Posts Tagged ‘Hiring’

Organic Branding for Employers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I was recently asked by international employer branding news journal, Universum Quarterly, to be the guest writer for this quarter’s edition.  Subscribers in HR organizations worldwide will receive the publication this week.

Universum Quarterly began in 2006 and is the world’s first periodical for Employer Branding.  Each issue brings feature articles which investigate best practices and trends in employer branding, as well as examples of employer branding in action and instrumental tips for succeeding in certain industries, locations and with certain types of talent.

Organic Branding for Employers

by Craig Fisher, Courtesy of Universum Quarterly

An employer brand should be built from the inside out. Just as part of an organization’s marketing message should come from its customers, the employer brand should be championed by its employees.  For better or worse, they are the vehicles by which the message will be conveyed on blogs and social networks. Smart employers will take advantage of this tremendous PR opportunity and embrace social networking, encouraging intercompany collaboration, and communication with those outside the corporate walls by their employees acting as their brand champions in social media.  The brand message itself must be authentic, unique and attractive. Job seekers today do not care about boiler plate HR selling points.  Sure, the message should be stated clearly on an effective recruiting Web site. But if it is not first conveyed to the internal employees and reinforced by meeting or surpassing their expectations, the organization will not have the brand champions it needs to convey that message online to job seekers.

Social networking at work

Organizations that place broad restrictions on the use of social media at work will soon feel the backlash in lower employee recruitment and retention. Workers at many levels these days are used to communicating and receiving information at a speed that is difficult to achieve with standard email and corporate intranets. In economic times such as these, where cutbacks are common, communication with your workforce is vital to maintain morale.  Social networking cannot only expedite communication, but also improve employees’ sense of belonging and worth.

Top firms like IBM and Sun Microsystems have successfully incorporated social networking in the workplace. IBM created a wildly successful internal social network for communication and collaboration. Sun hosts a Twitter account that is automatically updated by Sun Microsystems’ employee blogs worldwide.  Both companies have very clear employee guidelines about the use of social networking encouraging responsible engagement, communication, learning, and contribution.

Reach new talent Web 2.0 style

Jobseekers regularly google a prospective employer to find out what current and past employees are saying about working at that company. How do companies encourage a positive online portrayal by its workers? Social networking best practices should be taught in the workplace. Employees should be empowered to feel they are part of the positive message an employer wants to communicate. Your HR team can double as community managers by setting up employee group pages on sites like LinkedIn, Ning, or Facebook. Companies need to encourage employees to join and share knowledge. They should post helpful tips for new employees to get them integrated and productive quickly by networking with their peers and managers.

Prospective employees should be exposed to such networks to get a sense of the people with whom they will work and a feel for the corporate culture. Your new community managers can even use services like Twitter to announce updates, further promoting the brand.  With such an effort, your social collaboration will become an attractive feature to future employees. 

Control vs. respect

Companies cannot completely control what is said about them on blogs or social networks.  But viewing social media as a potential liability will not help matters. Companies who rely on simply a corporate blog or Web site to convey their message to customers or potential employees will miss the mark. Individual brand advocates within your ranks can be trained to effectively relate any message to the masses on social sites. Zappos.com is a company known for excellent customer service. However, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, has said that their main focus is not customer service, but rather their internal people. That is a powerful branding statement. One can easily ask Zappos.com’s employees how they feel about it, as many of them have Twitter accounts with names like Zappos_Alfred or Zappos_Lynn.

It is natural to be concerned about what may be said by employees who are laid off by their former employer. Company policies of surprising workers with news that their job has been eliminated, locking them out of their offices, and ordering them off the premises are common place. Smart organizations can avoid this PR disaster with better communication and by assisting their displaced workers.  Instead, companies should set up a network for those who are laid off and post advice and leads to assist in job searching and outplacement.  Taking this a step further, they can even organize a “pink slip” party. Set it up on Facebook and invite local recruiters and career coaches to come and offer assistance to those outgoing workers. Word gets around fast about companies who treat their people well, even in the wake of layoffs.

Reinforce the message

A company’s employer brand must be authentic, unique, and attractive. To consistently have the company message positively reflected in the external comments of workers, a company must clearly convey that brand to current and new employees and work to meet the expectations set by that message. From the perspective of new recruits, there must also be a strong employer recruiting site that clearly states the message and gives a good picture of what work-life at your company is like. Many of the top corporate career sites use recruiting videos that can be viewed on site, as well as on social spaces, like YouTube. These are particularly effective when utilizing current employees rather than actors.

Creating a positive atmosphere of trust and empowerment within a workforce will help to assure that the right message is communicated online. If employers remain true to their message, the brand is built naturally from the inside out. Social media becomes less of a liability and more of a recruiting tool. Empowered employees will be the best employer brand champions.

Growing your brand with social media

• Determine your authentic, unique and attractive brand message.
• Convey the message to employees and on an effective recruiting web site. Meet the expectations it sets.
• Embrace social networking in the workplace.
• Empower your people to champion your brand through social media.

Craig Fisher

Owner Principal A-List Solutions
Dallas, Texas, US

Craig Fisher has more than 18 years experience in sales and is a specialist in IT recruitment.  He is the co-founder of A-List Solutions, a full-service staffing and recruiting firm for management and IT professionals. Craig is also an avid blogger.

A-list Solutions is a full-service staffing firm providing permanent and contract placement services for management, marketing, and IT positions to organizations of all sizes. They consult with both job seekers and employers on branding strategies that utilize social media and web 2.0 technology.

Headquarters: Southlake, Texas, US

Employees Help Build Social Brand, Interview with Loomis President, Mike Sullivan

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Loomis_Podcast Sometimes its who you know and who they know.  Last summer I was introduced to the president of The Loomis Agency, Mike Sullivan.  Maybe re-introduced is more accurate.  We first met years ago at the wedding of mutual friend, Lauren Mulkey.  Now Lauren, in her business development capacity with Loomis, a 20-year old Dallas creative firm, was getting us together again to talk about some ideas to get Loomis more brand recognition in Social Media.

Like many companies, Loomis was sort of half way into social media.  But Sullivan knew they could do more.  And being a brilliant executive, he consulted with people who had expertise.  And he also talked with me.  I had a couple of suggestions that they actually put into practice with great success.

Loomis had a few things going for them that I suggested he take advantage of.  One of those things was numbers.  They have a pretty good sized team.  I recommended getting everyone in the shop to get on LinkedIn and Facebook to help Loomis establish a presence there.  From an SEO standpoint, having all those users with Loomis as their current employer, and with links back to the Loomis homepage, LinkedIn and Facebook would be a great asset and would give them additional Web real estate at a very affordable price.  

Mike Sullivan himself is a pretty dynamic guy.  So I also suggested a targeted company blog with Sullivan being very visibly involved.  I thought that would be enticing to both prospective clients and prospective employees.  It also gives the current staff a solidified vision straight from the top. 

Recently I caught up with Mike to see how his plan was coming along.  I knew Loomis had done a great job with their revised blog.  And I had seen a viral holiday video they produced that was a stroke of genius.  So I was curious to get his feedback on the impact social media branding has had on Loomis.

Me:  This summer we met for a brainstorming session about corporate brand marketing through social media (social networks, corporate blogging, personal branding of employees, etc.)  What ideas from that meeting have had an impact on your strategy?

Mike: First off, I’ve encouraged all of our team members to get on LinkedIn and Facebook and begin using those tools actively. We’ve created a company presence in both those places, as well. We’ve used both tools as a means for generating traffic to our blog site, and I’ve noticed that it seems to have improved search results for our company.  If you search “Dallas ad agency,” for example, we’ve moved up quite a bit.  Depending on the day you search we pop up just above or below the fold.  I believe that’s largely a function of the increased social activity of our team members. 

Me:  What new steps have you taken to boost your brand awareness?

Mike:  I’ve personally built a fairly tight LinkedIn contact base. I think I have somewhere around 290 professional contacts, and most of my team members have fairly large, but tight, contact lists as well.  We have extended the distribution of our regular monthly e-newsletter, “Off The Chain,” to this group of professional contacts.  I think our total team member list is somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple thousand contacts on LinkedIn.  Of course, we have an opt-out option, so we are not engaging in SPAM tactics.  But, we’ve received a ton of positive feedback on the content of the e-newsletter and I know it’s been forwarded to others.  We used this tactic to launch our “sock puppet” video during the holiday season and that video was ultimately viewed by more than one million people.  Again, the content was the rocket fuel for that, but the initial LinkedIn database was the launch pad.

Me:  How has this new approach complimented your more traditional marketing efforts?

Mike:  I think that’s just what it is-a complement to the traditional business development work we’ve done for years.  We still do all of the traditional stuff–OB calling, direct, networking–and the social networking and blogging has been an excellent overlay for that activity.  The goal is to show up in as many places as we can, and this helps us accomplish that with limited resources.  We’re exploring other ways to use the social tools, as well. For instance, we are putting the final touches on our first monthly podcast this week and will be distributing that the way we’ve distributed our blog and e-newsletter.  The social sites will play a big part in that distribution.

Me:  Has this had an impact on your efforts to hire or retain talent? 

Mike: It certainly has been great for hiring.  We were fortunate to be in hiring mode recently and found several excellent candidates through LinkedIn and hired two of them.  We always prefer candidates who come with a referral from somebody we know and trust, and both of these panned out that way.  The interesting thing is that one of the hires came directly from a referral through one of our team member’s LinkedIn contacts (2nd degree).  If it hadn’t been for that tool, we would never have found that particular candidate.

Me:  What kind of feedback have you received?

Mike:  It’s been excellent.  Certainly, great content drives the best feedback. A really good blog post or something like our sock puppet video garners attention and generates a lot of positive feedback.  With respect to the video, we had people calling and e-mailing from all over the country.  That was fun and effective, and we plan to do it again. Of course, we’ve also had a lot of companies contact us asking if we can do videos for them. 

Me:  After your research and experience in the process of social brand marketing, what advice would you offer to other business owners and executives?

Mike:  First, just be sure to get in the game and encourage your staff to get out there and represent you.  Old school thinking tells people to stay away from this stuff during work hours, but I think nowadays our professional and personal lives are blended to the extent that it simply doesn’t make good business sense to try to restrict social networking activity during business hours.  Encourage it, and recognize and reward those who do the best job of it on behalf of the company.  Writing good blog posts and making smart use of social networks requires good thinking. 

Second, stay current because it changes fast.  Twitter is a new frontier for us, as an example.  It feels like that just popped up and we’re already playing catch up.  But I know a lot of people swear by the results they are seeing with it.  Staying current also requires a forward-leaning disposition as a company.  It needs to be an encouraged activity.

Finally, it still all comes down to quality content.  Are you communicating something people want to hear, read, or watch, or not?  The marketplace will vote as it always does.  Be sure to use the right side of your brain when you’re leveraging all this left-brain technology!

Craig Fisher Featured in ZoomInfo Newsletter

Friday, February 20th, 2009

zoominfo

One of the web’s top business information search engines, ZoomInfo.com (which I find extremely helpful in sales and recruiting research), has kindly featured an article I wrote, Employer Branding with Web 2.0 & Social Media, in their February Recruiting Newsletter, Zoominformer.

Thanks to Flora Felisberto and Martin Burns of ZoomInfo for including me, alongside recruiting industry great, Lou Adler, in this edition of the newsletter.

If you haven’t done so, I would recommend going to www.zoominfo.com and searching for yourself.  If you find yourself, but the info appears out of date, claim your profile and update the information.  This is a great place on the web to stamp "brand you".

Here is an excerpt from the February Zoominformer:

The social media phenomenon is no longer breaking news, but its impact on talent (finding, recruiting, and retaining) has started to accelerate.

Over the coming months, we’ll be taking a closer look at social media trends. We’re working with our clients and industry thought leaders to get to the "actual" behind all of the hype. It’s our goal to help you work in the present, as well as understand the future. This month’s newsletter will focus mainly on some of the practical impacts of social media, but we are also looking to a future that may be wildly disrupted by new methods of connecting with prospects, companies, and candidates.

If you have any ideas and interesting examples, please let us know. We are always amazed by the creativity of recruiters in navigating this world.

Stay tuned….

Are You a Web 2.0 Wannabe?
by Lou Adler

According to Lou Adler, "If you don’t invest in finding tomorrow’s candidates today, you’ll become history." By investing time in key low-cost technologies, recruiters can increase both the visibility and interest of their job postings. In this article, Lou Adler describes the six most important web 2.0 trends and tools. Read on to find out if you’re a "Neanderthal or a new ager."
Click here for the full article

Employer Branding with Web 2.0 & Social Media
by Craig Fisher

If your company’s HR department is not already utilizing web 2.0 tools and social media to market the company to job seekers, it should be. A new report by Gartner, Inc., shows that even though corporate marketing and web strategies are embracing social media, HR departments are generally slow to align with those efforts for the purpose of employer branding.

Click here for the full article

The newsletter is: http://www.zoominfo.com/About/m/newsletters/february_2009.asp

You can subscribe to it here: http://www.zoominfo.com/About/resources/newsletters.aspx

ZoomInfo is a business information search engine used to quickly find information about industries, companies, people and products. ZoomInfo is used by sales and marketing professionals to identify business opportunities, by recruiters to locate talent, and by anyone conducting in-depth research about products, services and businesses. ZoomInfo’s semantic search engine continually crawls the Business Web – the millions of company Websites, news feeds and other online sources – to identify company and people information which is then organized into fresh, comprehensive and objective profiles. ZoomInfo currently has profiles on more than 40 million people and over 3.5 million companies, and its search engine adds more than 20,000 new profiles every day.

Employer Branding with Web2.0 & Social Media

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Leveraging Social Networks at Affiliate Summit...

If your company’s HR department is not already utilizing Web 2.0 tools and Social Media to market the company to job seekers, it should be. A new report by Gartner, Inc., shows that even though corporate marketing and web strategies are embracing social media, HR departments are generally slow to align with those efforts for the purpose of employer branding.

Job seekers today research companies the same way recruiters research job seekers.  They look at what other people are saying about them on social media, blogs, and other Web 2.0 outlets.  HR Organizations who don’t attempt to control their employer brands online are missing a great opportunity and run the risk of missing the most sought after job candidates.

A recent study by Potentialpark Communications, a Swedish-based research and consulting firm, surveyed 1,800 U.S. students and recent graduates in an effort to identify the leading corporate careers sites.  Rusty Weston wrote an article about the study, Checking Out the Best Corporate Careers Sites, that states:

"about one third of the rated companies use videos to present possible future colleagues, a walk through the office or the day-to-day work,” says Potentialpark’s Magdalena Knott. “The use of blogs, pod casts and web casts has not advanced too far until now, but the importance is rising."

The Top 10 U.S. Corporate Career Websites

by Potentialpark Communications

  1. Deutsche Bank

  2. Microsoft

  3. BCG (Boston Consulting Group)

  4. Merrill Lynch

  5. Accenture

  6. Charles Schwab

  7. UBS

  8. Booz Allen Hamilton

  9. Intel

  10. Bertelsmann

The Gartner report concludes that "By 2011, Organizations That Do Not Manage Their Employer Brands Effectively Will Fail to Attract Key Talent.

"Organizations are investing significantly in adopting marketing and sales strategies for social software, and Gartner predicts that by 2010, more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have some form of community that can be used for marketing purposes. Although many organizations hasten to adopt and exploit social computing in marketing, sales and customer support roles, Gartner has found that HR tends to lag behind."

According to Gartner, the first step that organizations need to take is to understand what is being said about them on social networks and informally benchmark this against competitors and peers, as well as companies that tend to lead in this area. They need to be prepared for candidates to enter the recruitment process with a much-deeper understanding of the organization than would have been expected previously. The organization must also look at new ways of improving its image online."

So where is an HR organization to start?  UK-based Web 2.0 development firm, Organic Development, offers these suggestions.

5 ways social media can benefit an Employer brand

1) Blogging is a great way of building up your online presence and generating awareness of what it is like to be employed ‘on the ground’ within a company. They help the business engage with candidate and employee audiences directly. Moreover, with blogging comes the opportunity to ‘comment’, where readers can actually speak back to the business, giving their opinions and input: free market research.

2) Engage and respond to feedback. Responding to your candidate and staff opinions makes for a stronger relationship, gaining your customer’s trust and understanding. If people say good things about you, say thanks. This shows that they are genuinely being considered and their opinion matters.

3) Recruitment and HR Managers should welcome social networking sites such as Facebook, Linkedin and Myspace into the workplace. Not only are they tools for colleagues to recruit, promote HR policies, interact with employees and build relationships with each other but having them viewable by the public makes the company seem more approachable and engaging. Many companies are now using these sites already to recruit new members of staff, search for new business or to induct new team members.

4) Advanced search facilities allow people of all interests and niches to find and target what they are looking for quickly and easily. New and evolving audiences can be identified and reached without spending a penny.

5) If you create media that people enjoy and find useful in some way, they are likely to pass it on. Therefore, it is worthwhile seriously thinking about how social media could be incorporated into your business. The beauty of the concept is that through processes such as word of mouth, making a success of social media means sooner or later your audience will start to do the work for you. "

Blogger beware!  Corporate blogging has its pitfalls.  In an article written by Forrester Research analyst, and co-author of the book, Groundswell, Josh Bernoff comments on the recent Forrester survey that showed Only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them.  Bernhoff says, "This means that if you blog, your goal should be to create a blog about which people say “I like that – I don’t think of it as a company blog.” For the most part, that’s a hurdle you need to jump to gain their trust. I don’t mean to hide who is writing the blog. I mean it has to be more about your customers than it is about you."

The survey, and Bernoff’s comments, are geared more toward corporate marketing efforts than employer branding.  But the lesson is good for both.  The job candidates you are seeking are savvy.  They do read blogs and utilize social media.  So relying solely on a blog for your HR and employer branding is not advised.  Nor is posting the usual HR propaganda.  Get your real employees involved and make your message transparent and believable.  And use that content in conjunction with social media to create an organic source of top job candidates.  Give them a real face to associate with your Employer Brand.

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Jobs are Now Partnerships. A lesson from the Great Depression

Monday, November 17th, 2008
Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.com

As I sat watching live, streaming video from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit and Research Symposium in Vegas last week from the comfort of my cushy office chair in Southlake, TX, it occurred to me that the corporate philosophy being shared by the enigmatic Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh (pronounced "Shay"), echoed something written over 70 years ago.

The video stream was courtesy of Interactive Marketing expert, David Armano, who makes a habit of live streaming from the various high profile marketing conferences and other events he attends.  When he announced on Twitter (see my Twitter blog post) that he was about to stream Hsieh’s presentation, my interest was piqued.  According to this recent interview, Zappos is on track to better the $840M in gross sales it did in 2007.  Hsieh previously founded LinkExchange which he sold for $265M to Microsoft in 1998.  I follow him on Twitter.  He’s good.

So I clicked on the link and watched Hsieh as he shared some entertaining stories and interesting ideas.   It was a good presentation.  I made a couple of notes and prepared to turn it off.  But then he said something toward the end that struck a chord with me. 

He said that Zappos, which is known for being fanatical about customer service, does not hold customer service as its first priority.  He and the company are more concerned with its people – hiring great people and fostering an excellent company culture.  Hsieh believes that if you hire great people who share your corporate philosophy of great service, then great service will take care of itself.

This sounded to me like more of a partnership than a typical employer to employee relationship.  And it reminded me of something I had read in the seminal work of author Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich.  In this, perhaps the best selling success book of all time, Hill shares his 13 principles for success in the form of a philosophy of personal achievement. 

 thinkbig The book, originally published in 1937 and abridged by Hill himself in 1960, was inspired by Hill’s association with American billionaire Andrew Carnegie, and Hill’s interviewing of over 500 of the most affluent men and women of his time.  The chapter on the "sixth step to riches" is entitled Organized Planning, and Hill has a section within called The New Way of Marketing Services-"Jobs" are now "Partnerships".  Here is the excerpt:

Men and women who market their services to best advantage in the future must recognize the stupendous change that has taken place in connection in the relationship between employer and employee. In the future, the "Golden Rule," and not the "Rule of Gold" will be the dominating factor in the marketing of merchandise as well as personal services. The future relationship between employers and their employees will be more in the nature of a partnership consisting of:

a. The employer
b. The employee
c. The public they serve

This new way of marketing services is called new for many reasons.  First, both the employer and the employee of the future will be considered as fellow-employees whose business it will be to SERVE THE PUBLIC EFFICIENTLY.  In times past, employers and employees have bartered among themselves, driving the best bargains they could with one another, not considering that in the final analysis they were, in reality, BARGAINING AT THE EXPENSE OF THE 3RD PARTY, THE PUBLIC THEY SERVED.

In the future, both employers and employees will recognize that they are NO LONGER PRIVILEGED TO DRIVE BARGAINS AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE WHOM THEY SERVE. The real employer of the future will be the public. This should be kept uppermost in mind by every person seeking to market their services effectively.

"Courtesy" and "Service" are the watch-words of merchandising today.  They apply to the person who is marketing their services even more directly than to the employer whom he serves, because, in the final analysis, both the employer and his employee are EMPLOYED BY THE PUBLIC THEY SERVE. If they fail to serve well, they pay by the loss of their privilege of serving.

Tony Hsieh’s approach of carefully hiring great people, and placing the employees and the company culture first is an inspiring means to this end.  Everyone is on board and understands that great customer service will be what sets the company apart.  And the customer benefits because the whole organization is made to feel they are playing a critical role, plus they like their job and love their company. 

This is a partnership based on mutual commitment.  Zappos notoriously offers new employees a $1000 bonus to quit after the first week of  its four week new hire training.  About 10% accept the offer.  The rest are committed to the cause.  And the company is committed right back.

According to a recent article in the Las Vegas Sun online, Zappos is a tight-knit company that buys its employees lunch each day and has a dodgeball room in its corporate headquarters.  And when the company reluctantly  laid off 8% of its 1,300-member workforce earlier this month due to the economic downturn, Hsieh said in an email to the employees, that "laid-off employees will be paid through the end of the year, and employees who have been with the company for three or more years will receive additional pay. He also said Zappos will pay for six months of health coverage for all laid-off employees."

"In doing all of this to take care of laid-off employees, we expect that it will actually increase, not decrease, our costs for 2008, but we feel this is the right thing to do for our employees," Hsieh wrote.  "It will put us in the position of having a lot more financial flexibility in being able to respond to potential changes in the economy in 2009."

The book, Think and Grow Rich has many more lessons that apply here.  But this book was originally compiled over a 10-year period beginning just prior to the Great Depression.  No streaming video, no Twitter, no Internet.  Hill just found, through exhaustive research, the common qualities that bound hundreds of highly successful people and organizations.  And he was undaunted by the financial woes of the time.

In our current struggling economy employers and employees alike can benefit from thinking of our jobs as partnerships.  And, like Zappos, we can create a competitive advantage by employing the "Golden Rule," and not the "Rule of Gold" as the dominating factor in the marketing of merchandise and services.

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