Hiring Advocates in a Culture of Advocacy #sxsw #sxswi

This post is an extension of my post two days ago over a session entitled “Cultures of Advocacy: People, Product and Change” during the South by South by Southwest Interactive Festival. 

Some of the most recognized brands were represented at this session. Elizabeth Brownsen who has over 15 years in digital marketing experience and has grown brands like NIKE, Lexus, Pepsi and The Ritz-Carlton, Heather Hvidsten, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Southwest Airlines (<3), Tricia Nichols, Global Lead Consumer Engagement & Partnerships, and Jefferson Burruss, Executive Producer of GSD&M, (a full service advertising agency) were all in attendence during this panel talk.

The years of experience and the level of expertise combined in this panel was astonishing and being able to gain a few words of wisdom made the conversation captivating and probably my favorite session (although I won’t tell you how many I attended). To preface this blog post again I’m not going to assume I have ever been a recruiter or I know the secret sauce to recruiting brand ambassadors, but all my words have be spoken by one if not all of these panelist who do have the experience.

What to look for when hiring advocates?

“Looking to Navigate the Grey Area” – Tricia Nichols

This was one of my favorite responses and I feel like I’m showing tons of love to Tricia Nichols and no one else, but this is such a great quality when it comes to hiring advocates. Think about it. When you’re hiring a candidate you’re looking not only for the skill set required to do the job and how well they’d fit in culture-wise, but you’re looking for something extra special about them. Those who are looking to navigate the grey area or unchartered waters show multiple things:

  • They’re not afraid: Risk-taker and problem solvers would fall into this category.
  • They take challenges head on: If something comes up last minute or something falls apart, these people face challenges head on and tackle them in an efficent manner.
  • Brimming with confidence: Having someone there that is extremely confident in their ability to navigate unchartered water is a key characteristic that you want in a new employee.

“People who are willing to be translators.” – Elizabeth Brownsen

I haven’t thought about this before from a hiring perspective. A key characteristic in a new employee is the ability to be a translator. That’s someone who has the skill set of taking something high level or confusing to a set of people and being able to translate it through the use of a methaphor or analogy. Translators have a special skill that not many people possess. They work well as interdepartmental employees because they’re able to understood and translate other departments. Every department needs a translator.

All the panelist had really good things to say about how to create a culture and hire the best talent in a culture of advocacy. Being open and flexible when ideas are being brought to the table will allow your company to work in a more synergized manner. It’s important to have a higher order purpose in dealing with different people in different cultures and once you’re able to understand that, you’ve figured out a big part of the culture.

Final thoughts on the panel discussion

I wanted to add in the panelist final thoughts because I thought they all had something really good to say at the end of the session.

Heather Hvidsten from Southwest Airlines said, “Never under estimate the value of talent.” I feel like this statement could be an infinite number of blogs because it’s really important to never underestimate what talent does for a company in terms in various KPIs.

Tricia Nichols from GAP Inc. said, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” You can either choose to grow with change or you can just let it happen and stay stagnant in the market which will eventually be the demise of your company.

Elizabeth Brownsen from TeamOne USA said, “The people are key. Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. Make sure you’re sourrounded by people who know how to use them right.” This couldn’t be truer. You can give every tool in your arsenal to employees, but if employees aren’t using them right it won’t be effective.

Jefferson Burruss from GSD&M said, “We’re in a talent economy. Millennials are people who are really good at accessing information and using it.” This is something that I’ll be expanding on during my SHRM Smart Stage session at SHRM in June. In order to capture and grow you must first understand your millennial workforce.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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