PepperMill May 2019

Tim’s Seeing Balance in the World

A couple of things crossed my desk(top) recently that made me think about balance in the world:

The world is changing ...

During a webinar on Artificial Intelligence Recruiting last week, I got a glimpse of how we will be automating the search and recruitment function going forward in order to process more candidates, while correspondingly trying to identify the best and brightest.

ACE (Artificial Conversational Entities) technology is advancing at a rapid rate. In practice, ACEs are smart chatbots that will process candidates according to an interactive process that will cut down human time traditionally used to qualify them. You think you’re interacting with a human, but not so much. The dialog that’s now available with a digital entity is amazing!

The other breakthrough evolving at a rapid rate is Integrated Technology, where data from different platforms can be migrated in order to access information quickly that serves as a 360˚ view of a candidate. Think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and Applicant Tracking Systems, all being able to be combined into one profile. All the more reason for people to keep a “clean” online presence.

And sometimes changing back ...

I saw a news blurb on Canadian bookseller Indigo, citing how they are growing fast. Wait, are bookstores making a comeback? For Indigo, they have brilliantly positioned themselves as a “cultural department store.”

Book sales are slightly over 50% of sales, with candles, art, trendy lunchboxes, herb kits, knife sets, glassware, home goods and fashion accessories being the other half. They believe that selling products that are physical extensions of its books makes the entire book-buying process more appealing—and it’s working with customers big time.

Indigo, with over 200 stores in Canada (including 89 superstores), just opened their first U.S. store. But they’re not the only ones figuring this out. Amazon recently opened physical bookstores, now coming full circle on their roots of disrupting the industry.

So, tech is now taking over with bots and retail is recognizing that we still love books made of paper. Balance in the universe.

Tim Padgett

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke

What I dream of is an art of balance.
—Henri Matisse

Client Spotlight: The 15th Annual Wheeling Auto Center Art Contest Winning Entries

Following up on last month's Client Spotlight, the winners of the 15th annual Wheeling Auto Center Art Contest are:


Best In Show
Melanie Rios
Grade 8


Grade 1 Winner
Anahi Rios
Mark Twain Elementary


Grade 2 Winner
Julia Czaplak
Betsy Ross Elementary


Grade 3 Winner
Josephine Petrelis
Betsy Ross Elementary


Grade 4 Winner
Ashley Sanchez Bahena
Mark Twain Elementary


Grade 5 Winner
Isabel Nelson
Ann Sullivan Elementary


Grade 6 Winner
Milena Metechko
Holmes Middle School


Grade 7 Winner
Carolyne Torrejon
Holmes Middle School


Grade 8 Winner
Yuliana Zavala
MacArthur Middle School

Congratulations to all winners!

Lynn Ankele

The War for Talent Just Escalated. Here’s a Formula To Win.

April’s jobs report smashed expectations as the unemployment rate fell again to 3.6%. A 50-year low.

Great news, but if you’re an employer, it’s yet another sign that hiring and retaining talent is continuing to get more difficult.

It’s already a major issue. In fact, the Conference Board just released a new survey of 1,400 C-suite execs. They ranked attracting and retaining talent as their #1 internal concern in 2019. And it’s not going to change anytime soon. Yes—even if the economy slows. 

Employees are Now Like Customers

Since the beginning of the industrial age, companies always had to work to attract and retain customers. Winning required a good product or service and strong differentiation. You had to present the benefits and sell the value. And you had to serve your customers or risk losing them.

Employees, on the other hand, didn’t need to be pursued. Companies had the jobs that people wanted. Sure, employers sometimes competed for talent, but there were usually plenty of good people to go around.

Now, however, for the first time in recent history, there are actually more open jobs than there are people available to fill them. As of the latest numbers, it’s one million more. Demographics indicate that it’s a long-term trend. In most industries, whether technology, healthcare or manufacturing, marketing to attract and retain talent is now just as important as marketing to attract and retain customers.

The Impact of Technology

For all you hear about technology creating unemployment, it’s actually making talent marketing even more critical. Because of technology, the pace of change is accelerating. Do you realize that today is the slowest rate of change you will ever experience in your lifetime? Technology is upending entire industries and killing old sources of competitive advantage everywhere else.

While traditional competitive advantages erode, a new one is emerging. That’s the ability to attract and retain a better team. Not only does that allow your business to grow, but a strong team sees opportunities, navigates around obstacles and keeps your organization ahead of the competition as the market continues to change at an accelerating pace.

The bottom line is that your company’s ability (or inability) to attract and retain talent is one of the last big competitive advantages (or disadvantages) left.

Your Talent Brand

Your company’s talent brand is what your employees think, feel and share about your company as a place to work. And just like a product or service, you have to have something worth branding. If your company is really a terrible place to work, fix that first.

Don’t go too far the other way, however. Things don’t have to be perfect. Just like you’re always working to deliver a better product or service, you should always be working on improving things like hiring, training, onboarding, coaching and benefits.

While you’re continually improving, identify what makes your company a good place to be right now. Capture the things that make your team unique, and then present the value. Sell prospective employees on why they should work for you, and remind your current employees why the grass is actually greener at your organization. In other words, build your talent brand through marketing.

Your talent brand is a major driver of engagement and results. Studies by LinkedIn and Gallup show that a strong talent brand will reduce cost per hire by 50%, reduce turnover rates by 28%, and increase profitability by 16%. Do the math on that. Even the most conservative number crunching will show the significant value that can be gained.

The Bedrock of Your Revenue Tower

At Pepper Group, we have framed marketing to customers and prospects in terms of the Revenue Tower®. Think of it as a skyscraper that builds your revenue and profitability. If customer marketing is a skyscraper, then Talent Marketing is the bedrock that supports the entire thing.

Talent Marketing can be complex, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard to understand. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick explained their new discovery, DNA, in only five minutes. So we took this as a challenge to create a simple framework that could be easily communicated and quickly executed upon. 

The Talent Marketing Framework™

The Talent Marketing Framework consists of a core, plus six surrounding elements. The first three bring the messaging to life inside the company and the second three create a culture by design vs. a culture by default. Within each element, you can analyze your current status and prioritize the activities that will help you strengthen it.

Talent Brand Messaging (The Core)
Through interviews, research and input from employees and leaders, the heart and soul of a company can be identified. What is your higher purpose or big vision? What are your core values? What’s the DNA of your employees? Establish and/or strengthen these messages as they are the linchpin of your talent marketing efforts.

Environmental Reinforcement
Your office environment is the perfect canvas to amplify your talent brand messaging with consistent, compelling and creative visuals and dimensional displays. This includes things like values messaging, company stories, employee recognition, digital screens, and many other tools. We also call these “culture kiosks.”

Internal Brand Awareness
Tangible elements like new employee welcome kits, brand books and employee gifts build your talent brand. A great welcome kit, for example, helps new employees rapidly integrate into the culture, gets them started on a positive note, and shows them, and their families, that they made a good choice.

Digital Presence
There is tremendous value in making sure your website and social media platforms showcase your talent brand. Culture videos, employee testimonials, well-written copy, photos of happy people, third-party awards, and easy-to-find job postings help you attract top talent and reinforce your brand to current employees. As a bonus, it also shows customers that you have a great team who will serve them well.

Internal Communications
Keeping employees updated, providing access to information, celebrating successes and providing avenues for feedback drives engagement and productivity. Whether it’s a regular newsletter, town halls, employee recognition, feedback mechanisms or a more organized Intranet, establish structures and processes so that people have the information they need and desire.

Team Bonding Activities
Strengthening connections within your team contributes to better productivity and happier people. Volunteering events are incredible drivers of this, as are social events, learning opportunities, peer-to-peer appreciation, and competitive activities like wellness contests or business games. These are relatively easy to create, and don’t have to consume a large budget either.

Recruitment Outreach
High impact and well written job postings are important, but there are also many new opportunities to leverage targeted digital advertising to reach potential employees who are not looking at job boards—also known as passive candidates. In addition, if your company visits careers fairs, make sure your presence is worthy of your talent brand and you have the right tools to draw candidates to your organization.

Prioritize and Execute

While we recommend that you make sure all the components are covered, prioritization is always helpful. For example, upgrading your office is a perfect opportunity for Environmental Reinforcement. Rapid growth might make Recruiting Outreach the priority. Maybe your Core Talent Brand Messaging needs to be stronger. Start with the priority areas and then continue to strengthen every component.

The framework is built to be applicable to various situations, and budgets. It’s not a prescription, but rather a powerful set of well-categorized tools and ideas that can be pulled together as appropriate to help your company succeed. After working with dozens of companies to help them improve their talent brand, we’ve developed a number of creative ideas and new approaches that can be applied.

How Does Your Company Stack Up?

Sometimes it helps to self-assess, so we’ve developed a 3-minute Talent Marketing Self-Assessment that will help you see your areas of strength and weakness, and identify where Talent Marketing can have the most significant impact. Feel free to take the assessment yourself, and have other leaders in your organization take it as well. We will send you your results with a short analysis at no charge.

Where are you not doing the best that you can do? Take the survey and find out.

George Couris

4 Avengers Heroes that Will Save Your Marketing Plan

After only being on screens for a week, Avengers: End Game is on target to earn more money than most countries do in a year.

We can learn a lot from watching these heroes: how to save the world by working together, how to be honorable, how to earn a billion dollars over a weekend, etc. But what can they teach you about marketing? These superheroes can teach us super advertising lessons that might surprise you:

The Hulk

The Hulk is a genius scientist with anger control issues: when he gets mad he turns into a violent, green monster. He’s easy to ignore as mild-mannered Bruce Banner but you pay attention when he transforms. Is your advertising mild-mannered like Bruce Banner, or creating havoc like the Hulk? If you put your latest campaign on a table next to 100 other campaigns, would anyone notice yours? It pays to be bold and different.

Captain America

Captain America was created during WWII, frozen for several years, and then awoken so he could earn Marvel Studios lots of cold cash. Like Steve Rogers, is your marketing frozen in time, relying on traditional and somewhat antiquated media? Are you still avoiding SEO, digital and modern marketing strategies? Just because your plan worked a few decades ago doesn’t mean it’s still relevant today. Defrost that iceberg and reinvent yourself and your marketing.

Ant Man

When it comes to superpowers, the ability to get really small doesn’t seem like much.  You certainly don’t fear Ant Man like you do, well, just about any other hero. But the ability to think small is one of the biggest trends in marketing right now. Mass marketing campaigns can still be effective, but in the B2B world, 60% of B2B brands practice ABM (account-based marketing), which stresses personalized, one-on-one marketing messages. Don’t go broad. Go small.

Iron Man

The leader of the Avengers, Iron Man doesn't have any powers (unless making sarcastic comments is a superpower, and, in which case, I should buy myself a cape). But when Tony Stark puts on a suit of his own making, he becomes … a guy in a very powerful, flying iron suit, customized just for him. Lots of marketing campaigns exist out there that seem to be cookie-cutter and broad. Create a strategy and messaging that’s unique to your company, and your company alone, and see the results soar.

Allan Woodrow

YouTubin’: Lucky Frogger

The right place at the right time

Longtime readers of this column know of several passions I have, but may not yet know my love of frogs. For close to 20 years, I’ve been religiously going over to Deer Grove Forest Preserve (3 miles north of the Pepper Group office) about once a week to look for and listen to frogs. I take photos and videos and this past winter I decided to get more official about it so my daughter and I were trained to become official volunteer frog monitors. Measuring the variety and quantities of frogs in a wetland over time is a good indication of how the environment is doing overall.

It was on one of those lunch visits that I experienced one of the coolest things in my life. Deer Grove Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the forest preserve and it was still 80% frozen on March 19. That is where I typically see many active green frogs, bullfrogs, and northern leopard frogs in the summertime, but on that day I just went out to see if I could spot any of them hibernating under the ice. Much to my disappointment, I walked back and forth along the thawed part of the shore without seeing any signs. As I got ready to leave though, there was a subtle movement of a piece of underwater grass. I stood there for five minutes and every once in a while the grass would wave again a little bit. I had a gut feeling that there could be a frog under there, so I decided to start recording video on my phone. Within 20 seconds, out climbed a northern leopard frog from under the mud and it poked its head up through the water for what was most likely its first breath of air for 2019! And I got it all on video!

I’ve shared this video with people who have much more expertise than me, and they concur with my analysis. The odds of me standing there at that particular time and noticing the grass movement were astronomical!

Got some YouTube videos of your own you’d like to share? Just send them my way!

Todd Underwood