As someone whose gig is working with companies on attracting and retaining people, I get to see many different environments, perspectives and viewpoints on this topic in companies around the world and across many verticals. Universal among them is the desire to attract “in demand” talent and to retain them as well. These organizations know the importance of hiring engaged and talented people to their bottom line, but most think the best way to do this is to espouse their values, corporate goals and PR around their products and services. This is not “wrong”, but in actuality is really only a piece of what matters to job seekers and employees who might be tempted to look for greener pastures. Yes- what you do matters to prospects, but what matters above all else is a question that is much more meaningful to current and future employees: What is in it for them?
Companies work hard to formulate their “core values”. They survey employees, have tons of meetings, put together some epic PowerPoints and then plaster that stuff everywhere and anywhere. Posters, coffee mugs, videos, orientations, reviews – these often permeate very deeply a company’s day to day after creation. The idea behind these is to identify what makes an organization and its culture unique to them in a way current and future employees can rally around, be selected for and measured against. While I have written about this in the past with some questions, I do understand there are benefits to these efforts and why it is such a common practice. Since these organizations have invested so much time in these values, often the natural reaction for companies in thinking about marketing themselves as an employer is to put these “out there” front and center, and pretty much market these values along with the company’s fiscal and product performance as the main “dangling carrots” for future and current employees to flock to and align with. As I mentioned earlier, I am not minimizing their importance. People want to work for a company where they philosophically are aligned and they want to to work in a company that is fiscally sound too. What I am saying is that there is SO MUCH MORE – and it starts with asking that simple question I posed above.
Earlier this year, LinkedIn came out with a report, Inside the Mind of Today’s Candidate which was based on a survey of 14,000+ professionals from 28 countries. There are lots of great nuggets in there, but one that really stood out to me was this:
In looking at what actual candidates said about what they most wanted to know about in interviews role responsibilities and team fit were equal to (fit with team) and more important (responsibilities) than company missions and values. Trailing not too far behind were salary and benefits and advancement after role. As I mentioned earlier, yes – your values and goals are important but there is so much more to market and show your prospects and it all comes down to our basic instincts as human beings – What is in it for me?
One of the exercises I do with companies I work with is to gather together a focus group of employees from as diverse a background as possible (and tenure too) who are considered engaged employees and ask them lots of questions to better understand their perspectives on what attracted them to and makes them stay at their employer. This is helpful in many ways to developing a strategy for branding, but I am always amazed at the feedback I get for two reasons. First off, I often find that what leadership defines as the key talking points of attraction is often different than what the actual employees think. Second – that very rarely is the company’s products or services the reason (or even a top 3 reason) why they joined. Yes – they do state the importance of these things – but more often than not the main reasons reflect what the survey shared above – in short “what is in it for them”. I hear things like bigger role, bigger voice, faster career advancement, more impact, money, nicer people, better culture, etc. as the most common reason people were attracted to or stay at a company. Yes, people would not join a company if they didn’t align with what the company does, but as in every new job we take, the more pressing questions is what is in it for me – and we cannot underestimate that.
Companies need to get out of the mindset that people (especially in this “gig economy” era we live in) are signing up for the company’s dreams and understand the true reality – they are signing up (and staying) for their own individual dreams and ambitions. No one, no matter how much Kool Aid they have ingested, would not do what is in their own best interests for them and their families first – regardless of how awesome your core values and Q3 performance was – and that’s a fact. So what can you do? First – don’t make your core values or company performance the focus point of your attraction efforts – simply a part of them. Second – SHOW THEM what is is in it for them at your company. Share growth stories of career advancement, show them what the culture is really like, share job descriptions that describe the impact and career paths for the roles you want to fill – I could go on but you get the point. With every piece on content your create and share, every update to your careers site and social share – this should be front of mind. By showing your prospects what is in it for them, you will be addressing the very thing that really matters in the end to all your prospects.