HR Happy Hour #199: Employer Branding from the Inside Out

Recorded Tuesday January 20, 2015

Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

Guest: Jason Seiden, CEO Brand Amper

Jason co-founded Brand Amper, an employer branding platform that builds brand equity quickly and sustainably by putting employees—the most trusted source of information about a company—at the center of brand creation. For 20 years, Jason has been making professional communication more genuine and productive.  You can find him on Twitter, he’s @seiden.

Listen to the show HERE

In the latest HR Happy Hour Show, we welcomed back our friend Jason Seiden, CEO of Brand Amper, one of 2014’s ‘Awesome New Startup’ technologies from the HR Technology Conference to get an update on what has been happening with Brand Amper, and to talk about engaging employees in the brand and mission of the organization. Often ‘brand’ initiatives are drawn up in corporate boardrooms or by expensive external consultants without much thought or acknowledgement of what the actual brand messengers and deliverers, the employees, think or feel or believe. Jason talks about the importance and power of leveraging actual employees and what they actually think and believe and aspire to in creating, communicating, and executing the brand promises and delighting customers.

Additionally, we lamented the sorry state of Email in the workplace, (it is NEVER going to die), and Jason shared why he wears the same black H&M shirt everywhere he goes. Steve is 100% with Jason on this strategy, while I has some concerns about the mental well-being of both of the gents.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, and using the widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

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As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to add the show to your subscriptions.

This was a really fun show and I hope you enjoy listening!

Get Rid of Birthday Parties at Work

Happy birthday to you!  You’re fifty-two!

What? 52?

workYes, believe it or not, this kind of song happens in many workplaces each day.  I don’t know when organizations decided that  reverting back to a practice we all had in elementary school would be a good thing.  Maybe some “expert” told them that it would engage the employee.  Maybe they felt that planning employee birthday parties, complete with cake, would be a good use of the HR pro’s time.  Either way, I say enough is enough.

Frankly, I never liked walking in the kitchen at work only to have people gather around the monthly birthday cake to sing.  Why not put that energy into celebrating something that employee did that was work-related?  Why not celebrate teamwork in the department?  Personally, I’d rather have a boss recognize me on my annual anniversary with the company. I’m all for recognition, but let’s get real, unless you are 10 years old, I don’t know that we need a birthday party at work.

I know I’ll anger all those employees who start telling you several weeks in advance that their birthday is coming.  I just think that celebrating them at work is becoming less popular as our workplaces become more diverse.  Many employees do not celebrate due to religious or cultural reasons.  Singling them out either by celebrating them without understanding their beliefs, or by having to exclude them is not a good way to build engagement.

What do you think?  Do you celebrate your birthday at work?  How do you handle employees that do not celebrate birthdays?  

Consumption Without Context

*This post is dedicated to my friend Janet Swaysland, SVP of Global Communications and Social Media at Monster.  She inspired this post with a story she relayed to me about the Farm to Table movement.  This is a movement to address sustainability from a food perspective.  Participants travel to local farms to eat food grown at that location or other nearby farms or dairies.  This sustainable agricultural approach is growing in popularity because it supports local farmers and merchants as well as cuts down on the chemicals needed to keep the food fresh as it is shipped across the country.

I was fortunate recently to be a guest of Monster Worldwide at a dinner at Carnevino in Las Vegas.  This dinner was prepared by Chef Mario Batali (of Molto Mario and Iron Chef America fame) and his outstanding fellow chefs.  Chef Batali also dined with the group and told some amazing stories about the food and how he personally chooses Monster to assist him when he is looking to fill positions.  I was especially impressed when he said that the Monster 6Sense search technology is important to him.

Beyond the exquisite food offerings I was seated with some of the finest dinner companions from across the country.  Kevin Grossman and Janet Swaysland, just to name a couple.  It was a conversation with Janet that made me think about consumpion without context.  As she relayed her experience participating in the Farm to Table dinner movement, I was fascinated.  By experiencing not only the local fare but also knowing how things are grown, how the animals are treated and the processes that are followed, it makes the context of the meal that much more meaningful.

When thinking about how this applies to business, communications, and human resources, our consumption of information or sharing information without context can cause critical mistakes.  For example, the types of messages that flow from human resources are often pushed one-way and that is out to employees or leaders.  If you’re in an organization where that is the primary approach, I challenge you to begin thinking about how to make it more about the context around each message and the reasons behind needing that particular bit of information shared.

Boosting the context

  • Provide a place where more details can be found on many of the messages related to policy or procedure.  Employees like to know why doing something a certain way is important.
  • Validate the information.  Without context, you leave room for misinterpretation of the information.
  • Allow employees to give feedback.  Messages will receive greater acceptance when two-way communication is present.

Better understanding comes from knowing not only the function but also the meaning.  What are you doing to boost context in the way you provide information to employees, clients or via social media?  Share with me in the comments….


Business Impact of The Five Love Languages

I’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time–  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts–  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

I Am Not A Cheerleader- Well, Maybe I Am!

I am not a cheerleader.

Well, I actually was as a young girl but I quickly determined that I am not the “type”.  I thought that being a cheerleader meant putting on that fake smile, making sure I had proper cheerleader form and basically doing something that I was not sure that anyone really appreciated anyway.  It just didn’t feel like me.  I did it for a couple seasons then, put my pom poms down forever.

Until now.

Turns out that I’ve learned I’ve been a cheerleader all along.

You heard it right.

I was recently asked to be a cheer coach for my daughter’s squad of girls ages 5- 11.  I accepted even though I was worried because the last time I performed a cheer anywhere was in 1982.  I am working with two other coaches, one who was a championship cheerleader and one who, like me, is not.  After talking with the other coaches, we determined what strength each of us brought to the team.  Then, we used that strength to coach our girls.  My strength is organizing, helping break down training into the most manageable size for the person learning, trying new techniques of teaching and finding a way to make each girl feel special.

I realized that I am THEIR cheerleader.

And, isn’t that the real role of a coach?  To teach and to let the learner try out the new skills.  To encourage all along the way.  These are the same ideas and principles I apply at work each day and the same role I try to play in projects I am part of like HRevolution.

I wish you could have seen our practice last night.  Girls standing in near-perfect formaton, working on sharper hand and arm movements, huge smiles on their faces.  I started by naming a “mini coach” for each cheer so that the girls can help teach and encourage each other.  I worked with my brilliant instructional coach to support her as she taught the team new techniques and cheers.  The girls kept practicing even after our normal practice time had ended.  They were feeling a sense of pride.

So, if you had asked me 24 hours ago if I’m a cheerleader, I would have said no.

Turns out I was wrong.  Go team!

Throw Out HR Terminology

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

The language we use when describing people, situations, and things is important.  I remember growing up and being told that sticks and stones could break my bones but names can never hurt me.  But, we all know that is not true.  Words hold meaning for people and sometimes that meaning is negative.  Other times it is ambiguous.  I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’m watching how the terminology we use in human resources can help or hinder the activities that we are responsible for.

Take the word engagement, for example.  Engagement from an employee standpoint is confusing.  It can have a vastly different meaning for each employee in an organization.  Some do not even know what it means.  But, when we pair that word with the word survey, we expect that employees will understand that leaders want to know how connected the employee is to the organization.  Since words do have an effect on perceptions though, I’ve started to think of other more clear words to describe what I’m looking for.  If you tell an employee that the employee engagement survey is designed to be a performance review they give the organization, they “get” it.

So, what do we do knowing that?  Throw it out when talking to employees.  We could also get rid of “total rewards” and probably several others.  Save those words for talking with other HR pros.

No matter what profession you work in, there will always be terms that flow from your lips easily that other people do not understand.  Be mindful of this.  If you really care about people understanding what you’re trying to tell them or what you’re trying to accomplish, be clear and use more general terms and phrases they can relate to.  After all, it’s about getting people to do what you need them to do or to understand what you need them to understand.  Don’t let your words be your barrier.

Importance of Mobile for Employee Referrals

More than any time in our history, people are on the move.  You don’t walk down the street or down the hallway at work without seeing someone on their mobile phone.  From looking at social sites to texting to taking pictures, people just can’t live without their phones.  As companies incorporate mobile into many of their approaches, one great use comes to mind- employee referrals.
Whether they know it or not, your employees are meant to assist you in the recruitment process. After all, they’re the ones who are going to be working with new team members; it only makes sense if they are in the recruitment trenches with you. However, what happens when your employees are on-the-go or don’t work in-house? What’s the best way to streamline the referral process? By using mobile!
This infographic, compiled by social employee referral management platform Zao, illustrates the benefits of mobile in your employee referral programs, as well as some best practices when you get started. Some takeaways to note include:
  • 1 in 4 people who come to a career site are coming from a mobile device
  • Only 1 in 5 Fortune 500 Companies are mobile-optimized for recruiting
  • 66% of employees use two or more mobile devices at work

Check out the full infographic below and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Zao-Mobile-972 (1)

Square Pegs: Keeping Good People At Your Company

From the dusty archives…

Square Peg in a Round Hole_0565Have you heard the expression you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole?

Well, you can.  You can get creative and smash it in there or fill up the edges with other items.  In other words, you can make it work temporarily.  But, what if you are that square peg?  What does that mean for you?  What does it mean if you are the leader and notice a strong employee not fitting into the department they are part of?

As a human resources professional, I’ve had my share of discussions with employees and leaders about not fitting in.  What we don’t talk enough about is our mutual ability to positively impact retention and how we can avoid the high cost of unnecessary turnover. According  to a study by AARP, replacing an experienced worker at any age can cost 50 percent or more of the individual’s annual salary in turnover-related costs, with increased costs for jobs requiring specialized skills, advanced training or extensive experience.”  That reason alone should compel organizational leaders to look across the company and determine who the strong players are and how best to collectively retain them.

As leaders:

  • Why do we let good employees go just because they are not a fit with one supervisor?
  • Why do we let that historical knowledge walk out the door?
  • Why don’t we do more to find a fit internally for that individual?

Recognize a square peg

Most articles on leadership and management focus on developing your own team or your skills and ability to manage and lead.  My challenge for you today is to look at another team in the organization and see if you find a square peg.  Is there someone who may be in the wrong role and struggling in fitting in there who would be a shining star in another part of the organization?

As leaders, it’s our duty to work toward what is best for the organization and part of that is ensuring we keep the best employees.  Retaining top people is a group effort and if you know that there is someone your organization is at risk of losing, look deeper.  Reach out. You may just save someone from leaving an organization where they could excel and push things forward.