Is your marketing team a service provider or strategic business partner?

29 Sep

iStock_000007316552Small-e1405992411932-467x278The common exception

There’s something successful companies have in common. It sits at the executive level, engages strategically across the business, helps shape direction and drives bottom line performance. The CEO supports it and it forms part of the organisation’s DNA.

I’m talking about marketing as a true strategic business partner.

The common rule

However marketing is not always viewed this way. Many organisations take a service provision view of marketing’s role in business. Of course, marketing has a service role to play in terms of supporting various departments’ needs and delivering initiatives to achieve company objectives. But all too often, this manifests itself in a way that disempowers marketers.

Have a think about your marketing team and ask yourself:

  1. How is work generated (self-generating/generated by others)?
  2. Do department heads/directors/staff take a ‘request and respond’ approach to marketing?
  3. Do non-marketing staff make marketing decisions, even after consulting with the marketing team?
  4. Are non-marketers calling the shots on brand, channels, social responses, etc?
  5. Does the marketing team have a clear understanding of the businesses goals and objectives (financial and other)?
  6. Is there a marketing plan, or is marketing a reactive effort?
  7. Is there marketing representation on the company executive team or Board?

Chances are if the points above are sounding familiar, then marketing in your organisation is seen as a service, not a strategic business partner.

How to elevate the status?

Start by socialising marketing’s thinking across the business and build credibility. Give staff and executives a reason to listen and take notice. When you’re helping build the brand, you’re contributing to bottom line growth.

If your company’s marketing falls under the common rule, giving staff a broad understanding of what marketing’s function is across the organisation may start to change the master-servant relationship.

Ask to be invited to organisational planning days and Board meetings – even if only as an observer. It’s in these forums that the pearls of information necessary to start transitioning marketing from service provider to strategic partner will be uncovered. The more marketing is across the company’s plans, goals and aspirations (current and future), the better able it will be to be proactive and strategic.

Think about how relevant business data can be gathered. Are there tools in place that make it simple to capture relevant organisational information which can be turned into strategic marketing outputs (PR schedules, WIPs, project updates, regular stakeholder meetings)? Starting with the end in sight and working backwards will help you uncover where you need to go to source business intelligence if it’s not naturally forthcoming.

The potential mountain to climb

Of course, the greatest challenge in raising the marketing bar lies in how the CEO, directors and executives view marketing’s role in the business. Their view will determine the level of integration marketing has within the business and whether it’s a service provider or strategic partner scenario.

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines marketing as: ‘The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.’

So if you work in an organisation where marketing is ultimately responsible for growing the brand and the bottom line, you’ll most likely find a Board, CEO and executive team that understands the business imperative of a fully aligned and deeply integrated marketing function.

If not, the climb can be difficult, but not impossible, if you approach the transition strategically.

Improving the candidate experience

13 Jul

Improve_candidate_experience

The scenario

Most people have been candidates at one point or another their careers. They carefully monitor job boards, listen out for clues on upcoming roles via social media and speak to their networks about potential opportunities. They have conversations with recruiters, apply for roles and expect engagement with them leading to interviews and feedback.

The reality

Like most service industries, the customer experience can vary wildly between service providers. I’m not talking about a recruiter’s relationship with their client who, as the source of ongoing business for them, is undoubtedly just fine. I’m talking about the experience a candidate has with a recruitment firm (who is also a source of revenue for the recruiter when placed in a role).

So I’m going to put it out there and say that there is an underlying view from many people I’ve spoken with that indicates most people who have applied for a role via a recruitment firm have had an experience that could have been greatly improved.

Big call or not?

The ludicrous thing is that the most common complaints from candidates could be easily remedied. But only if the recruiter takes a view that the candidate relationship is as equally important to them as the relationship with their client.

Top niggles include:

  • Applying for a role and never receiving an outcome;
  • Standardised rejection responses;
  • Calling a recruiter to discuss a role prior to applying and never receiving a return call;
  • Inviting a recruiter to connect on LinkedIn to enable the recruiter to gain a better profile of the candidate and the recruiter never accepting the invitation;
  • Sending an introductory InMail (LinkedIn mail) to a recruiter to request more information or a job description about the role and never receiving a response;
  • Repeatedly following up a recruiter across all available media and still not receiving a response;
  • Sending Twitter or Facebook messages to a recruiter about a role and never receiving a response.

Sadly the message these behavioural niggles send candidates is “you’re not important enough for me to be bothered to respond to you”.

“But we receive so many applications!”

This is common response from recruiters who are often challenged by the sheer volume of applications and the available resources required to appropriately manage candidate responses. I have worked with many recruiters and in-house teams over the years as a candidate and a client and found some of the most successful share the following traits:

  • They’ve worked in the field for which they recruit and have a deep understanding of what both the client and the candidate need;
  • They take every application seriously – they’re not merely matching CV’s for a quick placement (and fee);
  • They’re interested in putting the very best candidates forward. And if that means a little more work and having to think laterally about out-of-the-box candidates, they’ll do it;
  • They have trusted relationships with their clients and will challenge their requirements when presented with ‘out of the box’ candidates;
  • They behave with integrity – they return calls, answer emails, engage with candidates on social media and do what they say they will;
  • They recognize that the candidate they’re dealing with may one day become a client who could potentially engage their services;
  • They understand the value of the candidate experience and that candidates talk to one another and will take to social media about their experiences;
  • They value not only their personal reputation, but also that of the firm for whom they recruit and their industry in general.

Everything’s online – so isn’t this an opportunity to be highly personalised?

Having a recruiter view your resume can seem like an enormous challenge today, as technology scans, sorts and spits out acceptances and rejections, often with very little human interaction.

Recruiters who use technology as a tool, versus it doing their job for them, have a great opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with candidates.

If candidates aren’t traded like commodities, a whole world of opportunity may open up recruiters and their firms and importantly, to the candidates they’re dealing with.

So here’s something for recruiters to consider. Next time a candidate leaves a message, sends an email, invitation to connect on LinkedIn or sends an InMail about a role they’ve applied for, think about how you’d like to be treated and be guided by this. It will undoubtedly go some way to reducing the potentially negative experience of candidates, who one day may be your clients!

Why should someone hire you?

8 May

Personal BrandThe paradox

What do you get when you combine an employment market flush with candidates with recruiters and hiring managers that are time poor or just too lazy to read past the first line of your resume?

An opportunity. That’s right, an opportunity.

Believe it or not, working harder to get noticed due to an organisation’s limiting recruitment processes or an individual’s laziness presents the perfect opportunity to reflect upon and refine your market position and personal value proposition.

Why you?

That’s the burning question on many candidates’ lips, or more likely, why not you? You spend time crafting great applications and send them off with expectations of being called for an initial phone screen and then hopefully an interview. Weeks pass. Not a peep. No response. Nothing. You follow up. Nothing. You follow up again. Still nothing. The ‘recruitment abyss’ strikes again…eye roll.

Now, aside from being completely unprofessional and downright rude (and remember, you might be their client one day and I guarantee you’ll see a difference in their behaviour if they need you),

there’s one thing that tastes better than giving up and surrendering the control of your career to someone else, and that’s taking the time to clearly articulate your value proposition to prospective employers and nailing who and what you’re all about professionally.

What’s your value proposition?

Your value proposition is the promise of value that you’ll deliver and a belief from the employer that value will be experienced. It doesn’t have to be over-complicated. It can be articulated in your resume, cover letter, on your social media profiles and in person when networking.

How do I develop it?

A great way is to start thinking about what it is you actually do. For example, are you a business builder, or an inspiring leader? Or do you analyse data and turn it into actionable strategies? Do you train people in specific areas in order to grow revenue? Do you turn businesses around?

At the macro level, it helps to articulate what you’re about in a succinct way in order to keep people reading your social media profile, cover letter or resume or to get them interested in what you’re saying.

Piquing interest will generally elicit questioning.

You can then expand upon it by using supporting examples of what you’ve done and for whom, and what the outcomes were. And in doing so, you’re able to show how you’ll do the same for the role you’re applying for.

Take the time to look at people in similar roles to you or in roles you’re aiming to move into – check out their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. There are myriad examples that leave you with no doubt as to what the person is offering to a prospective employer.

Now what?

Now I’m not saying this approach will guarantee job-search success. It will however, help you take control of the process and empower you to think more clearly about what you want in your next career challenge and what you have to offer a prospective employer. It won’t overcome rudeness and lack of response, but you’ll know yourself a little better professionally and have a more comprehensive understanding of the kinds of roles you want and what you can definitively offer an employer in those roles.

Talent pool or quagmire

10 Feb

talentpoolHaving been in the employment market, I gathered some first hand insights into the good, the bad and the ugly of the candidate experience.

Fair to say it was an experience that ranged from the incredibly professional, through to mind-boggling unprofessionalism.

What the application process shares in common is the way candidate resumes and personal details are captured by non-human systems that spit back faceless “no-reply” messages to which you cannot respond, without so much as an indication as to whether it has been viewed by human eyes.

Which got me thinking. With all this incredible candidate information being collected, what are recruiters and employers actually doing with it to keep their firm or organization ahead of their competitors while providing the best candidates?

Talent pooling is nothing new, however having engaged with several prospective employers and recruitment agencies, I experienced no talent pool messaging, engagement or contact. Perhaps this is because I didn’t ‘fit’ a certain criteria for contact or I simply didn’t ‘make the cut’ into a talent pool at all.

But if you consider the undoubtedly thousands of applications an organisation or recruitment agency receives for various roles, surely with some well thought out, creative and engaging communication to candidates, these companies are sitting on recruitment gold? Right?

Wrong! Take the example of an experience I had months ago. Having called them and after a (very) brief discussion, I was encouraged to send my cover letter and CV. I requested an email address, but was told to just apply via the link. I raised my preference for building a relationship with her rather than with a software application and was told, “you’ll be in our talent pool this way”. This firm markets themselves as connected and candidate-focused, yet the only communication I received from them was an automated rejection to a role I had only discussed, but not actually applied for, and a newsletter which covered their recent business wins and a few recruiter profiles. Absent was anything around how they might assist in connecting candidates with potential opportunities and employers with active candidates.

With a wealth of information at hand, it’s perplexing to find little engagement either around the employment market in general, specific job categories, roles that align with candidate’s experience, invitations to discuss career aspirations, or informal meet and greets with potential employers.

Aside from setting up a job-alert that sends roles matched to selected criteria, there appears to be a distinct lack of anything personal, meaningful or useful.

As recruitment and search is an experience based on personal interactions, some basic questions come to mind. When was the last time the candidate who registered months ago was called to see how their job search was progressing? Did the agency or employer call personally to let the candidate know that after two phone interviews and one Skype interview, they had been unsuccessful out of the final two candidates, or did they just get their ‘system’ to generate an automated response? When was the last time personalised, relevant and timely communication was received by the candidate who had taken the time to entrust a recruitment agency or employer with their career history, aspirations and information?

When was the last time a candidate was ‘engaged’ as opposed to ‘processed’?

As an industry that, by its own admission, struggles with its’ image, the information gathered from candidates provides a golden opportunity to reclaim a positive position as a service that is highly personalised, intimate and genuinely concerned with the well being of candidates and clients alike. My observation is that there’s some way to go.

How to handle job search rejection

20 Nov

RejectedThe current job market is highly competitive. Employers are spoiled for choice when it comes to sourcing candidates and placing them into roles. Social media profiling, network enquiries, time pressures and sometimes, even laziness, finds them being more and more specific about the ‘fit’ of candidate to company. Where once a candidate with highly transferable skills could readily move sideways into a role utilizing complementary skills or a candidate with relevant experience could grow and develop into and within a new position, recruiters and corporate hiring managers can now literally pick people out of companies doing the exact same role and put them into another company to do the exact same thing.  Saves on development costs, reduces risk and allows hiring managers and recruiters to move quickly to appoint candidates and move onto the next vacancy. It’s a challenging environment for candidates and recruiters / hiring managers alike.

Job vacancies receive large volumes of candidate applications. In a discussion I had last week with a company, they received 50 applications for a maternity leave contract. A recruiter I met received 300 applications for a senior role. When I queried whether 300 people in Melbourne had experience at the level the role was pitched, the response was “well of course not, but all the applicants thought they did, which makes screening CV’s exceptionally difficult” (important note here…make sure your CV can articulate its merit to someone who might only take 6 seconds, that right, 6 seconds, to scan it before deciding you’re out of the running).

If you’re in the market searching for your next opportunity, you’re probably doing all the right things. My go-to list includes:

  • Talking to recruiters who specialize in your area;
  • Applying for roles that interest you;
  • Engaging your networks on LinkedIn and Twitter;
  • Reaching out to hiring managers who post jobs of interest on LinkedIn;
  • Setting up coffee meetings with people within organizations for whom you’d like to work;
  • Searching job boards.

However, you’re not going to land every role you apply for, nor secure interviews for many. Inevitably you’ll have to manage rejection that can come in many forms, including:

  • Automatically from an ATS (applicant tracking system);
  • From a hiring manager or recruiter via email or telephone;
  • From your potential manager, post interview;
  • The silence that comes from no response, acknowledgement or feedback at all to an application you’ve made.

How you respond to and manage rejection can have a significant impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Most people who have been in the market will attest to the fact that it can be a difficult place to be, professionally and emotionally. Whether you’re already employed and keen to make a move out of your current role or have left a role to concentrate on your search, everyone wants to make a connection, score an interview and land their next opportunity. So here are my top tips for managing job search rejection:

  1. Just because someone doesn’t see your value at the time, doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable;
  2. Be aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour when you are rejected. For example: you have a discussion with a recruiter who won’t interview you for the role you’ve applied for because the client has a very strict brief as to the industries from which they want their candidates. Instead of feeling angry at the recruiter, less valued, worried about securing employment and potentially responding with a “well it’s their loss” conversation or email, try to hear what you say to yourself (self talk), as this will influence your feelings and behaviour. You can see that the client’s brief and recruiter’s position start the process. But it’s your thinking that produces how you ultimately feel. Therefore a better response may be: you have the conversation with the recruiter, it’s unfortunate they won’t put you forward for the role, but accept their reasoning. You feel disappointed, but kept in perspective as you know there are other opportunities out there and it’s only a matter of time before you land your next great role;
  3. If you’re interested in receiving specific feedback, request it. Use this as motivation for your next application or interview. Be prepared that you may receive none…if so, take action as per point 2;
  4. Don’t speak disparagingly of an employer, recruiter or hiring manager because things didn’t go your way. You may need them one day and conversely, they may need you;
  5. Keep going. Your ability to sustain the momentum will help you land that job. Be engaged, make connections and don’t throw in the towel.

Remember, no one enjoys a job search rejection. You might not think so now, but sometimes you may have even unknowingly dodged a bullet. And remember at the end of the day, it will only be as ‘bad’ as you let it!

Employee disengagement – and the remedy

17 Nov

EngagementThe benefits of a highly engaged workforce are well known. When companies invest in their people, their EVP and their Employer brands, their staff is likely to be more committed. When the company communicates with them effectively, their engagement increases and the likelihood of turnover decreases. All good stuff that can ultimately have a positive effect on the bottom line.

We’ve all experienced the co-worker, direct report, manager or CEO who doesn’t seem as fully engaged as they could be. They come in all shapes and sizes and can exist at any level within the organization. Their behaviour, demeanour, words and actions can destabilize otherwise stable employees without them even realizing it. Sometimes it’s insidious; sometimes it’s more overt. But either way, it can negatively impact performance.

Over the years I’ve worked with many organizations that struggled to address, manage and navigate the potential turnaround of disengaged staff. But before we fast forward to the remedy, I thought I’d share my view of some common characteristics displayed by disengaged staff as a means of helping identify what to look out for:

Time wasting
Often late, leaving early, taking long lunches and not completing tasks/projects on time, these people seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn and are rather au fait with the ‘ALT TAB’ function to switch between screens when someone walks behind them.

Resentment
They don’t feel like their opinion is heard and become inward looking as a result and unproductive.

Confusion
They never quite know what they’re meant to do and where it fits in with everything else; therefore they lack focus and find it hard to contribute to the team.

Gossiping
If management isn’t communicating and informing staff about what’s going on within the organisation, I can guarantee you these people will make it up – and it might not be pretty!

Over it
These are the people you’ll find on Seek (and every other job board at lunch time) searching for their next role as they’re over their current one.

Anxiety
These people are often long-term employees, or in roles that are non revenue generating or administrative, and will work themselves into a state when the media covers the worsening economy, job cuts and redundancies – thinking they’ll be the next to go.

Martyrdom
These employees work harder than everyone else, longer than everyone else, contribute more than everyone else and don’t receive the recognition commensurate with their efforts (according to them).

Protectionist
These people are like the kids in the sandpit that won’t share their toys and think that by withholding information they’re making themselves indispensible and their jobs secure.

Bare minimum
There’s often an apathy with these people that ensures they’ll only ever give you the very least they’re capable of giving.

Clock watching
I once worked with someone who arrived right at 9am and was packed and ready to go at 4.55pm every single day, no matter how busy or engaged the rest of the team was. Unfortunately this person had a knack of uninspiring and de-motivating the unsuspecting around them to behave in the same way.

Don’t care
These people have already ‘left the building’ and are in a shiny new role in a new company, so they end up behaving like they don’t care one iota about their job, colleagues or the organization.

Negativity
This person has a great ability to turn clients and employees (existing and potential) off your business by pointing out everything they believe is wrong with it.

Armed with the knowledge of what characteristics and behaviours to look out for, how do you address disengaged staff and turn them into highly engaged, productive ambassadors for your business?

Without seeming overly simplistic, the answer can be found through communication. Demonstrate to your employees that you actually care about them, that you understand their wants and needs and are prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue about them.

Internal communications provides the platform to tackle the intangibles of a company and its culture that go way beyond salary and benefits. Take the time to explain the hard to explain. Address the elephant in the room and build trust with your staff. Show them you respect them, involve them in processes, provide feedback and guidance and importantly, listen to and get to you know your employees.

If the organization can truly say and demonstrate that it cares for its employees, appreciates their efforts, respects their abilities and contributions and can provide career paths and opportunities that meet their individual needs, then eventually these engaged employees will start to show themselves…and that’s a good t

Why articulating a brand isn’t easy

19 Sep

BrandThere are many definitions of brand. My favourite centres around the ‘gut’ feeling you get for a product, service or experience – how it makes you feel. However the deeper I delve into organisations, the more I realise that depending on how you look at brand, this definition really only scratches the surface and requires a more connected view.

With more and more companies coming to understand the power of their employer brand and the connection it has with the customer brand, I’ve started thinking that there’s yet another way to look at brand.

Everyone has a personal brand, right? My brand is ‘brand Matthew’. There are certain things I stand for, certain things I want you to remember about me when you walk away from meeting. A perception of me I’d like you to have. I live by my own values and behaviours. And just like a product brand, this requires management; conscious or otherwise.

Which leads me to think that as we all have personal brands, our employer brands, and then the articulation of these through our customer brands, are the sum total of all the personal brands in an organisation. Which in turn leads me to think this is why many companies have difficulty defining their employer brand and organizational culture. Because it’s the sum of many parts that make the whole.

Now I’m sure this isn’t new to everyone, but it does help to steer in a direction that encourages co-creation to enable many voices to be heard.

To succeed, the starting point needs to be a universal understanding of behaviours that are either ‘on brand’ or ‘off brand’ – and how these are either rewarded or otherwise to encourage ‘preferred’ behaviours.

Then of course there’s the damage an individual can cause their own personal brand and the enormous negative impact their off-brand behaviour can have on those around them; but I’ll save that for another time!

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