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What Caught My Eye

Prospering Past the Rain on Your Employment Brand

Peter Weddle’s weekly column “What Caught My Eye” looks at recent news stories and the lessons they hold for recruiters. They’re a special feature of the TAtech Professional Member program, which is free for HR/TA professionals recruiting for enterprise employers and SMBs.

Before and after: New photos show remarkable recovery at California’s most beleaguered reservoir (

California’s years-long drought has wreaked havoc on the state’s reservoirs. Take Lake Oroville, for example. It’s the second-largest reservoir in California and one of the most troubled. By 2021, its water level had sunk to just 24 percent of the reservoir’s total capacity, leaving boat ramps stacked up on the lake bottom and a dirty bathtub ring around the edge of the lake to mark where the water had once been.

The situation was so acute that the reservoir had to shut down its hydroelectric power plant that year. It was the first such shutdown in the plant’s 50+ year history, and the impact was both widespread and devastating. The plant is the fourth-largest hydroelectric producer in California, so the power grid was strained, and even worse, the low water level forced the state to procure water elsewhere, imposing a financial burden on the state’s residents and especially on its farmers who used the water for irrigation.

And then in 2022, the skies opened up and it didn’t just rain in California, it poured. And poured. And poured some more. According to news reports, parched Lake Oroville and another reservoir received “a total of 1.62 million acre-feet of water, which is roughly enough water for 5.6 million households for an entire year.” As of February 1, the water level of the lake was at 115 percent of the historical average for the date. And, the power plant was turned back on.

It wasn’t an unconditional blessing, however, as the unrelenting rain inundated entire communities and caused landslides that destroyed commercial property and roads. More importantly, it didn’t eliminate the drought. The rain provided a reprieve, but the state government recognized that it will still have to devise and implement a plan to deal with a future of less water. In effect, the rains took the pressure off in the near-term and provided a window for developing a more robust economy with less water in the long-term.

What Can California’s Recovery Teach Recruiters?

Negative comments on Glassdoor and other employer-rating sites can impose what feels like a drought of candidates on an employer. Today’s working and women are both interested in and affected by what their peers have to say about an organization, so online reviews – especially those which criticize an employer’s culture and values – can and often do curtail the flow of job applications. It’s not a naturally occurring phenomenon like a drought, but its impact on the organization’s prosperity is just as severe.

And yet, that impact seems to have faded. Like a deluge in a drought, the recent downturn and layoffs in tech and other sectors of the economy have provided what feels like a resolution to the problem. There are definitely more active job seekers in the market right now, which is translating into more applications. But, for employers with damaged or even mediocre brands, it’s a short-term reprieve. It will help them fill openings in the near-term, but not position them for recruiting success in the longer-term.

Only a resurrected brand can do that. Just as California recognizes that last year’s rains provide the space for it to create a more sustainable response to its water crisis, employers should use today’s more robust talent market to embark on an initiative to assess and, if necessary, “fix” their brand. That fix, however, cannot be cosmetic or something that’s remediated with an increased investment in public relations. Instead, it must get to the true source of the problem.

Finding that source requires a multi-step process. It will be idiosyncratic to each organization, but as a minimum should entail the following: (a) educating senior leadership on the importance of evaluating the organization’s employment brand and of launching a process to find a fix, should one be required; (b) evaluating the commentary on review sites to look for common denominators, especially in the areas of values and practices; (c) conducting a candid, no-holds barred audit of the organization to assess the validity of those critiques; (d) determining the causal factors and identifying the actions that should be taken to correct them; (e) engaging current employees to test the validity of those corrective measures; and (f) implementing the measures and then embarking on a rebranding campaign with the funding and commitment to sustain it.

Food for Thought,

If you’ve enjoyed this edition of “What Caught My Eye,” read some of my other posts at the TAtech Blog.

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.