What to Ask as You Start 2012: Why Would Somebody Work For You?

As we enter the doors of 2012, the prognosticators have all given their respective thoughts on what is coming into focus for the year.

These are all great readings, but if you have survived these past few years of economic turmoil (and the aftermath), you know that, really, who knows?

All organizations have basically put together their various strategies for either getting back into the game, moving to the next level, or something similar. Some of those strategies will be called into focus as the year progresses. Think Verizon and their slogan —  “Can you hear me now?”

As I read Sunday’s New York Times, there was an article that encapsulated IBM strategy that was devised by Samuel J. Palmisano, who is departing as IBM’s chief. In the article, Palmisano mentioned that he focused on four key questions to drive strategy and growth when he took the helm of IBM.

4 questions for business excellence

He says his guiding framework boils down to four questions:

  • “Why would someone spend their money with you — what is unique about you?”
  • “Why would somebody work for you?”
  • “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”
  • “Why would somebody invest their money with you?”

The No. 1 question for HR executives and the C-Suite

I continue to read over these questions and marvel as to how these four powerful questions would frame a conversation about any organization. To me, the most powerful question in the group is the simplest — “just why would somebody work for you?” I would love to pose that question to any senior level executive as they embark on a 2012 that, by all accounts, will be another year of uncertainty.

Just imagine during the interview process if his question was posed to the interviewer, whether that is the recruiter, hiring manager or senior executive. “My question is why should I come to work for your company, what makes your organization so unique from a people prospective?” As Emeril Lagasse of Food Network, would say “ BAM.”

How would YOU answer the question?

In some companies, it would result in a deer-in-the-headlights look from the other side of the table, and probably, that powerful question would not derive a credible answer. But every person that you sit across the table from (yes, including all the employees in your organization) are asking that question in some way, shape, or form.

A low level of engagement in your organization is an incubator for these types of questions. The clarity of specific words may not be formed in this way, but they are hovering around in the employee mindset.

Can you sell your Employee Value Proposition?

This brings me to most important message that an organization must live, eat breathe and sleep — the Employee Value Proposition. This is the key link to your employer branding. Every organization should not only think through this powerful question, but also need to develop a mission statement the specifically focuses on why an employee would want to work with you.

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So, what is unique about you and your organization?

  • What are the major people policies?
  • What processes and programs demonstrate the organization’s commitment to employees?
  • How does your organization create and sustain employee growth?
  • How are you developing your managers and employees?
  • Are your employee rewards in balance with an employee’s performance level?
  • Is your corporate social responsibility policy telling a compelling story? 

People plans need to relate to business strategy

The essence of the Employee Value Proposition  should be the central reason that people choose to commit themselves to your organization.

The branding message should be shouted from the mountaintop and used in all recruitment efforts as well as any other opportunity that offers the opportunity to tell others about your organization’s people strategy.

High performing companies know that their business strategy is viewed through the prism of their people strategy. Going forward into this New Year, there is simply no other way to get to your prescribed destination.

So, if you can’t answer the question as to why somebody should work for you, you may want to go back to the drawing board.

Believe me, everyone will be listening for your response.

Come hear Ron Thomas as he leads the first-ever TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX this coming Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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