The Seven Axioms of Yves Behar

Don’t use Wal-Mart advertising techniques to sell to a Tiffany’s buyer ? Lou Adler

Great design is at the heart of great marketing. For years, I’ve been preaching about the need to use advanced consumer marketing concepts to attract top talent. Every issue of Fast Company has some great marketing ideas that can be incorporated in your recruitment advertising and sourcing programs. The October 2007 issue is no exception.

This issue is devoted entirely to product design. It’s hard to imagine that product design ideas could be somehow used in recruiting top talent, but let me give it a shot. While all of the articles had some useful ideas, one stood out as a direct, slam-dunk, paradigm-shifting, schema-changing approach to sourcing.

“All About Yves” is a great story about Yves B?har, a highly regarded designer who’s probably best-known for working with Nicolas Negroponte and MIT Media Labs designing the $100 laptop. He’s now working with Coke, J&J, and Kodak, among others, designing packaging, clothing, consumer electronics, lamps, and it seems just about everything else imaginable. His design firm is a pretty credible group, winning almost as many design awards as Ideo, the industry leader.

From a business perspective, the article reinforces the importance of design by referring to a three-year study by Peer Insight. According to their study of 40 Fortune 500 companies, those with great customer design significantly out-performed the S&P 500 in most measures of financial performance primarily by increasing customer retention.

There is a not-so-obvious link between design, customer satisfaction, and sourcing top performers. B?har’s Seven Axioms of design helps make the connection. Here’s the shortened version:

The Seven Axioms of Yves B?har

  1. Design is how you treat your customer.
  2. Design must be integrated throughout the organization.
  3. Design is not a short-term fix, it’s a long-term engagement.
  4. As in operations or marketing, you must be willing to fail at the design level.
  5. Design must be driven from the top.
  6. With design, the solution to the problem will be different every time.
  7. Never ask customers what they want. Ask them about their aspirations.

Now substitute “hiring top talent” for the word “design” in each of these axioms.

My take-away from this is that sourcing top performers must be based on consumer marketing concepts and principles, great design being one of them. This means the design of your career website, how you present your advertising, the quality of the printed collateral material the candidate receives, the consistency of the messaging from the recruiter, the hiring manager, the interviewing team, even the professionalism of the application the candidate completes. The whole experience counts.

A great recruiter can’t offset the lack of professionalism at any step in the process. A weak job ad, a difficult application process, or someone on the interviewing team who doesn’t know the job or isn’t prepared can eliminate a promising candidate for preventable reasons.

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In an era of increasing demand for more top talent, a top-down driven comprehensive approach to hiring the best will be the key to those companies that will increase their share of hiring the best.

Forget the “one solution fits all” approach. How you source and hire entry-level engineers and mid-level managers will be different from how you hire and source for the call center, experienced sales reps, and executives. The one thing that will fit all, however, is to treat your candidates as valued and discriminating customers with more options than ever before.

With B?har’s Seven Axioms and these points in mind, here are some ideas you might want to consider as you massively overhaul your sourcing, interviewing, and recruiting processes:

  1. Implement consumer marketing principles at every step. If you don’t have compelling ads that can be easily found, you’ll never find enough top people. While obvious, more than 90% of the 4.2 million unique postings online (from a Conference Board September 2007 study) are boring. If someone had all of the skills required, he’d rarely apply since the job is offering more of the same. A capable person with comparable, but different skills won’t apply either, since that ad is filled with “must haves.” Of course, none of this matters, since your ad won’t be found by either the fully qualified or fully capable person anyway. To improve your ad response instantly, follow this basic consumer marketing principle: make sure your ad can be found using a Google search with just the job title and city without your company name. Our annual ad writing contest winner will be announced next week (October 18), so check this out if you want to learn how to write ads that compel people to apply.
  2. Understand your customer. I remember an advanced marketing course I took many years ago describing a Stanford Research Institute study comparing how people in different social classes and economic levels made buying decisions. The idea was to develop advertising programs based on how your customer looked for products. This same concept can be applied to developing sourcing programs targeting high achievers. Take job satisfaction to start. This is the prime factor determining when top people look and why they accept one position over another. High achievers start looking online when job satisfaction starts to decline or when some big event negatively alters the long-term outlook. As long as the compensation is competitive, they accept one position over another based on maximizing short- and long-term job satisfaction. Knowing this allows you to establish targeted sourcing programs and design interviewing and recruiting programs designed to meet their decision-making needs. (Here’s an article with more on this topic.)
  3. Benchmark the right competition. Over the past 10 years, there have been dozens of articles on how to benchmark best recruiting practices of other companies. We give awards for some of these and we go to conferences to hear how leaders in our industry have made great strides in hiring the best. I believe this is misguided. We should not be benchmarking best recruiting practices, but best marketing and advertising practices. Best design practices is part of this. Adopting these best non-recruiting practices will allow a company to leap-frog their competition in hiring the best talent. As examples of how to design career sites look at www.disney.com and www.ted.com. These are not career sites, but examples of how to present multi-media information in a unique way. Flickr offers a means to embed tags into pictures, which can be searched online. It might be worthwhile to see how these pictures could be embedded into ads as well as search on Flickr for leads of people who might post pictures of work-related projects. (In fact, I found a couple of great ASIC circuit designers using this technique.)
  4. Don’t post individual jobs. Sell the product line, not the product. To broaden the reach of your advertising, combine similar jobs (e.g., all firmware develops from junior to senior) and multiple locations (e.g., Houston and Phoenix) into one big display ad. This will pull in more top people since capable candidates will more likely see the big ad and apply since there are not disqualifiers. An online display ad like this is referred to as a talent hub. As part of designing the talent hub, make sure it can be found using a Google search. This means the title of the URL, the page copy, and the meta tags and keywords embedded in the source code need to match how people search. This process is called SEO or search engine optimization. See www.jobs2web.com for more insight here.
  5. Integrate all of your processes. One thing about good design is that the functionality is seamless at every step. This means that the packaging, the instructions, the product itself, how you change the battery or turn it on or put it on, works from the moment you first saw the ad. Sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes at most companies are anything but seamless. Ads are hard to find and counter-intuitive, the application process is degrading, the interviewing and selection process is contrived and unpredictable, based more on emotions and dumb luck than sound science, the recruiting and closing process is simplistic, and the supporting IT technology is based on architecture designed 10 years ago. This is the antithesis of good design practices as well as commonsense.

Getting 10% to 20% better is not the issue here. You need to be 50% to 100% better, maybe 200% to 300% better, to make a significant impact on how your company hires top talent in the future.

In my mind, this needs to involve a huge initiative involving every manager in your company. To pull this off, do not think about making modest improvements or incremental changes; think about radical approaches and new concepts.

This will require support from outside of HR and the recruiting organization. The CEO might be a good person to engage. Without senior executive sponsorship whatever you do will wind up being just another good idea that doesn’t get anywhere. Yet when all is said and done, the core idea is to apply consumer-based marketing ideas and The Seven Axioms of Yves B?har in redesigning your company’s hiring processes. Now how radical can that be?

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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1 Comment on “The Seven Axioms of Yves Behar

  1. A thoughtful, well-written article.

    Here are a few alternative axioms:
    1) You will have to recruit everyone you hire- they (anyone you actually hire) will not come to you.
    2) Hiring should be a deliverable of the hiring managers as much as getting out a quality product on time and within budget.
    3) If you can’t afford to pay the best, go after the rest.
    4) If you can afford to pay an agency fee, you can afford 1/3-1/2 of that amount as an employee referral fee- make it an expectation of the employees that they will be referring their friends and colleagues, and be generously paid for it.
    5) If you want to improve your hiring process, ask the people doing the hiring- the sourcers, recruiters, and coordinators.
    6) Let sourcers source, recruiters recruit, and coordinators coordinate- they shouldn’t be spending more than 5% of the time documenting what they do the other 95%.
    7) Keep your hiring process or ATS simple and robust- if it takes a formal half-day orientation to figure out, it’s too complicated.

    There will be more about these and others shortly in my ERE blog, ?The Real World of Recruiting’.

    Thank You,

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