HR the Red Bull Way

A Facebook friend asked this morning if Red Bull has the best branding of any company in the world today. My immediate response was absolutely.

First off, I have never even had a sip of Red Bull. But, even I am thinking about giving it a try because, frankly, they are so freaking cool.

When your brand is associated with (actually responsible for in this case) getting a guy into space and jump back to earth with millions and millions watching, you’ve nailed it. You now are in the leagues of Apple and … well … Apple for inspiring their target market to think and be greater.

We forget these lessons in recruiting sometimes. It’s really easy to spend time talking to a candidate about the job. But what about the things that really matter … what your company represents to its’ buyers, its’ employees and its’ community. In short, what makes you inspire your team to think and be greater?

I think we overstate our mundaneness too often. We think that what we do can’t possibly live up to a standard of Red Bull or Apple. If that is the bar you set, you are probably right. But there is greatness in what your company does or you wouldn’t be doing it.

Start asking the question “How do we change the world?” It’s an odd one at first, but start asking the question and then look at the excitement that starts to build around simply the question, let alone the answer.

Then discuss it. Talk it up with candidates in interviews, on-boarding, review sessions and anywhere else you can. Will you put a man in space and have him freefall from 127,000 feet up? Likely not … that’s been done. But, find what makes your company great and use it. There nothing like a workforce trying to change the world.


Why a Recruitment Brand is Nonsense

Been traveling a bunch lately and had a chance to stop by the offices of a pretty cool company, Evviva Brands, in San Francisco. This is not intended to be a plug in any way but the conversation got me thinking. Evviva does employment related branding for some seriously big companies like Marriott and HSBC. They actually do it in some really innovative ways … through games.

“Recruitment branding” has become a buzz-word de jour of late. Having an image as a great place to work or an innovative environment or whatever is all good. But I think the entire conversation is pretty misguided.

There can be only one brand and that belongs to the whole company. “Who are we or what do we want to be in the minds of a candidate” is the wrong question and yields a lack of authenticity. “What about our company and its brand can we leverage to attract top talent” may be a better approach. (For the record, this is the approach Evviva takes.)

Companies attract top talent when there is a brand alignment to customers, employees, candidates, and any other stakeholders. It’s probably the most over used analogy in HR but consider Southwest Airlines. If SWA was not a fun airline to begin with, would a brand that promotes them as a fun place to work ever have impact? Maybe for a little while until the truth came out.

Recruitment branding exercises often focus more on brainstorming appealing statements to candidates and less on communicating the natural advantages of the business. The next time you are thinking about your recruitment brand, really consider your overall corporate brand. What makes is special, different? Why did your top performers choose you over other companies, why do they stay and excel? Need a place to start? Ask them. Chances are it will say far more about your company as a whole than any inauthentic “recruitment brand”.


How Much Do You Experiment?

Love, love, love this article in Fast Company about 37 Signals. If you aren’t familiar with them, you may be with their popular project management software Base Camp.

37 Signals CEO Jason Freid discusses how his company has become “somewhat of a laboratory for innovative workplace practices.” Mundane things like a 4-day work week in the summer. His rationale? “There’s a shortage of talent out there, and if there’s a shortage of resources, you want to conserve those resources.” For those environmentalists reading, he likens it to a “peak people theory”.

How much experimentation goes on in your organization? Unfortunately, far too many HR and legal departments have gone the opposite direction and are focusing far more on risk avoidance than anything else.

Here is a personal experience in my company, We are a software company that hires a lot of very bright, very motivated and very … um … demanding employees. They can be … they are very smart and very motivated. We really try and cut against the grain of traditional HR practices as much as possible. Some experiments work and some don’t. When we began, we refused to put a vacation policy in place. Our

rational was if you need a day or week off, take it off. Of course, this requires your manager’s approval and you must be meeting your goals. It’s all about personal responsibility and clear accountability / performance. We hire adults, entrust them with millions of dollars in client relationships and try to treat them accordingly.

We get stung by this policy from time to time. Even HR technology companies can make a bad hire every once in a while. But, the good far outweighs the bad and the experiment paid off. Like I said, not experiments have worked as well (more on that in another post).

How can you experiment? When was the last time you focused on the upside and ignored the risk in eliminating an old-fashioned process or launched a new, slightly outlandish initiative.

We all need to experiment more … isn’t that really where the fun is?


Response to “Reference Checks: Neutral is the New Negative and Getting Negative Info is Gold”

Just read HR Capitalist’s blog post entitled “Reference Checks: Neutral is the New Negative, and Getting Negative Info is Gold…”. In it @Kris_Dunn discusses simply receiving “name, rank and serial number” on a candidate is the new standard of a negative reference. But is it? I’m going to go with sort of. I know, it’s a really weak answer but let me explain.

I am CEO of a company that provides automated reference checking technology called Our cloud-based solution checks thousands and thousands of references per month. Typically, automated reference-checking technologies like ours (there are a couple other companies provided similar, albeit differentiated products) see reference completion rates of over 80%. When I say completion, I am referring to a complete reference check with answers to all requested information. That is a pretty startling difference from the phone-based reference checking average of around 20% that our research indicates (as well as personal experience hiring a lot of people … I started my career as a technology recruiter).

So, back to my answer of simply getting name, rank and serial number as an indicator of a negative reference. Truth is that is depends a great deal on the position. Higher level professionals are more able to arrange calls with their references and get them to provide detailed information. Lower to mid level candidates may not have this luxury as the impact of a reference breaking corporate policy is just not worth it.

Beside the issue of career level, the much larger reason is that the phone-based reference checking model is flawed and will continue to yield fewer and fewer successful reference checks. They will also yield far fewer truly negative references where specific information is gathered from the call that will prevent a bad hire.

I say it’s a flawed model because it rests on premise that a reference provided by a candidate, who has a relationship with that candidate, is going to throw
their buddy under the bus to benefit someone whom they don’t know and have no interest in. Why would they do this? Got me. Corporate policy has just provided a convenient excuse for an already dumb request.

Automated reference checking technologies have started to disrupt this process finally and see far higher completion rates. Most importantly, the results can use assessment-based logic (at least in the case of who is the only one I can speak about first-hand) to make it predictive of on-the-job performance. We usually see negative reference rates between 15-20% versus under 5% which is average for phone based.

Back to HR Capitalists notion that no information is the new negative, under a flawed model there is probably some truth to that but we can do far better to make reference checking relevant again.