Ductus Exemplo: Leading by Example (Part 1)


Recruitment Lessons from the US Marines

Ductos ExemploOne of the most successful recruiting efforts of all time doesn’t belong to a Fortune 500 company, but rather the United States Marine Corps. Despite ongoing conflicts and being arguably the most demanding service in the armed forces, the Marines consistently meet their quantity and quality metrics for recruitment. That’s why we wanted to see what lessons we could learn from our nation’s expeditionary force and how one of the Marines’ values “Ductos Exemplo”  (to lead by example) rings true in the recruitment space.

Introducing the first of a series of blogs focusing on performance-based leadership, diversity in recruiting, and empowering employees. Their principles have made the Marines consistently successful at reaching their audience. Working with J. Walter Thompson (JWT) for more than 67 years, Marines have developed nuanced messaging strategies to appeal to recruits for decades.

With a yearly marketing and advertising budget of $70 to $100 million, Marines spend only about $2,500 per successful accession (a recruit who successfully completes basic training). Compare that with the $2.4 billion Nike spent last year just to market shoes. This is truly an incredible feat considering the difficult and potentially life-threatening nature of being a Marine.

Emphasizing a performance-based culture, the first post in the series will show how the Marines’ Principles of Leadership can improve employees’ attitudes. More than a corporate feel-good exercise, a culture based on transparency and accountability can really translate to better financial performance.

Our next post will focus on improving the diversity of the Corps – in both culture and creed. In 2013, the Marines saw their most diverse group of officer candidates ever – representing 24.3 percent of the officer accessions.

Finishing the series, our last post draws inspiration from the idea that regardless of a Marine’s specialization, he or she is a rifleman first – individually empowered to complete the mission. Metrics are everything when gauging success, and the Marines have got them – in terms of candidates’ diversity, skill level, and commitment to the Marines’ core values.

“This is the most diverse group of officers we’ve brought in. It’s part of an upward trend. We’ve nearly doubled the diversity of officer accessions over the past five years,” Lt. Col. Chester McMillon, head of officer programs, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, was quoted on the Marines official website. “Academically they are outstanding. On average they carry a 3.5 grade point average and 1200 SAT. They are also proven leaders in their schools, communities or churches.”

Those are the qualifications recruiters everywhere would like to see in their candidates. The courage of the Marines’ tactics and messaging helped them to consistently achieve their goals, without sacrificing their culture.

What are some ways your company has taken recruiting risks? Did it work? What kind of messaging did you use? Get ready for next week’s installment of our Ductos Exemplo series focused on Marines’ performance-based leadership culture.


Purpose. What’s Yours?

YourPurposeSo many companies talk about purpose, and too often the conversation quickly turns to corporate social responsibility efforts—doing good in the community and the world. In essence, they default to talking about a higher purpose. Sure, organizations need to be good corporate citizens and think about their impact on the world around them. But that needs to ladder up to the grand purpose of the organization: why you exist at all.

Your purpose as an organization gets you up every morning. It’s a magnet for talent and an inspiration for your workforce. It creates believers and evangelists and retains your most valuable people. It’s a pride point—a source of passion.

Your purpose also gives you direction. It unifies and galvanizes your workforce. It’s personal. It clarifies the roles and expectations of employees, and gives individuals an opportunity to align their personal brand, character, goals and values with the company’s.

When combined with a culture that empowers, your purpose can truly change the game in terms of productivity, business performance, job satisfaction and retention. In other words, your purpose can be a competitive advantage.

I had the pleasure of working with one particular company that embraced the idea of purpose so much that everyone in a management role was asked to share their personal purpose. This was a written description of what they personally wanted to contribute to the organization, rather than a summary of their individual job functions. Not only did the activity create synergy across the organization, it also allowed employees to see how their own values can guide their professional contributions. If that’s not inspiring and empowering, I don’t know what is.

So, what’s your purpose? Is that clear to candidates and employees? Do they know what they are contributing to holistically?

You might wonder if focusing too much on higher purpose can harm you. Well, it actually can. We recently conducted a study on mission-based organizations, and one of the key findings was that they ranked poorly among certain talent groups. Higher purpose, when emphasized too heavily, decreased interest and consideration among certain job functions (e.g., Finance and IT).

Candidates want to identify with your purpose and join your cause, but they have to see the immediate impact of their work on the world and understand how it will advance them professionally. They want the collective story of how they will personally contribute to your business and change the world. And don’t make the mistake of assuming your audience is a group of selfless do-gooders. That’s not the case.

My advice: Take the time to understand your people, purpose and culture. That powerful story will take your organization to new heights.