In Attracting Great Talent, What’s More Important: Employment Branding or Recruitment Marketing?

Like most stuff I write, I try to break down things in HR and TA that we make way more complicated than it really is. We’re just hiring people, and trying to get the most out of our employees that we can. We aren’t launching the space shuttle or performing brain surgery. This stuff really isn’t that complicated.

I asked some of the most brilliant minds in the space and they gave some great advice, tips, and tricks. Some started to get deep into the weeds, but most gave ideas that were simple in nature to execute. There was basically one theme for each function, employment branding, and recruitment marketing:

Employment Branding at its core is your organization just telling your stories to candidates. 

Not made-up stories of what you want people to think about you, but your real employee stories. Simple, straightforward, this is who we are and why we love who we are. Some will love you, some will not. The best EB does just that, allows people to choose, so they don’t make a bad cultural fit choice.

Recruitment Marketing at its core is ensuring your stories get in front of candidates in a way and time they would like to consume those stories. 

So, it’s less “We’re a great company to work for!”, because everyone says they’re a great company to work for. No one says, “Hey, we’re a better than average company to work for!” Even though, that’s probably the real truth.

There is a piece of this, though, that I think the true employment branding experts are missing.

As consumers, we are all mostly dumb. A company tells us they have the best most reliable cars and then they tell us this over and over a million times, and we believe that those cars are the best and most reliable. We actually don’t do any research to find out if these cars are actually the best and most reliable. We got ‘marketed’ to.

Recruitment marketing can work in the exact same way. Put enough content out saying you’re the employer of choice, and people will recognize you as an employer of choice. The reality is the difference between a ‘true’ employer of choice, and an organization that is not an employer of choice is pretty small. Small, like, most people wouldn’t see any differences.

Most employers are stuck in the middle of delivering a fairly stripped-down basic employee experience. We all offer basically the same thing for all candidates. Thus, there’s a great opportunity for marketing to tell people we ‘actually’ offer a ‘better’ experience. Say it enough times and people will believe it.

I know my EB expert friends will say this isn’t being transparent and once the candidates get hired they’ll realize it’s not an exceptional experience. But, this is also mostly bullshit. Most people don’t realize it. They’ll get hired. They’ll go to work. They’ll be super excited about the new job. They’ll post a pic on IG. Life continues. One day, three years from now, they’ll wake up and think nothing. They won’t think either way about your company from the last company.

There are like 3 actual companies that offer up this ‘unicorn’ level employee experience that can actually match your brand. The reality of employment branding is far less sexy and fun than we make it out to be. Our stories are uniquely our own, and yet, very similar to those stories of every other employer.

I love your stories, but don’t discount the power of marketing will have on candidate behavior.

Can we stop using the phrase “Top Talent”!?

Rant warning! Proceed with caution! 
First off the vast majority of us wouldn’t know top talent for a specific position if it came up and slapped us in the face. What we know are people/candidates that are actually open to listening to what we have open right now.
“Pipelining top talent” makes you sound like a psychopath! You truly have no idea who is the most talented person in your market for a certain position. Absolutely no idea! And every technology that says they can tell you who is the most talented is lying to you, they can just tell you who is probably more talented amongst a group of known candidates.
But somehow you believe you not only have one “top talented” person but now you have a complete pipeline of top talent? Shut up! You look like an idiot! What you have is a list of people who might work for your position, but you truly have no idea if they’re ax murders or super talented in the skill set they’re telling you they have.
Hopefully, you get lucky and make a good hire that will produce good work. Every once in a while we hit the jackpot and find a person who truly seems better than the rest we have on the team. But we only hire “top talent” is the biggest lie we currently tell ourselves in talent acquisition!
We don’t actually go out and hire “top” talent. We go out and look for people who can do the job we have open at the time we have it open, who are also open to our average pay, average benefits, average leadership, average culture, and location. Let’s not kid ourselves, about 80% of us are average, so are slightly better, some are slightly worse.
“Top Talent”… Give me a freaking break!
“Hire Sally she’s Top Talent!” “Hire Jimmy he’s Top Talent!” Do you know who’s not top talent? The person using the phrase “Top Talent”!?
I love it when I see an agency have some stupid 4 part process or plan or dumb little 4 P’s of how we hire the Top Talent in the industry. Psychopaths! They aren’t doing anything but posting jobs and hitting their databases to find out who might actually be open to taking the interview. Top Talent? How about “might show up for the interview” talent!
“No, Tim! We use the 4 P’s, it’s a proven process to uncover top talent!” What are the 4 P’s? It doesn’t matter! Because it’s all B.S., made up to make you believe there’s some secret sauce. The secret sauce is they picked up the phone and called people instead of waiting around for someone who’s out of work to find your opening and apply.
“You can use our A.I. driven technology that uncovers and delivers right to your inbox the “Top Talent” your company is searching for!”  It reaches out to everyone, finds out who is interested, finds out who meets your qualifications, and sends them to you. Top Talent? Or warm body talent? They both mean the same thing.
Okay – I’m done. Not really, but I have some “top talent” I need to go searching for…

Life is better when you have cheerleaders!

I’ve got some great friends in my life. People who support me in my professional field. I’ve got cheerleaders that are on my side hoping I succeed in everything I do.

Do you have cheerleaders? Do you have a cheerleader?

I think if you have one your life is richer. It’s not about who has the most cheerleaders, but I do think it is critical for your success to have a cheerleader or two in your life.

What’s the role of a cheerleader in your life?

  • Support you in the community when you are not present.
  • Support you in your professional and personal positive endeavors. Sometimes in person. Sometimes from afar.
  • Pick you up when you are having a hard time picking yourself up.
  • They believe in you, and they’ve let you know they believe in you through their words and actions.
  • To let you know what you do matters. Maybe only to one other person, but it still matters.

Just because someone is your cheerleader doesn’t mean you need to be their cheerleader. I have people in my life that I cheer for, that they don’t cheer for me. It doesn’t mean they dislike me, it’s just they aren’t one of my cheerleaders, and that’s okay. I also have cheerleaders that I don’t return the favor for, again, not because I don’t cherish them, I just don’t know them enough to return that favor.

I think cheerleaders get a bad rap in our society. Why would someone want to stand on the sidelines and just cheer for someone else? Go do it yourself!

Yeah, I get that, but also what’s wrong with wanting to help someone else succeed? It’s a very selfless and endearing feature to want to help others succeed and cheer them on in their success. I don’t think cheerleaders get enough credit for what they do. When a team loses or an individual loses, people feel bad for them, but no one feels worse than those who cheered them on the most.

Here’s what I know.

I’ve been in places in my life when it felt like I didn’t have any cheerleaders in my life, and I’m in a place where it seems like I’ve got a tremendous amount of cheerleaders in my life cheering me on daily.

Life is way better with cheerleaders.

You Can’t Teach Your Employees to be Human! #Transform

You might have seen this in the news a few weeks back. Mom and Dad take their Autistic son to a Universal Theme Park in Orlando. The son is over the top excited for the Spiderman ride, and Murphy’s Law comes into play.

The family gets to the ride and it’s broken down. The son loses it. Full blown, five-alarm tantrum on the ground in front of the ride. Mom and Dad are doing all they can to help him calm down, he’s having none of it, when this happens:

So, you see the son with his headphones and you see an actual park employee from Universal from the Spiderman ride who came over and got on the ground and just laid down with this child. Let everyone know who was gawking that you know, it’s okay, some days the Spiderman ride breaks down and it sucks and we all want to scream about it.

The child eventually calmed down with the help of the employee. The parents were all so grateful for the assist and help.

This is a great human story. This is also a great story for Universal’s recruiting team! Let’s be honest. The reality is, the TA team really had nothing to do with this. They ran their process, and out of that, got lucky enough to hire a person who had these capabilities and a giant heart.

You can’t expect or set out to hire, individuals like this woman. She’s a unicorn. In fact, I would bet that Universal in their training would probably use an example like this of what not to do from a liability standpoint! All that said, it happened and it was wonderful.

You might see a story like this and say to yourself, “we need to add this example into our onboarding so that our new employees know this is what we want them to be like!” That’s really unfair to your new hires. Some might see this and think that’s the scariest thing I can imagine, but they might be willing to do a thousand other great things.

The biggest learning from an HR standpoint on this for me is that we can’t eliminate risk in our environments. Things are going to happen. We hope we hire and train employees to do the ‘right’ thing. To be kind. To be human. To do what they would want someone to do for them in a similar circumstance.

Also, to know, when we ask our employees to take the risk of being kind, being human, etc. that sometimes it’s going to backfire, but if it was done with positive intent and good heart we are willing to take that risk.

The Myth of Being a “Highly Selective Employer”

We all think about it, don’t we?  We all want to believe in this notion that we only hire the best and brightest. We only hire the highest quality candidates.  We are ‘highly’ selective!

We’ll show our executives really cool data that shows how ‘highly’ selective we are.  The number of applicants per hire, 25,000 people applied for this position and we only took the best one!

I read something interesting from Time magazine and college admissions at highly selective colleges. Think Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc.  Schools that are super hard to get into because of how selective they are much like the hiring process of your organization. From Time’s article:

“What many parents and students don’t realize is that increasing numbers of applications isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s harder to get into a selective school; rather, it’s a sign of changes in behavior among high school seniors. More and more people who aren’t necessarily qualified are applying to top schools, inflating the application numbers while not seriously impacting admissions. In fact, it has arguably become easier to get into a selective school, though it may be harder to get into a particular selective school…

The most recent study available from the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows that between 2010 and 2011 (the most recent years available), the percentage of students applying to at least three colleges rose from 77% to 79% and the percentage of students applying to at least seven colleges rose from 25% to 29%. In 2000, only 67% of students applied to three or more colleges, while 12% applied to seven or more.

The net effect of this behavior is to create an illusion of increased selectivity.

Especially at the most selective schools, an increase in applications generally leads to the acceptance of a smaller percentage of the students who apply. However, students who meet the academic and extracurricular thresholds to qualify for competitive schools will still get into a selective college; it’s just less likely that they’ll get into a specific competitive college.

These schools work hard to not admit students who won’t attend;  the acceptance rate and the matriculation rate (the percentage of accepted students who attend) are key measures in many college ranking methodologies, so both admitting too many students and admitting students who don’t attend can hurt a college’s ranking.”

An illusion of increased selectivity, you see, just because you turn down a high number of candidates doesn’t make you more selective, it makes you popular.  Too many organizations and HR departments are marketing that they are highly selective based on some simple numbers that give an illusion of being highly selective when in reality, they’re just good at processing a high number of applicants, but not really being ‘more’ selective.

Just because you turn down 24,999 candidates doesn’t make you selective it just means you have a high number of applicants.

So what does make you selective?

Quality of hire. Which I can argue is another very subjective metric in most organizations, but at least it’s a start.  Can you demonstrate with real measurable items that the applicants you’re hiring are better or getting better than those previously hired?  This creates real evidence that you’re becoming ‘more’ selective and on your way to becoming ‘highly’ selective.

You are only “selective” if you’re are actually only hiring the best candidate in your market in the position you have open, not the only candidate who just happens to apply to your job and is the tallest of the seven dwarfs at the time you have the job open.

 

College Athletes: You better have some experience!

My oldest son is so close to being off the payroll and graduating college I can almost taste it! Because he transferred schools after his first two years he has a couple of classes to make up, but he has a great internship this summer, so he’s going back to school in the fall to finish up his senior year.

He plays college baseball, so a bunch of his senior teammates in the same grad class as he did graduate this past weekend. I got to speak with a bunch of these parents who are now excited for their kids to find jobs. You know we all love to hire college athletes, right!?! Right?

Here’s the thing. College athletes work their butts off and put in more hours than you can ever imagine between their sport and their classes. The work ethic. The competitiveness. Etc. Is why so many employers search out college athletes to hire.

But, with all of that comes one big problem. Most college athletes use the summer to get themselves ready for the next season. Becoming a starter takes place because of the extra work you put in on the offseason. So, we find a ton of college athletes don’t actually have much on their resume upon graduation, except for the fact they played a college sport, which now that they are in the real work world has very little value for most employers.

I get it, we are sports obsessed in America. We think little Johnny and little Suzy are the next Olympians and we spend enormous amounts of time and money chasing these dreams. I’ve personally spent more time and money than probably 99% of parents out there!

If I take off my Dad hat and put on my employer hat, this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Great Enterprise Rent-A-Car found success hiring college athletes to work as Manager in Training. By the way, that job sucks! But, if you can make it through the first couple of years, you can make a decent career out of it. But do you think anyone is going to college believing that they want to be a Manager in Training for a rental car company?

I look at the resumes of so many college athletes, as compared to non-college athletes and there is one glaring difference, and that difference isn’t one was an athlete and one wasn’t. It’s that the non-athlete, many times, has 3-4 internships with real companies, doing real jobs, getting real experience. That has real value to employers.

I Love that my son got the experiences he did in college athletics, but he was also smart enough to say I’m willing to give up training all summer, to get internship experience because, in the end, I’m not getting drafted. He’s in the minority. Most either work jobs that have nothing to do with getting a career, or don’t work at all, and then upon graduation are surprised to find out they aren’t as sought out as they were lead to believe.

So, if your kid is playing a college sport here’s my advice:

  1. Unless they are high-level D1 and have a legitimate shot at going pro and making real money, don’t let a college coach make your kid feel like they have to use their entire offseason to keep playing their sport.
  2. Get a real internship, at least one, before graduation that is in line with your degree.
  3. If you bought into the hype and the pressure and your kid now has no experience in the real world, it’s never too late to go and do an internship, even for free, to get real experience. Even after graduation.

Here’s the reality. When a hiring manager has an opening, especially for entry-level grads, they will see resumes with candidates who have multiple internships with big brands, and those candidates come across a very sexy! They will also see resumes of candidates who were athletes in college, and they will be intrigued. Almost always, the candidate with real-world experience will kick the ass of an athlete without experience in an interview.

Have fun. Play sports. Also, get some experience!

If Your Company has a Chief Happiness Officer you Should Rethink Your Career Path!

In the past three weeks, I’ve been pitched by some well-meaning PR person about a story on how Google, Salesforce, Zappos, Airbnb, etc., have “Chief Happiness Officers” and how important they are to corporate success. Or at least, how “Happiness” as a measure is important to corporate success.

I’ve been pitched this idea four times, primarily so I would talk about their client, Snappy, which apparently is a chatbot of some kind that asks your employee questions to probably gauge their happiness or something, and in turn, you can then turn to your Chief Happiness Officer to fix the happy that is broken. (BTW – look for my new book in 2020 – “Fix the Happy!”)

Snappy might be some awesome tech, but I don’t like the pitch. I think that pitch is broken, for the real world. The real world is not Google and Zappos. Those are unicorns. Real companies have real issues and making their entitled employees happy is not one of those real issues.

I want to punch every Chief Happiness Officer in the smiling face!

Seriously, how completely warped do you have to be to think you actually bring happiness to another human being, let alone an entire company of human beings!?!

Will Smith is my Chief Happiness Officer:

Turns out CHO’s don’t make employees happy. Employees make themselves happy. No amount of money, or time off, or Taco Tuesdays, or standup desks or seven flavors of Kombucha in the employee cafe, will make a person happy. Happiness is an emotion controlled by the individual, no matter the environment they’re in.

There are great stories of prisoners at Auschwitz that chose love and happiness in the darkest hours and circumstances that anyone could imagine. There are people who win $500M lotteries that blow their head off because of how depressed they are. A CHO can’t change that.

Chief Happiness Officers are what happens to organizations when leadership gets out of control. When we stop actually leading and managing the business, and we ‘become’ leaders. When we start believing our own bullsh*t to a level where we think we actually control the emotions of our employees.

Look, I get it. I also want to drink the Kool-aid and believe in Santa Claus. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful, fantasy-filled life?! But that is life. 99.99% of us have to work to pay bills. Within that, we can choose to be happy, or miserable, or somewhere in between and that actually might have many times in the same day. No one person is going to make me happy or miserable unless I make that choice to allow that to happen.

There you go. That’s my take. Chief Life Officer, out.

When Did Causal Friday Die?

I love the fact that at some point almost every industry decided that it was mostly stupid to wear suits and ties and dresses to work. Even more, Business Casual has mostly died out as well.

I can’t tell you how many F500 organizations I go into where the head of HR or head of Talent is wearing jeans. At my company we went casual pretty late, primarily because we are a service organization and we match that dress of our clients we go to visit.

You’ve probably seen some of these sayings going around social media:

  • There was a day when you picked up your child for the last time. You didn’t know it the time, but you’ll never pick them up again.
  • There was a day when you went outside to play with your friends. You didn’t know it at the time, but you never went out again to play.

We do a ton of stuff then one day we stop doing it and we don’t even realize it. I like to think that’s what happened to Casual Fridays.

For the longest time Casual Fridays were the thing! Some companies used them as motivation, some used them as charity vehicles to raise money for great causes, etc. Then one day, every day was casual and we no longer needed Casual Friday.

I’m not 100% sold that being casual at work all the time is the answer and there is some growing research that says the same thing. There are certain times when dressing up puts you in a better psychological state of mind!

In the study, The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing, researchers found that when a person puts on formal clothing (business formal, not wedding formal) our brain gets us to believe we are better than maybe we really are! 

When wearing formal business clothing we tend to do certain things better, like negotiating. If you were going to close a deal with a big client, it’s best you don’t show up in jeans and a hoodie, even if those you’ll be negotiating with will be. In fact, you’ll have an advantage over them if you did show up fully suited up! 

Billionaire, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Mavericks recently shared a post he wrote in 2007, doubling down on his belief we should never wear suits and he says he only does, to this day, for weddings and funerals. 

Mark doesn’t believe in the psychological impact of wearing a suit and tie (despite what the research says) and believes letting your employees be casual is the way to go. Since his post in 2007, I would dare to say 100% of tech companies are casual! 

I’ve worked in a business that went from a formal dress code, to a business casual dress code, to a casual dress code. I’m not sure I can tell you one made a difference over another.

I know from a client relationship standpoint when I was in formal clothing, clients felt a little uncomfortable when I was dressed up and they weren’t. But, those same clients when I was meeting them for the first time knew I looked at their business with the utmost importance. Once the relationship was established, I’m sure they felt more at ease when I showed up looking like they did.

From an employment brand standpoint I never understood the large organizations where they executives still wear suit and tie but the rank and file are casual. But I feel the same way about coaches on sidelines wearing suits, or even politicians. There is definitely a psychological power play with all of these.

So, raise one up for Casual Fridays or pour one out or whatever it is you do when something you’ve known for so long dies. Casual Fridays, you’ll be remembered well, or at least remembered as ‘why the hell did we do that?”

Gen Z HR Pros!! Are you ready to blog or vlog? I want you to join me!

So, this summer my son, Cameron, and I started up this series on my blog called, “Career Confessions of Gen Z”. He did an awesome job finding his voice and creating compelling content that was coming straight from the mouth of Gen Z, and not some old washed up blogger, like me, who claimed to know what Gen Z was all about.

I loved it! The audience loved it!

He went back to school, got busy doing school stuff and Career Confessions just sat there.

Another crazy thing happens in HR blogging. If you look at most HR Bloggers, the vast majority are Gen X, older Millennials, some Baby Boomers. So very few are actual Millennials and almost zero are Gen Z. While our executives still like to believe all young employees are still Millennials, we know in HR that Gen Z is the newest generation we need to pay attention to entering our workforces.

So, Gen Z HR and Talent Pros – I need you! 

What’s the gig?

HR and/or Talent Blogger for The Project – specifically under the “Career Confessions of Gen Z” series.

How much do you have to write?

Once per month, every 4-5 weeks. Each post would be anywhere from 400-800-ish words, or a video-blog (vlog) 3-5 minutes. The initial project is for 12 months, so if you get invited to join the team, you’ll be asked to write 12 posts in 12 months.

What can you write or speak about?

Anything work or career-related, as long as it’s interesting or entertaining or educational, and hopefully a combination of all three!

Can I do this anonymously? 

Hell no! Why would you?! This is your big break and a big platform – let yourself shine!

What do I get for doing this?

Fame mostly. I mean micro-fame, but it’s still fame. You might get invited to attend some HR or Recruiting conferences for free. We can be friends if you’re not super annoying. I’ll tell people you’re awesome. If I find a sponsor for the series I’ll split the cash with you.

How can I apply? 

Simple. Send me a writing sample of what you would do on the blog. Don’t suck. Have an opinion. Don’t tell me you first have to run it by legal for approval. Send that sample to: timsackett@comcast.net or just Venmo me $1000 and consider yourself 100% on the team! (jk – don’t do that) Deadline for submissions is December 19th – that’s 2 weeks! So, get going! Invitations will go out on or before January 3rd for those selected to join the team!

HR and TA Leaders – Recruitment Marketing and Employment Branding leaders – this is a great stretch assignment for the Gen Zers on your team for 2019! Send this to them and get them to submit!

I’m looking forward to reading your work!

Why Did Amazon Decide on Having 3 Corporate Headquarters?

So, the biggest news of the week is Amazon finally made a decision on where they were going to build HQ2 and come to find out instead of just one location, Amazon is splitting the job lottery into two prizes and both Washington D.C. and New York will get an Amazon Headquarters. Okay, it’s probably really about 4 Headquarters since they’re really focusing a ton of the supply chain talent in Nashville, but who’s counting!?

I never really thought Washington D.C. or New York City had a chance because I was thinking about stuff like the ability to actually move around! Turns out Amazon’s real decision point came around brain power. Now, I know what you’re thinking! There are absolutely no brains in Washington D.C.! Hello, is this mic on!? Also, have you been the urine-scented streets of New York!? Joking!

If you look at the U.S. and did a heat map around higher education institutions you would find a gigantic section of the Eastern seaboard is shaded a bright red! From Boston to New York to Philadelphia to Washington D.C. you can’t find a more concentrated area of higher education in the world! Amazon’s newest HQ2 and HQ3 will be strategically located right amongst those areas!

The largest employers in the U.S. look like this:

Walmart is stupid big, but almost all of their employees are onsite at stores.  Accenture is huge, but again their employees work in every medium to large city in the country, not a one big headquarters. FedEx is basically the US mail service. Go down the list and you’ll most of the largest employers are not headquartered centric, but location-centric.

Amazon is the lone giant employer who has most of its employees in office buildings. Knowing they were going to have to hire 50,000+ employees, there was really no one location in the U.S. that could have handled that need for talent in such a short time. Washington D.C. and New York are probably two of the places that can handle 25,000 new jobs, each, without crippling every other employer in the market. And, this will still cause a giant disruption in those cities as people will be moving around like crazy.

An additional 5,000 white collar jobs in Nashville will be an incredible amount for that market, especially in the key skills they’re looking for which are desperately needed everywhere in the U.S. right now. Better dust off your employee engagement strategies and update your compensation models, Nashville employers! 2020 is going to be a tough year!

This decision signals one other potential massive shift for IT. Washington D.C. was already a pretty big IT hub with all the government work, but now moving this many IT related jobs to the East Coast could begin a big shift away from organizations believing you have to be in Silicon Valley to hire IT talent. Amazon will bring and grow IT talent for the entire east coast and strengthen those cities as large IT hubs worldwide.

Amazon definitely didn’t help workers out from a quality of life standpoint. Both D.C. and NYC are awful in terms of cost and commute, at least in California you get sunshine in your closet of an apartment!

The decision for me showed that Amazon truly looked at labor markets and demographics (and some giant tax breaks – which, let’s be honest, everyone was willing to give) as the major decision points in the location of the new headquarters. The U.S. demographics over the next decade should be a major concern for large employers. More workers will leave the workforce than are coming into the workforce, so you better be close to where we tend to grow white collar, educated workers.

This is a win for higher education as much as it is for Washington D.C. and New York City.