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Employer reputation: A good month for…a bad month for…


In a new regular column, Simon Thomas casts his eye over some of the main employer reputation stories - good and bad- of the last month.

Greggs the Bakers

They may not be everybody’s cup of tea (or sausage roll) but Greggs is certainly doing something right having sold over a million mince pies a week during the Christmas period, increased like-for-like sales by almost 1% for the financial year ending 2 January and reiterating its intention to open 50 to 60 new stores in 2010. They have recently launched their employer value proposition,


IBM has been named the country’s most gay-friendly employer by gay rights campaigner Stonewall in its 2010 Workplace Equality Index. As part of its commitment to corporate diversity, IBM provides an enhanced monitoring scheme for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) staff to ensure they are being supported in career development and promotion as well as actively encouraging them to discuss issues through global and regional networking groups, leadership forums and task forces. IBM’s aim is to create an environment where staff can be open about their sexual orientation which fosters a culture of trust between employees. This is a great example of authenticity in the employer brand proposition.

Thames Valley Police

The difficulty in managing employer reputation is that it is determined by perception and in this case, there are two very different sides to the story. A film showing police officers from Thames Valley Police using their riot shields to sledge down a snowy hill whilst on duty has appeared on YouTube and prompted nearly 600 comments the vast majority of which saying how good it was to see officers having a sense of humour, being jovial and acting as human beings rather than robots. However, the officers were reprimanded by their employer and reminded that in no uncertain terms that tobogganing on duty, on police equipment and at taxpayers' expense was a very bad idea. This is a quick lesson in the power of social media and its growing role in employer reputation management.

Goldman Sachs

In the wake of the financial crisis and the furore over bankers’ bonuses, rumour has it that Goldman Sachs (GS) is considering forcing its top bankers to donate part of their bonuses to charity. The bank is expected to report profits in the region of £6.8bn and will award close to record pay and bonuses of up to £12.3bn. The investment bank is hoping that the charity gesture will reduce the animosity shown to it when the bonuses are announced. Charitable donations are an important part of corporate social responsibility (well done to GS for contributing £600k to the Haiti disaster fund) but there is something I find a little uncomfortable about ‘forcing’ employees to donate. The detail of the psychological contract between employer and employee is being altered to manage the risk to its corporate reputation which could set a dangerous precedent.


It would appear that after a protracted and aggressive takeover bid, Kraft will finally seal the acquisition of Cadbury. The deal will see Kraft become a global confectionary leader and signal the end of a British institution that has given sweet-toothed consumers the joys of Dairy Milk, Flake and Crunchie, not to mention the Creme Egg. The big concern for staff of Cadbury is the prospect of major job cuts despite Kraft’s assertion of the deal being good news for employees. Even if the losses are minimal, the turmoil and ill-feeling that has been created by such an acrimonious takeover will inevitably have long-term implications on employee engagement and the employer brand for those that survive. Organisations really need to learn to assess the impact on employer reputation, culture and values as part of the due diligence in M&A activity.

British Airways/Unite

Sadly, this is probably not the only time that the British Airways industrial action story will appear in the monthly column as I fear that there is a long way to go before a resolution is reached. The decision by Cabin Crew and Unite members to strike in the lead up to Christmas in response to cost-cutting measures and the subsequent media coverage of crew earnings meant the proposed action was met with very little sympathy by much of the British public. This will inevitably have had a negative impact on BA and its reputation as an employer. Is Unite really acting in the best interests of its members in this situation when the financial difficulties at BA may lead to huge job losses as a result? In this instance, is the union playing a divisive role when employee cohesion and loyalty may deliver a better outcome?  

Simon Thomas is managing director of The Employer Reputation Company. His blog can be found at and TERC’s website is

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