxic hire can be much higher and more far-reaching than many HR professionals might expect, and these costs start to add up long before employees burn out and leave.

Now popularly referred to as “quiet quitting,” a new trend has recently emerged among millennial and Gen-Z employees. Essentially, quiet quitting means that certain workers are putting in only the bare minimum amount of effort required to complete their daily tasks. And while quiet quitters cite various reasons for dialing back their performance, having to work side-by-side with toxic individuals is almost certainly contributing to the trend. In fact, Fama’s own research has found that team performance can fall by as much as 40% when workers become distracted by bullying and toxic behavior.

This behavior makes perfect sense when you think about it. Imagine sitting down for an important brainstorming meeting, for example, and before the session even gets started, a coworker makes a particularly off-color comment. Whether it completely rattles you or causes you to suddenly question your affiliation with the group, that single offensive remark can have a direct impact on your motivation and performance. In fact, not only does culture have this deep impact on employee retention, but also on the hiring process. Indeed, as Sterling’s new industry report, “Hiring Reimagined: the Future of Hiring and Background Screening,” details, job seekers surveyed rated “(reflective of) the organization’s culture and values” as being the most important element of the background screen in their most recent hiring experience.

In light of these recent developments, HR leaders looking to boost retention should prioritize preventing toxic hires, improving employee experiences, and reevaluating company culture and values. And while addressing each of these concerns equally might be nearly impossible to accomplish with traditional background checks, significant advancements have recently been made in automation and AI-powered social media screening technology. These tech innovations are making it easier to identify a potentially toxic hire early in the hiring process, and are also providing HR professionals with an entirely new way to evaluate (and more clearly promote) company values.

Putting Company Values to the Test

Like it or not, social media has become an integral component of modern society, and is now a primary mode of interaction between individuals, businesses, and even governments. As a digital extension of our personalities, what we choose to post on social media is increasingly considered a reliable indicator of how we might behave in a real-world setting, particularly in the workplace.

This is why so many HR leaders today are beginning to integrate social media screening into the hiring process. By uncovering a side of a candidate’s personality that they might not reveal in a job application or during an interview, hiring managers equip themselves with more information to determine if the candidate’s values align with those of the company, or if hiring the candidate could pose a risk to the experience of existing employees.

So far, it’s been an incredibly effective approach: more than half (54%) of companies have ended up reversing a hire based on the results of Fama’s social media screening services. However, as a relatively new technology, it’s important for HR professionals not to misunderstand, or underestimate, the overall intent and/or benefits of integrating social media screening into the hiring process.

For one thing, social media screening isn’t about drawing a hard “line in the sand” and refusing to employ candidates based on their engagement with certain topics or their use of certain remarks. Providers like Fama do not advise employers on hiring decisions, nor do they leverage social media data to make assumptions. On the contrary, they provide HR professionals with access to a proprietary “values-match program,” i.e. with a pre-employment social media screening process which reports only on information that the organization deems relevant to ensuring its company values are upheld.

More than allowing an organization to learn more about a candidate, and ward off a potentially toxic hire, this process actually serves as a vehicle for an organization to learn more about itself. After all, HR professionals can quite easily draft a list of corporate values, but until they’re actually confronted with a potential violation of said values, there’s no real way of knowing just how important they are to maintaining a safe and productive workplace.

To give a concrete example, after performing a social media screening, one Fama client learned that a potential candidate had once tweeted a dirty joke. After reviewing the tweet, the hiring team concluded that although the joke would certainly be inappropriate in the workplace, it wasn’t excessively offensive or intolerant of a specific sex, class, or race. And while they had asked that content like this be specifically flagged as part of the screening process, they decided to simply explain to the candidate that such a joke wouldn’t be acceptable in a work setting, before ultimately moving forward with the hire. In short, Fama’s client had put their company values to the test, learning something uniquely valuable in the process.

So how does this process work? Fama works directly with HR leaders to build unique “behavior kits” based on their current understanding of company values. Once certain topics, keywords, or phrases have been established, Fama uses AI-powered technology to scan a candidate’s social media, ignoring irrelevant content (such as silly cat memes, photos of last night’s dinner, etc.), but capturing and reporting on content that may be considered a “value violation” in the eyes of the company (any possible indication of intolerance, bullying, harassment, etc.). Importantly, unlike other iterations of similar technology, Fama’s AI ensures that all captured text is human-readable and easily analyzed by the end-user, avoiding unnecessary confusion or false positives. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as value violations are uncovered, confronted, and consistently resolved over time, businesses gain an entirely new way of evaluating and refining their company values.

To conclude, as we continue to learn more about the negative impacts of toxic workplace culture on attrition rates, it will be even more essential to optimize the employee experience wherever possible to overcome today’s hiring and retention challenges. But unlike traditional background check processes, modern social media screening technology can be leveraged both to help prevent toxic hires, and also to improve employee experiences through a constantly-evolving understanding of how a company defines its values and culture.

Want to learn more about how social media screening technology can help your business enhance the employee experience? Read more about our social media background check service provided by Fama.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.