One Year In, Marissa Mayer's Employee Branding at Yahoo! Yields Success
July 18, 2013 ‐ 0 comments

Marissa Mayer has been at the helm of Yahoo! for a year now and as expected, she’s been busy. With 17 acquisitions under her belt including the boffo $1.1 billion deal for Tumblr, she's also called employees back to HQ, given them Smart Phones (Smart Phones, Smart Fun!) and fed them for free (that move coming after a mere two weeks in the top job). At the same time, she's indicated she's having a boatload of fun and that simultaneously running a $32 billion dollar company and taking care of her infant son is "way easier than everyone made it out to be."


Wow. And we're pretty happy when we arrive at BrandCulture HQ with teeth brushed and hair combed each morning. 

Setting aside whether Marissa Mayer is SuperWoman or merely a CEO under relentless scrutiny, she has definitely put Yahoo! back on the map among the essential constituency of the people who comprise its workforce and in so doing cutting attrition in half. As one employee bluntly stated to the Wall Street Journal, "It's no longer shameful to work at Yahoo."

How did Mayer pull this off? Rather than waving a magic wand, Marissa Mayer is well aware from her tenure at Google that an organization’s reputation as an employer, a.k.a. employee branding, is among the best branding arrows in the quiver. After taking the helm at Yahoo last July, she shared that her first plan of action to turn the company around was to make it a more desirable place to work; and then she did it. Tangibly by doubling maternity leave and instituting paternity leave and sabbaticals. And intangibly by reigniting the spirit of the workforce. Significantly, Mayer made clear that her goal was not to change the company culture, but to "amplify its greatness."

According to data from Glassdoor published in a recent article by Seth Fiegerman of Mashable, employee satisfaction under Mayer’s leadership is the highest it’s been since Glassdoor first started tracking Yahoo employee’s satisfaction five years ago. While it is always dangerous to conflate correlation with causation, we're ready to give her a good chunk of the credit, given that her employee approval ratings are far greater than many of her predecessors (85% cumulative rating compared to ratings in the low 30% range under Carol Bartz and Scott Thompson).

So what does this tell us about employee branding? Employee branding is how top organizations communicate their core values and shared purpose, their reason for being, to attract the brightest talent with the best organizational fit. Mayer ruffled lots feathers with her decision to bring everyone back to the office in February, but in doing so made it clear that the new Yahoo prioritizes collaboration and innovation over what might traditionally be thought of as productivity. (As an aside, Best Buy also ended its "Results Only Work Enviornment/ROWE" telecommuting option we lauded here in this October 27, 2008 post—ooops!). Though collaboration and innovation are not a reason for being in and of themselves, modeling these core values gives the public and its numerous potential job seekers an insight into what working at Yahoo is really like—and what it values as a collective organization.

Even if you're not as high profile as Marissa Mayer, her experience demonstrates that taking a stand to internally communicate an organization’s core values doesn’t stay internal for long. Why does this matter? Because attracting the best talent with the best fit is the best long-term bottom-line investment an employer can make. The greatest people determine the difference between success and failure, and the work they do is what distinguishes extraordinary organizations from business as usual. Today’s customers also demand more from business than great products, prices, and service. Taking a stand about what matters to Yahoo is not going to please all of the people all of the time. But it allows potential customers and prospective employees alike to understand if they buy what you're selling—in all senses of the phrase.

Now if we could just get the name of the contractor who built out Mayer's nursery next to her office.


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