Turbulent times paralyze the majority. The remaining few see strife as an opportunity to claim what many are not able to see just yet. We see this playing out today in the business world, a few months into the world-shaking effects of COVID-19. While countless companies have folded, others have embraced the realities of VUCA and steered their strategy toward rebuilding their teams through strengthening their employment culture and maximizing relevant technology. What exactly are these companies doing to thrive in the New Normal?
Today’s guest answers that question. We have interviewed Ira Wolfe, workplace futurist, recruitment marketing strategist, employee selection expert, author, TEDx speaker, and President of Success Performance Solutions since the company’s inception in 1996.
1) What is VUCA and how does this idea give us a peek at the future of work?
VUCA originated in the early 90s following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The U.S. military realized that the world was changing fast and that our enemies would no longer be countries or sovereign states. Instead, we would be facing terrorism which knows no boundaries. So the war colleges came up with a war strategy for the future which determined that the environment was going to be Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Over the years, VUCA has become popular with business strategy, mostly at the C-level. The question is, “How do you manage a business in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world?
2) What was your worst experience as an HR futurist and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been through many tough times, and at the moment, they felt terrible. People always tell me that I’m a skeptic, and I’d add that I’m a realist, but I always see opportunity in the crisis. I’ve been in this business for 25 years. I started out as a dentist. If you watched my TED Talk where I talk about change, very early on I say that I love everything about dentistry but dentistry. I loved running the business. I loved working with people. I loved building my team. I loved helping people become healthier. I loved educating people. I just didn’t love doing the work.
I started my practice in 1980 on credit. There was a shortage of silver at a time when dentists used silver fillings and X-rays. I was also in a town of 5000 people with 11 dentists. Finally, the first case of HIV in America is of a person who died in a dental office. So, that was certainly a challenging time, but I adapted to every situation and made things work for my business regardless.
My philosophy to overcome personal and professional challenges like this is Bob Johansen’s VUCA Prime, a response to VUCA which stands for Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. This requires shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset: being open to all the different ways I can turn setbacks into opportunity.
3) What is today’s primary challenge faced by organizations that are looking to grow or expand?
If you asked me this six months ago, I’d have said that organizations struggled to find good people. All of a sudden, as of Monday this week, we had 45 million unemployed. So, the challenge now is three-fold: skill shortage, cultural fit, and automation. The economy will continue to struggle for up to a year, and so companies need to be prepared with fielding the countless candidates that are looking for work. You need to have the right technology to go through the numbers and make sure that you hire not just for skill but for the integrity of your employment brand.
4) What are the steps that a company should take when evaluating applicants while staying true to their employment brand?
The first step is to get the word out about the opening. In my book Recruiting in the Age of Googlization, I came up with the acronym REACH.
How do you reach people? That means asking, “Where would the people that you’d like to hire hang out?” (HINT: Top talent doesn’t hang out at Indeed.com. They hang out at networking events and LinkedIn.)
Once people hear about your opening, they want to be Engaged. Your job description should not be “copy-paste” quality. Tell a story about your company illustrating why people love working for you.
At this point, the applicant will (hopefully) click to Apply. This means collecting metrics to find out where your most successful candidates come from. Beyond applicants, focus on the origin of your best hires. HR has been notorious for not tracking this pivotal information. Aside from measuring data, look at the actual application. The average abandonment rate of people who start applying is 50%. Determine whether your application is too long and whether it’s in an appropriate format while keeping in mind that 90% of the population starts a job search on a mobile device. You can’t fill out a PDF application on a cellphone. Have a relatively short, responsive, and mobile-friendly application.
After they apply, you have to Communicate. Responding quickly and often throughout the process is key. Keep your applicant updated on their status.
Finally, Hire. Hiring doesn’t stop at the job offer. You need a good onboarding process that closely evaluates their first day on the job.
5) What should you invest in with regards to recruitment marketing?
You should definitely use video to communicate because it’s the most engaging medium. Content is the defining factor. Giving a tour of your office and interviewing the CEO is too corporate. What applicants really want to know is, “What’s it like for me?” They may never see the CEO. What I suggest is, do a selfie of yourself interviewing an employee or two. Have them talk candidly yet professionally for a minute or two on what it’s been like working for the company. Transparency and authenticity are the two biggest traits that people are looking for in an employer, and it’s something that they feel, not something you declare. So get your culture in order first before communicating it. You can’t put your marketing plan into action and begin communicating with applicants if your culture sucks. Of course, this also goes hand-in-hand with making the application process efficient and effective, as I described above using the REACH acronym.
6) What are you most excited about right now?
I see so much opportunity. This is sort of a reboot time in the world. We’re launching a learning platform that can help people gain new skills from home. I’m doing a lot of speaking at virtual events. There’s a lot of work to be done. I’m still passionate about the candidate experience. There are good companies out there offering good jobs, good places to work, good lifestyles, good opportunities. They just can’t get the message out there. So, I’m excited to extend a helping hand to those who are looking to navigate these challenging times.
Drop your fixed mindset and replace it with a growth mindset by embracing VUCA, and respond to Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity with VUCA Prime: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility.
Just because the economy is in dire straits and many live in an environment of fear and isolation doesn’t mean all is lost for your company. If anything, now is the time to double down on your brand building and recruitment marketing efforts. Make use of every virtual resource that can help you communicate better with potential new employees, and turn your search for new talent into an invitation to join an organization that cares, encourages, and leads the way forward. 10x your application process with REACH.
Homework: Now that you know the importance of VUCA Prime and using this time to improve upon your recruitment marketing strategy, how can you use REACH to streamline your application and evaluation process? Brainstorm ideas for a transparent and authentic video that showcases your company culture without being too formal and add it to your job listing.
Learn more about Ira Wolfe here: