Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hiring Like Shackleton

You need to find someone to fill a key role within your company.

So, who do you believe will become the better employee?

Someone who takes a job because of the salary, hours and benefits? Or someone who identifies with what your company stands for and is truly inspired to accomplish the organization's purpose?

These come off as leading questions, but have you ever wondered why most people who would prefer hiring the inspired types end up with money-oriented clock-watchers instead?

As you have probably already learned, hiring is a hit and miss affair. Mostly miss.

And not even the best recruiters in the business get it right 100% of the time. If you doubt the veracity of that statement just ask any NFL franchise that ever invested thousands of hours in scouting and lost tens of millions of dollars on first-round draft choices that went bust.

But what if you stumbled on to a page from the history books that spoke of how one boss was able to recruit perfectly? And find stars at every position?

If you are bone-chillingly serious about finding the right people for your team you might want to immerse yourself in this story. It begins with a simple, 1914 advert placed in the London Times and plastered on walls around the city.

Ernest Shackleton received more than 5,000 applications for his upcoming expedition to the South Pole. When Shackleton interviewed the applicants, he also asked an unusual question: “Can you sing?” Shackleton knew full well a journey of this magnitude would require the ability to work as a team and enjoy each others’ company over an extended period of time.

Shackleton eventually hired 26 (plus one stowaway) and set off on the "Endurance" but never reached Antarctica. Ten months later in deathly frigid South Pole waters, ice closed in around the ship, eventually crushing it. The crew sought refuge on tiny Elephant Island while Shackleton and several crew members travelled another 800 miles to find help. Nearly two years after setting out, all 27 of the crew members, along with Shackleton, were rescued.

So how did the men of "Endurance" survive under conditions that would have caused many others to mutiny or simply give up and die? One answer lies in Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills in keeping team members motivated and working together in adverse conditions. But, another reason for their unlikely survival was that Shackleton hired survivors already cut from the same attitudinal cloth. Job applicants already aligned with his mission and purpose.

Shackleton's hiring ad is in sharp contrast to what most companies practice today as they attempt to find talent that aligns with what they believe. Most newspaper or online job ads usually offer well-worn generic bromides like this:

"Account Manager needed. If you are a self-motivated leader with the ability to work in a team environment then we want to talk to you! You must have minimum 5 years experience in account management and possess excellent oral and written communication skills. The successful candidate will be driven, goal orientated, organized and willing to accept a higher standard of living in reward for their hard work. Come work for a fantastic company".

OK, so those are the cliches being spun in HR world, but should it surprise anyone that generic, formalized job ads attract a flood of generic, tire-kicking resumes? Just for kicks and giggles, I went to a job site and randomly clicked on the first ad I saw.

But, what if certain companies decided to cut the crap and get real?

What if they stopped explaining WHAT jobs were all about and started focusing instead on WHY someone would even want to apply?

Author Simon Sinek explains in "Start With Why" that the reason companies like Apple with a clear and strong WHY resonate so much with customers and employees is that the WHY triggers our emotional decision making process. As Simon explains, "If Apple was like everyone else a marketing message might be: We make great computers. They're user friendly. Want to buy one? ...Here's how Apple actually communicates: everything we do, We believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"

According to Sinek, people don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it. Inspired employees are motivated by WHY you your company exists, not WHAT you make, service or sell.

It's not WHAT you do that matters.

It's WHY you do it.

This is the secret formula for any brand that aspires to become seamless in its words and deeds.

Ernest Shackleton knew his goal wasn't to hire people who needed a job.

He needed to hire people who believed in his cause. People willing to give blood, sweat and tears because the idea of hazardous adventure and challenging insurmountable odds spoke to them.

Does your company need those kinds of people?

Could you craft an ad that would rally inspired people to join your cause?

Here is one small business owner, looking for minimum wage help, did it:

"We are looking for someone to help us take care of the best customers in the world. And while that sounds like a great opening line, the reality is that the job itself involves hard work at a fast, sometimes hectic pace. But, wait… it gets tougher! It also pays minimum wage with little chance for advancement. On the plus side, the successful candidate gets to work by him or herself and listen to Pop hits from the 80's all day. It can be a thankless job, but if you're the type of person that doesn't need a lot of praise, this job might be for you. We're only looking for someone who wants to work about 8 hours per day Saturday and Sunday, 9-5 or until the job is finished (whichever comes first). You'll never have to work nights, as long as you work hard all day. Everyone who works here, loves the hours because they get to spend time with friends, family, and their kids... They also love the fact we’re up front about everything from the start. Email us your resume if you think you honestly fit this role".

This owner experienced 654 page views in 5 days. Unheard of response rates for this type of job. He thinks by borrowing a page from Ernest Shackleton that he is on to something big.

This owner has a clear sense of WHY his company does the things it does.

Do your customers and future employees get that same sense from you?

Are your job ads explaing too much WHAT without inspiring with a WHY?

“The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, but to hire people who believe what you believe. If you hire just because they need a job, they’ll work for your money. If you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears”

Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/ His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

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Darren said...

Love today's blog Gair. The message hits you like an Arctic blast.

Become a Fan of the Seamless Brand on Facebook:


theyurtfile said...

Excellent thoughts on your blog Gair. Oddly enough, as a worker 'branding' or standing out from the crowd from those 654 applicants, the same ideas can be used. Jason