There is no "EASY button"

Photo by Todd Lappin
Chatting with a local HR leader last week, I heard this complaint- "my CEO thinks I can just push one button, and presto! we have company culture."

If only it were so simple.

Unfortunately, there is no CULTURE button to push. But what we do have are different levers and knobs that help to affect and define a corporate culture:
  1. Some control switches can move the needle in a big way, like, communication. Clearly defining what you stand for, then distributing it widely to your organization can be a huge mover.
  2. Some controls are even more powerful, like, leading by example. Living your core values, publicly, can be huge. We live in an age of transparency now. Someone is always watching - your customers, your competitors, your fellow associates.
  3. Then there are other things like consistency and commitment are control knobs that are hard to keep dialed in. Nonetheless, being unwavering to your mission and key principles is essential.

And...there are plenty of knobs and buttons that the chief HR officer has no power over. Things like the economy, or  the effect of weather on the stock price.

The key thing to remember are there ARE components of company culture that you can control. And if you don't take the wheel, you fly rudderless.

What are the other knobs that YOU turn to modulate and control your company culture?

Onboarding Pass

Photo by clappstar
Over the past several months I've been tasked with troubleshooting hiring issues that cross international borders. My team has been building a talent branding program for a luxury goods company expanding into England and Australia. In Hong Kong,  I saw a wall-sized plea in the lobby of a consumer packaged goods company for employees to help identify new recruits. In Germany, where the population rate has declined dramatically, we've studied the need to hire ex-pats to fill high-skilled positions.

Competition for people with the right skills has heated up on a global scale. As companies succeed, they can quickly build on their positive momentum by enlarging their geographic footprint.  Often, the rate limiting step is finding the right talent. HR departments go through a time consuming rigmarole to find the perfect candidate - a person who has the right skills, experience AND attitude. It's like finding a needle in a haystack, where the needle may not want to be found.

There's a "cheat," of course. Recruitment novices routinely dismiss candidates who don't have an IMMEDIATE  fit, but Onboarding programs can help to create the job fit AFTER the hire. Onboarding helps new hires acquire the necessary skills, company/industry knowledge and the proper behaviors to become successful employees. Onboarding programs often involve printed handbooks, computer-aided training (with video orientation), and most importantly, formal meetings with peers, supervisors and HR representatives. Onboarding programs that instill company values can help to create the proper attitude and cultural integration.  Internationally speaking, socialization training extends beyond issues of company culture- at times language and cultural counseling (living in a different country) become an important onboarding tactic.

This "cheat" is not cheap. Onboarding is an educational cost, and it's an investment that the company makes in its newly hired recruits. But the dividends are palpable. Research has demonstrated that effective onboarding can lead to higher job satisfaction, better job performance, reduced stress and higher employee retention.

Perfectly cut diamonds are expensive. It's easier to find diamonds in the rough and polish them yourself.

Leveraging your Employee Asset

Photo by ChuckThePhotographer
Leverage. In high school physics, we were taught how even a child can lift an anvil using a see-saw. It's all about using the right tools to get the job done more efficiently. Working smarter, not harder. Last week I stressed the importance of leveraging technology to get HR tasks done. But sometimes HR pros forget that they have another powerful fulcrum for recruiting: the human assets already on staff.

Forbes reported yesterday that using current employees to aid in recruiting has emerged as a top workplace trend in 2013. Instead of wasting money on advertising, they are getting the word out through employees' social networks.  In order to do this effectively, however, you need to make sure that you arm them with the proper tools.

If EVERY employee understands the company's core values and relates their message out in the proper tone or "voice" you're doing something right. Having a well defined talent brand becomes a foundational element in this regard. Take Google, for example. Google has been able to distill down their cultural mission into this simple statement: do cool things that matter. It's spotlighted prominently on the Google career page. Can you sum up your cultural "battle cry" in a single sentence? Can your employees? If so, you may be a master at leverage.

HR Tech Roundup

Tool Photo by johnb2008
Each year the hoi polloi of HR geekery converge to meet at the HR Tech Conference. In case you didn't attend the conference in person last week in Las Vegas, here's a quick roundup of some of the notable vendor releases and intros:

  • Blissbook showcased a product that helps you create beautiful, engaging, culture-filled employee handbooks. Their tagline: "Employee handbooks you can smile about."
  • Hunite is mindful of the employee experience. It introduced a solution that createsan elegant mobile interface that bridges different HR Systems (quite  helpful for companies that employ multiple vendors for their HRIS needs).
  • Zao helps you leverage the power of "word-of-mouth" to magnify your recruiting efforts. It converts your employees' social networks into an additional recruiting channel.
Zao wasn't the only vendor making hay out of social networking. For instance, SilkRoad's POINT product leverages social sharing on an iPad interface. In adition, Ultimate Software gave a sneak peak at UltiPro Recruiting which will integrate into popular social networks like LinkedIN. The product which is slated to launch sometime in early 2014 will also integrate gamification mechanics.

When you manage a Talent Brand it's important to make sure you have a good tool box. Since we're now in the information age, HR departments are leveraging technologies to aid in the recruiting process, benefits administration, employee onboarding, skills training and performance management. Tech isn't just for payroll processing any more. In fact, one of the largest HRIS vendors Workday announced that its product adoption is going to to more than double (from 5% today to 12% next year). Adoption of tech into HR is becoming widely held.

HR isn't well known to be a field surrounded by gadgets and gizmos. But that perception is quickly changing.

Obamacare and the Talent Brand

Can you feel the ground shake? It's the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). Its roll out today marks an expansive change to the landscape of the American Healthcare system. These are shifts of seismic proportion. The shockwaves are washing over every HR department as they scramble to maintain governmental compliance, but the shake up will also have a huge effect on talent marketing as well. Here's why: Great health benefits used to be a compelling factor in choosing a big company job over a start-up.

The ACA takes this carrot away by making health plans available to some of the most attractive, prospective employees. Let's say, a sharp, professional smarty-pants who has a child with a pre-existing health condition were considering her career opportunities today, October 1, 2013. She may very well be able to consider being an entrepreneur more easily because costs for health care insurance is no longer a huge barrier. Working for a large corporation doesn't offer the same advantage in health care security as it used to. Now more than ever, projecting a company culture that resonates with her values, and selling the benefits of working with your team need to be communicated. Clearly.

It's time to check the foundations of your talent brand. The groundswell has only begun.

HR Radio

Flickr photo by Elijah
I had a great Q&A session yesterday on HR Radio about the subject of Talent Branding. One of the first questions posed was the difference between Employer Branding and Talent Branding. Aside from the points I made in my semantics post, we discussed how employers can impress/imprint their cultural values onto their talent. I made this analogy: employers metaphorically brand their talent force just like cowboys brand cattle.

Also, talent owns the brand as much as the HR marketing team. In today's world, your company's employees have access to their peer networks through social media. That gives your workforce considerable sway over your company's perception as a first-rate employer. Helping to manage these conversations becomes part of the branding task.

So it's all about the talent - not the employer.

You can listen to the whole interview which is archived on (my segment starts about 14:00 minutes into the radio show). Here's the link if you didn't get a chance to tune in: HR Radio Talent Branding Interview >>

Converting Passive Candidates

The best person for the job you're trying fill is probably working somewhere else. If she is capable, skilled and professional, it's highly unlikely that she is unemployed and is searching for the open position your company recruiter just posted on She is what the HR buzzword mavens call a "passive candidate."

The challenge then is to somehow get your company on the passive candidate's radar screen. This is hard. Unless you are actively marketing your talent brand, you are invisible.

But you may stand a chance of getting her attention:
 - If her peers are talking about your company (on the conference circuit)
- or if she hears about how amazing your product is (via press coverage)
- or if she becomes aware of how attractive your company culture is (via social chatter)

Here's the upshot: passive candidates are not passive at all. They are resistant to change. They actively avoid unsolicited advances. So you need to also market your company as a first class employer along the periphery - with discipline and frequency.

Conversion is hard. You can't do it with a single shot. It takes a concerted campaign and repetition matters. To paraphrase Paul Mitchell: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.