Your HYPER-Local Workplace Culture

micro cultureAmy and Becky have adjoining cubicles in your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center. They’ve sat within 10 feet of each other since 2002 and together have survived 2 CEOs, 3 Department Directors and 6 Supervisors. Amy took care of Becky’s dog when she and her husband Jeff went to that all-inclusive resort in Cancun for their 10th wedding anniversary. Becky helped Amy’s mom throw a surprise birthday party at Applebee’s when Amy turned 40.

Your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center is located in Glendale, WI (just a bit north of Milwaukee; lovely suburb) and reports in to the Customer Care HQ located in downtown Chicago which, in turn, feeds up, (through various Regional Directors, VPs and a few SVPs), to the corporate office located in Atlanta on Peachtree Street. Well…one of the Peachtree Streets.

There are 327 FTEs toiling away (Monday thru Saturday; 7A-7P; 6 holidays) at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center in Glendale, WI. When it’s baseball season they have a company tailgate at a Brewers’ game. During football season, everyone wears Packer gear on casual Fridays. And when you need a custard fix? Jason on the New Accounts team is your go-to-guy for a Kopp’s run at lunch time.

No one at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center cares too much for the folks from Customer Care HQ in Chicago. (”Damn FIBs” as Jason likes to call them).

And those Corporate people from Atlanta? Seriously? WTF is up with them? Who can understand what they say?  Why are they so….southern? Did you know they served grits for breakfast when everyone went down for training?

One company.

Same mission, vision and values.  Same corporate web site and, of course, the same corporate career page with the same branding, videos, stories and “EVP.”

Yet each of these teams and locations has a distinct, specific and unique micro-culture. Heck…Amy and Becky have a vastly different culture than Jason and he’s just located on a different floor of the building in Glendale, WI.

And the three of them are most assuredly not having the same cultural experience that Rebecca and Traci are having down at the Atlanta corporate office.

Yet, as happens in organizations the world-over, when a rising star arrives via their promotional travels at a new location (requisite company newsletter blurb: “Meet Brandon Smith, our new VP of Special Projects! Brandon has transferred from the Akron, OH office!”), there’s tension and friction as s/he struggles to determine what, exactly, seems to be “off” about the culture.

There are different foods and rituals and customs. The Boston office is so ‘formal’ while everyone in the Hattiesburg, MS office is a bit too chummy and familiar with each other. (They call each other “sweetie!” Can you imagine?)

But guess what? Amy and Becky, in their micro-culture comprised of 10 cubicles in Glendale, WI, are not ‘wrong.’

They’re simply living the culture in a different way.

HYPER localized.

 

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image courtesy of Odyssey

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It’s OK. I’m With the Band (recruiting edition)

I live in south Louisiana and let me just say that one perception about our lifestyle here is pretty damn true: we have lots and lots and lots of live music. Most anywhere, and at most any time, one can find a band or a solo artist jamming out or singing on a street corner. There are musicians who cart their instruments around town as they head from gig to gig, while the piano players and vocalists often just “show up” at venues around town and sit in with the band. Everyone, seemingly, seems to know each other because, more than likely, they’ve played together before.

Since it’s so prevalent, I would say that at least 1 or 2 nights per week, Mr. S and I are listening to live music at either a festival, in a bar, or just by happenstance as we meander around town.

I love it.

Now, as it just so happens, this past Saturday evening we were out and about and decided to check out a hidden local venue (aka “a neighborhood bar”) we had never visited. Small’ish with about 12 barstools; crock pot of homemade tortilla soup on a side table (for all to enjoy) ; cheap drinks; 60 or so patrons. We, being strangers, were immediately assessed as we walked through the door but, as we were relatively harmless looking, were allowed to enter.

There was a band playing (blues, classic rock, cajun and zydeco classics) on the small stage and, as we settled in, multiple people came over to say “hi;” the owners (the husband and wife each made individual visits to our table), the bartender, and several bar flys, regulars, patrons all paid us a visit.

Now, as it just so happened, I was wearing a t-shirt from last year’s ERE Conference (2016 – held in New Orleans); logo on the back is a Mardi Gras mask and, emblazoned on the front is “ERE Media” and, more prominently “TALENT ADVISOR.” OK – we who work in HR and Recruiting understand this but, let’s be real, the average Joe has no concept what any of this “Talent Advisor” gibberish means.

At one point, as I was walking across the room, sipping my extraordinarily inexpensive drink (neighborhood bars rule!) and humming along to “My Toot Toot” , one of the gentlemen from the next table stopped me and said “Hey!, Which agency are you with? (my blank stare apparently signaled to him that I had zero idea what he was talking about).  “Your shirt,” he said by way of explanation. “Talent advisor. Are you a scout? Here to see the band?”

First time, I must admit, anyone has ever mistaken me for a music impresario or an A&R rep.

But…for those of us in Recruiting or HR, this experience at this off-the-beaten-track Baton Rouge neighborhood bar should serve as a reminder of how, even today with all the technology and bots and automated processes, finding talent can still be done by getting out of the office and:

  • Scouting for talent (in ways beyond merely digging through our ATS inbox)
  • Going where the talent hangs out (and not simply waiting for them to come to us)
  • Identifying ourselves (‘branding,’ if you will) in a personable and interactive manner

Right?

Anyway, as the night wore on and we chatted with our new friend, I mentioned to him that I was the head of HR for a local casino (“we’re hiring!”) and, I thought, convinced him I wasn’t there to sign the band to a record deal.

But then, at the break, the bass player came over to say “hello” and gave me his card……….

It’s OK. I’m with the band.

 

 

 

 

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Employees as Re-Consumers

when-harry-met-sally-800-75The other day as I lay prone on the sofa flipping through channels I happened upon “When Harry Met Sally.” The last 30 minutes of “When Harry Met Sally.”

Now I’ve seen this movie so many times I feel as if I not only assisted in writing the script but also hung out during filming and gave notes to the actors, picked out the set decorations, and had a hand in Meg Ryan’s wardrobe. I can sing along to every song on the Harry Connick Jr. (who, btw, I adore with the heat a thousand burning suns) infused soundtrack. I laugh at the same lines (every time) and usually tear up, right on cue, at the end.

So, naturally, I settled in and re-watched the ending. One more time.

I am, as American University Professor of Marketing Cristell Russell calls it, a “re-consumer.”

In research published by the Journal of Consumer Research, Russell and co-author Sidney Levy (marketing professor at the University of Arizona) explored the motivation of people who go on vacation to the same place year after year, re-watch their favorite TV shows and movies, and re-read the same book over and over again. (note: my top book is Thorpe; I’ve done an annual re-read for at least 30 years).

The authors explored the drivers of re-consumption as well as the psychological and experiential aspects. “We interviewed people in New Zealand and America to determine why they chose to repeat their behavior,” Russell has stated. “We determined that that re-consumption behaviors serve five main purposes: regressive, progressive, reconstructive, relational, and reflective. The reasoning that people had for their repeat behaviors was far more complex than simply nostalgia. For people to take time out of their busy lives to do something over and over again, the motivations required were usually deep-seated and poignant.”

Some people, it turned out, re-consume due to familiarity; their brain signals to them exactly what sort of reward they’ll receive in the end whether that be a good cry, laughter, or relaxation. Others return for a do-over because, subconsciously, they’re using the activity as a measuring stick for their own life. When re-consuming in this manner, a person mentally categorizes the changes they’ve experienced since the first time they sat, as an example, in a darkened theatre watching the WHMS “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.

While people might re-consume unpleasant things (perhaps inadvertently or against their will) they’ll also return over and over and over again to those things that serve a deeper purpose. They may repeat these consumer activities due to affection (“I always watch any Law & Order episode with Chris Noth!”), nostalgia (“Hey honey…this is ‘our song’!”) or for therapeutic reasons (“When I need a good cry I watch “Steel Magnolias”)

Now think about this from an HR perspective; it ties directly into the true brand of the employment experience and the corporate culture at an organization.

If increased retention and higher engagement (as examples) are desired outcomes at your company, then here’s another lesson to take from our friends in marketing.

Speak to the hearts and minds of your employees and they might, just might, continue to buy what you’re selling.

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This post originally ran at the HRSchoolhouse

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Where do ‘Brands’ go to Die?

cad_poke_stillI read a press release yesterday announcing that the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago will present “A Salute to Advertisings Greatest Icons” beginning in May.

The exhibition will “examine the creation and evolution of the characters from their inception to contemporary use, through commercials, vintage print ads and packaging, and a wide variety of character memorabilia. Advertising agencies and brand historians will describe how the characters were designed and how they have evolved over the years.”

Among the brands/characters/pop culture icons showcased will be:

  • Pillsbury Doughboy (General Mills)
  • Jolly Green Giant (General Mills)
  • Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) (Kelloggs)
  • Snap, Crackle & Pop (Rice Krispies) (Kelloggs)
  • Keebler Elves (Keebler…duh)
  • Ronald McDonald (McDonalds…duh again)
  • Procter & Gambles Mr. Clean (Procter & Gamble)
  • 9 Lives Morris the Cat (Procter & Gamble)
  • Charlie the Tuna (StarKist) (Procter & Gamble)
  • Raid Bugs (S.C. Johnson)

OMG…how I want to poke the belly of the Pillsbury Doughboy and make him giggle!

According to the president of the museum These beloved characters helped define many of the worlds top consumer brands, and each has become synonymous with their brand in commercials, print ads, packaging and on grocery shelves.” 

It’s kind of nifty that these characters continue to have active lives; Poppin’ Fresh (the doughboy) (OMG…he’s so cute!) has been getting a finger jammed in his tummy since 1965. Ronald McDonald has been scaring amusing children for the same length of time. Last year, you may recall, McDonald’s announced Ronald was getting a makeover. Not quite sure how that has turned out; I, along with countless others, thought it was creepy as hell.

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This got me thinking about the types of brands we blather on about in HR and Recruiting; employer brand, culture brand, branded (aka ‘talent’) communities, HR brand, personal brand.

I can guarantee you, with some degree of certainty, there will never be a museum exhibit dedicated to fabulous branding by human resources teams.

And I wonder if one of the reasons is because so many of these “HR driven” branding initiatives wither away. Oh sure, there are employer brands that evolve, transform, and remain strong (Google, Apple, Starbucks, et al.). The HR brand within an organization may shift dramatically with the addition of a new CHRO. People dissect, re-imagine, and reposition their personal brands all the time.

But sometimes the brands that HR teams are ‘responsible’ for just go “pffffffft”.

Why? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Employer branding is siloed in talent acquisition instead of carried throughout the entire employee life cycle
  • There is no integration with the company’s consumer brand
  • Something is built or constructed in the belief that ‘if we build it … people will come’
  • People invested in the nurturing and furthering of the brand leave the organization

And isn’t that last point critical? We can grasp its importance in SMBs but I think it’s a relevant point in large multi-faceted enterprises as well.

This may go against what we try to believe. We get behind the rallying cry “there’s no I in team” and discount the drive and contribution of that one person who is a fierce believer, promoter and passion-ista. The loss of that one team member, co-worker or leader can also mean the loss of ideas, excitement and brand energy.

And when that happens does the brand go somewhere else? Does it land in some sort of brand boneyard? Can it be resuscitated and resurrected?

I think it can; although it may never be the same. Sort of like a Zombie.

But zombies are sort of cool.

GRAAIINS-M2

 

 

 

 

 

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(1) Pillsbury Doughboy image

(2) image courtesy of WearYourBeer

 

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