Tell me something I don’t know

You would think that with the thousands of companies that exist in this country alone, there would be infinite variety in the attributes, perceptions, and strength of the corresponding employer brands. But alas, that is not the case. As a veteran of hundreds of focus groups, scores of surveys, and dozens of brand strategies, I can tell you that the universe is finite indeed, and that unlike the physical universe we live in, this one exists in a steady state. In fact we've actually developed twelve employer brand models and eight candidate archetypes that, in one combination or another, could serve as the umbrella for 100% of what currently exists in the world of employer brands (that's 56/100ths better than Ivory Soap, which is a mere 99 44/100ths pure). (I have now successfully set up the second paragraph of today's discourse. As you wait for this paragraph to begin, the questions arise: What the hell is he yammering about? And what's with the soap reference?) When presenting research findings to organizations, it is not unusual to hear someone comment that there was nothing new uncovered, followed in short order with a question regarding the purpose of the entire exercise. There are two responses to that. The first is that if you are in a role that requires you to position your organization in the employment marketplace, you should not be surprised. For my second response, go back to the preceding paragraph. But the real response (yes, I know that makes three responses) comes down to one thing, our viewpoints are guided by a shared culture, a culture that has ceased being regional, that in many ways is still national, but that has become increasingly global with every passing day. This cultural melding results in attributes and perceptions that tend to be intuitively understood by those who play in the employer brand sandbox, regardless if they are client-side or consultancy-side. So does that eliminate the need for research? Of course not. (I'll bet you're stunned by that response.) Research may provide us with an affirmation of what we thought we knew, but in doing so, it moves us from supposition to certainty, from generality to specificity. And certainty combined with specificity is where the action is, because what we're really talking about now is the ability to differentiate. For a market in which most candidates believe they have more than enough choice, differentiation is what moves you from the consideration set to the decision set. But then, you probably already knew that. r

“Survey says …”

I don't know about where you work, but in our company we receive a yearly employee satisfaction survey. It asks a lot of questions about what I think of my career prospects, management, coworkers, and the direction of the company. Based on my responses, it appears that I'm a pretty happy guy, albeit with serious underlying issues regarding desk clutter and the tendency of our office plant vendor to rely too heavily on dracaena. In other companies, employees are subjected to engagement surveys and culture surveys. Each of these provides valuable information to management. Some organizations even supplement these surveys with focus groups and other studies. What does this have to do with developing an employer brand? Very little. And that is precisely the point I'm coming to (about two paragraphs ahead of schedule I might add). When developing an employer brand, we rely heavily on research, both qualitative and quantitative. Invariably and understandably, companies want to reduce the scope of their employer brand projects in order to reduce both time and cost. In their efforts to do so, some organizations insist on force-fitting data into places it just doesn't belong. ("I really don't understand why we can't use our 'Bring Your Pet to Work' survey results as a basis for our brand position!") The problem with this is that the aforementioned research doesn't address the primary points that need to be understood when creating an employer brand strategy. Some of these are: - Company attribute performance and importance - Job attribute performance and importance - Candidate propensity to change jobs - Candidate motivation - Consideration criteria - Decision criteria There are lots of ways to get to this information - as long as your research methodology is actually designed for it. It's also important to understand the role of qualitative research, quantitative research, and how these support each other. Quantitative research is about breadth and prevalence. It is the outline for the picture you are trying to create. Qualitative research provides depth and context. It is the color that goes within the lines. Try creating an employer brand position without quantitative research and you end up with a sprawling mess of poorly defined tones and voices. Try it without qualitative research and all you have is an outline absent of any vitality. But research isn't the entire solution. There is also analysis and strategy development - at least that's what 78% of respondents in our latest survey stated. r Random Rant: What's with elevating mobile phones to romantic gift status?!? The introduction of Motorola's new pink Razr phone was positioned as "just in time for Valentine's Day!" I'm incredulous. I can just imagine presenting a phone to my wife as a sign of my unending devotion. ("You got me a phone for Valentine's Day - what, were they out of toasters?") No wonder the divorce rate is high.

When you come to a fork in the blog …

Yogi Bera, New York Yankee of days gone by, has a book out entitled "When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It." It's one of his most famous aphorisms, and from what I've seen, the guiding light for a lot of organizations when it comes to determining what their employer brand strategy should be. What's that you say? All employer brand strategies are the same? Determine the value proposition, how to couch it, and go home for an evening of Must See TV? Well my friends, I beg to differ (although why one needs to beg in order to differ is beyond me). There are two distinct approaches that an organization must grapple with when it comes to determining the path to take for its employer brand strategy. Is it seeking to attract candidates to a culture that is properly aligned with its mission and business objective, or is it seeking to alter the culture from the outside in, driving change through the attributes of an employee population more in tune with its business objectives? The answer to this has a dramatic and immediate effect on crafting the approach to the development of employer brand strategies. In the first instance, the organization would seek to find a balance between its aspirations for the employer brand and the realities of the employment experience. In the latter case, the entirety of the strategy is driven almost solely by the aspirations. The implications of an aspiration-only approach usually means that the strategy can be developed and brought to market faster, but the organization must be prepared for the ensuing dynamic tension that results when a new set of employee attributes are brought into the organization en masse. ("Set up a perimeter - the newbies are preparing to storm the cafeteria!") The more typical approach of matching market drivers with existing cultural attributes takes a bit longer to bring to market. This is because, as stated in a previous posting, there are three distinct perspectives to understand: employer aspirations, employment experience realities, and market perceptions. However, the organization can look forward to focusing its efforts on amplifying the culture, which is much easier on the organizational psyche. One approach is not superior to the other, it's just a matter of making the correct determination prior to beginning the development of an employer brand strategy. Or if you'd like, you can do it the hard way, and simply come to the fork in the road and take it. r Random Rave: I actually prefer Woody Allen's variation on coming to a fork in the road. It can be found in the opening of a speech he once gave to college graduates. "More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

Ceci n’est pas une blog

I thought that the best possible way to start this running dialogue on the state of employer brand development would be with at least one somewhat obscure, seemingly unrelated reference, thereby assuring all that our conversations will seldom be one-dimensional, and if they are, at least they will offer the possibility of semi-rational randomness. So on to Rene Magritte, one of my favorite artists, whose Surrealist body of work includes "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," a fantastic juxtaposition of words and image. Many have taken the approach that Magritte's painting of a pipe accompanied by the caption, "This is not a pipe," simply points out that the artist is emphasizing he has created a picture of a pipe, not an actual pipe, and that representation of a thing is quite different than the thing itself. This takes us to the relationship between employer branding and the employer brand. (No, really, it does.) Most organizations would like to believe they have established an employer brand. But most organizations believe that all they have to do to accomplish this is develop and execute some colorful, descriptive employer branding materials - typically ads, brochures, and web sites, and get those materials in front of candidates. ("Glad we got that done, now let's move on to matrix management!") However, all that these companies have created is the representation of a pipe - they have not created the pipe itself. The real effort should begin with determining what kind of pipe a company should create, or whether it should be a pipe at all. This requires an understanding of an organization's aspirations for its employer brand, the realities of the employment experience, and the perceptions of that experience. But most of all, it requires an understanding that a working employer brand is a set of strong, positive associations that employees and candidates have about an organization as an employer, that it is more than advertising, and, that it is rare. Okay, that's it for this first time out. I've got some ideas for the weeks ahead that will get into specific aspects of employer brand development. But I’d also like to know what areas you would like to examine, however random they are. r

Video is just one TMP tool that helps D.C.’s police recruit the most qualified and inspired candidates.

One of the most effective ways to attract recruits is to encourage interested prospects to see and hear current employees describe their jobs and what their work means to them. The internet—because it can transmit short videos hitch-free to most online job seekers--makes this a relatively straightforward recruitment outreach strategy for any organization, size notwithstanding. Our Government Solutions Group recently incorporated this feature into a new employment site for the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Force (MPD). You’ll find a dozen video vignettes there . Among the MPD employees featured are Chief Cathy Lanier and a wide ranging assortment of DC cops, from SWAT to Homicide to Mounted and Harbor Patrol personnel. Each describes his or her work and discusses the personal charge their jobs give them. DC is a tough market for law enforcement recruiting, with several nearby, well-paying suburban jurisdictions—plus half a dozen Federal police agencies--vying for committed applicants. So the MPD’s video segments were created to inspire law enforcement job seekers, as well as passive candidates, to apply. Hearing real people, not “talking heads”, describe their work enthusiastically can make a big difference in triggering interest. We want serious candidates to have no doubt, as the campaign theme puts it, that “It’s a great time to be MPD.” Of course we’re promoting MPD career opportunities through a multitude of other channels, including online job postings and print ads. We’ve also created a radio spot that’s running widely in the DC area, and are “wrapping” public buses with MPD’s recruitment call-to-action. As the program hit its stride with CY07 drawing to a close, the department was reporting goals had been achieved.

Show Me Your Cookies

Behavioral targeting has become a recent target of Congressional scrutiny and public awareness. Personally, I believe behavioral targeting is a beautiful thing. It allows companies to allocate their resources to an audience that is much more likely to be interested in their job openings and avoid wasting money on impressions from likely uninterested job seekers. Why wouldn't companies want to drill down and buy impressions from a targeted group? And on the flip side, I don't mind seeing ads for products that I might actually be interested in - like scuba diving gear or local concert tickets. And it doesn't bother me that I'm slotted into sub-categories based on my searches for "Roatan", "Thai Restaurants, 30022" and "Tablescapes for the budget conscious". In my opinion, targeted ads are less intrusive to the user. However, many people are afraid of Big Broogle and want to surf under the radar. Largely because of legislative attention, Google and Yahoo recently starting allowing their users to opt out of targeting for both their network and DoubleClick's network of ads. All it takes is one click. If there is a silver lining according to advertisers, it would be that allowing users to opt out is much better than asking users to opt in. I am predicting that the average internet user is not only unaware that they can opt out of targeted ads but also won't know how to if given the chance. But maybe I underestimate the masses... only time will tell. Google also just released Incognito, a new Google Chrome feature. In this surfing mode, all of a user's history and cookies will be deleted once they close the window. This isn't necessarily great news from a Campaign Management perspective. If someone sees an ad while using an Incognito window and then is served the same ad in a different surfing session, it counts them as a new unique user. Essentially, it will count them as two different people. I find it hard to believe though that Google would let Incognito interfere with their recent acquisition of DoubleClick. That just wouldn't make much business sense. In terms of a stealth mode feature, Google is a little slow on the draw. Both Firefox and Safari already have stealth modes. Private Browsing is built into Safari, taking just one click to activate. Firefox allows users to use an extension to mask their footprints on the web. Internet Explorer doesn't currently offer a privacy mode, but it soon will. InPrivate Browsing will be an added feature for IE8, launching "sometime this year" (that's seriously the closest launch date I could find). Don't hit the panic button yet. The bottom line is stealth modes will only slightly skew the data for both the TMP Worldwide Campaign Management Team and the analytics crews for the advertising sites. However, my intuition is that tracking for most recruitment campaigns will not be greatly affected. But if you're trying to target paranoid job seekers, you might run into a problem. (But they've already been deleting their cookies manually for years). So remember when you're looking at numbers, tracking is extremely beneficial, but it's not an exact science.

The World’s Atwitter

You've heard of Twitter right? If you're an early adopter you certainly have. But to my surprise, Twitter has totally gone mainstream (even my mother knows about it). If you live in a cave, please watch the video below to learn more about Twitter. I first noticed that people were at least aware of Twitter about a year ago while eating lunch in the break room of the TMP Atlanta office. My coworkers would ask me about the network, how I use it and what I tweet about. Slowly, my office buddies began creating their own accounts. First, @superchud and @kimberley_ann. Then, the phenomenon spread throughout the office and pretty soon, most everyone had created an account. Even @danwarnick! But as my followers grew, I noticed that most of my coworkers weren't actively tweeting. Yesterday, our lunchtime conversation revolved around how some of my coworkers "just don't get the point of Twitter" and that's why they never tweet. Heads turned in my direction and I decided that the misconceptions have gone on long enough. Twitter is not just a constant status update or a way to stalk your friends. It's SO much more than that! First and foremost, Twitter is a social network. So use it like one! Follow everyone you know. The spirit of Twitter is sharing. Don't be afraid to follow someone that you just barely know or don't know at all. For instance, I followed my husband's boss when he began a new job. We've had some playful exchanges and it's made our infrequent dinner meetings more comfortable because I'm more familiar with him. Seek out people that are interested in the same things you are. That way, your homepage will always contain content updates from your network of contacts that you're interested in. The search page is incredibly easy to use. Search for your hobbies, interests and people in your professional industry. I follow several interior designers because of my love for decorating and tablescaping. I also follow plenty of recruiters and recruitment bloggers (for obvious reasons). You'd also be surprised by how many celebrities are on Twitter. I follow @Paula_Deen and she keeps me laughing suga! By expanding your network of web connections, you'll quickly learn more about your interests through other's tweets. It's amazing how much I've learned from @cheezhead and @jimstroud. Gain a better perspective by going to the search page and looking at the trending topics. Twitter runs semantic text analysis on tweets to see what everyone is talking about. By reading everyone's view on the top trending topics, you can see past your bubble of contacts and understand world events, pop culture and breaking news through the eyes of others. Twitter's traffic surged during Obama's inauguration while Google and Flickr saw a decrease in traffic. There's something to be said about that! It can be awe inspiring to view a snapshot of such a large group of people across the globe tweeting about events in REAL TIME. Twitter isn't a delayed newscast or a polished blog entry. It's instantaneous. Tweeps broke the news about the crash landing of flight 1549, the Mumbai attacks and provided real time coverage of the presidential election. Most breaking news events have an associated hashtag. Hashtags evolved from the need to create temporary groups on Twitter. To create a hashtag, place the # symbol before the subject you're tweeting about. For example, #inauguration emerged as the main hashtag for the Inauguration. Hashtags enable you to follow all tweets regarding one subject or event. Of course you can also keep current on the happenings of the world by using Twitter bots. There are several news media announcement bots, CNN, ESPN, NBC News... the list goes on and on. These bots simply broadcast a message. There's no interaction required from the Twitter user. Another type of bot is the command bot. These bots require the user to send a direct message in order to get information. Remember The Milk is my favorite direct message bot. If you send it a message with a task that you need to remember to complete, it will send you a reminder. You can even send task to other people. But aside from all its' other uses, Twitter is for fun! I follow @ICHCheezburger for pictures of cats with funny captions. They really are hilarious. So, don't be a Fail Whale, give Twitter a try and discover for yourself all the benefits of being part of such an open global network. I tweet as @KatieNewland and I would love to follow you!

Evaluating the Hiring Process to Maximize On-boarding Initiatives

Many HR professionals don’t realize the on-boarding process begins when a candidate applies for a position or is sourced by a recruiter and not on an employee’s first day. These first interactions between the candidate and your organization set the tone for how they perceive your employer brand.  It’s vital to get off on the right foot!  Two important factors contributing to on-boarding during the hiring process:  the length of time it takes from a candidate’s initial application until an offer/rejection is made and how informed the candidate felt during this time. 

Two leading CHCOs affirm need for employer branding … even (especially) now.

On Tuesday, I heard two top Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) confirm what we have been sharing with our clients as the way ahead in 2012: Even amidst budget issues, agencies and their workforce need to get the story out about their value. In fact, with government employees being slammed as under-worked and over-paid, the present is the best time to show taxpayers the ROI on their taxes and government leaders the ROI they receive from investing in employees. Employees can then genuinely believe their own management finds them worthy of enhancing skills through education and training.