Real estate companies spend a lot of time, effort, and resources managing their consumer brands...and rightfully so. If someone is going to buy or sell a home, the perception the individual has of your company’s brand will play a major role in their choice of an agent.
Think of the emotions you’d like a consumer to experience when they think of your company. Maybe these are some of the things your brand stands for: well-established, trusted, experienced, competent, dependable, innovative, phenomenal customer service, etc.
While all these are great attributes and characteristics that most any consumer would desire in a real estate company handling a transaction, they may cloud the water when it comes to representing yourself to potential candidates...especially when it comes to younger candidates.
Many well-established companies are struggling with this issue. Not everyone can be Zappos (a progressive online retailer based in Las Vegas), Kixeye (an edgy game developer that makes Entertainment Arts and Zynga look like fuddy-duds), or even Zillow. In fact, many companies need to be seen as dependable, but still desirable places to work for the younger generations.
Much has been written on this topic, and there are some companies that have spent fortunes trying to reconcile this dichotomy. One of the most successful case studies is this effort is Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Started in 1957, Enterprise now has more than 5,000 offices in North America. Enterprise is not exactly an exciting new startup company, and yet is consistently named one of the top companies in the United States for launching a career. Take a look at the Enterprise Career site and see how masterful they’ve become at solving this problem.
But, what if you don’t have the resources to build a far-reaching branding campaign to make such a distinction between your consumer brand and your employment brand? There is still much you can do to make this a reality—especially if your cognizant that a distinction needs to be made.
The most natural place for a hiring manager to start transforming your employment brand is during the interviews you’re conducting with younger candidates. This approach is low cost and can have a profound impact on your office as you bring in new hires who are the flesh and blood realities of your employment brand.
To help in this effort, I’d like to point you to some insight provided by Gary Hamel, best-selling author and professor at the London Business School. Last March, Dr. Hamel published What Matters Now, an insightful book on change, competition, and innovation. And recently, he followed-up with an ERE article, connecting the principles in his book to the topic of hiring the next generation of top performers.
More specifically, Dr. Hamel addresses the mindset that young candidates consistently display in evaluating whether an established company is “with it” or “past it.”
The article highlights 12 of these mindsets, but I’ve selected the five that I find most insightful:
1. Contribution counts for more than credentials. When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether or not you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees — none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. [In progressive companies], what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.
2. Tasks are chosen, not assigned. The internet is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor and everyone scratches his own itch. Progressive companies encourage work to be done in this way as well.
3. Power comes from sharing, not hoarding. The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch and garner the credit that might have been yours. [In progressive companies], there are lots of incentives to share and few to hoard.
4. Mediocrity gets exposed. Online rating systems have become ubiquitous — for hotels, books, local businesses, and products of every sort. Though not every review is useful, in the aggregate they provide a good guide to what’s remarkable and what’s rubbish. In traditional organizations, employees don’t get to rate much of anything. As a result, one often finds a ‘‘conspiracy of the mediocre’’ — ‘‘I won’t question your decisions or your effectiveness, if you don’t question mine.’’ There are no such cabals [in progressive companies]. If you’re inadequate, you’ll be found out.
5. Leaders serve rather than preside. [Among progressive companies], every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise, and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done. Forget this [in your organization], and your followers will soon desert you.
If you’re interested in the other seven mindsets, read the rest of Dr. Hamel’s article. If you’re more strategic and want to change how your company operates, you may want to pick up his book.
Here is the bottom line: These mindsets will resonate with the younger candidates that you’re interviewing. Also, many of these principles dovetail nicely into the business processes and culture that most hiring managers are trying to create and maintain. There is a win-win in this connection and something that can differentiate you from those stodgy competitors who are in an increasingly weak position to lure your candidates away.
Editor's Note: This article was written by Ben Hess. Ben is the Founding Partner and Managing Director of Tidemark, Inc. and a regular contributor to WorkPuzzle. Comments or questions are welcome. If you're an email subscriber, reply to this WorkPuzzle email. If you read the blog directly from the web, you can click the "comments" link below.