Facebook is changing its corporate name to Meta, CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed Thursday, reflecting the company's increased focus on building a virtual world, known as a metaverse. But the rebrand could do little for the employer's efforts in retaining employees and attracting new ones.
"I doubt this will redeem or protect the employer brand much," says Georgetown University business professor Brooks Holtom, who specializes in how organizations acquire, develop, and retain human and social capital.
"With Facebook facing so many missteps and public criticism tarnishing the brand, people in the know won't be fooled by this rebranding," Holtom tells CNBC Make It.
Scrutiny of Zuckerberg and Facebook has ratcheted up in recent weeks over its handling of misinformation and hate speech, and its potential to be harmful for teenagers and children. The latest inquiries come after ex-Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen released internal documents to press showing the company is aware its products and services can cause harm but struggles to address them.
In an earnings call Monday, Zuckerberg denied the claims of the documents, saying they "paint a false picture of our company," and that the problems Facebook experiences are a reflection of society.
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But the latest news of the company rebrand, already being criticized for being a distraction from its slate of allegations, could coincide with, if not fuel, employee turnover.
"Facebook has talented people, and competitors in the market are looking for that talent," Holtom says. "It's extremely competitive. You can be sure companies are preparing to reach out selectively to inquire about people thinking of moving. It's a precarious time for Facebook from a talent perspective."
In just one measure of the company's employer brand, Facebook's ranking as a top company to work for has slid for several years after claiming the top spot in 2018, according to employee ratings on the review site Glassdoor. It fell to No. 7 in the 2019 list, following reports that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users. It ranked at No. 23 in 2020 and climbed back to No. 11 in 2021.
Earlier this summer, Facebook was among the first influential employers to announce that all workers could request to work remotely full-time after the pandemic, and that return-to-office plans would be delayed to 2022.
Still, the rebrand could bolster retention and hiring efforts for highly specialized employees involved in metaverse work for "the chance to work on something really revolutionary with a large budget," Holtom says.
But it's unlikely the company will see a positive impact among the public or employees not involved in metaverse work, Holtom says: "I think they're at big risk."
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