A new buzzword on the rise is “Mecosystem,” a set of connections in which a brand fits into an individual’s life in a customized way. Mecosystems anticipate and evolve along with people’s personal expectations. It’s a great concept for consumer brands. So why not apply it to employer brands?
According to Interbrand, it’s a method that places the consumer at the center of the ecosystem. The concept advances the next stage of branding, where a product or line of products works seamlessly with its owner. “Droves of digital data, refined analytics, and real-time, multi-platform interactions help brands discover what people want—even before they do,” as Interbrand says. The consultancy calls this near future the “Age of You.” That’s because, “Within the Mecosystem paradigm, you are at the nexus of the system.” Apple and Google come to my mind, as they offer services as diverse — yet connected — as smartphones, music, email, maps, and even TV. I can see a brand like Nike on the horizon, combining wellness, fitness, apparel, and lots of great content.
The concept makes a lot of sense for consumer brands. But what about using data, analytics, and real-time interactions to help employees become more productive, knowledgeable, and innovative? I think forward-looking organizations can frame and personalize the employment experience on the basis on individual wants and needs to create better engagement. And we know higher engagement leads to higher profits, better retention, and lower turnover. So here’s how I think a Mecosystem could look for multiple stages of the employee life-cycle.
The application process is skewed completely to the employer’s whims; about all the candidate gets to choose is the time. How welcome does that make candidates feel? I think the Mecosystem philosophy means that recruiters can safely cede some power to the applicants. They could let candidates choose whether the first contact is by phone or Skype. They could ask if applicants would rather meet for coffee or lunch instead of the workplace. They could offer to show applicants part of the office that are off-limits to non-employees. I think some organizations could even invite candidates to share materials beyond resumes and work portfolios — something they created, like a painting, a photograph, or a video. How much would a recruiter learn about someone if they were asked to bring in “something that means a lot to you”? Would that show off their personality and cultural fit?
This idea works in the other direction, too — your application process should be customized to your organization. Too often, I’ve seen clients rely on old, unfriendly applicant tracking systems with little branding and even less personality, asking for the same information for a position in insurance as for a position in fundraising. Companies like RoundPegg offer customized applications that reflect your company’s mission, vision, and values, and ask questions that help determine a good culture fit.
Onboarding is often a forgotten part of the employment experience. The thrill of the interview process is over; the importance of the day-to-day tasks is still to come. But onboarding is a great candidate for Mecosystemization (is that a word?). Not every person learns the same way, so there’s no reason to instruct them the same way. During the interview process, smart recruiters can determine how best to educate the new hire — sometimes by asking them directly. Some may benefit from reading materials; others may prefer video. Still others might be better talking through the information with their manager or someone from HR. Some may prefer a hands-on approach while others learn by shadowing. Some may want to meet everyone in their department at once, while others would prefer lunch with a different colleague every week.
I recently wrote about apps that allow employers to see how their workers are feeling in real-time. If management sees that a division is feeling anxious about a project, they can act accordingly: hold an all-hands meeting, offer incentives, change team members, or push back deadlines. Some apps offer simple polls that take the pulse of the employees, letter employers make course-corrections in between major milestones. While this information is usually used in the aggregate, there’s no need to keep it anonymous; disengaged workers can be sought out and coached before they derail a project, loose productivity, or jump ship. This is employee engagement at its most personalized. All in all, this new generation of Mecosystem software provides a level of data never before seen in the workplace, and at least one of them should definitely be part of any company’s employee engagement budget.
My agency believes in the Mecosystem theory and is conducting research and working on initiatives that bring this innovative philosophy to internal branding. We have a decade of experience in employee engagement, internal communications, employee rewards programs, and other important recruiting and HR needs. Through our friends at One-Page Talent Management, we can even offers a new kind of 360 leadership assessment that’s easy to understand and gives managers clear, personalized guidance on how to be better leaders.
Never mind the Age of You — this will be the Age of Your Employees. Are you ready to begin?
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix
Uber launched in 2009, is valued at about $50 billion, and is unquestionably the giant of the car-service app field. Lyft grew out of Zimride in 2012, is work about $2.5 billion, and is the leading the pack of Uber competitors.
Both companies provide the exact same service, so much of their market differentiation comes in the form of branding. How does each compare to the other?
Uber launched with the tagline “Everyone’s Private Driver,” while Lyft started with “Your Friend with a Car.” You can see the distinction: Uber aimed for a classy experience (“Wow, my own private limo!”) while Lyft promised fun (“Hey, a cool person is giving me a ride!”). Uber’s logo was a sleek black and silver “U,” with its name in all caps. Lyft used a groovy, curvy font, all in lower case, and made pink its trademark color. The two brands were almost polar opposites.
But both brands have done some maneuvering since then. If you visit Uber’s website today, you’ll see the tagline “Your Ride, On Demand.” Lyft’s new positioning is “Rides In Minutes.” It looks to me like Uber is trying to emphasize choice, particularly by replacing “everyone’s” with “your.” Lyft may be taking a shot at Uber’s longer wait time (whether accurate or not) by using the word “minutes.”
When this very question came up on Quora, the responses uncovered a difference. Uber was more classy, more professional. Its drivers wore suits and opened the door for you. Most importantly, riders tended to sit in the back, like they would for a taxi or limo. Lyft was described as more casual and fun. Lyft cars once sported three-foot long fuzzy mustaches in their grills, and riders were encouraged to fist-bump their drivers, sit in the front, and have a chat.
Lately, Lyft has changed course. In 2014, the company told customers it was all right to sit in the back. Fist-bumping was also made optional. And the giant mustaches didn’t do well in bad weather, so Lyft changed them to small, glowing, plastic decorations on the dashboard.
Uber is on Facebook (2.8 million likes), Twitter (388,000 followers), and Instagram (118,000 followers). The company’s content features videos, contests, info about driving for Uber, and articles about how the company has positively impacted communities through ride-sharing. The company responds quickly to comments and questions on Facebook — one post took Uber just seven minutes to reply.
Lyft is on Facebook (318,363 likes), Twitter (138,000 followers), and Instagram (21,400 followers. Like Uber, its social media features fun videos, contests, and research about how Lyft helps workers and is good for the environment (by reducing the amount of cars on the road). The company also responds quickly to comments and questions on Facebook; one fan mentioned on Instagram that her query took just 45 minutes to get an answer. While Uber’s Instagram photos are very artistic and look professional, Lyft’s pics look more like the average person’s account.
In many ways, the brand’s social efforts are the same — but Uber, the industry leader, has at least triple the amount of followers on each social platform.
The two companies are in a heated race for drivers, with Uber even allegedly trying to recruit Lyft drivers with passengers who make sales pitches while in the car. How does each brand market itself to potential employees?
Uber’s pitch: “Earn money with Uber — There’s never been a better time to drive with Uber. Signing up is easy and you’ll be earning money in no time.” The site then shows the three easy steps to employment: “Get started. Get the app. Start driving.” There’s an approval process between steps one and two.
Lyft: “Make up to $35/hr driving your car.” The rest of the page is a sign-up form. After that, there’s a cool calculator, “See how much you can make,” where you can enter how many hours you plan to drive per week, and what city you’re in.
In the Quora conversation, a former Uber driver said, “When I interviewed with Lyft, it took about an hour, and it seemed they were trying to get to know me more than the interview with Uber, which included a PowerPoint presentation and an orientation.”
The driver application pages on Uber’s website keeps the site’s white print on a black background, and looks both authoritative and slick. Lyft opts for a very light blue background, with gray text and highlights of its trademark pink. Taken together, the employer branding reinforces Uber’s classy, professional style and Lyft’s fun, casual attitude.
Each company offers almost the exact same services. Uber added a carpool option called UberX; Lyft has LyftLine. Uber offers “surge pricing” for high-demand times, while Lyft has “Prime Time.” The difference comes down to branding. In some ways, Uber is like Microsoft in the 1980s and Lyft is the insurgent Apple. New York Magazine tried another analogy: Uber is Hertz of the 1960s, while Lyft is Avis. In both cases, the second-place company innovated, differentiated, and just plain tried harder, and ended up equal to or greater than its competitor.
With such a high valuation, and an appearance in the national language (many startups bills themselves as “Uber for _____”), I don’t think Uber is going anywhere. But Lyft’s more welcoming personality should do well in a service industry. Each company is using the right branding. And each provides a valuable lesson for other organizations on how to differentiate in the marketplace.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
Each month, I look at the most liked recruiting content over a seven-day span on Facebook, the most retweeted recruiting tweets on Twitter, and the most viewed recruiting videos on YouTube. Here’s how three top brands are effectively engaging job-seekers on social platforms — and how you can emulate their success.
UnitedHealth Group Careers posted a link to a brief article about “Stacy D.,” the company’s Senior Director of Software Engineering. But the article isn’t the point; it’s well known that many people read only the headline of a story posted on Facebook — even if they end up commenting on it. So what matters here is the headline, the text, and the image.
The post’s copy reads: Learn what [Stacy] loves most about working with our Fortune 14 enterprise, and how her experience here has helped her career growth. A lot of good words there that sound attractive to top talent. UHG was smart to feature an employee, as personal stories often resonate better with job-seekers than approved and often banal statements from the C-suite.
But what makes this post a winner is the accompanying photo of Stacy — not sitting at her desk or shaking hands with someone at a hospital. She’s in full equestrian gear and handling a horse! An unexpected image that shows the UHG values work-life balance (and gives a subtle clue to salary — horsemanship is not a cheap hobby). The sub-headline goes one step further, equating the “fine-tuned relationship” between rider and horse with that of a software engineer and her team. The result is 27 likes and a comment…which drew a kind response from UnitedHealth’s Talent Community Manager.
How you can be like UnitedHealth Group: Featuring employees in social media posts is always a good strategy, as it helps job-seekers relate to the company on a more personal level. The post plays up a software engineer’s responsibilities and career advancement opportunities while at the same time showing what they can accomplish in their spare time. The photo seems to capture a candid moment between Stacy and her horse and looks much different than the standard business-suit-and-gray-background employee photo. What hobbies or interests or accomplishments do your employees have? Who are they beyond their job description? What do they mean to your organization — and what does the organization mean to them? Also worth noting is the response to the Facebook comment by a member of the recruiting team. Is your recruiter monitoring Facebook for questions, concerns, or complaints from job-seekers? If not, what does that say about your attitude towards them?
SpaceX’s recruiting Twitter account, @SpaceXJobs, recently tweeted a photo of its interns. The copy reads: These fall interns are key @SpaceX team members. Check out all our internship opportunities, followed by a link. The image shows several dozen young people in front of SpaceX’s headquarters, making an “X” with their arms. A nice nod to interns, who are often overlooked (and underrepresented in recruitment materials). But not very compelling copy, and the photo doesn’t show interns designing spacecraft or attending launches.
And yet the engagement for the tweet was sky-high: 158 retweets and 453 likes. Why? Because of the First Rule of Social Media: People love to share content about themselves! SpaceX gave 50 Millennials a reason to retweet the photo, simply because they’re pictured. If you think SpaceX must always get Twitter love because it’s a cool company that launches people into space, look closer. Many tweets generate engagement only in the single digits. This post is an outlier, and it’s because so many people are featured. The photo also provoked 17 replies, ranging from interns thanking the company to job-seekers asking questions. A successful post by both hard and soft metrics.
How you can be like SpaceX: I see two lessons here. First, feature your employees. No more stock photos. Job-seekers want to connect with the people at your organization and hear their stories. After all, it’s actual people, not slogans and bullet points, that make up a company’s culture. The other lesson is to remember the interns and entry-level workers at your organization. They will love the recognition, and it will show that you care about every employee at every level. And since those workers tend to be Generation Y — and soon Generation Z — they’re more likely to be on social media and to spread the love around, as Twitter users did for SpaceX.
I tell clients all the time that they don’t have to spend a lot of money or produce a Hollywood-worthy film to create a strong recruiting video. Brent Redmond proves my point perfectly. Its series of employee testimonials look like they cost nothing — and I mean that as a compliment. As a transportation company, its front-line employees are truck drivers, whom many wouldn’t consider the most articulate or camera-ready subjects. But these brief, single-take videos express an honesty and transparency that is impossible to duplicate.
The Joe Legarretta video is a great example. It runs just 49 seconds. Joe stands in front of his truck, in cold-weather gear (the company didn’t even wait for a nice day to shoot), and talks about his six months at the company. He says things that recruiters don’t often include in their materials, like “I was looking for a job that paid good” and “It’s a difficult job.” But Joe goes on to say that the company “makes a sincere effort to take care of you as a driver.” No viewer would say he was coached; he seems to be speaking off the top of his head. I imagine truck drivers don’t care much for artifice, so they probably connect with Joe’s bluntness.
How you can be like Brent Redmond: If these raw videos, shot in one take — possibly with a cell phone — with no special lighting and no graphics, don’t convince you to produce recruiting videos, nothing will. Brent Redmond didn’t try to spin its driver jobs as something romantic and didn’t add shots of a desert highway at sunset. It simply let its drivers talk honestly about the job and the company. Isn’t it time to turn the camera on your own employees, at all different levels and all different positions? What gems will you discover when they speak about your organization from the heart?
The most popular social recruiting posts this week all exemplify one best practice: Showcasing your employees. SpaceX did it with a photo. UnitedHealth Group did it with a brief article. Brent Redmond Transportation did it with a short video. Your employees are a great resource for testimonials that go beyond standard talent acquisition clichés. And when you create social content about them, they’re very likely to share it with their own social networks, becoming employer brand ambassadors for your organization.
Brandemix specializes in this effective social media recruiting strategy. Contact us and we’ll talk.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
Our latest survey found that, on average, organizations are updating their employer brand every 11 months. That’s more frequent than the 14-month average we found a year ago. Employer brands are like consumer brands in that they must respond to changing conditions and adapt to new goals. Is it time to refresh your employer brand? The answer is yes, if any of these apply to you:
If your company has undergone a real change, then both its mission and its culture may have changed, too. If your company merged with another, or was acquired, or launched a new division that modifies your core purpose, you’ll need a new employer brand to reflect the change — and to attract workers with a skill set you didn’t need until now. Maybe your Boston company just opened a branch in Chicago, so you’re no longer trying to engage and recruit MIT graduates. Or perhaps you’ve grown and your culture is no longer that of a casual start-up. Or maybe you’ve won awards that need to be communicated to job-seekers. Any of these events can change the mission of the company, the personality of its culture, and the personality of its employees. That means an updated employer brand.
I mean that in two ways. One scenario is that your competitors have updated their own employer brands and are now poaching your top candidates. The other is that your organization has evolved or transformed, putting you in competition with different companies that have different strengths. In order to keep up, you’ll have to change your employer brand to outflank the rest of the industry. The same holds true for opening a new office or retail location, immediately putting you in conflict with existing companies.
I always advocate that consumer brands and employer brands should work together and reflect each other. If your organization has changed how it engages the public, your employer brand will most likely have to change as well. You might have to alter colors, logos, images, and other branding to better align with your organization’s new messaging. This can be difficult if your current employer brand is working, but a consistent brand is worth the effort.
Remember, most organizations are updating or changing their employer brands every 11 months. What seemed forward-thinking and trendy a year or two ago may not resonate with your talent pool anymore. You might have an employer brand that’s built for a LinkedIn world, but which doesn’t work in a world of Instagram and Snapchat — and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Sometimes branding just becomes stale. Some fonts and logos become dated. Some messaging gets copied by so many companies that it becomes cliché. A refreshed employer brand solves all these problems and can help delay new ones.
This is a very important problem. What is your employer brand? If you can’t describe your mission or vision or values in a few sentences, your employer brand is too broad, or too common, or simply inaccurate. This can affect your morale and productivity, as employees don’t know goal they’re working towards or what kind of culture they’re in. It also hurts recruiting, since job-seekers don’t understand what they’re getting into — or understand that the company itself is somewhat adrift. A simple, clear employer brand is essential for success. If you’re employer brand is vague or outdated, you need to refresh it as soon as possible.
My agency has spent a decade creating and enhancing employer brands in a range of industries, in organizations of all sizes, and in all locations around the country. We can examine your current employer brand as seen through the lens of employees, executive leadership, and prospective talent. We also assess your competitive position in the marketplace. Finally, we create an authentic employer brand architecture, employer value proposition, and positioning platform that will be engaging, differentiated, and — most importantly — aligned with your business goals.
Want to learn more? Contact me and start to feel refreshed.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.