Saturday, March 16, 2019

Wnat to level up your employer brand? Think like a marketer!

We're seeing a convergence between HR and marketing.

See this funnel? Talent acquisition got it from marketing. In fact, HR increasingly uses marketing terms like ‘hiring funnel’ and ‘talent pipeline.’

Not that marketing minds, of course. They think it'd be awesome if HR would put on a marketing hat when it comes to attracting and engaging talent.

Since filling the funnel and building a robust pipeline is what marketing’s all about, I'll share a few trade secrets with you.

To fill your funnel, you need to get people’s attention. And that’s challenging because there are a LOT of people and companies out there competing for people’s attention.  That means you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Getting attention starts with your employer brand. You may think branding is marketing’s job, but it’s HR’s job to create an employer brand that people want to work for and that attracts people you want to hire.

Marketing may be able help but since they aren’t typically paid to work on employer brand, don’t be surprised if they don’t feel the same urgency about this as you do.

Inbound marketing is about creating a space like a website where people can come and explore on their own and find information that interests them.

With inbound marketing you start creating relationships and brand awareness.

Stories are also a good way to build brand awareness. Marketers love stories, because they help create an emotional connection to your brand. Your company has an origin story, and your employees have stories about their journey with your company. These stories are an integral part of your brand.

Marketing uses personas to create the right messages for their target audience. Personas are hypothetical buyers you get to know in order to market to them effectively. HR can use personas to market more effectively to candidates and employees.

Content is how you tell your story. You can use videos, pictures, brochures, blog posts, job descriptions – it’s really wide open, the only caveat is it’s helpful to know your target audience and their preferences. This is where your persona research comes in.

Channels are how you get your content to your audience. Job boards, your corporate website and LinkedIn are examples of channels. How do you reach the people you want to hire? Again, you want to understand your personas and their content preferences rather than using the channel that you prefer.

Marketers know you don’t just hang your shingle and rake in the new business.

Similarly, you can’t expect a stuffy job description posted on your corporate website will bring in lots of top candidates.

 To build a strong pipeline you need to be persistent and try different channels where potential and future potential buyers or employees can get to know you.

Nurture is about moving people through the funnel. For example, a recruiter might promote general advice about career development, then follow up with people who engage with that content, either with more information or a call.

 Follow up’s important. Never leave a qualified lead or candidate hanging, especially after someone has taken the time to apply or request information.

Account-based marketing is personalized marketing (or so it should seem) to an audience of one. The goal is to build a relationship so you can be right there with the right solution or offer when they’re ready to make a change.

People are on a journey with your company. There’s a buyer journey, a customer journey, an employee journey and a candidate journey. Understanding and mapping out these journeys will help you create a more positive and engaging experience with your brand.

To create a positive brand experience, you have to ask what people want, need, and expect at each stage of their journey with your company. Then use that inforation to create moments that matter.

Engagement is a hot topic for HR and marketing. Marketing measures engagement by tracking what people click on, and it’s a pretty good indicator for candidates, too. That's why talent pipeline automation solutions like Candidate.ID track digital footprint.

Tracking digital footprint requires a certain amount of online stalking, which raises data privacy concerns. Marketing solves this by inviting people to ‘opt in’ and continue receiving valuable information or notifications, and this is an approach HR can follow as well.

What if instead of deleting qualified applicant data you invited people to stay in touch?

Marketers tell stories, but where possible they back it up with relevant business results and put a spin on it.  A metric like ‘time to hire’ is OK, but doesn’t have the same wow factor as ‘cost of empty seats.’

Similarly, a boring salary statement doesn’t have the same wow factor as a shiny ‘Total Benefits Statement.’

Marketing hates surprises so they practically live in their data, checking in on what works and doesn't work so they can change plans.

Customers are the best marketers and employees are the best evangelists for your employer brand.

Do you know who your most passionate employees are? You may want to cultivate them to help you define and evangelize your employer brand.

All of these marketing building blocks should be part of your employer brand strategy.

Having a strategy helps you focus and use your time doing the most impactful things to create a strong employer brand and create a robust talent pipeline.

So, instead of telling people about your company and your open roles - which is what everyone’s doing - try putting on your marketing pants and selling your company and roles as if they were solutions. After all, for someone they are.

Photo credits:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Designing Woman

Disclaimer: I found this unpublished blog post in my draft folder from my product manager days, which feels like a lifetime - and a few hairstyles - ago. Even though I no longer work as a product manager, it's still a pretty accurate description of how I work.

The software company I work for has a short release cycle, with only have eight weeks of development to put out a new version. Since my product is fairly in demand - or perhaps it would be more honest to say that enhancements are demanded - this means I'm pretty much always creating designs in addition to the other product management work I do.

Like project work, design work is subject to phases, which are magnified by the compressed release cycle. People who work on projects or design work may identify with some of the following phases:

Phase I: 'Out with the old, in with the new.' I just finished the designs for the current update and it's time to start thinking about the next update but I'm not quite ready yet. I hover between two updates and poke at a few things but it's hard to let go of the topics that have claimed my attention for the last eight weeks and get started. I tend to feel unconnected and out of sorts during this phase, maybe even a little bit burned out. Fortunately, this phase tends to be short because there's a deadline to meet.

Phase II: 'Ramping up.' I've started the designs for the next update but there are some questions from development and other groups around the current update so my attention is divided. I force myself to make steady progress but haven't really hit my stride yet. I don't yet have a stake in the current design beyond the obvious (and important) one that someone pays me to work on it. This is a restless, unfocused phase but reasonably productive.

Phase III: 'Can't. Talk. Must. Finish. Design.' Something clicks and suddenly the design owns me. Maybe it's something someone said, or maybe the design has just reached a critical mass, but the different design threads pull at me all the time, insisting that I resolve them into a cohesive pattern. There may be a number of false starts before I find the right balance of prioritizatation of requirements, easy configuration and use, and architectural fit. And I don't know how many people realize this about software design but expertise will only take you so far - a good designer also also needs empathy in order to anticipate mistakes people are likely to make and help them not make them. Empathy makes me grumpy and hungry so if you see me glaring at my computer with a cookie in my hand, you might want to save that question for later.

Phase IV: 'Bring it on home.' I'm 95-98% done. I've crossed some sort of design threshhold where the pattern has integrity and holds together but that last 2-5% still needs to be done. It's usually pretty boring but someone needs to do it. I look around for my minion but I don't have a minion so that leaves me. Around this time the current release is ready for testing and that's less exciting than the wide open field of design work, but not less important. Now it's time to start horse trading features with my colleagues in development, who invariably feel that I've given them too much work. And they're right about that, because I have surrounded the most important requirements with non-essential pawns that I'd like to see but may be sacrificed if necessary to protect the core design.

The cycle repeats. I start thinking on a high level about the next update and gradually easing back into Phase I for the next round... better hurry up and ask me that question.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

There aren't enough blog posts about gender inequality

Picture courtesy of matheus-ferrero-226756-unsplash
Just kidding, there totally are enough blog posts about gender inequality, and looking at recent C-level announcements from large multinationals it seems to be working.

I too have written on this topic, although not recently, and it's been fun revisiting what I used to think, mostly because I used to be a lot funnier.

Besides my lamentable reduction in hilarity, my opinions haven't changed that much.  I've never bought into the glass ceiling, even back when I was a lowly product manager hoping to be promoted to director.  Fast forward, I eventually got the promotion, went on to be a VP, and have been approached about two C-level roles that I declined to apply for.  So, I guess you could say I still don't believe in it.

My journey hasn't been completely smooth or without a hitch.  I've had difficult colleagues, colleagues who thought I was the difficult one, and managers who didn't support my advance.  I've held the fort and worked part time while my husband focused on his career. I've taken maternity leave for three kids, and we're talking European maternity leave here (so longer than the two weeks or whatever it is you get in the US).

I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time, I've made my share of mistakes, and I've spilled various beverages on various white blouses right before important meetings.

But enough about me.  I get it.  The system is sometimes unfair, but it's a still great time to be a professional woman.  Network, ask for help, pay it forward, don't burn (too many) bridges, add value, learn stuff, take care of your customers, and tell people what you want.

And if you're a professional woman looking to navigate the system, or a working mom trying to have it all, don't believe everything you read - even if something is generally true, that doesn't mean it applies to you.

It's fine if you disagree but I invite you to read the following posts before you judge.

Is There Really a Glass Ceiling?
Poor Working Moms
There'll be No Cake in Hell
Debugging the Gender Gap

Monday, February 4, 2019

Great leadership isn't about you

Photo credit: ionut-coman-photographer-459986-unsplash
There’s a lot of great – and not so great - leadership advice out there.  Unfortunately, most of it’s focused on the personality and behaviour of the leader, ignoring one of the most important jobs of a leader: building a great team.

This focus on the leader is due at least in part to a flawed belief that people leave managers, which is true to a point.  I mean, I’ve left a couple of bad managers myself, but like most easy answers it’s incomplete.  Here’s why:

Let’s say you have a crappy manager in a great company.  If the company’s so awesome except for your lousy manager, you would probably consider changing managers within the company before leaving entirely.  Oh, but wait – you probably wouldn’t have a crappy manager in a great company. 

See where I’m going with this?  It’s the company not the manager that ultimately drives you off.
Photo credit: daniel-cheung-129839-unsplash

Also, let’s not forget people also leave companies for bigger jobs or more money, things even a stellar manager may not be able to provide immediately for the asking.  Sometimes a better offer’s just a better offer.

So, more precisely, people leave bad managers, they leave companies that tolerate and reward bad managers, and they also leave good managers and companies for a better opportunity.

Back to mainstream leadership advice, which I will paraphrase here:

Leaders should be authentic, empathic, and humble; they should listen, encourage, and support the people on their team; they should invite ideas and experimentation; they should play well with others; they should communicate a clear vision; they should be available; they should be vulnerable (but not in a creepy way); they should be professional, results-oriented, and mentally flexible; and they should help people achieve their personal goals while working toward the strategic goals of the business.

Good stuff. But.

At the end of the day, no one succeeds in isolation and teamwork drives innovation, community and great culture.  That means that one of the most important things managers can do for their teams is cultivate a safe and inclusive place for everyone to contribute, so they bring their best selves to work.

That means more than having weekly team meetings and providing bonding opportunities like team events.  It means providing clear expectations about team behavior and recognition for collaborative achievements.  It means empowering people to work together, solve problems, and create an amazing team experience.  It also means tending the garden, i.e. hiring people who will work well with the team and promptly addressing toxic behaviours.

That doesn’t mean everything’s always perfect.  Sometimes it’s a process.  Sometimes there are growing pains.  Sometimes things take longer.  But the focus is always on making the team better.

Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They may be male or female, introverted or extroverted, tall or short, chic or shabby, suave or awkward, remote or onsite.  However, they’re easy to spot because they have one thing in common: They lead great teams.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Stop telling employees they own company culture!!

Telling employees they own culture is a bit like telling HR to think like business people.

Let me explain that, because it's fair to expect HR professionals – especially those with business partner in their title - to approach problems with a business lens.  But here comes the ‘but.’  

The business people who say HR should think like business people tend to earn a lot more and have a much higher stake in the business than an HR partner.  So what, you ask?

Well, as a result, these ‘business people’ tend to be more focused on cost cutting measures to drive up share price and their own bonuses than investing in vague-sounding things like engagement.  Unless, of course, it drives up EPS and is cheap to implement.  Or better yet, free.* 

*OMG – I just realized telling employees they own culture is free. Well, that’s that explained, then.

We could even argue HR folks are the best business thinkers in the company because they understand the importance of things that are difficult to measure, but that's not the kind of 'business thinking' that's meant.

While it’s true HR needs a business lens, few businesses hire ‘business people’ as HR business partners.  Therefore, they shouldn’t be surprised most HR folks think and talk like… well, HR folks.  If you want your HR business partner to think, act and talk like your Chief Revenue Officer, you’ll need to recruit, reward and design this role differently.

Note that HR business partners with amazing networking, business acumen and storytelling skills quickly graduate to higher paying pastures. That should tell you something.

Same deal with employees and culture. Do employees own culture?  Certainly, everyone owns their own behaviour at work but let’s not forget the human tendency to observe others and imitate what works.  If people seem to get ahead by hoarding information, taking credit for teamwork, spending more time socializing than doing actual work, or shooting down ideas, guess what behaviours will end up becoming the norm? 

Whereas if toxic behaviour is promptly addressed, ideas are welcome, meaningful collaboration encouraged, teamwork rewarded, and helping others recognized a very different kind of culture will emerge.

I realize positive examples can inspire positive behaviours, even in a dark place, but bad behaviour tends to spread if unchecked.  Inevitably, others follow suit, which encourages others to do the same because it seems to be how things are done.

In a place where no one can be trusted, only a fool trusts or is trustworthy. 

So, who owns culture?  Everyone in the organization participates in and has some accountability for culture but the ‘owners’ are the leaders and decision makers - the choice architects - who set the behavioural example; design roles and incentives; decide who to hire and promote; and determine which behaviours to accept and encourage. 

Making employees responsible for culture isn’t great leadership, it’s lack of leadership.

Interested in learning more about how design thinking can be used to create a better company culture and work experience?  

Here are some resources to get started:

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top 10 Marketing Tips for HR

Over the last decade, HR has successfully re-invented itself as the strategic owner of the 'people agenda’ and (mostly) embraced the cloud.  However, in order to navigate the next wave of technology advancement, they’ll need to once more rethink how they can best serve the business.  Marketing has a few lessons to impart about that.

At most companies, the marketing department is bigger than the HR department and has a much larger programs budget.  Whereas marketers are increasingly in demand, HR jobs are starting to decline.  Both are complex, multi-faceted jobs, so what’s marketing’s secret?

Is it because so many HR functions are outsourced, either to agencies (i.e. recruiting) or service providers (i.e. payroll)?  Nope, marketing gets outsourced, too - everything from SEO to white papers to creative services, just to name a few.  In fact, marketing typically has the highest agency spend in the business.

Is it because there are more marketing people, so they can do more and therefore get more recognition?  Well, yes, but keep in mind most marketing departments start small and grow with the business. 

Is it because marketing adds more value to the business?  Again, no. HR done well adds as much long-term value to the business as marketing, although marketing has an advantage when it comes to demonstrating short-term value because they directly support sales.  It’s a contributing factor, but not the entire story.

Is it because marketing people are better at selling themselves?  Getting warmer, but plenty of people love to hate marketing.  In the words of a CEO I once worked with, ‘Half of what marketing does is crap, the problem is I don’t know which half.’ 

Unfortunately for HR, there isn’t a handy metric they can link to sales revenue like marketing can, but they can still measure stuff with more wow factor than number of performance reviews completed or time to hire.  

*I'm not saying these metrics don't matter, but I am saying they need to be tied to business outcomes.  

Here’s the skinny: Whether you're trying to attract the right talent, deliver a world class employee experience, or create ‘moments that matter,’ HR can learn a few moves from marketing:

  1. BRANDING – Just as marketing is responsible for defining a company brand that inspires positive, trustful feelings, it is HRs job to define – or at least communicate - an employer brand people want to work for.  In industries with fierce competition for talent, this needs to be a priority rather than a side project, and it’s an area where HR and marketing can and should collaborate.  (Just remember, marketing isn’t compensated for hiring metrics so don’t expect them to place the same priority on this as you do. And if you don’t like that, remember HR owns the incentive strategy so it’s up to you to fix it.)
  2. PERSONAS – Marketing learned the hard way that one size doesn’t fit all and spend all kinds of time and money defining personas to ensure their content is relevant for the target audience.  HR has also come to realize personalization matters but has yet to embark on serious workforce segmentation and personalization when it comes to HR programs.
  3. JOURNEY – Marketing loves to talk about the buyer journey, to the point where it’s probably quite annoying for everyone else.  But this is where the rubber hits the road, because it’s the framework you use to design your buyer experience.  How can HR programs be truly effective if HR doesn’t understand the journey an employee takes with the company from the employee point of view? 
  4. NURTURE – A critical aspect of the journey described above is the nurture process, which is how you help someone progress to the next stage.  To give a recruiting example, an organization might promote content about career development to create awareness of their employer brand, then follow up with more specific organizational information to candidates that engage with that content.  How do you nurture candidates and employees on their journey with your company to ensure they are able and inspired to progress to the next level?
  5. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – Since customers are the best marketers, marketing has – or should have - a laser focus on the customer experience, although admittedly with more focus in the buyer experience. So, who are HR’s customers?  Be careful, this is a trick question: If you answered your leadership team rather than your employees and line managers, ask yourself what impact that perspective is likely to have on employee experience. 
  6. DESIGN THINKING – Marketing engages in regular two-way communication with stakeholders and keep ideating, testing different ideas, and iterating to achieve the desired results.  Similarly, HR should be ideating, testing and iterating with business leaders, managers and employees about their needs and tailoring their programs to meet those needs. Practice design thinking when designing and implementing HR programs to ensure the result is customer-centric.
  7. GAMIFICATION Although typically discussed in terms of customer engagement, gamification is becoming increasingly popular within HR to improve employee engagement, create a learning culture and drive innovation.  Taking a gameful approach to work design and skills development can help drive employee engagement, creative problem solving, and competitive advantage. 
  8. STORIES – The secret sauce of any successful marketing initiative is a good story.  Similarly, great stories can help attract, retain and inspire the right people.  What is your company’s origin story?  How do people succeed and progress at your company?  How are you helping customers solve problems?  How are individuals who work for your business making a difference?  There’s a reason so many great leaders are also great story tellers.
  9. OUTCOMES - Stories are important, but marketing pros don't just tell stories, they make sure to back up the information with business relevant facts and figures.  Guess what? Numbers like ‘# of people who completed training x’ are interesting for HR but don’t really have bottom line impact to the business. I grant you it's harder to measure the value of a person than it is to measure the value of a sale, but you can align HR processes and programs with company goals and try to measure their impact on overall business performance.
  10. EVANGELISM – Just as customers are the best marketers for your brand, your employees are – or should be – your best employer brand evangelists.  If you aren’t actively trying to understand who your best brand ambassadors are, you’re really missing a trick.  Who are your most passionate employees and how are you identifying, recognizing, rewarding and developing them?  Those are folks you want to keep an eye on as possible high potentials, but also to ensure their external representation of your company is brand compliant.
One more thing: It takes courage and humility to ask how you’re doing and there’s an unfortunate human tendency to focus on the negative when giving feedback - no one understands that better than a marketer.  Having said that, employees are subject to performance management processes designed by HR, but who’s measuring HR’s performance from the employee perspective? 

Here’s the money question: Do your customers value what you do and if not, how can you improve?

I’ll leave you with that thought.

Friday, January 11, 2019

New Research: Employee Experience Design for HR Practitioners

Great employee experience doesn’t just happen – it’s designed. From how you define the jobs in your organization to leader selection processes and how work is done, exceptional EX requires more than just picking the latest and greatest technology. HR now has the mandate to design employee experiences with the same care given to delighting customers.

But how?  Your help is needed to answer that question.

NextGen Insights, Red Rocks Impact and UNLEASH have teamed up to explore the state of employee experience design and create a best practice framework for HR practitioners. You're invited to participate in this research with an opportunity to join UNLEASH in London March 19-20 where the results will be presented.

COMPLETE THE SURVEY for a free copy of the research findings and a chance to win a complimentary ticket to your choice of the UNLEASH Conference and Expo in London 19-20 March 2019, or UNLEASH America in Las Vegas 14-15 May 2019.

To recap: Take the survey now (it should only take about 15 minutes), receive a free copy of the results, and you may also win a free ticket to UNLEASH.

Hope to see you there!

You may also enjoy these related posts on design thinking.

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