When Hollywood directors cast a superstar they count on two things, box office draw and the professional actor's ability to act, by which I mean the ability to stop being Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlize Theron, or Jim Carey and instead become the three dimensional living embodiment of someone else. Watch "Capote," "Monster," or "Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events" and you will see the incredible transformations these actors make in their own personalities to literally become the character, even gaining or losing huge amounts of weight to ensure a complete and congruent representation.
Now think about your own employees, especially those who spend the most time touching customers. How willing (or capable) are they of completely transforming their bodies, minds, souls, and personalities into the ideal personification of your brand?
I'm sure you would agree that most are not capable of these radical transformations and that even if they were, they would be unwilling to spend huge parts of their lives pretending to be someone they are not. Radical transformation requires enormous energy, rare talent, and is highly stressful. Counting on radical transformation in each of your people is not the formula for creating consistent, positive, scalable customer experiences.
Instead let me suggest that you use a technique well known to the directors of high school musicals and local theatre companies...type casting. Type casting means that you put someone into the role who is already the character! There will be little acting required because they live and breathe the character everyday just by being themselves. Their thoughts are the character's thoughts. Their beliefs are the character's beliefs. Their actions are the character's actions.
In the high school musical, for example, the prom queen is cast as the damsel in distress who mesmerizes all of the men, the school jerk is cast as the antagonist and the captain of the sports team is cast as the hero who will save the beauty. The result? A very successful play! Why? Because very little acting is required to ensure a consistent, predictable, and believable outcome.
Using type casting to hire people who will naturally reflect your brand is a simple and proven method that ensures your people will behave as the natural extension of your brand at every touch point. To be sure, hiring to your brand requires that you are already clear about your brand's positioning and have defined the brand personality you want to project in the marketplace. Let's look at how some great brand builders have used type casting to extend their brand to the front line.
The mission of Southwest Airlines is to be the low cost airline. That means no frills of any kind that might get in the way of keeping costs down. Since flight attendants are required to be on every flight, Southwest uses their flight attendants as brand differentiators in the highly competitive airline market. Interviewees at Southwest are given a card deck on which are written several in-flight announcements that they might be required to make as part of their flight attendant role. They are then told that they will be given time to practice before their actual interview and are led into a room where they are told other applicants are also practicing, while waiting for their own interviews.
The interviewees' actions in this room are in fact the actual interview. Do they hide in the corner and try to go it alone? Or do they actively engage the group or other individuals in the task? Do they suggest the other person go first or do they selfishly insist on going first? Do they try to inject humor into the situation and into the announcements or do they rigidly stick to the script? Are they creative and improvisational? Are they personable and easily likable? Do others gravitate toward them or away from them?
Southwest doesn't try to train these core attributes into their people nor do they expect them to act in order to display them. They screen for people who are natural "connectors," those who really love interacting with strangers. Whether their supervisors are watching or not, these people will behave in exactly the same way because this is who they already are. The connector personality already matches Southwest's brand personality.
The results of this strategy have been stellar for Southwest both in terms of customer experience and financial gains. Southwest has posted 32 consecutive years of profitability in an industry that is rarely profitable.
On a recent Southwest flight our flight attendant made a big deal of congratulating a 94-year-old man, Jim Williamson, who was taking his first flight ever. Despite his fear, failing health, and near blindness he had completed the flight without a problem.
All of the passengers cheered and clapped and a few even had tears in their eyes. She concluded the announcement with, "He appreciates your allowing him to be your pilot."
The passengers roared with laughter. What a great way to end a flight and what a great story to tell the friends and family who have come to greet you at the airport.
Southwest's brand had come to life courtesy of the flight attendant's natural sense of humor.
Microsoft, the world's largest software company, also takes great pains to hire to their brand. Microsoft believes that the best software is created by the smartest people who are the best problem solvers. During their interviews, Microsoft poses exceptionally difficult problems to potential employees and then assesses the applicant's attitude toward the problem, their approach to the problem, and the quality of their logic. Microsoft looks for people who do not shut down when faced with seemingly impossible tasks, but rather are challenged and inspired by them.
Typical questions in a Microsoft interview might include:
The answers to these questions routinely run to 100 pages or more. This is not a recruiting process for the faint of heart. If you want to work with the best and brightest minds in the world on Herculean software tasks, you'll have to prove yourself worthy.
While Microsoft is currently challenged on many fronts, there is no doubt that the Redmond, Washington, firm has changed the world with its software and made its founder the richest man in the world.
Next time, I'll share three more great examples of companies that have successfully hired to their brands through type casting.
Rick Barrera is president of Overpromise, Inc., a consulting firm that designs and executes differentiating marketing strategies for companies of all sizes. An influential business lecturer for many of the Fortune 500, Rick is also co-author of Non-Manipulative Selling and Collaborative Selling. He lives near San Diego, CA. Used with permission from Rick Barrera: http://www.overpromise.com/
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