Bad Brands Can’t Recruit, Good Brands Can

Last week, I interviewed Larry Hernandez – no ordinary recruiter. Larry has worked at some amazing brands that anyone would want to recruit for (regardless of whether you work there): Zappos, USAA and now Rackspace. I wanted to get his thoughts on brandful recruiting. Below is part of our conversation. It was too long to include everything, but here is one of my favorite quotes from Larry:

When you are in the business of recruiting great people and you don’t have a positive brand you are left with a purely transactional relationship.

Conversation:

Julia: Larry, you’ve recruited for some top brands, describe your experience as a recruiter for each company, including the similarities and differences.

Larry: All three do a really good job of indoctrinating employees with a strong orientation program (1 -4 weeks) before reporting to your team. Getting a strong foundation in core values, company history, basic company org chart, along with leaders/founders making an appearance is a great way to start with a new employer. This may not sound like a big deal but you would be surprised how many employers just drop new employees into teams on day one. (Julia as an aside: Any of you do this?)

USAA – When I think of USAA a couple of things come to mind. Slow and deliberate. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but when you combine military traditions with insurance and banking you get a very conservative culture that is about as averse to risk and change as they come. .

Because USAA must comply with OFCCP guidelines, recruiting is very cumbersome and process oriented. There are a lot of hard working and amazing people in the talent acquisition team but jumping through the OFCCP’s hoops is not easy on any process. That being said, no other organization takes their members (customers) to heart more than USAA.

Zappos – Now take everything I said about USAA and turn it upside down. Zappos has what I call a “West Coast” feel to it. “Zappos is that crazy Aunt you have that let’s you stay up late and eat cake for dinner.”

Core Values are engrained into every employee in the four-week new hire orientation/training program. Volumes have been written about their commitment to customer service and culture so I won’t go in depth. I will say that Zappos is the only company I know that makes every employee learn, train, and actually work as a customer service rep with live customers for one to two weeks out of the initial 4 week training.

The company and employees have a very warm heart. I’m not trying to get mushy but people at Zappos really care about you as a person. Zappos is a “touchy feely” kind of place where people of all walks of life can just be themselves.

With that being said, everything comes at a price. Getting things done sometimes comes second to a myriad of events, parties, and miscelaneous madness, which can make professional development a challenge.

Rackspace – I see Rackspace as the middle child of these three. From the outside Rackspace and Zappos look a lot alike but they function differently. Rackspace has a strong sales culture and what I mean is that they are results oriented. “Play hard as soon as your work is done” is how I see it at Rackspace.

2) Does a great brand help you recruit? If so, how?

Oh yes, a strong brand goes a long way. From a recruiting standpoint, all three companies are flooded with applications and all three hire about 1-3% of the people that apply.

3) Why did you choose to become a recruiter at each one of these companies?

Everyone gets to a point when they want to be a part of something bigger and better. If you are good at what you do, you might as well do it some place that is known for an amazing culture (brand).

4) Do you believe it’s important to hire folks that are behind the brand? Why or why not?

It is the most important thing! It is hard to get consistent engagement from people if they are not behind the brand.

5) Should every company do it? Why or why not?

Every company has a brand. Some just decide to own it. What’s left when you have a bad brand? When you are in the business of recruiting great people and you don’t have a positive brand you are left with a purely transactional relationship.

In every industry there is a food chain for talent. It is very hard to get into these three companies (USAA, Zappos, & Rackspace) so people hone their skills and start building a solid reputation at other companies with weaker brands and work there way up the food chain.

Unfortunately, the way the majority of employers build their compensation models, the only way for “A” players to get market value is to move up that food chain of employers.

6) How do you think companies can identify folks that are behind the brand?

First and foremost it is important to close the gap between your external brand and internal brand. Since brand and culture are living things that are always changing, knowing and communicating the current state of your internal brand to potential employees is key. It doesn’t do any good to recruit and hire people under a false pretense.

Referrals from existing employee is nice since people who know the internal brand tend to filter out any mismatches before refering them.

We (recruiters) listen for traces of brand and culture matches through the recruiting process.

7) What are some of the positive outcomes of hiring brandful candidates?

If someone you are trying to recruit already respects and admires the brand you represent, half the battle is won.

Any downside?

It’s funny you asked. We use words like Brand (to be stamped or branded) and Culture (shares same Latin root as cult – cultus) to describe what we associate and experience with these companies. http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/brands-recruit-good/All three of these amazing organizations get criticized for being “cultish” and that can turn people off.

8) What do you think the future holds for recruitment as it pertains to a brandful company?

If your organization doesn’t already have dedicated resources to communicate the employer brand as we speak, they are behind in the war for talent. The real question is what do companies with bad brands do?

Check out Larry’s blog and more about brandful recruiting in my book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand. Read more Brandful posts.

New Survey Searches for Brandful Companies

Recently I interviewed some job seekers. Some were just starting out in their careers and some were mid-career. My key question: “Have you ever thought about working at your favorite brand?” Most of the respondents hesitated at first. They gave me the head-tilt, with that look of “Hmm, I’ve never really thought of it that way.” Most folks start out with their skills and interests in a specific job or career, and yes, that’s good. But sometimes it’s advantageous to put on a different pair of glasses and check out a fresh perspective.  You never know what added value you can bring an organization looking to build a workforce of brand ambassadors. Your voice counts more than ever towards the power of the brand.

But, how can you find organizations that really want you to be involved in the brand? We’re trying to provide some solutions and we’re almost there. This summer, we will be publishing our first list of top brandful companies, and no, it’s not a popularity contest. There are real metrics providing scores and rankings, based on advanced social media analytics. We are looking at those brands that have the most powerful and genuine employee and customer advocates. The methodology allows us to score any organization, but here’s where you come in:

You can have a say in who gets a brandful score. Complete the Brandful Consumer Survey and help determine who gets on the list. For our launch, we are limiting companies to a minimum of 1,000 employees, however post-launch we will be expanding to smaller companies and to other entities such as cities, government agencies and more. Please share this link and stay tuned for the results!

While you’re here, please look around the site, read my book (The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand) and my other posts. Brandful is a win-win for employers and employees. Stay connected and stay brandful.

Launching Top Brandful Companies

Future Brand Winners Are Brandful

Top Brandful Companies Coming Summer 2015

Leaders work long and hard to build winning brands. The challenge is to constantly and meaningfully engage customers and employees as their interests change quickly. Is your corporate success going to last? Some of the top brands of today may not be around tomorrow. But brandful brands just might be.

Since launching the Brandful Workforce – a roadmap for getting employees behind the brand, not against it – we began to see that brandful also has incredible value for others. Not just employees, but customers, vendors, contractors, investors and others can get actively behind the brand. And that’s what a brandful company is all about. The concept is simple: Every organization wants folks to love and promote what they’re all about.  If you agree with that, then you agree that every organization should be brandful.

Some companies that have been named in focus groups as brandful include: Apple, Google, Costco, Tesla, Patagonia, Zappos and smaller brands like the optical company, Warby Parker or Union Square Hospital Group (founders of Union Square Café and Shake Shack, which just had a successful IPO.). But are they really brandful? What value does this bring? Who else could be added to this list? Look out for our upcoming social media research that is reviewing hundreds of brands to score and rank them according to the level of overall brand advocacy. We will be reporting the top scores and reporting what makes these companies brandful and how the measures can introduce unique insights into current and future business success.

Some believe that companies that make the Top Brandful Companies list may be the same names on other lists. But that won’t be the case. The differentiator here is that brandful companies are not just about engaging the customer or employee, but they involve everyone connecting meaningfully with the brand. This is not only about being a top place to work, or having the best customer service or most engaged audience – it’s a combination of all of it. When a company is brandful- there is a contagious passion for what the company offers and what the company stands for. Brandful companies have both employee and customer brand fans actively spreading positive messages.

Yes, it’s a high hurdle, but hey- it’s 2015. It means you have to get everything right. Not just your external branding, advertising positioning, but your internal operations, leadership and culture. It’s a holistic approach that is timely because our millennial generation is already onboard with it. They want more transparency, authenticity and meaning as both consumers and employees. Brandful companies provide that. They also drive real content. http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/You don’t have to make up the advertising stories, when you can use the real ones. When I worked in the airline industry, we used to joke that television drama was nothing compared to real life.

Launching Top Brandful Companies

Top Brandful Companies will be live this summer. After the launch, our proprietary tool can be used to score almost any kind of organization at any point in time.  The insights from the results can help identify barriers as well as actions to becoming brandful.

Want to know if your company is brandful? Read more.

2014 Most Brandful Moment

Only a few more hours until 2015.  Quick: What was your most memorable moment of 2014?

Mine was a brandful moment: Rolling out brandful to a new audience.

Looking back on 2014, one of my favorite projects was working with DeVry Institute to provide some brandful resources to their community of students and alumni.  Prior to the engagement, I had an idea of what DeVry was all about but after getting a deeper inside view of this educational organization, with over 90 campuses, nation-wide, I now understand more fully the value of the DeVry brand.  They have a sweet spot for mid-career folks who are working and want to make a change for the better. I believe this population is growing, especially as the average job tenure is only about three years. Top that with longer average life spans, working retirees, a growing trend for multiple changing careers, and DeVry’s business model, which includes affordable education, and you can see that they are well-positioned for success.

DeVry was excited about introducing their students and alumni to the concept of brandful as a new career trend. Instead of just looking for any old job, the idea is to look for an organization that you believe in, first.  So just as employers want to find the right brandful employees, job-seekers also should proactively look for their own match that aligns with their personal brand.

I spoke to faculty, students, alumni and administrators about their views on a brandful career path, its importance and relevance to career success and how they could go about becoming brandful. The conversations were enlightening and thought-provoking. I started out by asking each person to talk about their current job, their field of study and career. It was a typical conversation. Then came the curve question:

“What are some of your personal favorite brands?”

That’s when their eyes would light up and the smile would come on. Hmmmm. They would think with grins. Then they would start naming companies, both big and small, whatever came to mind.  Just as they would get on a roll with the list, I came with the punch:

“Have you ever considered working at any of these companies?”

The grin turned to a look of wonder and then fireworks. Why has nobody really thought of a career in this way? Most answered: “I don’t know, but they should!”

Some of the folks with whom I spoke, left with an enthusiasm for a renewed career approach and ideas on where they can bring value beyond the specific job. I also left with greater drive for the future of brandful. http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/Witnessing the personal lightbulb moments was quite powerful. I look forward to many more of these in 2015.

Stay tuned for upcoming 2015 launches including Top Brandful Companies List and the New York City Brandful Tour.  Have a Brandful New Year!

How Employee and Customer Fans Make IKEA Brandful

I’m always on the lookout for brandful examples. Recently, I spoke to Rich D’Amico, Deputy Marketing Director, IKEA USA  to find out the inside scoop on the IKEA brand and how they create both employee and customer brand advocates. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Julia Gometz: A brandful company has internal and external brand advocates. Do you have different strategies for employees and customers on how they can promote your products, or are they integrated? Can you explain the strategy?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: We are a values driven company with a passion for life @ home. We have a very thorough understanding of how customers live at home. We spend a lot of time in consumers’ homes really understanding their needs, dreams and desires. We use these insights to provide products and solutions that help to make their lives better. We like to call this co-creation, working with consumers to provide beautiful, functional, sustainable, good quality products and solutions that are affordably priced. Presently we have 5 IKEA co-workers travelling the country (our Home Tour squad) working with consumers in different cities to solve their home furnishings challenges. Our co-workers in all of our stores have a solid understanding of how, consumers in their local markets, live @ home and translate that knowledge into solutions that meet their customers’ needs. I would say that the strategies are closely integrated.

Julia Gometz: What is IKEA’s philosophy on its workforce? Do they help define the brand? Who comes first: the employees or the customers?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: IKEA is a values driven company with a very strong living culture. The IKEA business idea, culture and values are all connected. This reflects a caring and honest approach to partnering with our co-workers ( we call ourselves co-workers) and a way to move the business forward. They are founded on a simple thought that what is good for the customer is also in the long run good for our business. Each customer interaction with IKEA and our co-workers helps to define the brand. Our objective is to ensure that each touch point is a positive experience for the consumer. Our co-workers and customers/consumers are at the center of everything we do.

Julia Gometz: Part of the roadmap to building a brandful workforce calls for brandful recruiting – or hiring employees who genuinely love your products. Do you do this? If so, how?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: We’re a diverse group of down-to-earth, straightforward people with a passion for home furnishing. We come from all over the world but we share an inspiring vision: “to create a better everyday life for the many people”. How we realize this vision is based on our shared humanistic values. These values are the foundation of our work and our inclusive, empathizing, open and honest culture. Working with us is like working with your friends. Our culture is based on the spirit of togetherness, enthusiasm and fun. And we’re always looking for people who share our positive attitude and values.

Julia Gometz: I read that egos are not tolerated among the IKEA workforce. I found this to be quite avant-garde. Not many companies specify what they don’t want in their workforce. How has this worked in your favor and has there been any downside to this approach?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: Working together as a team allows us to achieve great things. We see everyone as a talent and that approach allows us to develop our co-workers and the business.  You can always be yourself, everyone has a voice and it’s a company that encourages open dialogue. IKEA wants diverse co-workers that can help build on that culture – straightforward and down-to-earth people with a willingness to learn. Another thing that is part of our culture is that it is ok to make mistakes as long as we learn and grow from them.

Julia Gometz: What are some stories of customers and employees promoting one of your products or services?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: There are many and you can see them yourself on IKEA’s Youtube channel where we have many videos of our Home Tour Squad deployed across the country helping individuals and families improve life at home. One example was Sandra in Center City, Philadelphia who had moved into a small apartment from a large house. She was having trouble using a small space as a living room and dining room. The squad came in and helped her out!  You can see what happened in Episode 111.

Julia Gometz: Tell us more about your personal story of how long you’ve been working at IKEA, why you joined, and your accomplishments there. What’s your personal favorite IKEA product and why?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: I have been with IKEA for almost 25 years. I joined the company because I really liked the values and culture. I was looking for a place where I could be myself and work together with talented people to achieve big goals. I have helped grow the business from just a few stores to 40 stores. My favorite IKEA product is my IKEA kitchen! It is beautiful, functional and makes the heart of my home an inspiring and great place to hang out.

Julia Gometz: Thanks for the interview Rich. On my own personal note, I love IKEA. http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/My first experience was as a child at the IKEA in Ottawa, Canada, and I vividly remember jumping into the ball pit. Now, I love going to the IKEA in Long Island with my family.

Read more Brandful Workforce blog posts or purchase your copy of the book: The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand.

To see a clip from the television show, Ellen, where she plays a fun IKEA game that will make you laugh, check out the segment below.

The Future Is Now…No Now

I recently spoke at The Learning Forum’s gathering called, The Future of Innovation and The Work of Innovation, held at Convene’s newest conference center in lower Manhattan . Key takeaway: The future is here. It used to be that the future was very far off, say fifty years down the road. Now, we invent the future every day and advancements are much quicker than ever.

I can’t think of a better organizer for this topic than my colleague, Brian Hackett. He brings executives together on key topics like analytics, innovation and learning, to discuss challenges and wins, directly with one another. His forum is effective because there’s nobody trying to sell anything, only meaningful dialog that adds value to what you’re doing.  As well, members join for a year or more at a time and meet three times per year, so when you attend a forum, you can continue conversations and check in on progress. This kind of format attracts those executives who make good peers. This means they are not only willing, but prepared to share their expertise to help others. As well, they truly want to engage, ask questions and gain insights from the rest of the group, as it relates to their current and future goals.

At the latest session, one participant commented that he has stronger relationships with peers at The Learning Forum than with his peers at his company. I’m not sure whether things are bad at his workplace or just exceptional at The Learning Forum, but it’s interesting to note.

Food for thought from the conference:

  • Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation in the future.

It has already been proven by neuroscientists that intrinsic motivation leads to better performance than extrinsic motivation.  This explains why there is a current shift toward culture as a key component of success. Traditional means of attracting employees with pay and incentives continue to be questioned as emphasis on culture, values and purpose continue to rise as top motivators of performance. This supports the brandful approach of employing people because of their genuine interest in the products and services, which expands the criteria for selecting and retaining employees. Having employees participate in the evolving brand is the highest form of intrinsic motivation, as they are creators of the success.

  • Employees versus contractors

Some discussion focused on the trend to hire more contractors and temporary workers as opposed to employees. What does this mean for the future workforce? How will this impact productivity and engagement? The ability to quickly integrate workers in and out of the organization seamlessly, regardless of their status will be critical.  As well, a strong brand (internally and externally) will be an important component of this process.

As a side note, I met with an executive at American Express this week who commented that LinkedIn’s talent brand index was unhelpful as it calculates the strength of your brand based on activity from your employees on LinkedIn. With 50,000 recruiters who are not employed by American Express, the index is not helpful.

  • Paying employees to learn versus hiring expertise externally

It’s not as easy as before to hire externally. Someone with a top track record at another company doesn’t necessarily spell success at your organization. As well, there’s not a lot of great talent pool out there as new skills are constantly needed. I learned from the Dell innovation team, in attendance, that it may be easier than you think to build the talent yourself. But it clearly takes a visionary and eye for potential talent within the organization. I was intrigued to learn that Dell pulled a team from across the organization (highly intelligent folks) and paid them to learn for the first number of months. That’s the investment part, however most companies pay as much to headhunters. Dell’s innovation team struck me as being on the forefront of innovation and they had only been in existence for four years.  Great example for anyone interested in doing the same.

  • Creativity and Value has no boundaries

Who could imagine that a global company like Lowe’s would hire a start-up science fiction innovation company to help plan their future? Kudos to Ari Popper, Founder of SciFutures, who spoke at the conference about his incredible approach to envisioning the future and creating it.  There are no boundaries to what might interest today’s CEOs as they are all challenged to maintain an edge on the competition. Watch the news to see the fruits of his work.

Finally, I can’t end this post without mentioning my colleague Andrew Tow, who shared some of his wine from The Withers Winery at the evening reception. For someone like me who cannot hold alcohol very well, I was able to enjoy his low alcohol-high flavor wine thoroughly. Now that I’m done with this, I think I’ll have a little more.

Send me your thoughts about the future of innovation and the work of innovation. Don’t forget to check out some other blog posts from The Brandful Workforce. Purchase the book.

Brandful Approach Gains Momentum

Last week, I spoke to a fantastic group of Long Island human resource professionals who understood the value the workforce can bring to the brand.

While I do give a lot of presentations, I enjoy customizing my message and content for each unique audience. When deciding what to include for this group, I carefully reviewed my materials including videos, stories, and company examples. I decided to feature one of my favorite videos from Clear Vision Optical, a small Long Island-based company of 250 employees, that designs and distributes eyewear for all ages. The video offers a quick peak of what can happen when an organization has a brandful workforce. While companies can spend thousands of dollars on a single video (or even millions for a series of videos), brandful employees have the genuine desire to create their own videos that come across as more authentic than corporate-produced versions.

As I passionately spoke about how to build a brandful workforce, up popped the Clear Vision video. Immediately, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the excitement from two women about eight rows back in the middle and I heard them whisper loudly so as not to interrupt the presentation: “Hey, that’s us!” They got out their cameras and began to take pictures. Later I found out that they had emailed their co-workers saying that Clear Vision was on stage. The pride they exhibited only confirmed their brandful workplace.

Following my presentation, we chatted and someone snapped the picture below of me with Jennifer and Ann Marie from Clear Vision:

Clear Vision

The Brandful approach is gaining momentum. And it’s not just from audiences such as this.   I see more and more the need and desire to merge the external brand perceived by customers, with the internal culture of the employees. Customers and employees have direct relationships that are real. Well, on second thought, sometimes they aren’t real, but those aren’t the strong relationships. Companies that truly understand this bond have the potential to succeed, but only if they can build an action-based strategy around the brandful approach, which is based upon employee involvement in the evolving brand.

A company like Rolls-Royce is part of this new trend which is encouraging employees to become part of the living brand. For example, one of the employees was inspired with a wild idea to gain more exposure for the changes going on at Rolls-Royce. She thought it would be cool if the company could build a jet engine out of legos.  This would highlight the focus on jet engines, as well as the fresh innovative spirit at the company. When she conveyed her idea to Jeff Lackey, a leader in Global Sourcing, he immediately supported it. Yes, there would be investment – Who knew a lego project could cost as much as €20,000? However, it ended up paying off. The project, which took eight weeks for four people to assemble, ended up generating about one million euros worth of brand advertisement given the response it generated on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. As well, it drew notable attention at the Farnborough Air Show. Check out the video.

While many companies haven’t even attempted to involve their employees in shaping the brand, many are starting to test the waters. They aren’t accustomed to giving up control or empowering employees in this manner. They may be averse to risk or change or what damage such actions might do. But this attitude will ultimately stunt growth.  Other companies like IBM and General Electric are at the forefront, investing in employee ideas.

Investing in employees as brand innovators and brand ambassadors is not just about employee engagement, or employee motivation to be productive on the job, which usually relates to liking their boss and/or peers. Being brandful is about employee participation in the ongoing creation of the brand, the products and services that they help deliver.  Isn’t that what a workforce comes together for anyway?

Share what your company is doing to become brandful. I’m always on the lookout for new examples and ways to encourage others to be brandful.

Check out my previous posts and don’t forget to share this one with your colleagues and friends.

 

 

 

AOL Has Guts. Do You?

We all know the story of the first day on the job, and things not seeming the same as they did in the interviews.

Is your advertised culture what it really is? It’s tough to compete for talent. Some companies try to be as hip and cool as their competitors, but are they really who they say they are?

Last month, I conducted a webinar with my colleague, Susan Amori, Senior Director, AOL Talent & AOL Cultural Ambassador Program. Susan and I spent an hour with our listeners, most of whom were recruiters. I shared my how-to approach on attracting and hiring employees who would best serve the brand. (See my book, The Brandful Workforce for more info on that.) Susan chimed in with specific examples from AOL.

My favorite example from Susan was how AOL organizes informal events for employees to bring in friends and potential future employees. Being a content company, it aligns with the AOL brand to attract thought-provoking speakers and draw in top talent. These events create introductions and comfortable peeks into the AOL culture, for perspective workers. The AOL team maintains a contact list of everyone who attends their events and later can tap into that resource in their hiring efforts. According to the brandful workforce approach, this program simultaneously supports their business and their employees.

Later on in the webinar, I spoke about the importance of employee involvement in the continued evolution of the brand. Selecting employees who want to participate in shaping the future of the company is a win-win for any company and especially AOL. That’s when Susan mentioned the AOL hackathons. These are specific days in which employees are encouraged to think up and submit new ideas and collaborate across the company. If you don’t have this kind of program, you should think about starting one. Your employees may be sitting on your next big product or new service, and you don’t even know it.

But back to the employee promise.

Susan did something following our webinar that many corporate executives don’t have the guts to do. She put the AOL employee promise to the test. She asked her team to tell her the AOL employee promise to see if it was in fact what she thought it was. An employee promise is like a brand in a certain sense – you have one whether or not you know what it is. It’s a perception.

An employee promise answers questions like: “Why am working here?” What am I getting and what am I giving here?” or “Why should I join?” or “Why should I leave?”

Here’s how the test went according to Susan:

The experiment with our recruiting team was quite interesting. I asked them just to jot down their personal view of our employee promise. The top 6 consistent bullets that came up were summarized as follows:
• The opportunity to work in a great culture (Culture)
• The opportunity to work with smart, passionate and dedicated employees (People)
• You will have the freedom to be creative and create change (Culture)
• You will have the opportunity to grow your skills and manage your career with support from leaders and AOL University (Development)
• You will have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies (Exposure/Tech)
• You will have the opportunity to get involved with community/volunteer initiatives to help others (Volunteerism)

Compare this to what I thought our employee promise was:
• Fast-paced, agile business – you will never be bored here (Business)
• Work with global brands that have tremendous reach and continue to grow (Business)
• Encouragement and support to help others – especially at the local community level (Volunteerism)
• Strong emphasis on personal wellness – ‘whole’ person wellness, not just fitness and nutrition (Wellness/Benefits)
• Company values that are ingrained throughout the business – and reinforced through recognition programs (Culture)
• Fun, creative working environment – you get back as much as you give (Culture)
• Structured training and leadership development programs – with special focus on training for people managers (Development)

This was just a quick experiment that Susan was interested in running to see if her team was on the same page. Any organization dedicated to building and sustaining a brandful workforce needs this kind of guts. And I mean the guts to continually check in to see if what you advertise is really happening within your organization. And if it’s not, do something about it. It helps with authenticity and sustainability of the culture and brand.

Yes, it’s sometimes easier not to ask any questions and plow full steam ahead. Of course, you risk having something unforeseen thrown in your path that you could have avoided, if you’d only asked. You might even be surprised at much more value your workforce can bring to your business in addition to their daily responsibilities. If you decide to do a similar experiment with your team, post it here. I’m sure Susan would love to see results from other organizations. And so would I.

Watch the webinar referenced above. See more brandful workforce blogs.

San Jose PayPals are Not Brandful

Soon after writing my last blog post, PayPal’s President, David Marcus, did exactly what I had advised not to do. He threatened his employees to use PayPal products or leave the company.  While that is one way to transform your workforce into a brandful one, it is not what I recommend.

I commend Marcus for being on the forefront of understanding the value that his workforce brings to the success of his company. Most CEOs do not rely enough on their employees to build the brand. In an email to his “San Jose PayPals” he asserts: “everyone at PayPal should use our products where available. That’s the only way we can make them better, and better.” This kind of executive mindset is exactly what’s needed in any organization that wants to build or sustain a brandful workforce. However, how you do it, needs to be effective and genuine.

Let’s not forget, people are not only rational, but emotional human beings. While it may seem simple: “Just tell them what you want them to do,” it doesn’t work that way. Last year, I wrote about the emergence and growing importance of the field of organizational psychology to the corporation. It brings something to the table that the traditional MBA approach misses: feelings. And yes, we all have them.

What PayPal needs to do is better understand why the employees in San Jose are not as brandful as those in other locations. Marcus says they don’t use PayPal or refer business nearly as much as the rest of the employees, who are so passionate about PayPal that they even hack into vending machines to make them accept PayPal. Trying to change behavior without understanding it does not make sense. Hey, I get that businesses need to move quickly, but consider the consequences of doing it the wrong way.

I tried reaching out to Marcus to see if I could help. http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can read an article and the full email he sent out.

Check out more Brandful Workforce blog posts or download the book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, on your kindle app.