It seems like I keep having these Matrix-like experiences where I see the same thing repeatedly. The world has turned into a meme of an average housewife wearing their Lululemon crossbody fanny pack, Veja sneakers, or Ons (you pick), carrying your Stanley thermo cup, and driving your white SUV that looks like every other SUV.
We can make fun of this image because of how accurate it is. But really, we’ve all turned into this. My buddy KD makes fun of me for my propensity to buy shoes and clothes targeted to me on Instagram before he has the chance to buy them. IG knows if they target me, I’ll buy, and share with KD, who will cherry-pick the best buys after I try them!
If you look at sites like Pinterest, every kitchen looks the same. White cabinets, barn wood floors, and stainless steel appliances. The bedrooms all look the same. The bathrooms all look the same. Our houses, our vehicles, and our clothes all look the same. We have this desire to look like everyone else in every aspect of our lives. I’m no different.
This also extends to our professional lives.
I’ve been saying this for years, but employment branding professionals and agencies are basically just reproducing more of the same. There is very little differentiation from one employment brand to the next. Oh wait, you mean you are also an employer of choice?! How can that be!? You have great benefits, care about your employees, and are building an inclusive culture that values differences! As long as those differences match our differences, making us all the same.
I used to think the only unique employment brands were unicorn companies (Google, Tesla, etc.), but even those brands are all the same now.
We basically offer the same benefits, same work environment, same compensation, and same jobs. The only thing that actually might be unique is some micro-cultures hidden within the broader corporate culture, which is basically the same as almost every other culture. We offer average jobs, in average companies, for ordinary people. Yes, your people are ordinary because that’s exactly what you recruit. You definitely don’t recruit out-of-the-ordinary people. They would never make it through your hiring process!
By the way, I don’t have a problem with ordinary and average. We went through an entire generation who is desperate to think they’re unique butterflies, but by all of them being unique butterflies, it made them all average and ordinary. In the corporate world, we love the ordinary, and we hate outliers.
Generative AI will compound this issue, not make it better. ChatPGT and the like will push us further down the average and ordinary rabbit hole. Creatives will use AI to do their creative work, which will create the same thing repeatedly but faster. AI will learn what we like and produce more of it but in different colors and flavors. Original thought will become mass-produced thought.
How do we get out of the age of average?
Embrace the weirdos. Listen to the crazy ideas and actually try some of them. Tell your candidates and employees the truth. No, the real truth. Be willing to take some criticism over the stuff you tried that failed. As an employer, you are gaining nothing by being like everyone else. Be someone no one is. Some will hate you. Some will love you. Most won’t pay attention. Your goal as an employer isn’t to attract everyone. It’s only to attract the few folks who you truly want and who want you in return.
Does their crazy match your crazy?
We work so hard to try and hide our crazy. Then we are shocked when someone opts out of working for us and turns over. The best work cultures filter in and out with the same ferocity. If you welcome everyone into your work you’ll also be showing a lot of people the door at some point.