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Talent and HR News Weekly Roundup: Culture + Hiring


Talent and HR News Weekly Roundup: Culture + Hiring

Culture and hiring go hand-in-hand. How can you become a talent magnet but also hire the right people? What does it take to have a winning culture mindset while still remaining true to company values? This week’s curated news offers helpful insight. Enjoy!

1) Winning Companies Lead With A New Culture Mindset from Forbes

“With today’s interactive social media and the real-time Internet, both customers and employees see inside your company easily, so you can’t hide your real company culture. At the same time relationship perceptions have become the biggest drivers to customer loyalty and employee engagement. Thus in every business, big or small, culture can make or break your success...”


Brand Like a CMO: A Recap


Brand Like a CMO: A Recap

Last week, we hosted our inaugural class - Brand Like a CMO - as part of our learning series. We invited speakers from non-HR functions to educate employer brand practitioners on the fundamentals of consumer marketing. Speakers included: Steve Hoeffler, a marketing professor from Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of ManagementMitzi Gaskins, VP of Luxury Brand Management for Marriott InternationalCaroline Frisbee, VP - General Manager for Delk; and Peter LaMotte, Chief Digital Engagement Officer for Levick. Participants came from all over the country (and Canada!) and from a variety of industries. 



How to Think Like a Marketer

It all comes down to marketing. When a political candidate is lobbying for votes, he’s campaigning. I would argue he’s marketing. When a lawyer makes it to partner, she’s no longer practicing law, she’s marketing the firm’s services to bring in new business. When a recruiter is seeking out candidates, he’s recruiting. I call that marketing. We could all use a lesson or two in marketing because it applies to a heck of a lot. Most professionals in the HR space are not trained marketers. But so much of what we do involves the core of marketing. Instead, we think marketing is all consumer facing, but it’s just as important to market a company to both candidates and employees (and even alumni!) as it is to consumers.

We’ve talked about the importance of the link between HR and marketing. To help speak the language a little better, here are some tips to help you think like a marketer when marketing your employer brand.



Why You Should Care About Candidate Experience

We're marketers. That's what we are. Talent acquisition is about promoting opportunities. Driving brand loyalty. Evaluating customer sentiment. Participating in the conversation about our brand. Whether you like it or not, if your game is talent, your playing field is strangely similar to a marketer's. And that because it's all about the experience. Ever find yourself running to post a review on Yelp, TripAdvisor or OpenTable? And when you do--you're always talking about the experience. That's why marketers live to transform the brand experience. It's an operational exercise.  You want to look at every step of the process, get feedback and then look at it again. You want to think big too--how does the experience make the customer think and feel? Would they come again? Is there loyalty there? Would they recommend you to a friend?  Marketers live, eat and breathe all of these things. And so should talent acquisition leaders.

Enter the Candidate Experience Awards. Designed to showcase companies delivering the best in the experience job candidates receive, the Candidate Experience Awards provide insight into an often overlooked part of the talent process--the experience.

I'm lucky to be joining a great collection of HR professionals as part of this year's Candidate Experience Council.  As the Council elevates the importance of candidate experience, we'll be encouraging your organization to apply--because get this--it's not about the award. It's about the experience. "The CandE Award process is a competition, but it is also designed to provide every organization that chooses to participate confidential and specific feedback on how they can improve their candidate experience." Winner or not, you'll get valuable feedback you can't always attain from inside the organization.

Whether you're hearing about this for the first time, or sighing and thinking "Is this really worth my while?" We say yes. Want to know more? Ask me or any of these fine folks joining me on the Council:



Experiential Marketing: Emotion and Employer Brand

Experiential marketing has successfully been used by brands over the past few years to connect with consumers to drive sales and profit. Appealing to a variety of senses, the goal of experiential marketing is to establish the connection in such a way that the consumer responds to a product offering based on both emotional and rational response levels. Are marketers missing an opportunity to make an impact on the employer brand at the same time as using experiential marketing initiatives to build consumer brand equity? The role of experiential marketing in branding:

There’s no doubt that brand is about reputation. It’s what you hear, think and feel about a organization and its product or service--that’s the brand. What’s changed is the role people play in brands. We care more than ever about what other people say about a brand, or how they rate a product. In fact, 2012 marketing data shows that conversion rates are 105% higher when ratings and reviews are used by customers.

It just means that as customers, we’re smarter because information about a product or brand is more accessible. Since that information is there, we use it, we experience the brand before we make a choice.  And marketers are increasingly taking notice of this. I don’t mean social media--we all know marketers are making exceptional use of online channels.  I mean experiences--marketers aren’t just introducing products and brands. They’re giving customers ways to experience the brand in increasingly personal and emotional ways.

Think about it this way--you’re at the grocery store staring at the shelf trying to decide which shampoo to buy. There’s no interaction and likely no emotional component. Instead, you’re just recalling information consciously and subconsciously in your head: commercials you’ve seen, what your friends use, what you’re typically loyal too. Then you make your choice.

But marketers have evolved. They know some things either can’t be sold on a shelf or can’t be sold well. In 2011, Nokia embraced this, launching their Lumia 800 phone with a dazzling 4-D light show featuring the popular cult DJ Deadmau5.  It's a wild show with incredible technology and pull-through marketing from the light show graphics displayed on the side of the buidling to the Deadmau5 ears given to attendees. Recently, Nokia jumped the most it has since 2008 primarily based on sales of the Lumia. Is experiential marketing the culprit? Well, the light show has over 4 million views on YouTube. You be the judge.

Using experiential marketing to build consumer and employer brand equity

Every time a company markets its products, there’s a secondary benefit to marketing the employment experience, especially when employees are a part of the activity. When employees are shown using, endorsing or supporting a product or a brand, it lends extra credence and authenticity. In pay-off terms, this kind of shared marketing saves money and shows employees’ pride and commitment.

Consider The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Long revered for their commitment to service, guests regularly stop employees (called Ladies and Gentlemen) to ask about the service and the little wallet-sized cards they carry around, called Credo cards. Those cards define the way the Ladies and Gentlemen provide service, thus defining both the consumer and the employment experience. If you can’t deliver the service and values dictated on the card, you’re not a ‘cultural fit’ for employment.

Companies are finally starting to take notice the role employees can play. Apple recently revamped their in-store experience to emulate The Ritz-Carlton and it’s working. Great service focused on building a brand experience serves as a foundation for both brand loyalty and career interest.

Beyond the foundation, there are other ways to infuse employees into your marketing experiences that build brand equity. They can be as big as Nokia (imagine if employees were involved in that light show, or there was a coordinated employee follow-up effort after the event?) Or they can be everyday marketing experiences reimagined as employee showcases.  Consider your average trade show. You might have a few employees staffing a booth waiting for interested vendors, buyers or customers, many of whom may have an employee profile similar to what you hire for.

Rethink that traditional booth from stagnant to experiential. Involve hundreds of employees instead of three or four. Position them all over the trade floor, conference center or hotel engaging with those customers in a way that’s both on-brand and innovative. Your marketing team or agency can drive the experience--the point is the difference that it makes. You’re building joint equity and solving for two unique brand challenges at the same time.

Connecting employees to customers to build employer brand equity

Putting your employees at the heart of your consumer brand marketing can have a positive impact on your culture.  Remember it starts at the top! Consider the role Sir Richard Branson’s antics play in building employer brand equity at Virgin Group. Across its companies, Virgin employs approximately 50,000 people, in 34 countries and had global branded revenues of around £13bn ($21bn) in 2011. Virgin believes in making a difference. They stand for ‘value for money’, ‘quality’, ‘innovation’, ‘fun’ and ‘a sense of competitive challenge’. They strive to achieve this by empowering our employees to continually deliver an unbeatable customer experience.

Each company benefits from ‘Brand Branson’ who’s behaviours espouse what Virgin stands for. Articulating ‘a sense of competitive challenge’, in 1991, Branson became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. He traveled nearly 7,000 miles between Japan and Canada, and clocked speeds as high as 240 miles per hour. The trip was fraught with tense moments, including the loss of two fuel tanks. The loss of balloon altitude control caused the crew to reach treacherous altitudes, well over 40,000 feet. Pilot and co-pilot later missed their landing goal by 2,000 miles. Originally headed for Los Angeles, they landed in a remote part of the North Canadian Rocky Mountains instead.

Heineken put their employees in the consumer front line at the Heineken Experience, a brewery tour of the global beer brand located in Amsterdam. The centre is designed to educate the public on the process of pilsner brewing as well as bringing the Heineken product and brand to life. The visitor experience comprises four levels of historical artifacts, product exploration and sampling, and interactive exhibits which employ the latest high-tech multi-media technologies. If you’ve been fortunate to visit the centre, you’ll see just how engaged employees are in the Heineken brand, it’s like being at a college end of year party! But you won’t just see 21 year old employees providing the Heineken Experience, you’ll also see the 40+ somethings getting into the action. Consumers have a great experience and employees have a great experience delivering them an emotional connection to the Heineken brand.

Don’t ignore the associated risks

Putting all your eggs in one basket to connect consumers to your brand through consumer brand marketing involving celebrities or employee ‘brand ambassadors’ is not without risk. Consider every single marketing activity Accenture, a global consulting firm, implemented to build brand equity and then consider the impact on the brand once the Tiger Woods scandal broke. The impact was so great I don’t even need to mention what actually occurred (you probably already know from the global media coverage of the event!). But for those who want to know the intimate details a quick search on Tiger Woods Scandal will help you! Brand equity takes years of hard work to build and can be destroyed in seconds so choose brand ambassadors carefully.

Experiential marketing is not popular (or suitable) in all Industries. Oil and Gas companies have to consider carefully how they build brand equity by involving employees in consumer marketing activities. There is a tendency to ‘play it safe.’  It doesn’t matter what BP does, good or bad, it will be written about, and mostly connected to the 2008 oil spill. It also gets attention on sites not endorsed by the company such as the spoof twitter account @BPGlobalPR which has a following of more than 150,000!

With that in mind, here are 10 tips to harness the power of experiential marketing for your employer brand:

1) Think like a marketer!

To understand the how experiential marketing might work for employer brand, you have to start with the basics of marketing. Whether you work in HR or non-related marketing field, if you don’t have an education in basic marketing, get one before you do anything else.

2) Consider emotion.

As leaders we, ironically, get caught up in the business of what we have to do. From ROI to strategic planning, it’s easy to forget that the business is people. Since marketing is about emotion, it’s important to consider the emotions of your future employees and what matters to them most.

3) Build a relationship with your CMO.

To be effective, the employer brand has to be aligned with the master brand, and there has to be a strong partnership between HR and marketing. It’s important that the CMO sees the value employees can lend to consumer brand marketing and the role HR can play.

4) Understand your workforce.

To best use employees for experiential marketing you have to know them--who the best performers are, who adores and evangelizes the brand, and personal and personal habits. Bottom line--you’ll need some data

5) Evaluate current consumer marketing channels for employee participation.

You don’t have to start from scratch to find experiences to use employees. Look at ways to turn traditional channels (like a commercial) into experiences (live events building on the commercials led by employees).

6) Identify and appoint ambassadors to represent your brand and involve them in your consumer marketing initiatives.

Get your leaders leading from the front! Company founders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Tony Hsieh (Zappos) have had a lasting impact at both the consumer and employer brand level for their organisations which has translated into higher revenues and numerous articles about what a great place they are to work.

7) Build market reach and communicate your distinctive assets.

Make others want to share your photos and videos. It will help you reach passive consumers and candidates by exposing your brand to thousands or millions you may never have considered reaching out to. Just don’t market to your existing loyal users, brand growth will come from those who have very little experience with your brand.

8) Connect with customers already passionate about your brand.

To attract staff to work at their mega store in Sydney, IKEA inserted career instructions inside the famous IKEA flat packs. Customers literally delivered the mailer to themselves. They could then also share it with friends and family and many customers applied to work there! Not only did it talk directly to those who love the brand, it created a whole new media channel – the flat packs themselves. The campaign resulted in 4285 applications and 280 hires with $0 media spend!

9) Let your employees communicate your EVP.

You can’t bluff consumers and candidates! They will react to your behaviours moreso than what you say in your communications. This is where experiential marketing can help. Your behaviours are on full show and consumers will judge you on how you behave.

10) Use experiential marketing to make work more interesting.

Employer Brand International’s latest global research shows interesting work is the number one attribute employees are seeking in the employment experience, the reason why they chose their current employer and why they stay. Each year at HeadHunter, Russia largest online job board, they celebrate with a specially themed event. Not to out do their rockstars event  to celebrate the company’s 11th birthday, their end of year 2011 Bollywood theme party had a major impact on the company’s employer brand, already rated as one of best in Russia’s. Thousands shared their videos and photos from the events reinforcing to their customers why they do business with them!

**** This post is co-witten by with Brett Minchington, Chairman/CEO of Employer Brand International. Brett is an International strategist, corporate advisor and author on employer branding. You can follow him on twitter @brettminch or at



Your Employees Are Your Brand

A company's brand is only as good as its perception in the market. And the same goes for an employer brand. This week my former employer, Marriott International, moved up to #57 on Fortune's Best Places to Work (#1 in companies with more than 65,000 employees). And Sainsbury's, a UK grocery store, promotes being the "first ever food retailer to be awarded a gold accreditation from 'Investors in People'."  And my cousin, a junior in college, told me her professor was handing out these lists in class for internship and job seekers. Don't get me started on lists. Instead, I'd rather talk about action.

Lists are great but to really know a brand and know an employer you need to see it in action. For Sainsbury's for example, the gold accreditation is one thing, but what matters is how the training, support and efforts employers make manifest in the living brand.  Like with Sainsbury's Chris King who responded so cheekily (and lovely) to a young child's letter:

(Full story and bigger image here.) Note the store manager included his age (27 and 1/3). Love that.  Sure, Sainsbury's has a strong commitment to its employees and actually details its progress online. But the real evidence is in actual manifestation of the brand by the employees. Are they acting the brand? Or are they the brand? Chris is.

I'm always looking for those living examples of the brand. And tonight, I saw it again in another Fortune Top 100 regular--the Container Store. Man, do I love the Container Store. A few years ago, we lived in a condo in the city ABOVE a Container Store.  It was a small condo, but I seriously contained everything I possibly could. There was nothing left to contain.

Now we're in a bigger house. And since I have things to contain again, I made my way back to the Container Store in Arlington, VA, and picked up a few things, including a bookcase. I went back to my car and headed home.  Once home, I opened the trunk bookcase. Two sets of golf clubs mind you, but no bookcase. I got back in the car, retraced my steps back to where I thought I might have lost it. Again, no bookcase.

So while my better half drives all the way back to the Container Store (he volunteered, bless him), I call to see if maybe I never put it in my trunk. Maybe I rested it on the sidewalk and someone found it and returned it? Marnie answers the phone, and I embarrassingly explain my dilemma. Sweet as can be she says: "I'm so sorry that happened to you."

She immediately checks to see if anyone returned it and then comes back to the phone apologetic and offering other suggestions for what I could have done with the bookcase. Finally, when I thank her and get ready to end the call, she says: "well, if you decide you want to get another one, you can order it online, and come back, park in the garage and we'll put it in the car for you."

I smiled, laughed, and thanked her profusely. What a nice way to say they'll help ensure that doesn't happen again. And what a living example of the brand.

That's the thing--you can create all the marketing collateral you want and have the best careers site possible. But the employees are the best representation for the company brand and the employee brand.  Companies who solve that equation for both layers of the brand win. I'm not talking testimonials. I'm talking living examples, storytelling that defines the brand in action. Connect the employee to the brand and the brand to the prospective employee. An inextricable link. That's the win.

All of that said, I still have one more piece of furniture to buy for my home office. I guess I have to go back to the Container Store. You're going to have to force me [insert sarcasm here].





The Brand Experiment

Social media means that for the first time, consumers can be so honest and open. They can tell you when you suck and that can spread everywhere.  Their CEOs hate it, but in actuality, it's gold.  Marketers truly know how their products and brand are perceived and the can re-market and re-brand if needed. And that got me thinking. About me. If ask someone flat out: "what do you think of me?" I'm likely to get a vanilla, bland response. Few people have the guts and honesty to tell me the truth. My years in HR have made me pretty self-aware. I know what I can and can't do.  But as I was working on re-branding my website I realized I don't have a good sense of what people really think about my brand.  Brand isn't just skill--it's the entire package, the perception, the "who you are in a moment."

These days, companies seem to be moving away from 360-degree feedback.  They're focused on engagement which is often a measure of managing upwards.  You may get to give feedback on who's above you but you don't have a true sense of those around you. And these days, 360 isn't about the circle, it's 3-dimensional.  Who's in front of you, paving a path for you to follow? Who's behind you with a better idea or solution? And what can you learn from it all? That's where social media comes in.

Social media makes it even more complicated.  It takes who knows you to exponentially new levels.  More feedback, right? Sort of. You can measure who follows you and how often your content is shared. But unless you're Lady Gaga soliciting a reaction from the crowd, it's really hard to measure true sentiment. Honest, real, sentiment that's not a reaction to an incendiary blog post.

I love working. If I didn't I wouldn't have started at 14 and never stopped. I get real value from helping, teaching, innovating, strategizing, problem solving and making sense of chaos.  I get feedback every day--at work, from friends and family and online.  But it still leaves me wondering: what do people REALLY think of me?

It's simple really. There are ten questions. It's totally anonymous. All I ask is that you keep it professional, and keep it honest. Here goes...

commence The Brand Experiment: tell me what you think.



Marketing Moves

My mom’s often mistaken for June Cleaver. Or a track star. In high school I’d come home from practice and find my friends around the table being fed some delicious treat. They didn’t come to see me. Driving around town, she’d often stop the car to pick up someone else’s trash that had blown in the street. Let’s just say my propensity to start baking at 11pm or to clean my house using a patented four-step process comes from this woman who never stops. For a minute. Levitra PillSo it didn’t surprise me when she invented a marketing term.  Let me explain.  Friends of my parents have a son-in-law who’s a doctor and he gave them a few pens. The pen was courtesy of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, maker of Levitra, a competitor to Viagra.  And we all known what those drugs are for, right? They're for the well-known medical issue: E.D.  It’s not just a pen, though, it’s marketing genius.

To see exactly why, you have to think about the product as you watch the video: Levitra Pen.

Turns out, this pen has been around for years. I found video as early as 2006 and commentary since then. So it's been making people talk for five years now.

And after we laughed and laughed (like five-year olds), I remarked to my mom what brilliant word-of-mouth marketing it was (you got the joke, right??). Here was a product we’d normally never talk about (she's really June Cleaver in that sense) and yet there we were talking (giggling) about it.  My mom responded quickly with what she thought was just a comedic gem: “It’s not really word-of-mouth marketing. It’s word-of-motion marketing.”

The thing is, as quick of a retort as my mom has, she’s quick with almost everything she does. And she had a cogent point here.  What gets people talking? Something to watch, movement. Viral content isn’t just about words—something has to move us to watch it. And for us to watch it, something has to move.  Motion means attention. Attention means sharing. And isn't that the point these days? Mom, I think you've just invented a new focus on marketing. It's all about the word-of-motion. Congrats mom. That's your term.