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.

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.

Top Brandful Organizations in 2013

Welcome to my final blog post for 2013. The following companies make the list of of top brandful organizations this year: Trader Joe’s, Netflix, Zappos, Starbucks, IBM, L’Occitane, Patagonia, Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Viking Cruises, Ikea, The Container Store, Wegmans, Rackspace, and Tesla. What sets these companies apart from others? It’s quite simple: the employees genuinely believe in the products and services they help deliver… so much so that they actually help promote them, voluntarily. Employees at these organizations are critical to current and future success of the business.

While many experts are now posting their recommendations for 2014, I believe one of the most strategic actions any company can make in the new year will be to connect employees meaningfully and authentically with the brand. For example, at Trader Joe’s, some of the employees spend most of their paychecks on purchasing groceries in the store. And most employees there can tell you their favorite products, if you ask.  Or employees at Rackspace may spend more time than necessary online interacting with each other and customers about optimizing the services they provide because they are just that passionate about them.  Brandful employees help to evolve the success of the business.

The organizations mentioned above do not necessarily depend on employee engagement programs or internal marketing campaigns or even employer branding initiatives, to create a brandful workforce. They rely primarily on the strength of their products and services and how they run their business from a people perspective. These are the principles of the brandful approach.

In 2014, more organizations will understand the potential of the workforce. And it will be great timing as we will embark on a project to design a measurement tool so organizations can understand the level at which their employees are truly behind the products and services they deliver every day. Once they receive their results, they can take necessary action to move the needle on building a more brandful workforce. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of the year!

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America’s Not Got All The Talent

This week I was in Las Vegas speaking at a conference on workforce planning. This topic explores how organizations can best plan for the right mix of talent competencies they will need in the next ten years to achieve success. Not easy with the retirement of many baby boomers. It was interesting to note which skills will be needed and where there are voids – for example: computer programming. We have to bring in computer programmers from outside the country right now to fill this gap. Some organizations are already beginning to take action to address the need for more computer programmers such as Code.org who produced this video, encouraging our youth to get involved.

One of the most compelling speakers was the President of Devry University, who seemed to be on the constant lookout for the latest talent needs of the nation’s largest organizations. He wants Devry to be able to provide employers with folks who are ready to take the company to where it needs to go. His team creates new programs specifically for organizations that are at a standstill in finding the talent they need. And they will take existing talent and give them new skills until a new talent pool can be created. I give him a lot of credit. While many educational institutions are struggling with ineffective business models instead of course content, his focus is on solving real issues with education.

And being in Vegas, I was expecting to see a couple of brandful employees from Zappos, which I did. So what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.zappos girls