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Why the Law of Options Works 👟🩰🥾 EBH
There are always options
If sales were REALLY like recruiting:
🪤 The salesperson would have to have to describe the product and figure out who wanted it.
🪤 The salesperson would have to build their own marketing materials.
🪤 The salesperson would be the ONLY salesperson with that product.
🪤 No one would know what the salesperson promised the prospect.
🪤 The salesperson wouldn't be measured on how many things they actually sold.
A strong salesperson would NEVER accept that process. So why do recruiters?
Dear TA leaders: Stop focusing on headcount and focus more on strategy - How will you achieve more (pipeline, hires, etc) when everyone is looking to slash your budget? That slick tool isn't going to get you where you want (assuming you could even afford it).
A strategy gives you the best shot at winning the fight for talent.
Why this works
An employer brand is a perception of what it’s like to work at a company based on dozens (if not hundreds or more) of interactions, touchpoints, and experiences. It is multidetermined, a system with so many permutations of inputs, there is no one lever you can use to create change.
Some levers won’t work at all, and some give you exactly what you wanted. And there are others which might have ancillary benefits (maybe they’re cheaper, easier, faster, give you a chance to engage new audiences, are a reason to talk to leadership about your work, aligns with what the marketing team is doing, etc).
Smart employer branders see the bigger the picture. They understand that success isn’t a straight line, and that selecting the obvious solution doesn’t allow them to build relationships with other people, relationships that they will need to call on down the road.
Here’s an example: At Groupon, I was trying to encourage more staff to complete the Google form that became the employee profile we were posting online. I knew there was a limitation on how many people would engage if I asked them to complete the profile.
Instead, I spent $100 on a limited run of stickers for people who completed the profile. As a tech company, everyone had plenty of stickers on their laptops, but they were all designed by the comms team, who had a very specific aesthetic. By designing something myself, I could build something obviously different, which made the stickers stand out. People who completed the profiles were thrilled to add stickers to their laptops, and when asked where they got it, would directly them to the Google form. Would it have been cheaper to ask people via email or Slack? Maybe. But by taking a different approach, I was making people who were willing to play my weird little game (before everyone knew about it) a little clout they could show off. That clout created more participants in teams I may never have realized existed.
If you have options, you need to make your choices more strategically.
Where this falls apart
Human nature. We all want there to be “right answers” to the work we do.
There are no right answers. Anywhere. There are layers of complexity, ambiguity, and confusion. No one knows the future.
But people want to be seen as rational. They want there to be a right answer in recruiting, hiring and marketing, places that are not rational. Not even close.
Human nature says that the size of the intervention is proportionate to the size of the effect. That we can only make smart decisions rationally. That two plus two is always four.
Employer branding is deeply irrational. It plays in emotions because that’s what drives behavior. That’s how you get people to take action and make choices.
Do this job for any length of time, and that becomes clear. But you’ll be surrounded by people who think rationality is the only way.
You will need to show people that there are always options.
Let’s say you send a box of cookies to every candidate you interview. That is a $25 charge per interview. That’s no small potatoes to a company hiring 100-200 people a year.
A few things happen when you send everyone cookies.
One: If the hiring manager knows that there are real costs with interviewing another candidate, it might make them hesitate before looping in a third of fourth candidate into the pile of people to talk to. Hiring managers like to pretend wasting a candidate’s time and an interview panel’s time has no hard costs, but suddenly knowing there’s a $25 charge with their name on it creates just enough extra consideration that they start to be more judicious about who they interview, which leads to faster hiring.
Two: No one will ever say, “I work here because they sent me some cookies once.” That’s crazy. On an individual level, cookies shouldn’t make a difference. But if you look at your data, you’ll find that cookies mights result in a meaningful increase in the offer acceptance rates.
Cookies don’t change minds. But they do validate claims a company might make about how well they take care of their people. Sure, a lower health insurance premium is create, but they aren’t as tangible (and delicious) as cookies.
Does this mean that cookie delivery should be a central pillar of your talent strategy? Of course not. It could be, but it is only one way you can be reinforcing what makes your company the way it is.
Because you always have options.
Yesterday, I did my second “Employer Brand Breakdown” with biotech standout Moderna. What did I say about their employer brand? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Want to recommend a brand for me to break down? Reply to this email!
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