VMware Turns Things ‘Upside Down’ With Brand, Website

I was in the middle of looking at new career sites from the American Cancer Society and Sonos when I heard about yet another: VMware. Its launch was not just a website, but a whole rethinking about what it meant to be an employee and a job candidate at VMware.

Among the key players in this effort were Tracie Giles, senior director of candidate engagement, and Lisa Clarey-Lawler, VP of employment brand.

VMware wants to draw potential employees in a way that, oddly enough, can be tough to do when you have $6 billion in revenues, 500,000 customers, 75,000 partners, 19,000+ employees, and 120+ locations. Silicon Valley just seems to love innovative, disruptive — new. Some potential VMware employees may not know how innovative the company has been, and that a couple of the divisions — end-user computing and networking virtualization — are like successful startups within the larger company, with one of them even growing to the tune of being like its own billion-dollar business.

To complicate matters slightly, the company is owned by EMC, which may be combined with Dell — though the Dell announcement came after this talent initiative was underway — and some candidates may be uncertain about the future of VMware. VMware is a separate, publicly traded company, and will remain so.

With all that in mind, let’s rewind back a couple of years.

Around May 2014, the chief people officer had begun to talk about the company having a communications problem. VMware was doing what Clarey-Lawler says is “amazing stuff” with a great culture (and had later debuted on the Fortune Best Places to Work list, at No. 65, rising to No. 40 the next year) but it needed to cohesively get the message out. Clarey-Lawler says it needed to put the same amount of investment into communicating about its people as it did communicating about its products.

The brand team interviewed 270 people in the company. These employees were local, global, cross-functional, front line, executive, the works. In a nutshell, the questioning could be summed up: why’d you come here? Why are you still here?

What people said was that they had a lot of chances to contribute. They felt valued. They felt like they were “agents of change” and in turn the company was making a difference as well.

Following the interviews (and focus groups), VMware summed up these feelings with the phrase “owning your future.” Along with TMP, the agency helping them throughout this brand project, it put together a description of this “owning your future” positioning theme and all it meant, including the chance to be part of progress, to pioneer, to achieve.

VMware went back to employees for more interviews, to make sure this made sense, it resonated.

In June 2015, the concept was presented at a company meeting, along with a video that showcased what VMware’s all about. At this point, the concept of owning your future was boiled down to a word: dare. Now into summer and the fall of 2015, the company started a campaign, first internal, showcasing this “dare” theme: dare to drive change, dare to be yourself, etc. Employees’ lives, in and out of work, were showcased.

Then, the new VMware messaging was rolled out as part of the company’s university recruiting. After that, the focus was on a new career site. VMware went into a selection process for a firm to build a new site, starting with 15-16 vendors, narrowing it down to four brought in for demos, and then one. It was OK with the potential of TMP doing the branding work and another company building the site, but ultimately opted for TMP to do both.

The new site was a big departure from the prior. “We really turned things upside down,” says Giles. She says the goal was to be “Disney meets Amazon,” with Disney being the enjoyment, and Amazon the content served up for each person.

You’ll notice the images turn from black and white to color. It’s mobile-friendlier. There’s no stock photography (that’s just not as transparent and authentic, Giles says).

It has content tailored to different job functions. So if you went to the engineering section, and went to a job description, you’d see the different content on the right, like information about HackerRank, that’s specific to that job family.

This tailored content is set up for engineering, sales, university recruiting, India, Costa Rica, and Sofia, Bulgaria.

The site’s CareerHub is a talent community that Giles and Clarey-Lawler hope is not the one-way, largely unused black hole of other talent “communities.” It’ll be divided into two groups. One group of members will receive communications about the exciting stuff going on at the company. The other group, made up of some of the most qualified candidates or the most key talent, will receive additional communications. They might be invited to a coding event, for example, or at least invited first.

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The talent team and the business teams — engineering, for example — will work together to identify who goes into the second group for the additional communication. They might be people who know a certain programming language, or who are working at certain employers right now. Rules will be written — so it’s not all by hand — to help move people into the right bucket.

Back to the website, I asked the VMware team why they’re not using candidates’ LinkedIn profiles to suggest jobs for them. That’s becoming more popular at career sites; Deloitte’s, for example.

It’s not out of the question, but for now they believe that the possible negative experiences (“I’m a nurse recruiter and they’re telling me I should be a nurse?”) of a LinkedIn integration have outweighed the benefits.

In the three months following the new site’s launch, there are about three times the page views as the previous 12 months, TMP tells me. VMware will not just be measuring this total quantity of traffic, but particularly “source of impact.” It wants to know all the different places a person touched in their process to become an employee. Did they look at Glassdoor? When? Was this more important or less important than their referral? And so on.

Giles says the heavy site traffic is due to better SEO optimization; a better website; more advertising and blogs and social media and, she says in reference to the site but perhaps also to the larger brand of the company, because “recruiters are proud.”