Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inspirational people

If you think really, really hard (so hard it hurts) - who is the person you most admire and look up to?

Richard Branson?
Barack Obama?
Mother Theresa?

Because the thing is, my heros are all people who go to extremes, who look beyond the everyday and achieve extraordinary (and often stupid) things for no other reason than, well, they can.

Take the example of Martin Strel, an endurance swimmer I recently saw (in person) after the showing of Big River Man at the Sydney Film Festival. Here's this great, hulking 50-odd year-old who:
  • downs two bottles of wine a night,
  • drink-drives while learning English and 'power-breathing',
  • is the sole possessor of a key to a cave he likes to spend time in,
  • swims for 5 hours a day, and
  • pretty much has freedom to whatever he likes in the Slovenian city of Ljubijana.
Oh, and Martin has swam the entire length of the Yangtzee, Danube, Mississippi and Amazon rivers. He also holds the record for the longest uninterrupted swim, going for 162.5km in 55 hours 11 minutes without sleep.

It would be an understatement to say Martin has been tickled with the Bonkers Stick. Here's a video featuring him:

"That's all very well," you might say, "But what the hell has this got to do with employer branding or recruitment advertising?". Well, this example is all pretty relevant to what inspires us in our work and leads to employment-related decisions.

Where I work, we do a lot of research and analysis in working out the ideas and influences that motivate people to adopt certain behaviours, and using that information to influence them in more positive and/or productive ways.

What is often hard to get across, is that the strongest behavioural drivers in choosing employment are often unconscious, emotion-based and, as such, difficult for individuals to articulate. Just because someone states that they work somewhere 'for the money' or because 'it's close to home' this is only an outer layer of the decision-making process. Our research and analysis peals away those layers to understand the inights that an individual may not even be aware of. These are the kinds of things you won't discover in a staff survey.

Once we've uncovered these insights, we use them to develop communications strategies that will promote the behaviours we want, and dissuade unwanted behaviours. For the employers we work for, this boils down to something simple as attracting more of the right people who join for the right reasons, and therefore stay - and engaging key performers so they are highly motivated and productive (and they, too, stay).

So, someone like Martin Strel probably can't articulate precisely why he takes on challenges like this. Yes, there is a bit of a waffle about environmental issues (and the film touches on him being abused as a child), but ulimately nobody chooses to go to such extremes without having a real passion to do it first. It's easy to see that Martin's behaviour is compelled by unconscious drivers that go above and beyond the environmental issues.

And it's exactly this principle that influences any of our decisions - even when we're looking to stay at a currently job (and work hard) or leave and work elsewhere.

P.S. Check out this new website around the Employer Branding space, should be good to see this develop: http://www.employerbrandingonline.com/