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How Much Of A Values Overlap Is Needed Between Employers & Employees?

geese sunset

There’s a lot to be said for working for an organisation where your personal values overlap significantly with the organisation’s. In the employee recruitment process, along with interviews, CVs, referees and behavioural profiling, I’d really appreciate a single, simple graphic: a venn diagram showing how much of a ‘values overlap’ the applicant has with the potential employer. The temptation would be to print it out in full colour. Out of respect for the planet and its future, please do not do this.

How do we know what a person’s values are or those of an organisation? Quite a lot of people and organisations might publically declare them to us and the world. Individuals can pop memes and inspirational posts up on social media in a hope that we will view them and extrapolate them to be lovers of sunrises, geese in migration, or, on Mondays, flocks of geese migrating across sunrises. Companies have professionals facilitate out of their leadership team a printed list of values that gets framed and hung pride of place in reception and the lunch room. I’m sure all these people and organisations are well-intentioned but reality is often incongruous with those stated intentions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, which still makes it infinitely superior to the intersection of Albany Highway and Oteha Valley Extention which seems to have been paved with 3 different sized ox carcasses, then a very thin and crumbly layer of off-brand asphalt.

Regardless, or irregardless, of what we say our values are, our behaviour betrays us. This is true of us and of organisations. There’s plenty of white collar fraudsters in prison who had accountability, excellence and integrity on the values statements of their business or professional association. Although, in fairness, the fact that they’re in prison does at least tick the ‘accountability’ box.

Venn diagrams and values posters aside, if you’re into observing reality, a good indicator of shared values are the growing range of corporate social responsibility projects going on. Some are well established and more about support and sponsorship. Funding a native parrot is great. Few employees or customers are going to tweet, “I hate Kakapos!!!” Nor should they, as three exclamation points are excessive and the plural of Kakapo is Kakapo not Kakapos. These types of corporate social responsibility efforts are passive for the vast majority of employees. The ones that may be a measure of some degree of values overlap and engagement are the ones that require overt activity from people on the ground. Some are well established and most worthy but do not require a lot of effort or cognitive contribution. Collecting coins in a bucket outside your work’s front door in exchange for colour-coded flowers or stickers for a good cause is admirable. Hoofing it into a steep muddy forest to plant carbon-offsetting treelings to save the world for our grandchildren is up the rankings a bit in my opinion.

If corporate social responsibility can be defined as a corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the effects on environmental and social wellbeing, then we need to look at funding or support via inertia for the production and distribution of nukes, landmines and cigarettes. I’m not a fan of smoking but it is kind of shocking to see cigarettes third in a list that started with nukes and landmines. I guess if you added up the death, injury and misery, then cigarettes belong on the list. Someone recently sent me the findings of a study into the world’s deadliest animals. First was mosquitoes, then mankind itself, then snakes. Sixth was freshwater snails. That’s way more out of place than a list with smoking, nukes and landmines.

Collectively, we as consumers have more power than we realise. If we can leverage the power of the group to stop buying the products or services of a company that doesn’t agree with your views on marriage equality, then why can’t the talent in the employee marketplace exhibit that same influence by choosing to work with someone who does agree. A company cannot and should not ask an applicant their views on marriage equality or many other belief-based topics. Most applicants are not going to directly ask a recruiter or potential employer their official or personal views on such topics either. But, they might watch the news or so some internet searching and the organisation’s behaviour will betray its true values.

For an activity to learn more about your team’s values and internal ‘operating systems’, check out my one-page personal user-manual project at

The term ‘silent majority’ is likely equally applicable to employers as it is to the voting public. Most people do not attend marches or sign online petitions. Most employers do not declare themselves to be pro or anti most things. But if you’re an employer who wants to attract the truly talented and those within that group with whom you share values, you’ve got to stand for something. Those potential employees are talented; they’re not psychic.

More ideas at

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Recruitment: Gangnam Style!


What can employers learn about recruitment from the techniques of viral internet videos?


There’s a delightful parody floating around YouTube of the Gotye song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know.’ Actually there are about 17,000 of them ranging in delightfulness but the one I’m referring to is ‘Some Recruiter That I used To Know.’ If you’ve ever been on either end of a recruitment process, then it will ring familiar to you. Search for it or its kiwi creator Adam King. (“Always a pen… Always a pen…”)

As popular as the original Gotye song’s video was on YouTube, it cannot hold a candle (or luminous smartphone) to the billion views, or thereabouts, of PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style.’ My beef here is how YouTube counts the views. The moment you click PLAY, that counts. So, if you watch one second of it, refresh and start again and repeat, all those ‘views’ count. They shouldn’t but they do.

Too many employers treat recruitment like YouTube treats view counts. A recruitment process is just that – a process – and it shouldn’t count until it’s completely finished. And when’s that? I’m going to say that it isn’t finished even when the role is filled and a contract is signed. There’s a period, and it’ll vary from time to time and from organisation to organisation and from role to role, but there’s a period that the new hire needs to remain and be productive for the recruitment to have been considered a success. I reckon the recruitment process shouldn’t be considered over until that period is complete. Then tick all the boxes you want.

So recruitment would then include orientation, induction and maybe even the first period of performance management, up to and including a performance review.  That’s the equivalent of watching the YouTube video all the way to the end. And the best thing is that recruitment doesn’t involve Justin Bieber. Or, if it does involve Justin Bieber, I’m assuming you’re reading this article in 2015 and you’re hiring for McDonalds. I’d probably hire him. I imagine he’d be great at customer service but you’d have to insist on a hairnet. And this might be the first and best ever use of a hairnet for both improving food hygiene and fashion.

I’m assuming that mocking Justin Bieber is safe, as few Beliebers would read Employment Today, unless it’s 2040 by which time I’ll be holed up somewhere safely in a cave with my guns and Led Zep vinyl LPs.

So, how does a Gangnam video get so popular? How does PSY get a billion views instead of having to settle for half a billion? One theory is that his is the perfect music video, being derivative and paying homage to about twenty different classic music video scenes. Why wouldn’t you cut n paste from the timeless classics just like cutting n pasting from old position descriptions?

How else do these viral videos get so virulent and are there learnings from their approaches for recruiters? Dan and Chip Heath’s book ‘Made To Stick’ outlines the critical components of ideas that stick and get retold and retold, spreading out through inter-related professional and social networks, not just in today’s world of wires and wireless, but timeless principles of engagement dating back millennia.  The components are as relevant to gossip, mythology, urban myths and music videos as they are to the reputation of a workplace as a fantastic employer. There is simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. No one really believes job ads or the hype but they do give traction to stories. “Hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.” That’s the power of repetition and Gangnam Style is certainly testimony to that.

It doesn’t have to be stories about waking up in a Cambodian hotel bath full of ice minus a kidney. That’s probably not a better work story but it is one that starts their book. But as the Heath brothers write, that’s the kind of story that gets around because it has those features. It’s similar with Gangnam Style. I remember reading years ago an early edition of ‘What Colour Is My Parachute’. (It may have been on a tablet – a stone tablet.) It stressed that most jobs weren’t gained via CVs and answering job adverts in the newspaper. It was all about over-hearing about a vacancy or knowing someone who knew someone. Employers and recruiters need to get their message out there in story form. The Heaths sticky idea criteria spell out an acronym: SUCCES. It’s almost success but is missing that last S. I recommend adding Substance.

And getting back to that Gotye parody ‘Some Recruiter That I Used To Know’, there’s a recurring line in there that I particularly liked:

“But you treat me like an accountant and that feels so rough.”





Holistic Thinking Around Employee Engagement

Terry Williams seriouscomedy laffic-graphic MATE

This is a great post in Forbes by Josh Bersin. I’m always flapping my gums about the futility of ‘tick-box’ engagement efforts like annual culture surveys and such. He’s actually distilled into a useful and succinct summary some practical holistic strategies.

I especially like and agree with his thinking on building an engaging environment.

On survey efforts etc, he writes:

“While this is a good thing to do, most companies now tell us that this process is not keeping up. It’s not detailed enough, it isn’t real-time, and it doesn’t consider  all the work related issues which drive employee commitment. A new breed of engagement tools vendors, models, books, and workshops has emerged – all focused on building what we call today’s  ‘Irresistible Organization.’ “

There’s some links to interesting new research on how the old axiom that ‘people leave bosses, not organisations’ may no longer be the case.

Survey results can be misleading. And funny:

  • The apocalypse – favoured by 4 out of 5 horsemen.
  • Research shows six out of seven dwarves aren’t Happy.
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