Why Talent Acquisition is Really About Finding Your Tribe

How to be more like the Sex Pistols

Have you ever been sat in a room and had one of those ‘eureka!’ moments? I had one recently – and it was more punk than I was expecting.

I was in a workshop with Grant Leboff,  founder of Stickier Marketing.  He tells the story of when he was sat in a friend’s recording studio in Brighton in 1999 and was played a tape.  It was a conversation between Paul Cook and Steve Jones – drummer and guitarist of the quintessential punk band the Sex Pistols. The tape is of a radio station phone-in, I think it was from 1978, when they were on KSJO Radio, over in the US. 

During the phone in, a listener calls in and, live on air, fumes about how unimpressed she is with the Sex Pistols. “You ought to learn how to play music first before you cut down the Queen!”

Steve Jones responds immediately: “It’s not about the music, you silly cow!”  

This conversation is the premise for LeBoff’s book, which presents marketing in a different way and looks at how to make your marketing ‘sticky’. It’s a book I highly recommend.

What I take from the story is that the Sex Pistols were absolutely awesome at having a razor sharp focus on their audience. They built a tribe of loyal followers. You knew who was in the tribe by the clothes they wore, the way they had their hairstyle, the rebellion and anger they provoked in others who weren’t in the tribe.

This was my lightbulb moment: a call to founders on the importance of focusing on the type of tribe you want. It’s tempting to want to draw in everyone you possibly can. But in reality, you want your business to be a bit ‘Marmite’: love it or hate it. The clearer we communicate to only the right people, our willing future ‘tribe’, the less time (and money) we waste. 

It amazes me when people say “Why haven’t we seen more candidates?” Surely the objective is to see only great candidates: ultimately, you’re only searching for the right person and not wasting time with those who aren’t part of the tribe.

After all, being a Sex Pistol groupie is very different to being, say, an ABBA groupie. Sure, they’re both four-person bands but the similarities are minimal and require different energies, passions and skill sets. In the world of talent acquisition, this categorical distinction is often referred to as your EVP,  your Employer Value Proposition or Employer Brand.

When building a talent acquisition process, one of the first steps is to drill down and understand how and why you do what you do.  Yes, of course, what you’re doing is important – but ‘why’ and ‘how’ is the essence of what someone wants to be part of.  

Humans want to be part of something distinct; we inherently yearn to be in a community, group or tribe. We want to know where we fit in: our role and responsibilities. This gives us purpose. If you target and communicate your brand incredibly well, you’ll attract only those suitable. Ultimately, building a strong value proposition means you don’t waste time on people who aren’t excited by how and why you do what you do. My takeaway? Don’t be a silly cow: find, define and communicate your equivalent of: “it’s not about the music”.

If you want help understanding and developing your EVP, DM me through LinkedIn. 

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