Be an Employment Brand Junkie: My 2014 HCI Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference Take-Away

I love Southwest Airlines; therefore I have a Southwest Visa and avidly watch my points tally up. I have convinced myself my internal energy tank is low without Starbucks in the morning and I have to use my mobile application to pay or else it doesn’t feel right. I own more t-shirts than a sorority sister in her 6th year of undergrad because I elect to represent my teams in Homage gear. And when I receive a Nordstrom Note in the mail it’s as if I was just accepted to my dream college… Every time.

Your employment brand is directly connected to your consumer brand. However, instead of using this vision to sell more plane tickets, you’re using this vision to ensure you have talented folks flying the planes, serving the drinks, checking the bags, and changing travel plans for those who bought that plane ticket.

Employment Brand Quote

Recruiters have been “selling” companies to potential candidates for decades. Employment branding at its core is not new. Showing candidates why they should work at your company is not a new concept. But how you show candidates is changing. Estela Vasquez Perez mentioned three steps to having a successful employment brand:

(1)  Emotional – Connect with your people and potential people.

(2)  Rational – Connect corporate vision with your people and potential people.

(3)  Experiential – Deliver on the employment brand promise you made (nobody likes liars).

Who does this really well? Or at least is on the right track to do this very well? I saw multiple videos at the conference, showing off speaker companies and what it’s like to work there. One stood out and that was Hewlett-Packard. Yes, HP,  the company that has been knocked by many not only for the jet-lagged innovation to Apple in recent years but their revenue numbers have not shown promise either. However, with new CEO Meg Whitman they’ve reassessed their employment brand. HP pulls you in with understanding its history then rationalizes it by showing their inventions of then, now, and the future. And as for the experience part… Guess you’ll have to work there and see if it lives up to expectation.

The job search landscape is competitive. Technology is either crippling your company if you can’t catch-up or lifting your company if you embrace and deliver on it. There is going to be a shortage of talent. High-potentials are going to leave your company. Millennials are knocking on your door. If employment branding wasn’t important before, it certainly is now. It’s no secret these kids are showing up in droves. And guess what?… WE LOVE BRANDS.

We are brand junkies. Don Draper said these famous words on AMC’s Mad Men, “Advertising is happiness.” When you read, listen, or watch an ad, its purpose is to generate happiness leading to a transaction. When you think of a brand, what you remember is how that brand made you feel. I’m only going to say, “Yes,” over and over again to a brand that gets it.

You want the people who come to work for your company to be brand junkies. Make them happy. Get them hooked. Show people what it’s like to work at ___________. Next thing you know they’ll be waving your flag through the streets.

Labor Unions: Who The Heck Is Kain Coulter?

Unions are out of style. Just like kids from suburbia with popped collars. Despite this “behind the times” thinking, The NLRB ruled on March 27th that Northwestern University Football players are employees and can unionize because college football generates enough critical mass in dollars to warrant an employee designation. What makes me uneasy about this?

Northwestern does not bring in the big bucks:

In 2012 the Big Ten generated $315 million in football revenue finishing first atop all other conferences. How much of that did Northwestern account for? As the only private institution in the Big Ten they do not have to report numbers but let’s compare the Wildcats with my Buckeyes.

 ryanfieldSea of red at Ryan Field in Evanston, IL. OSU fans generating revenue for Northwestern.

Stadium Capacity:

  • Ryan Field – 47,000
  • The Shoe – 106,000 (and growing, we need to compete with the Team Up North)

Ticket prices:

Bowl games: (The conference receives a pay day when their teams are not only selected for bowl games but also when their teams WIN the bowl games)

Simply by the numbers, it is clear Northwestern does not bring in revenue anywhere close to others in their conference such as The Ohio State University. They’re a David in a Goliath game.

No one knows who Kain Coulter is:

If you’re going to lead a charge as game changing as this, it might be more credible if people knew your name. The incremental name recognition difference between Kain Coulter and Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Braxton Miller, Aarron Murray, or AJ McCarron is substantial. Even between Kain Coulter and AJ McCarron’s girlfriend for that matter. 

kaincoulterKain Coulter announcing the formation of the College Athletes Player’s Association 

It’s similar to running a political campaign; you have to be influential in your field in order to be a game changer. If Kain Coulter was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, with say the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, do you think the Browns would have sold 1200 season tickets in the next four hours? I think not. If Johnny Manziel was fighting for CAPA everyone might pay a little more attention.

Universities are still academic institutions (that make money, A LOT of it):

Why do schools like Ohio State exist? Outside of what our moral beliefs are about education might be, let’s talk dollars because that’s what this “union” is about.

While I will be at each home game this year for the Buckeyes and I thoroughly enjoy football Saturdays, it’s only a small portion of what these universities do, even in terms of the pocket book.

I’m over unions like I’m over American Idol.

Granting the athletes a union is a Band-Aid. It is another public acknowledgement of the exploitation of college athletes. It’s real. It’s happening. However, will a union really solve the problem? The NCAA isn’t going to listen until the college football powerhouse schools start to make moves. Until then, let the debate continue.

4 Ways Talent Management Programs Can Learn From Millennials

If you take a holistic view of the workforce and use a little math, it can be determined that millennials are the closest in age to their childhood. Your 20-somethings within your organization are fresh off the “becoming an adult” train and who knows, maybe some of your 30-somethings are too. 

For as much as we millennials love the future and being on the cutting edge of technology, pop culture, and style (for those fashionistas out there) we also love looking back at ourselves, seeing how we grew up and remembering “that one night when…” As technology continues to shape how millennials operate in the workforce it’s also enabling a generation to say, “Remember when…” and track moments in time that would otherwise be overlooked.

Talent Management Programs continue to grow in popularity. When an organization is ready to develop their talent as well as focus on engagement and retention, a TM Program is usually looming overhead. Charts, graphs, feedback outside of the “annual review” from the supervisor, virtual high fives, those are… “Okay,” as Juan Pablo from The Bachelor would say. But if you look at how millennials are tracking their own lives… maybe there’s something to be learned.

1. TimehopThis is an app you connect to all of your social media outlets. Timehop aggregates posts, pictures, Tweets, places you’ve “Checked-In” and tells you what was going on in your life one year ago, two years ago, and three years ago today. Similar to SportsCenter saying “Today in sports history…” We can now say, “Today in my history…” Pretty cool, huh?

Timehop Example

2. SpotifyI now have every ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys album at my fingertips. Music gets old fast these days. If I have to hear “Blurred Lines” or “Cups” one more time I might give up on the radio. But, the #throwbacks – those stay forever. You want to listen to J. Lo or 2Pac? Maybe even LFO, Third Eye Blind, or Blink 182? Go right on ahead. 

Spotify Example

3. ‘Look Back’ Videos: For Facebook’s 10th anniversary Facebook users could create a ‘Look Back’ video. A ‘Look Back’ video selected unrelated posts and pictures from people’s profiles, put it to music, and told their 10-year (or less) story in a one-minute snip it. It is a potpourri of your life and brings back sentimental feelings connecting you to your family, friends, milestones in your life, but also the days you were just hanging out watching football with your dog.

Look Back Example

4. BuzzFeed Junkies: Who needs news? I could scroll through BuzzFeed all day to remind me of what I loved as a kid and a teen.

I know I’ve taken a risk posting these links as those with short attention spans have already clicked and are on to another window but for those who haven’t I will close the blog.

BuzzFeed Example

Why is this important in today’s workplace? Think about if you were able to track employees careers like they track their personal life. Wouldn’t it be cool to Timehop that one day you won your biggest account? When you hired your CEO as an intern and now he’s calling the shots? Why not add ways to ‘Look Back’ and show your history, where you came from and where you’re headed?

Incorporating a similar type of platform could remind valuable, top talent why they joined, stayed, and want to continue growing within your organization. 

Why is Human Capital a Top Challenge in 2014? Again.

CEO’s have once again listed human capital as their top challenge for 2014. Woo hoo! Victory for HR! And what specifically are they worried about? 1. Insufficient talent coming in and 2. Insufficient leadership talent.  This all sounds great right? Focus on your people, develop your people, and you will move your business forward. We can now wash our hands of this and move onto “real business activity.” I say wait a minute…

Unknown

Did CEO’s just recently find out that even an automated process had to be created by a person? Is corporate America unaware that the movie “her” is a fictitious film? Outside of the beginning of time, regardless of how you think that came to be, every product, service, or idea came from someone’s mind. This logic makes it seem necessary to declare that PEOPLE MATTER. If people didn’t exist there would be no products, services, or ideas. And voila, I give you the year 2014 and the biggest challenge in a CEO’s mind is still human capital, but why?

We as humans have this inherent uncertainty and that level of uncertainty is magnified when your name is tied to the bottom line of your business, Mr. or Mrs. CEO. There’s pressure for your people to perform. Can you trust them? You want to… but there’s just something that’s keeping you from fully committing.

We can find this inherent uncertainty when we watch historical events. One thing we cannot change is history, unless you have a Delorean of course. However, as we watch instant history replays, we know the outcome and yet we may still be unsure if that outcome will come to fruition. Don’t believe me?

Example 1: Argo

In the film, as the hostages and Ben Affleck’s character were navigating the airport in Iran, slowly making their way through security with bogus identification, I was clenching the armrest in the movie theater, probably perspiring, and unknowingly grinding my teeth, rooting for the fake film crew to make it out of Iranian airspace. Well folks, they made it! The only problem is, I already knew they would make it, everyone did. However, if you were recording a video of me watching you would have thought I was watching live events on a newscast.

Christipher-Dunham-Clea-Du-Vall-Tate-Donovan-Rory-Cochrane-Kerry-Bishe-and-Scott-McNairy-in-Argo

Example 2: 1983 National Championship NC State Buzzer Beater

I have probably watched the clip of the three-point prayer thrown up by Dereck Whittenburg, that is then snatched out of the air by Lorenzo Charles and dunked for the win about 124 times. Yet again, here I am wondering if the prayer will fall to the ground, short of the bucket. Maybe this time Charles isn’t around? Maybe this time, Houston boxes out? Nope. NC State wins every time.

062811lorenzocharles_crop_north
Example 3: Nik Wallenda

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this is the guy who walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope in June of last year. It was a television event on the Discovery Channel garnering 8.5 million viewers. The big players in TV were reluctant to show a live account, as they were uncertain if Mr. Wallenda would fall to his death. If you can watch a replay of this event and not have your heart rate spike as he’s wobbling 1500 feet above the ground, I congratulate you and also question whether or not the FBI has trained you. It’s one of the most stressful and anxious videos to watch and you more than likely were shifting your weight back and forth on the couch as you completed the feat yourself. I know I did.

Nik Wallenda

We as human beings are unsure of events that are already written in history. Let alone relying on a company, department, or team of people who are responsible for delivering results that do not exist yet. CEO’s are concerned because they understand they need their people. But people are scary and a challenge. It’s not enough to state human capital is a challenge; the true question is what are we doing about it?

You can never be 100% sure you are acquiring, developing, and retaining the best. But, what you can do is commit time and resources to finding and using better information to increase your chances of doing so.

After all, your people matter.

Business Majors: Be Unique in 2014 or Be Overlooked

More than 20% of U.S. bachelor’s degrees awarded are in the field of business. Let’s put this in perspective – I went to a tiny university (with a great women’s basketball program obviously) and an enrollment of right around 2200. There are close to 60 different majors. Really, how do you pick what is right for you? Let’s magnify this, if I were to walk down the street to the Goliath of state schools, The Ohio State University, with an enrollment of over 50,000 – there are hundreds of majors. With 1/5 of all undergraduate degrees coming from the same field and hundreds of options out there, how is it that “Business” has taken the millennial generation by storm.

Well we as Americans take pride in capitalism. I think. And then enter technology? The possibilities are endless to become the next big business mogul. Right?  If you find yourself in that 20%, about 400,000 per year (wow), my question is how do you differentiate? Numbers never lie, like the ESPN show will attest, and the market is clearly saturated with “you people,” myself included. Not to mention the other hundreds of thousands who will take jobs in business who didn’t even major in business! Shocking, I know.

228457_10150597359605647_1864873_n

How do you stand out as 1 in 400,000+? That’s a tough question but there might be a few things you can tweak and make your own. Be authentic, maybe a geek in your own way. Your educational institutions want you to be successful, but not just you, they want every person in your degree program to do well. It’s good for PR of course. In turn you’re all getting relatively the same advice as your peers regarding your resume, how to interview, how to dress, social media etiquette, dining etiquette, networking tactics, and last but not least – a firm handshake. And if you don’t have the firm handshake by now my fellow business majors, I might be a little weary. Below are some tips you might not typically hear.

Tips a non 20-something might not tell you:

1. Orange is the new black: In no way am I advocating imprisonment, but I think it can relate to what is considered acceptable “business attire.” I’m over the black or navy suit requirement. Let’s be honest, when you walk into a career fair for business majors it feels stiff. How many box-like dark pieces of clothing can we wear? Maybe even take a page out of RGIII’s book and find some creative socks.

rg3_supermansocks

2. Your resume: Have you followed what your educational institution has put forth as a template? Insert name here, company, appropriate bullet points, etc. This might not be a “novel” idea but has it occurred to you that everyone else in your class will be giving recruiters the same dull sheet of paper? Again, you don’t have to go over board, but it’s reasonable to put a little more creative thought into the piece of paper that defines your career.

3. Time for questions: At the end of an interview the interviewer will typically ask, “Do you have any questions?”  The hand-me-down questions of “Why did you choose to work here?” are just fine. I’m sure you’ll get some decent, valuable information. But, it might be a good idea to sit down and truly think about the company and the person you’re interviewing with. Be creative. These questions will be custom to the opportunity you’re interviewing for and if you want some specific tips, you know where to find me.

These items seem simple but that’s the point. You don’t want to be drastically out of this world, but these kinds of details can make a difference. When you’re out in the job market give us business majors a little uniqueness, a little more credibility in the “think outside the box” department. You don’t need to be in web design, performing arts, social sciences, mass media, or any other field where it’s okay to bend the rules a little in order to be authentic and creative.

Business majors unite.

Millennials: Will Work Well In Groups

Myth/Overused Stereotype #146 about Millennials: they are known for collaboration and to be fluid team players. A trait that could be mapped to the current education system consistently promoting group work; so let me get this straight, we currently have a narcissistic generation who also likes to collaborate and work with a team? That seems somewhat unhealthy. Maybe even an oxymoron or more realistically, a group that cannot and will not operate efficiently and effectively.

I’m not quite sure how many “group projects” you’ve worked on, but in my high school and college experience (2003-2011, prime formative GenY years) a group project was met with anxiety, rolled eyes, and immediate over-the-shoulder looking to evaluate if the “worst” person you could potentially work with truly isn’t “that bad,” right?

What caused this change in the education system? Why are we now completing more group projects than in the past? It’s simple mathematics, if I’m a teacher or professor… Do I want to grade 23 papers or 4 papers? Hum… I’ll take 4. And yes, I went to a private liberal arts school and it is possible to have only 23 people in a class. Disclaimer: if any of my business professors are reading this – I truly did enjoy my time and don’t judge me for wanting to get A’s on your group projects. All in a day’s work. I loved my time at Mount.

When you go to a Division III private liberal arts school, you have to take majestic photos.

When you go to a Division III private liberal arts school, you have to take majestic photos.

Now that we’ve discussed one reason why there is a shift to group work, let’s assess how these group projects truly work.

Cast: The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever, Slacker #1, Slacker #2, and Will Follow Orders

The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever reads the assignment and delegates work. Will Follow Orders completes minimal research on Wednesday and sets up a second group meeting on Thursday, the day before the assignment is due. Slacker #2 doesn’t show up to the meeting, Slacker #1 wants to makes sure they get the grade and asks, “So what part of the presentation am I doing?” And The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever has already put together the entire project to be delivered the next day.

If you’re wondering… I may or may not have played the first role of The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever sans Annoying of course.

At the end of the day a class project results in a grade.  The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever is only worried about chasing an “A” and truly does not care how he/she gets there. Does this promote great group work? You can be the judge. If you played The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever in school, you despised group work. If you played any other role, you loved group work. Simple.

So when does it make sense to engage in group work at the office?

When Group Work Works for Millennials:

  • They’ve had time to ideate alonegroupthink is powerful, I’d argue too powerful to overlook with a group of 20 something’s.
  • A clear business challenge or innovative approach will be discussed – chasing a grade is easy, but finding a solution as to why company “x” is spending too much money on base compensation for their sales people has an ambiguous result – we don’t know exactly what we’re chasing and therefore, we have to stretch.
  • It comes sparingly – when working in a group it’s a chance to dig out from the “cube life.” If you do something too much it loses meaning. Very similar to praise, don’t just do it because Milennials supposedly “thrive” in that environment. But rather view it as, hey, it’s nice to every once in a while talk to other humans. Even more so when you’re getting paid to actually talk about an innovative approach or solve a problem.

If you’re in GenX or a Baby Boomer, don’t take my word for it or even one of the 808,000 Google results for (“millennials” AND “group work”), ask one of your millennial co-workers about their group projects in high school and college. That will result in some valuable water cooler talk, not to mention hopefully it’s entertaining.

4 GenY Misconceptions About Mentoring

As millennials we’re not only green (aka young, inexperienced, naiive… you get it) when it comes to skill sets needed in a job but the real issue is we’re green to full-time work in general. This creates a perfect storm for 20-somethings and we simply just don’t know what we don’t know.

I currently serve on the board of the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) as the VP of Student Services. My responsibilities include the organization and execution of our mentoring program for college students. Last week I was preparing to speak to students about joining HRACO and I began to think about why GenY might balk at the thought of mentorship.

Misconception #1: Making a decision might be worse than Chipotle running out of steak right before they close and it gives me anxiety.

chipotle

When individuals say you need to find a mentor, it’s singular. As a 24 year-old millennial, how am I supposed to pick just one mentor? What if I pick the wrong one? What if I don’t think I have the time? What if someone recommends me the wrong person? What if I want two or three mentors? The idea of choosing “My Mentor” is daunting and therefore I refuse to even look into it because of the “what ifs.”

Truth: Getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do. Decisions really aren’t that bad. You can have one or more mentors and if it’s not an “epic” experience, that’s ok. If you pick up just one nugget of information it’s an experience that is moving your forward.

Misconception #2:  I’m young, wild, and free like the retro 2011 song says. I have plenty of time.

Three months ago I had my two-year anniversary at work and if you do the math, with a retirement age of 65, I have 41 years left in my career. 41 years? I’ll get a mentor when I’m 30. I can wait.

Truth: So my question would be what happens when you’re 30? Is that when your career jumpstarts? It might be. But, be content with knowing others started at 22 and you’re now 8 years behind. #sorryimnotsorry

Misconception #3: “Older” folks know nothing about technology and that’s what runs the world, please tell me what I can learn from them.

I have a co-worker who has asked me multiple times to help show him how to forward text messages. I tie both hands behind my back, close my eyes, rap “Ice Ice Baby,” hop on one foot and forward the text at the same time, thinking to myself… “For real?” I guess by definition he could be a mentor but he can’t even use his own phone. On to the next one.

Truth: Don’t hate me for this… but you can only learn so much from YouTube. For example, ask YouTube how to merge a PDF. Do not ask YouTube if it can put you in touch with the VP of HR at your dream company. Whether or not a mentor has the latest app has about as much bearing on his/her ability to teach you rapport-building skills, how to build your network, or organizing/prioritizing tasks as the players on a Cleveland roster have on winning a championship. None.

indians

Misconception #4: When I step off the stage at graduation, nothing can stop me from taking over the world.

When I graduated, there was nothing I “couldn’t” do. My parents let me believe if you work hard enough you can get anywhere you want to go. Why would I ask for help? That’s admitting I can’t do it alone and that does not fall in line with my narcissistic ways.

Truth: You’re creating a new marketing plan, you have a meeting to present it to your supervisor tomorrow, and you do it all by your lonesome. All you have as a reference are the three marketing classes you took in college, where you were on Twitter 87% of the lecture and the other 13% of the time you looked up occasionally to make sure the professor was really only using the PowerPoint. In which case you need not pay attention at all, just tally up another “I showed up” in the attendance books and save the studying for the night before your test when you print the PowerPoint and take a quick read-through.  How much about marketing do you REALLY know? Maybe someone who’s done this before could give you some tips? Just a thought.

Whether or not you formally call someone a “mentor” is not the issue. What is important is that we seize opportunities to learn from those with experience. It could be a formal program, a meeting with your professor, or lunch with a co-worker.

I’m not trying to crush dreams. Please feel free to be successful. Just know you might need a few others along the way.