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Hidden Passion

September 15, 2008
Without even visiting it, adults and kids alike know that Disneyland is an exciting place. That’s because Disney, through its carefully managed image, its advertising and its visitor experiences, has made it easy for every child and adult to feel the excitement. Now think about what outsiders know about your firm. You love working there, but is there any chance that an outsider—either a potential applicant or a potential customer—could experience your level of excitement by visiting the jobs page on your firm’s Web site or by talking to some of your firm’s employees? Unfortunately, at most firms, employees’ passion for their jobs seems to be one of the organization’s best-kept secrets.

It almost seems as if HR is purposely making it difficult for outsiders to discover the excitement and to learn about the people who make a firm unique. If you want to test my premise, make a list of your organization’s most exciting aspects and people. This list might include great managers, innovative products, fun events, advanced technology and opportunities to do the best work of your life.

Do an Internet search to see if it’s possible to find examples and stories about each of these compelling aspects. If you can’t find a handful of them on the first page of your search results, odds are that a potential applicant won’t be able to find them either. Now, turn it around. Search for negative aspects about your firm. Type in your firm’s name and the plus sign. Immediately after that plus sign, add a word or phrase such as "sucks," "unethical," "arrogant managers" or "jerk managers." This lets you see if the negatives about your firm are easier to find and are more believable than the positives.

Next, see if outsiders can feel the excitement when they visit your corporate careers Web site. Visit your site (or ask a neutral party to visit it), and determine whether within five minutes you can find examples of each of the exciting aspects in your first Internet search. Your Web site will most likely have a few pictures and a whole bunch of trite words, but nothing that could be considered bold or factual or that would set your organization apart from your competitors.

Furthermore, everything on the site probably depicts your organization as being perfect, which means that it won’t come across as credible. Is there an employee video that is as powerful as a Star Wars preview? Are there employee profiles that make your best employees come to life? Can information on your innovative business processes be found? Are there blogs through which employees tell the organization’s real story in a manner that’s clearly understandable and believable to outsiders? Lastly, look at your job descriptions. Odds are they will actually turn visitors off because of their boring, legalistic, antiquated descriptions of the work.

Now visualize a visit to your facility. Will visitors walking into the lobby be greeted by an unfriendly security process and little more than a corporate magazine to demonstrate that your company is a great place to work? If visitors run into an employee, will he or she be able to provide them with enough examples and anecdotes about the exciting things happening at your firm? Do your employees have referral cards ready to hand to impressive candidates?

When potential applicants read your job ads, will they feel the excitement, or will they think that the ads were written with lawyers in mind? If a candidate attends a job fair, will your representatives be more compelling and exciting than those of your competitors? Are your college recruiting materials so bland and so clearly written by another generation that they to fail to excite students? And finally, is your job application process so tedious that it counters any of the positive messages that might have preceded it?

The firm that wins the recruiting and retention battle isn’t the one that is actually the most exciting place to work. Instead, it’s the one that communicates its message the best. A handful of firms, like Google and Microsoft, make it relatively easy to experience their workplace passion. But for the rest of us, shame on the PR police and HR for hiding the passion. The time is right to rebuild your image and your employment brand so that the features that make your company unique will be as easy to find as information and positive opinions about Google or Disney.

Workforce Management, September 8, 2008, p. 68 -- Subscribe Now!