Change or Die

ford.gif Welcome to Room 116: The Future of Ford Ford has taken the typical corporate video and culture day in the life and turned it inside out....literally. Their approach took on the style of a Discovery Channel documentary of an ongoing story of an iconic brand and it's employees. What I like is the fact that it also serves as a rallying cry to the Ford employee base to stand behind a strong, clear message, and to come to work each day and think about ways to actualize it. Reading the blogs and responses from others, you can see how it helps infuse interest in the company from different levels. Check it out at fordboldmoves.com

“Energize your base!”

(Uh-oh, the first line is in quotes and has an exclamation point – it must be important.) Every election cycle, political pundits speak about candidates for office who need to or are in the process of “energizing their base.” (By the way, who sets out to be a pundit? “Let’s see, I could become an expert, an analyst, or possibly a consultant, but none of those have the sexy quality of punditry.”) It makes good sense. If you can’t get your own supporters excited about your candidacy, how can you get those who are on the fence to consider you? An energized base will reduce the cost of your candidacy through organic marketing efforts – and they’ll work long hours for little or no compensation because they are true believers. Just as long as they are energized. It’s not difficult to guess where this is going, is it? Organizations that wish to create a vibrant employer brand need to move beyond recruiting external candidates and retaining existing employees. Organizations need to energize their base. This requires something a bit different – the recruiting of individuals who are already in your employ. It’s more active then retention. It’s more broad-based than internal communications. It’s more than engagement – it’s blatant, no-holds-barred, high-spirited enthusiasm for everything about the organization, and its mission and people. And with apologies to Hal, Michael, and Jane, it’s more than a great place to work, it’s a great place to be. An energized base recruits and screens of its own volition. An energized base is evangelical. An energized based is the nexus of viral marketing and social/professional networking. Therefore, an energized base should be the foundation for employer brand development and recruitment lead generation. What does it take? • Frequent face-to-face contact with, and re-recruiting by, C-level leadership • A focus on what’s important to the employee • A clear picture of how success will impact each individual In the umpteen years I have been in this business, I have only come across one company that truly maintains an energized base. It would be nice to know there are more. r Random disclaimer No performance-enhancing substances were knowingly used in the generation of this entry.

Mobile search partner

3dgoogle.jpg Ng Pei Kang | Portfolio 2006 Industrial Designer Ng Pei Kang explored the very likely possibilities of mobile google power. Imagine the possibilities of Google search at your fingertips, where ever and when ever. Bringing the power of Google search into tangible real world scenarios and objects allows you to be able to search live in the real environment. Lost? Take a picture of the nearest roadsign and Google tells you where you are. Looking for a good restaurant? Simply take a picture of the restaurant's signage and Google will tell you it's customer's ratings. Looking for a great career? Take a snapshot of the company's signage and Google will tell you their current openings and allow you to submit your resume right there. As he states, the possibilities are boundless.

Serfs up?

Who remembers 10th grade world history? Somewhere between the Roman Empire and the industrial revolution, my history teacher devoted a couple of days to the feudal system (oh, how we laughed and laughed). As I remember it, the feudal system dealt with serfs and nobility – and you didn’t want to be a serf. Here’s a description from wikipedia: “Feudalism refers to a general set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility of Europe during the Middle Ages, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. Defining feudalism requires many qualifiers because there is no broadly accepted agreement of what it means. In order to begin to understand feudalism, a working definition is desirable. The definition described in this article is the most senior and classic definition and is still subscribed to by many historians. However, other definitions of feudalism exist. Since at least the 1960s, many medieval historians have included a broader social aspect, adding the peasantry bonds of Manorialism, referred to as a "feudal society." Still others, since the 1970s, have re-examined the evidence and concluded that feudalism is an unworkable term and should be removed entirely from scholarly and educational discussion, or at least only used with severe qualification and warning.” (Wow. Severe qualification and warning. That is initimidating.) What it all comes down to is that for a long period of time, large groups of people were treated like commodities – they served a purpose, but one warm body was just as good as another. Hundreds of years later, this situation was improved upon to a large degree thanks to industrialization and labor unions. To the point that every now and then we encounter someone espousing personal brands - the idea that every one of us has the opportunity to be relevant and differentiated, staking out a brand position that is unique and owned by said individual. This certainly can be the case for CEOs, some professional athletes, and celebrities of the entertainment variety, but can it apply to the typical company employee? It’s my observation that while more and more organizations look to differentiate themselves as employers, there is only occasional reciprocity when it comes to viewing employees as more than a commodity. Granted, the act of developing an employer brand implies that companies want the best employees, but is that tacit recognition of the unique value of every individual, or simply a commodity subgroup? There is certainly a body of evidence that points to the latter. Outsourcing and off-shoring of entire departments, attraction strategies based primarily on price-point, and recruitment based on quantity rather than quality exacerbate the situation. And let’s not forget the job description. The very nature of the job description relegates a vast category of individuals to a commodity substratum. A typical job description may speak in general or even specific terms about roles, responsibilities, and requirements, but how often does it give equal weight to attributes that are less tangible – attributes that might be embodied in a personal brand? Now I get that much of this is driven by very practical concerns, or that there are more informal, almost organic interactions that leave open the possibility of elevating employees beyond commodity. My point however, is two-fold. First, let’s not get carried away with the portability of the brand concept. Second, the breakdown of the employer/employee compact and the arrival of free agent nation brought more challenges for employees than it did opportunities. r

Keyword or piracy?

sc147.jpg Welcome to Room 116: Thinktank3 self-promo When you go grocery shopping, on the shelves you have the name brands and right next to them are the generic brands. This little shop called Thinktank3 used the same principle for their own self promotion. Except it isn't about being generic. Nothing ground breaking, but basically they used keyword buys of all their big name competitors, and or agencies that they would like to associate themselves to. In advertising, the golden client are the ones that will go out on a limb and allow the agency to do their best work. Even if it means taking great risks to get new and fresh ideas out there. Thinktank aspires to attract the same type of clients and talent that would be after these big hot shops that do great work. So, naturally when they keyword search these names, their little keyword self promo appears. Now think about that same principle as it would apply for talent acquisition strategies for companies who are in fierce competition with one another for talent.

Pork belly futures up 3 3/4

First of all, my apologies for not publishing in a while. I’ve been on the road with the folks from the Human Capital Institute and Best Places to Work®, spreading the word about the employer brand to millions in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, and Dallas. It was a great experience and one I hope to repeat again soon. Anyway, since its inception way back in February, this blog has focused exclusively on the employer brand (although focus is too strong - perhaps “flitted about in an occasionally deliberate manner” is more appropriate). Oh, the topics we have covered – from how to build an employer brand to job marketing to some people’s obsession with certain movie starlets (wait – that’s a different blog that I’m not supposed to talk about - you know, court order and all). What we haven’t discussed is the antithesis of the employer brand, which is the employer as a commodity. What’s the difference between a commodity and a brand? A commodity is undifferentiated and lacking in any psychological or self-expressive attributes. A commodity serves a desired function and it competes in the market almost exclusively on price. Often commodities are bought and sold based on speculation. Gold is a commodity. But so is tin. Oil is a commodity. But so are hogs. A commodity is not what you want to be if you are an employer. Commodity employers have no identity in the marketplace. They compete entirely on price-point and functional attributes. Candidates who consider commodity employers want to know: What is the compensation? What are the benefits? How far is the commute? What are the hours? Candidates who consider commodity employers are not concerned with engaging in the organization’s mission because the organization does little to create an atmosphere conducive to engagement. The frightening thing is that the market is still dominated by commodity employers. In fact, included in this undifferentiated group are some organizations that believe they have an employer brand. That is primarily because they have paid no attention to developing a branded experience. Commodity employers have little interest in culture. In these organizations, there is no shared purpose. There are only tasks to be completed. Commodity employers have even less interest in their environment. They feature little of distinction, punctuated by the occasional motivational poster framed in polished aluminum (another commodity, by the way – oh, the irony abounds). What could be worse than being a commodity employer? Being a commodity employee. But we’ll save that discussion until the next time. r Random rant The U.S. national soccer team did not under-perform in 2006. They overachieved in 2002. The expectations for this team were ridiculously high, and made worse by absurd FIFA rankings that had the U.S. as #5 in the world. 5?!? Are you kidding me? Does anyone really believe that our national team is better than Argentina, Italy, and England? The only thing more ridiculous than the expectations for this World Cup was the officiating. My prediction for the finals: Argentina 2, Spain 1.

Mobile Marketing

MKL378.jpg What is it all about? Mobile networking is rapidly changing the way we all communicate. Once a simple cell phone now has turned into a vital multimedia communication tool that enables all of us to enhance our very busy lives, and be more productive. They provide features that accommodate the general consumer and business person. From the student, to the executive, to the job seeker. They offer company brands the ability to carry a one to one experience with their audience from anywhere imaginable. No longer is this type of immersivity limited to the desktop. No longer is data capture limited to a web browser. And eventually, no longer will all this be limited to a cell phone. Mobile time vs. internet time I was speaking with Byron Bertrim, formally with Fuel Industries and is now started up his own mobile gaming company. He spoke to a very interesting scenario regarding the differences of mobile time vs. internet time. When users are on the internet, they are usually multitasking, searching for information, working on their computer with multiple files open. So their focus and time is limited. However when people are using their mobiles, they may be commuting, in transit, waiting for a friend or in a waiting room. What is often called fill time. They are more passive and willing to explore, download, be entertained. They have more time to fill and are not necessarily multitasking.

Jogo bonito

One is known for unfiltered enthusiasm. Another is known for directness. And yet another is gaining recognition for flexibility and strategy. These aren’t the employer brand attributes of leading companies. They are the attributes of three World Cup teams: Brazil, England, and the United States. Whether these attributes are reflective of national cultures or not can be debated. But the fact that these, and just about all of the 32 teams participating in the 2006 World Cup, can have their own brand of soccer gives hope to the idea that any team can. Including a team of employees. There is a lesson here (besides that I will stretch any analogy until it snaps). And that is that any group of people gathered together for a common purpose will naturally coalesce around distinct attributes. You may want to alter some of those attributes or amplify others, but they are there nonetheless, growing organically, just like an employer brand. So, if your organization chose its top 25 performers, would those players embody the best attributes of your employer brand? Or perhaps, even more important, would they innately understand what your organization’s employer value proposition was? Your answer could determine how far your organization goes before it is eliminated from competition. (Okay, that was either a really good close or really lame.) r Random rave The first goal of the 2006 World Cup was incredible, and fittingly, scored by Germany, this year’s host nation.

We Feel Fine

wefeel.jpg We Feel Fine is another masterpiece developed from Jonathan Harris. Jonathan is the developer of 10x10. We Feel Fine is an interactive global exploration of human emotion. Every few minutes, the system searches out the world's blogs for specific entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling" expressed in a sentence. The age, gender, and geographical location of the author is often extracted and saved along with the sentence. All of this information is saved. The result is a database of several million human feelings that increase by 15,000 to 20,000 new feelings per day. The feelings can be searched and sorted acrtoss a number of different demographic slices. Do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do woman feel fat more often than men? Which are the happiest cities in the world? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? Those are some of the responses one can achieve through this system.

Joni Mitchell was right

Just as I declared that I shall resume my writing, I have now received comments (see Andrew Marritt single-handedly ends my boycott!) from my friend and colleague, David Kippen, that infer the boycott should go on. His reasons are sound and logical - two very good reasons to ignore them. I will say this in defense of discontinuing my boycott: it only took eight days for content-related dialogue to appear - and that was the stipulation for ending my campaign. And yes, my boycott did get more commentary than any of my previous, purposeful entries. But all this proves is the point made in my April 10th entry: "Now you see it, now you don't." (Go ahead, you know you want to go read it now.) However, in the future I reserve the right to employ other guerilla tactics, which could include kidnapping one of my fellow bloggers, posting all my entries in Sanskrit, or even pirate blogging from off-shore. But for now, the building permit for the parking lot has been revoked. r