Avoid the Yugo Trap and Identify Your Culture

Mar 26, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 4.30.34 PMRemember the Yugo? Yugos were cars built in the old Yugoslavia, in the 1980s. They were sold solely based on their low price. More than 100,000 cars were sold in an eight-year span, but their poor quality and service resulted in zero buyer retention.

When it comes to hiring talent, most companies place too much emphasis on compensation competitiveness and not enough on their cultural brand. They may have flashy careers websites and other candidate attraction materials, but these are generic and not reflective of the company’s unique culture.

In this article I will give you tips on how to make your company more competitive by taking the vital first step of identifying your culture. Only after this step will you be able to successfully attract candidates who will fit your values and be successful in their roles. Without it, you will be stuck in the Yugo Trap, continuing to hire mismatched candidates leading to poor retention.

Let’s begin by examining factual evidence. Few employees leave their companies because they are not being paid enough. According to the Saratoga Institute, 88% of employees leave for reasons other than money. They leave because they are not getting along with their managers, they are not a cultural fit, or the company is going through a change.

Based on these facts, you need to align your talent attraction strategy with your prospects’ thinking. So you need to use different tactics to recruit and retain the right people.

As with any major buying decision, prospects use two processes to make a decision: logical and emotional. The logical process is purely fact based. This includes information about the company, location, industry, growth, future prospects, and employee benefits. The emotional process is based on the culture, perks, and how your company values and style align with theirs.

A great analogy is buying a car. The logical process involves garnering information about quality and comfort from industry and customer reviews. The emotional process encompasses making decisions about the style of the vehicle, color, and “wow!” factor. Most people like to believe they make decisions in a logical manner; however, studies have shown that logic plays a much smaller role than emotion. Regardless, both factors must be addressed by employers.

To start, first of all, you must determine who you are. Without self-awareness you will have difficulty attracting candidates who will fit your company’s culture. As Ferrari will market the benefits of an Italia far differently than Chrysler will for a Town & Country minivan, you must do the same for your company.Orovide facts about your company and come up with information about your culture that will be attractive to the type of people you need.  As with the car analogy, a happy Ferrari owner has a different set of expectations than a Chrysler mini-van buyer.

So, who are you? Do you know? If your answer is “no” or “I am unsure,” you are clearly in the majority. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the plethora of company careers sites. Because of the lack of self-awareness there is a uniformity of messaging that is rather startling.

Remember, your goal is to differentiate yourself and attract the right candidates. Your aim is to attract people who will be incredibly successful in your company culture; your aim is not to attract people who will be unhappy, unsuccessful, and leave shortly afterwards.

The following steps must be taken to discover your cultural brand:

  • Survey a cross-section of your top 20% performers. Ask them three questions: “What do you like best about working here?”; ”Describe our company culture”; and “What personal attributes are most important for an employee to be successful here?” Only survey your top performers, as your purpose is to hire others who share the same level of engagement and enjoy working in an environment like yours. You should also consider breaking out your results based on function if there are considerable differences in success factors. For example, call-center environments are typically very different than software development groups.
  • Research your company’s most recent employee engagement survey. Compile data from questions that address why employees work at your company and what they like about working there.
  • Review your company’s employee values statements. Do they align with what your best performers state in their survey answers?
  • Provide a short pop-up survey to visitors of the careers site. Ask them two questions: “Why did you decide to explore opportunities with our company?” and “Does our careers website and other social media explain our company culture well? Please explain.” (You can also ask them to give feedback on your website’s ease of use, attractiveness, etc.)
  • Do research on how your company is viewed on the Internet. More candidates are doing research at sites such as Glassdoor, so learn what they are learning. You may want to consider asking current employees to give reviews themselves at Glassdoor, as a small number of reviews may sometimes skew your scores lower than they should be.
  • Give active candidates an anonymous candidate satisfaction survey. In addition to questions asking them about their experience, ask them to rate how well the interviewers explained the company and its culture.

Ultimately, you should compare the internal beliefs of your employees with the external impressions of prospects and candidates, and then build a strategy to narrow the gap. Measure your progress on a quarterly basis, and impress senior leadership with your findings. But for the sake of this exercise, your first task is to learn about your culture from your employee base and then build a brand.

To do this::

  • Unless you have a talent for marketing, I would suggest you engage the services of your marketing department or an outside consultant to assist you in this process. Determining who you are and addressing logical and emotional requirements involves a little science and plenty of art.
  • Analyze the data from your top performers, the employee engagement survey, company values statements, and look for common themes. From these you will put together an “elevator pitch” that paints an attractive picture about your culture. Be genuine, as the purpose of candidate attraction is to attract prospects who will thrive in your culture, not join and leave shortly after.
  • The elevator pitch should be a list of simple points that describe what it is like to work at your company.  Your messages must be simple and consistent. Iterations of it should be displayed at your website, candidate materials, job descriptions, and in social media you produce. Include employee quotes about your culture, as they are very effective.
  • Use the elevator pitch to address the emotional needs of prospects. A particularly powerful tool is producing employee testimonial videos. Interview top performers and ask them the same questions as above. Film the work environment. Videos at leading sites have ranged from employees using iPhones to slick professional productions. Include the videos on your careers page, at YouTube, and other social media. Ask marketing to partner with you on a strategy to get these videos viewed.
  • Ensure that all interviewers are assessing for cultural fit, and are willing to talk about your culture to candidates. This includes prepping interview teams and explaining that at least 5-10 minutes of the interview should be spent explaining the culture of the company and team. If it is done correctly, the right candidates will self-select in, and the wrong candidates will self-select out. (Example: “We are a small team, so we are all expected to roll up our sleeves and help each other out. We have fewer resources than larger companies, so we work harder, but we work on a wider variety of projects. This isn’t for everyone, but for the right person the sense of accomplishment and personal growth it’s well worth it.”)
  • To address the prospect’s logical questions, produce a one-page fact sheet about your company that is easy to read and informative. This should be available at your careers site and given to every interview participant. Please don’t be lazy and expect candidates to do the research themselves. They will do so anyway, but it is much nicer to look at an attractive fact sheet produced expressly for them versus having to go to multiple sites.
  • Provide a fact sheet about your benefits and other perks available to employees  This should be simple, easy to digest, and attractive. Remember, many times a candidate will be sharing information about you with a spouse, partner, friend, and family member. Their input will often determine a decision.

Your success depends on moving beyond the Yugo trap and building a brand that addresses candidates’ logical and emotional needs. Before you build your brand, learn about your culture from your employees. Investing the time in this exercise will ensure you lay the groundwork for a more accurate and effective candidate marketing program.

image from Amazon

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