Crime and Punishment: Hiring the Burglars

hamburglarA few nights ago, as I learned via the Nextdoor app on my phone, some people in my neighborhood had their vehicle stolen out of their carport. They walked out the door in the morning, keys in hand, and BAM – “WTF – where is the car?”  This happens, sadly enough, with alarming frequency in various neighborhoods around town, so was not an unusual circumstance.

But, Baton Rouge being what it is, everyone knows everyone else so I ended up having a conversation at work with our Advertising Manager who lives 6 blocks from me and 2 doors from the unfortunate victims. (Yes the car was locked; the vehicle had keyless entry that apparently presents an even easier opportunity than old school hot wiring).

Anyway…when my co-worker and I were discussing this, lamenting the sad state of affairs in our solidly middle-class neighborhood I told her the story of how my house had been burgled circa 2012. Middle of the day thing: the burglars stole electronics (gentlemanly in their frenzy, at least they didn’t RIP the shit off the walls), tossed my jewelry box, opened the china cabinets, flung the silverware and china hither and yon, and manhandled my underwear. The latter evidenced by the fact that the dresser drawers were open and my panties were, quite literally, in a wad. Icky.

(note to would-be-burglars….. don’t be googling my address. We are fully alarmed, literally a 60 second drive from the main Baton Rouge Police Command Center, and now have multiple cameras taping everything from every angle. Don’t even think about it).

So here’s the backstory to what is forevermore known as the Schooling Home Invasion of 2012.

Picture it: 2 months before the break-in on some random weekday. Mr. S. had left for work while I, ever the late riser, was still getting ready. At 7 AM the dogs started barking so I checked the driveway and peered out the window: no cars and no people. I headed back to the rear of the house and continued readying myself for a day of super-freaking-important-HR-work (!!) and got to the stage where makeup, jewelry and underwear were in place. The dogs, once again, went into a frenzy so, in exasperation, I stormed down the hallway and headed into the sunroom, a good-sized room with multiple French doors looking out on the patio/deck/backyard,  to address the ruckus. I admonished the dogs in a motherly voice to “STFU” and simultaneously came face-to-face (through the French doors) with “criminal dude.” In my underwear and earrings I probably scared him more than he scared me.

I screamed, freaked-the-F-out, and called 9-1-1.

Later, (much later), after the Schooling Home Invasion of 2012, I realized that “criminal dude” was casing the joint and deciding if it was worth the time to share with his fellow miscreants. “Dudes….I’m telling you….they have little dogs that sound more vicious than they are and there’s loads of stuff we can grab.”

(note: we have since added a vicious KILLER dog named Mr. Crumples and although we have way too many TVs for a household of 2 people you need to remember, potential burglars, that we are alarmed and the police station is a 1 minute drive away!)


There’s an HR/Recruiting/talent attraction lesson in there.

Our candidates…our applicants…our casual visitors… are checking us out. Casing the joint. Aren’t they?

“Is it worth it?”

“Should I tell my buddies?”

“Will there be a ROI if I spend some time there?”

“Is it worth the risk?”

“Am I gonna land in jail?”

“Sweet fancy Moses I hope I don’t have to see an HR lady in her underwear…….”

Look… I love my recruitment marketing employer branding folks as much as the next gal. I belong to EB Facebook groups, follow #EBChat on the twitterz, and have pontificated on the topic myself. But let’s strip it back down to the basics and forget the fancy names – this is all about letting people get a glimpse of the real job, the real company, the real deal, and the trade-offs.

Many a recruiter, trying to land a coveted and in-demand candidate, wonders what the candidates need to see, feel, and experience. Big dollars are spent. Budgets are created. Pictures? Snapchat? Content? Video? Manufactured BS designed to win an award?

Maybe – just maybe – those candidates simply need a glimpse of the underwear.


The Morning After: Employer Branding

morning afterThe other night, while scrolling through my Twitter feed after a lovely dinner at the neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant, a headline jumped out at me – “A Holistic Approach: Branding the Entire Employee Lifecycle.” 

“That sounds pretty good,” I thought. “Sounds like something I would say.”  So I clicked through to the link and found, much to my surprise, I DID say it; it was a blog post I wrote for my friends at RiseSmart last year. (I must say I appreciate them keeping the content evergreen and alive lo these many months later).

I wrote about employer brand and employer branding. I wrote about the employee lifecycle (talent acquisition and onboarding; cultural affinity; performance management, development and employee relations; offboarding and transition). I offered my thoughts on how employers fail when it comes to connecting the dots and making sure their “brand” ties into all areas of people operations/HR: employee relations, total rewards, and performance management.

I wrote that post for a solution provider I really admire. Their clients, at least as far as I have discovered, are sometimes big shot CEOs and CHROs at well-known Fortune xxx companies and whatnot. Therefore I wrote that post in my serious-important-people-who-might-give-me-a-job-one-day-are-reading-this mode.

Now I’m going to get down to the real deal; in case people couldn’t read between the lines.

Human resources professionals suck at grasping this concept.  I mean truly, seriously, suck big time. Major suckage.

Why so?

Reason 1: Employer Branding is sexy. Black stockings and garter belt sexy. “Johnny Depp and Jessica Alba had a baby” sexy. It gets written up in Harvard Business Review. There are Employer Branding Conferences and Summits. China Gorman has recently been appointed Chairman of the Board for Universum’s North American operations.

Reason 2: The conversations about employer branding tend to happen amongst those who work in Talent Acquisition, Marketing and HR Technology. Janet, the exhausted HR Leader at the local community bank, barely has time to get her ACA notices to employees (Forms 1094-B and 1095-B and/or Forms 1094-C and 1095-C) on time even though the deadline was (mercifully) extended to March 31st, let alone have thoughts about sexy HR stuff.

Reason 3: Employer Branding still sits firmly in the sexy HR stuff column.

Reason 4: Janet doesn’t have time for sexy. Or, if she does contemplate sexy, it happens that one time during the year when she goes to the SHRM Talent Management Conference and listens to a captivating speaker from a large, global brand that has built out an entire Employer Branding function/team.

Reason 5: Suitably re-energized Janet re-launches her semi-dormant twitter account and sends out a few job posting tweets; she vows to put an Employer Branding strategy on her 2017 plan.

Reason 6: Janet must deal with employee relations, budgets, mid-year performance appraisals, open enrollment, bringing her job descriptions into FLSA compliance, and auditing the 1,872 I-9s she has on file. Sexy goes out the window.

Reason 7: Janet’s recruiting team (they’re the sexy part of HR…remember?) put together a branding strategy – unveiled with much fanfare and hoopla. The candidate pipeline grows! They have video! They’re on Instagram! Janet is very proud and crosses it off her to-do list.

Reasons 8 – 375: Ensuring that this “branding” (yes…I’m putting it in quotation marks) extends beyond the organizational entry point never occurs to Janet or her team. No time is devoted to the importance of all the touchpoints along the employee lifecycle. “Isn’t branding like sales?” they secretly think to themselves. “It’s advertising…sorta. Isn’t it? Our job is done when we get them in the door. Right?” 

Reasons 376 and beyond: The disconnects continue. Rewards and recognition don’t match the brand promise. Compensation is floating in the ephemeral atmosphere. Benefits? Employee relations? Fuggedaboutit.

An HR hangover.

The morning after.


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.


This post originally ran at the HRSchoolhouse


It’s not the “Brand” – it’s the “Experience”

pinocchioWe can talk all day about employer branding – and we often do.

My friend Lars Schmidt has a definition that I like (and shamelessly use): “Your employer brand, at its core, is the shared values and employee experiences of your organization.”

The important part of that definition, in my estimation, is “employee experiences;” the most critical and often over-looked part of the equation.

Branding is often the sparkly part of HR; there are keynote speakers talking about it, talent acquisition experts are put in charge of Employer Branding departments, and loyal devotees act like evangelical preachers as they roll out EB initiatives in company-after-company. Pretty fun, I imagine, when one’s organization exists to sell technology or entertainment or trendy hipster-friendly fashion. Not as exciting when one is manufacturing cancer-causing chemicals or running a for-profit prison because the department of corrections has been outsourced by the local government.

Of course it’s easier to promote the brand at the beginning stages of the employee life cycle – Join us! Here are our values! See how we fly every employee to Cancun for onboarding!

But the depth and breadth of the employee experience includes environment and supervisors and coworkers. It includes the fact that passive-aggressive employees have been allowed to create internal fiefdoms and exert ridiculous control. It means there’s a historical practice of managers chastising staff members in public forums in the name of transparency. It means that the C-suite folks are out of the office 24/7 while the average employee, who has been wooed with flexible work programs, is expected to sit in a grey cubicle between the hours of 8 and 6 and needs that abundant PTO balance (promoted by Joe the Recruiter!) because she must use PTO every time she leaves the office for an hour-long dentist appointment.

The employee experience includes handbooks and policies. It includes an over-reliance on PIPs because “treating employees fairly and justly” is merely code for giving people a heads-up notice that they’re on their way out the door.

It’s the reality of “we promote from within” meaning “we’ll never pay you as much as an external candidate because employees are capped at a 15% increase even for promotions.”

 So, I wonder… where are the companies truthfully talking about the entire – and real – employer brand?


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