Why Surfing and Talking at the same time on an iPhone will help you Retain More Employees

Yesterday I got a 12 page magazine from AT&T. I did not subscribe to it, and did not send for it. It came to my home mail box, and was addressed to me directly. On the cover, it said Special iPhone Edition, and in the lower left corner there was a very Cosmo-like caption stating “Great Match! 10 Reasons AT&T and your iPhone work best together”.

My first response – wow! haven’t gotten a retention package on anything in a while. Of course the word retention then stuck out and I started thinking about this blog post. Meanwhile, my colleague and FB friend Jeff Bloch threw up a status the other day that 26% of AT&T iPhone customers are switching to Verizon. I am pretty sure he didn’t make that up – if was a re-tweet of an article from some survey. Both the magazine and the tweet arrived within a few days of each other, not to mention the constant AT&T and Verizon commercials on the iPhone I am seeing on every channel – its like a US Presidential Election out there.

This is a great battle – the next Cola Wars – but it is actually a preview of what will happen if the job market’s flood gates every swing wide open and employees consider leaving or staying with their current employer.

We all knew that Verizon was eventually getting the iPhone. People on AT&T have dropped calls. Some hated it so much that cracked the code on their AT&T iPhones, and switched to Verizon or another carrier through hacking. Then the day came. The waters parted, and there was beady eyed glasses guy on an iPhone saying “can you hear me now” and he was on an iPhone? Prayers were answered, AT&T’s sweating had officially gone public, and people left the warm blanket of of the Stanly Tucci voice over for the windbreaker of the nerdy guy.

For the record, I am former Verizon person, who switched to AT&T for the iPhone, and I am sticking with AT&T, even though I drop calls in my own house on a regular basis. Why I am sticking is why employees will stay…

So if the waters part in employment, there will be a mass exodus of employees from current employers to new employers. All of a sudden employers will start being concerned about retention. Some have started already, but probably not as many as they should. In fact, they have been remiss in working on retention as they have assumed people can’t leave in the wake of the recession.

The fear is climbing – how are we going to hold our top talent? Do we need to make promises? Do we give them something else? I am hearing it more and more each week from our companies and in the wind from people who are restless in their job.

Employees are restless because they just ARE. There are lots of people who had planned on leaving their job, but all of a sudden could not, for whatever reason. A small percentage of those people have changed their mind, but wake up employers – they decided to leave a long time ago.

These are the AT&T customers who were waiting for Verizon. Its a sizable group. But they stayed with AT&T because they had no choice. As employees, they wanted two things – the money and the job satisfaction, but they needed the money. Now they will go and get the satisfaction now, because its available.

Then there are the employees who are staying with AT&T. There are likely two types:

1) DON’T FEEL LIKE MOVING – They don’t want to change because they think its a pain, or something will go wrong, or they don’t want to bother, etc. This is the majority of the crowd, and guess what – that is the majority of the people who will stay with a company. They have too much invested to not even bother. The brand (like AT&T) might be holding them, but I am sure that if the deal was sweet enough (from Verizon) they would jump. BTW the way, you have probably noticed that Verizon is not giving away the iPhone or having massive discounts. They are not cutting their own throat to get people to jump. That is because of the NEXT group.

2) I AM STAYING BECAUSE ITS BETTER – The magic group. The ones who want to stay because they know its actually better for them – really better. For AT&T customers, its probably because they can talk and surf at the same time. I am on my phone so much that I surf, text, Google, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and so on while on the phone. Maybe I am on a conference call and texting people at the same time. Its really convenient, and makes me productive.

Yes – I experience at least one dropped call a day, and at first I was ready to switch. Then I realized I can just call people back. People understand – they get it. Its actually a nice reinforcement. Whatever I was talking about was provocative enough that they were eager to have me call back. I am not leaving AT&T because I am actually at my most productive and effective with AT&T – and THAT is what we want for ANY top employee. That very realization.

You want employees who realize they want to stay because they know they are at their most productive and effective with your company.

So send your newsletters and emails. Make your websites. Have your conversations at your companies. Some people are going to leave. Oh – and CEO – don’t blame your HR people when they do – if employees bail its because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, not because your HR manager is weak.

The thing about exodus, is that its catchy. You don’t see too many lemmings stay back after the jump…

So you have to prepare to hold onto the people who use the iPhone and like to surf at the same time (keep that visual in your head). BTW – this is the market share that Verizon (your competitors) are REALLY going after and going trying to steal. he are the most effective and productive people you have. Its the few percentage points of the team, but it makes all the difference in profitability.

Protect your “iPhone talking surfers” from the exodus. Find out who they are. Get HR and managers to engage with people and find out why they are with the company. How does your company enable them – really and truly. For top talent, CEOs and heads of businesses can do this themselves. Make the time and have talks with those who are marked for promotion or have intellectual knowledge that you know you need. Get out of the office talk to the great team players. Find out if and why they are talking and surfing at the same time.

Realize that the “surfing” at your company is a unique combination of things for each employee, and likely has differences for each person – but make sure they are surfing and talking at the same time. Once they recognize that the surfing is really not available elsewhere…you will keep them on your network.

Own a Ferrari, but can’t drive stick. Twittering and Googling never out-corner a well trained hiring manager.

That’s right. All the googling, hunting, twittering, blogging, myspacing, linkedin-ing (that one is hard to say) in the world is not going to close a hire for you. But guess what – neither did the cold calling, Monster crawling, careerbuilding, or yahoo-ing (this is getting fun). All these processes and tools just identifies the candidate.

People take jobs for ALL kinds of reasons. But its rare that it has anything to do with how they were found. Its about how they are treated. 

Yes – unemployment is up. But guess what – more people are holding on to their jobs more than ever. If you think there are people “available” now – wait until 18 months from now. When the people who are holding on to a job are at their wits end and the economy recovers. Do you really think that a candidate is going to be impressed because you connected them via Twitter? Because your company was crafty enough to find them on Facebook because they forgot to change their security settings? I am sure they will be impressed right until you tell them that job is a lateral move. Or further impressed when the manager is late for the interview. Or when the manager asks “are you pregnant?” Yeah – I just had someone tell me that war story.

These behaviors and other like them, are happeningmore now than every. Why? Maybe we got lazy. Maybe people are out of practice. Maybe we stopped hiring and let go our recruiters. Funny thing is that most companies are getting more traffic than ever before. Call your recruiter and see if the conversation goes like this: “Are we getting more resumes…..yeah…..uh huh…. We are huh?….. Well, who is respond….oh, we let her go huh…..ohhh…they are getting a standard reply via email….”

See what I mean. That will make you stand out. One of 300 auto reply messages that candidates are getting daily. That’s their feedback. That is about as exciting as deals I get in my spam box.

Not to worry – candidates will be impressed with one key item. They will be impressed with the ease and ability to tell everyone via text, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so on that your employment process is weak. There is no fury…like a poorly treated candidate with social networking skills (I know – not as catchy as the other phrase). Do you really want people to think NOW that you don’t care about them? That you think you are all high and mighty and you don’t need to give them feedback? That you were not organized? That your interview questions sounded canned or like the ones they heard 30 minutes ago from the interviewer next door? That you didn’t even look at their resume before the interview?

This is such a fantastic time to focus on the fundamentals of recruiting, and why people take jobs in the first place.

Control your brand. Control yourself. Don’t get sloppy – get lean. Contrary to popular belief there is not more talent out there. Why are we saying that? Because more people are out of work? Because companies are going down? Because bonuses are being skipped? Guess what – those people were there. They had their heads down, and were working. There is this myth that in October of 2008 we created a bunch of people in a lab, and they are on blue light special at KMart. They are just talking to you now because they have to – not necessarily because they want to.

Ask yourself why you are working at your company, and make sure that you can explain that better than anyone. Tell each and every candidate you know. Better yet, tell everyone. For every resume that comes across your desk, make sure that person gets a “thank you”. That they are taken care of. That they remember that even though they did not get the job, they were treated with decency. It will come back to you 7x over.

Fireside Chat:
In order to make that “Ferrari” (all your twittering) turn like its on rails, rather than stalling on the hill, review what people tend to consider when taking jobs in the first place. View this diagram that help walk you though the “four corners” of an employee value proposition. Take these into consideration and have strong points of view on each. You will inevitably create better jobs, be able to provide more value to the interview, create a better experience when interfacing with candidates, and likely make better decisions about a hire.

Companies Taking Similar Recruiting Approaches in Down Economy

On March 20, 2009, I moderated a panel of recruiting leaders in Chicago about how this economy has affected their processes and the techniques they use in order to lead effective recruiting organizations. The Human Resources Management Association of Chicago was kind enough to ask me to facilitate. Prior to the questioning the panel in front of 75 leaders in staffing and HR, I spent about 90 minutes with each panelist reviewing their practices in staffing, so we could build a robust presentation.

The panel included David Meija of Pepsi Americas, Darcy Zulpo of Citadel, and Melissa McMahon of CDW. 

Preparing for the Panel
Realize that as I moderated the panel, I wanted to keep the panel and audience engaged. I really wanted to get our panel to share as much as they could about transforming their organizations, while having the audience heard. Keeping a robust discussion was important, as my conversations with staffing leaders recently have had overtones of concern and confusion around maintaining value when requisitions are low. This has rung true even more in organizations where supporting functions like HR, finance, and IT have a weaker strategic position. I really have not seen any trends on “Recruiting’s value” based on the size of company or an industry – it’s the mindset of the company that has been the common trend. That observation proved true with these panelists and their organizations, as each had varied in industry, size, and design, but clearly all three leaders have influence within their organizations, and the respect (and ear) of executive leadership.

This Review…
With the permission of our panelists, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing the answers to the questions that I asked during the panel, and offered some takeaway action items and suggestions. I have added some commentary throughout that reflects insights that I have seen from other companies and also reflects the discussions that I had one on one with each panelist.

Post Article…
A word of advice before you start moving the chess pieces internally – think of change management as a boat that needs to be turned. To drive this analogy home, realize that recruiting may be behind the wheel, but is rarely the captain of any ship and never on a boat alone. You can turn the wheel, but your turn has to match the mindset of your passengers (and how fast they can tolerate a turn), the size of the ship (and how fast it can turn without tipping over or be deemed an emergency), and how the captain and first mate think the turn has been executed. If your company is a cruise ship and you spin that wheel too fast, an alarm goes off, passengers lose balance, and the officer core starts asking questions quick. If you are a speedboat, that same wheel turn could be expected, admired, and even applauded.

Thanks to the panelists, HRMAC, and the attendees for making this a great event. We are doing it again on May 19th, with the staffing leaders from Sara Lee, Exelon, and Career Education Corporation.

(Open the PDF to this lengthy article…)