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.


Are You Defining Your Culture or Creating It?


Today, companies in virtually every category are going through major transformations: Education, Healthcare, Finance, Telecommunications, Television and Video Distribution, Aerospace/Defense, Fast Food/Fast Casual Restaurants… the list goes on. With these changes, companies need clearly defined cultures connected to their mission, values and purpose to inform and inspire their existing employees and to attract their next generation workforce.  Many think of this process as “employer branding” whereby a culture is defined and communicated.  However, that stops short of what’s really demanded in today’s world.

Given the importance of employee alignment with and enthusiasm around these major business transformations, CEOs, CMOs and Chief Talent Officers have never been more connected. They’re sitting at the table together, ensuring the brand promise is being delivered at every level. For many companies, this requires the installation of new values, behaviors, processes and workplace infrastructures to achieve their business goals. That goes beyond branding and communications to the redesign of the employee experience. One could argue that we are now not only defining and communicating culture but also creating one.

This may seem like a wild declaration, but considering that so many leaders are starting from a point of major transformation; it’s giving them license to treat the organization as a start-up. Re-writing the culture. Tossing out all the stuff that isn’t working. That’s not to say leaders are forgetting the brand’s heritage all together, but rather preserving the best parts and infusing them into a new story.

And the best part? Everyone wins! Leadership has a galvanized workforce; employees are re-sold on their employer and re-inspired toward the cause; candidates are attracted to this “new” organization with the opportunity to build something and make an immediate impact on companies and industries alike; and marketers and consultants… well, we extend our value and impact. This maker-movement is fully alive and well.

My advice to all Chief Talent Officers in this climate is, “don’t squander this opportunity.”  Defining and announcing an employer brand is not enough anymore, and it’s not strictly a marketing exercise. Change in employee behavior (i.e., from transactional to creative, empowered and entrepreneurial), and making a measurable impact on the customer experience requires a re-architecture and re-programming of your workplace, all the while perpetuating and reinforcing your brand promise. I challenge everyone to go further with your recruitment and employee engagement communications. Don’t just announce change; build it.  Involve your people throughout the entire journey. Only then will they truly understand and embrace the transformation that’s taking place. Transform your business, your workplace, the industry…  and maybe even the world!


Employee Video Storytelling with 21st Century Fox

21CF1We recently came across the careers website for 21st Century Fox and found that there’s something with this careers site that stands out among many. [Who is 21st Century Fox, you may ask? In brief, 21st Century Fox owns a global portfolio of cable, broadcast, film, pay TV and satellite assets spanning six continents across the globe. They’re kind of a big deal.] While the site design and overall navigation experience could improve, we love that this careers site is so focused on their people and not as focused on getting candidates to search and apply for jobs. The whole careers site prioritizes employee videos right in the design, which nicely combats the typical candidate instinct to go to a careers site and skip important content about company culture, going straight to the job search.


21CF2When you first get to the 21st Century Fox Careers site you’re immediately greeted with a big, colorful box featuring a few employee videos. Watching these videos, dubbed “21 seconds with (Employee Name Here)” you get a feel for who 21st Century Fox is as an employer and the types of people that thrive in this company culture. [Not to mention, it’s also a nice play-on-words using the number “21” in the series title!] These short videos are fun, creative, and drive home the fact that 21st Century Fox employees love what they do, all in a 21-second video clip. We asked Tiffany LaBanca, SVP of Global Internal Communications, about these videos, and she replied, “I think the content and stories are really true to who we are and the people we employ.  This company is full of passionate, creative and amazingly talented people.  We have a lot of fun doing what we do and we aimed to bring all of that to life.”


21CF3We love these employee videos because it really allows 21st Century Fox to show a more human side to a large global company through employee storytelling. However, for being a content creation company at heart and for having about 26,000 employees, we’re asking, why aren’t there more employee stories?! There actually are additional employee stories than the homepage previews, but it takes some clicking around to find the “Meet Our People” section of the site.  Once you’re there you can watch longer format videos that give you a deeper understanding of an employee’s actual job.

A big opportunity we see to further improve how these videos are viewed and the relevancy to candidates could be to relate the videos to career path options. By adding content on the roles each employee plays, the companies that are a part of 21st Century Fox’s network, and how it all fits into the larger 21st Century Fox story, a deeper experience could be had. We asked Tiffany her thoughts on this and she said, “We’re just getting started telling the 21st Century Fox inside story. Stay tuned!”

Until then, we’ll be enjoying these unique employee stories from 21st Century Fox.


Your Employer Brand: It’s Serious Business

Is your company or category going through a major transformation?
Are you in the midst of launching a new consumer brand promise?
Do you have trouble articulating your employment story to candidates?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you may want to consider re-evaluating your current employer brand. Here’s why…

employer-brandingEmployer brands were once thought of as simply defining an expectation between employee and employer.  But today, the employer brand plays a much bigger and more vital role within organizations and in driving their futures. It informs the guest/customer experience, aligns employees and candidates with your purpose and business aspirations, and it distills your employment offering into simple, actionable and easily understood language so everyone can contribute. It’s inspirational, empowering, and unifying.

If you are going through a major transformation within your organization, a shift in mindset, behavior, culture and direction may be at play.  If that’s the case, employer brand can play a pivotal role in defining the new employee expectations and aligning them with the business focus. The employer brand can be used to enlist brand ambassadors contribute to building the new culture, engage customers, reward internal performance, share, and mentor others.

If you have a new consumer brand promise to launch, don’t forget that’s a promise to customers, not employees.  This consumer brand requires translation for your employees so they understand how to deliver on the customer experience. And you need to consider how that translation lives and breathes in the halls of your workplace, how employees treat each other, and the opportunity and potential that exists for them.

For those in talent acquisition and HR communications who are frustrated with their current careers website, social media, student recruitment communications and more as it doesn’t tell any clear story about “why candidates should work here,” you may want to to re-evaluate your current employer brand. A clear story should be at the top of the pyramid informing the channels, experiences, and programs you implement. By leading with your employer brand story and letting it drive the conversations and experiences you have online (and off), you’ll attract the candidates you want most. The story will resonate with their values, aspirations, backgrounds and desire to make a contribution.

No matter where you are in your employer brand journey, be sure to include your audience in everything you do. Involve them. Enlist them. Empower them. Give them the opportunity to participate, define, share, own.  Nothing makes employees feel more valued than being active contributors in your success and further believers in the cause.


How Good Storytelling Can Help Guide Your EVP

Our most basic instinct is to share our stories. Debate our theories. Demonstrate our knowledge. And, every company tells a story whether they know it or not. So, the question becomes: Does a company own their story, or will they allow the marketplace to do it for them? The essence of every company’s story is expressed through its culture. A company’s culture is most effective when it can be reduced to its core – full of humanity, passion, and vitality. A message so filled with meaning that it speaks to future and current employees, regardless of their experience, position, or background. This message is guided by a North Star – an employer value proposition (EVP).

*Communicating Culture*

Corporate culture may take years to create, but with an EVP, it can be summed up in just a few words. A truly effective EVP can drive recruitment strategies, employee engagement, and even long-term business goals. An interview in Forbes magazine with CEO of MSLGROUP, Olivier Fleurot, talks about just how important a strong employee culture is:

“Business leaders need to make sure their employer brand is strong. That’s because Millennials respect organizations with clearly articulated visions, a strong purpose, shared values and clear career path options.”

Though Fleurot is speaking to his experience with Millennials, staff of all ages could be hobbled without a fully articulated EVP. In the vacuum created by the absence of a company’s cultural vision, employees will fill in the blanks for themselves. But, when employees’ disparate visions collide, it creates the kind of environment that makes businesses less effective.

*Not Just What You Say, But How You Say It*

A truly effective EVP should cut across generational boundaries to communicate a vision that speaks to every employee, regardless of age or experience. Though, maintaining culture is a reciprocal process, it’s up to senior management to constantly reinforce the character and passion of an EVP. Getting it right is essential. Well-known for the exemplary culture, CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, spoke to The New York Times about why he sold his first company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft in 1996:

“From the outside, it looked like it was a great acquisition, $265 million, but most people don’t know the real reason why we ended up selling the company. It was because the company culture just went completely downhill … I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.”

Zappos has since become the gold standard of corporate culture, even offering new hires $2,000 to quit if they don’t think they’re a good fit. Hsieh took a valuable lesson from his experiences at LinkExchange. If the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company can still dread coming to work, how can we expect front-line staff to be any different? Developing and sticking to an EVP can translate to more engagement and job satisfaction for all employees.

*From Front Office to the Front Line*

An EVP, regardless of its accuracy, only works in concert with an activation plan. Using the activation plan as the blueprint and the EVP as a foundation, teams can develop a strategy that more clearly defines a company’s culture, while developing the nuances that better explain their collective identity.

Activation through social responsibility programs, pro bono work, or employee giving programs breathes life into the EVP. This brand reputation can guide every facet of a business, empowering employees and improving the experience for consumers.

Corporate culture will always have an element of fluidity – full of factors beyond anyone’s control. But, when employees understand who they are together, companies are giving employees something bigger than themselves, a culture to believe in.

Does your company have difficulty articulating their culture? Are you struggling to find the right candidates for your company?


What Does Google Autocomplete Say About Your Employer Brand & Recruitment Strategies?

As JWT INSIDE’s Search Engine Marketing Analyst, I’m going to go a little Google-nerd on you here, but bear with me. It’s relevant; I promise.

AEIR (Advanced Emotion Intelligence Research, a team of researchers, software engineers and business specialists that extract data regarding products, people and businesses) recently collected data on 100 brands using Google’s Suggest Queries API and autocompletion. In non-search terms, this research team searched for brand names plus the word “is” on Google to see what autocomplete options showed in the drop down. I included a screenshot of the autocomplete options I receive when I Google search “Apple is” for you, to give you an idea of how this works (keep in mind, AEIR took into consideration a number of other factors, too).

apple is screenshot

Then, AEIR created this lovely infographic to better explain the results they found. This infographic lays out the top 66 of the 100 brands researched and shows the top words associated with the autocompleted searches. Overall, 21% of these results associated the word “Evil” with the brands while 10% associated the phrase “the best.” (This probably shows that people with negative opinions are more likely to post something online about their experiences compared to those with positive feedback, but that’s a topic for another day.) But what do the Google autocomplete search results say about a company’s employer brand? Here are a few of the top brands with the autocompleted search terms that relate to employer branding and recruitment:

Amazon – “Hiring”
UPS – “Hiring”
Siemens – “A Good Company to Work For”
Citi – “Hiring”
Xerox – “A Horrible Place to Work”

Of these 66 brands, 5 show autocomplete search options related to hiring or whether a company is good or bad to work for (that’s about 8% of the brands – are you surprised by this number? I was!). This study shows that Amazon, UPS, and Citi have done a great job of creating awareness around their hiring needs and efforts. Siemens and Xerox likely have a lot of content online being indexed by Google from current or past employees in the form of company reviews, testimonials, and other feedback. This could be on channels like Glassdoor or Indeed, on social media like Twitter, or from other online content like blog posts and industry articles. However, this online content has proven positive for Siemens and negative for Xerox. Your employer branding efforts and recruitment advertising campaigns can portray your company culture and hiring needs all day long, but what your employees say online about your brand as an employer will undoubtedly affect how your brand is seen in the eyes of your candidates.



JWT INSIDE Responds to ‘PayPal Chief Reams Employees: Use Our App or Quit’

A recently published article“PayPal Chief Reams Employees: Use Our App or Quit,” really caught our eye here at JWT INSIDE. Just from the title, we could tell there was going to be an interesting story of passion for an employer and a potential internal challenge with employee engagement. Our first thought was: It sounds like PayPal’s CEO, David Marcus, could ask himself two big questions.

First, why aren’t our employees using the app? And second, are we hiring purpose-driven employees?

Answering these two questions could not only help improve the product in ways that may further encourage the use of the app internally and externally, but it would also support the discussion around hiring the right people to better the business overall.

Although, some may feel Marcus was a bit harsh. Expressing disappointment about employees’ participation with a major product launch shows his commitment and passion for the company, and really gives employees an insight into the human side of being a leader. Ultimately, using the app wasn’t the point, Marcus’s note to his employees was about joining the PayPal culture. An idea that we at JWT INSIDE whole-heartedly believe in – people join cultures, not companies.

A tough-love motivational speech to overcome lack of enthusiasm might have played well at a town hall, but missed the mark in the written word. It was fair of Marcus to acknowledge a growth opportunity and set expectations for his employees. The bigger issue is ensuring his company is hiring people who are passionate enough to be brand ambassadors. Ultimately, Marcus really squandered a chance to focus on their employer brand and use the EVP as a way to attract the type of people who want to download PayPal’s app – not made to feel guilty enough to do it.

In the words of Marcus, “We have much work to do to reach greatness. We’re not perfect by any stretch of imagination. But passion, and purpose will help us get there faster… A life devoid of purpose, and passion in what you do everyday is a waste of the precious time you have on this earth to make it better. Onward with passion, purpose, and gusto!”

We couldn’t agree more. After discussing with a number of INSIDErs, the consensus was unanimous – it’s key to have a defined EVP and a company culture that understands and believes in the business mission, no matter what the brand. We’d love to hear your thoughts, do you agree? As an employee, how would you react to a communication from your CEO like the one sent at PayPal?