Category Archives: talent management

Thriving in a Data-Driven World

It’s impossible to have a conversation about recruiting these days without talking about the role of data.

Magnifying glass and documents with analytics data lying on tablSo, I suppose it’s no surprise then to hear John Sullivan, author and professor at San Francisco State University, focus his opening keynote presentation at Recruiting Trends 2016, at the Hilton in Austin, Texas, on the role of data in the hiring decision-making process. (Recruiting Trends, which was acquired by LRP Conferences last November, is being held this week in conjunction with the Talent Acquisition Tech Conference.)

During his keynote titled “Forget the Hype: Data-Based Recruiting Reveals What Actually Works,” Sullivan told attendees that employers need to be much more data-driven.

If you ask CEOs what the biggest challenge is that they’re facing, human capital turns out to be No. 1, Sullivan said. “What’s not so good is that we’ve been a challenge for four straight years,” he continued. “And if you’ve been a challenge for four straight years, it means something needs to change.”

These same CEOs also said they believe recruiting the right talent has a huge impact on business success, Sullivan added.

So, if the impact is that significant, he said, that begs the question, “How come [recruiters] have no money?”

“I would argue it’s because we don’t make a very good business case,” Sullivan said. “We say we hired 20 people, but we don’t say those people brought in $20 million.”

In a fast-changing world, he explained, data tells you what works and what doesn’t work. But you need to be looking at the right data, he added. Google at one time looked at a candidate’s GPA, but the research found that grades made no difference in the quality of talent it hired—so it stopped paying attention to that metric.

“Stop having opinions about what’s the best source for hiring people,” he said. “Sure, you can have opinions, but if you want to influence hiring managers, you’re going to want to have facts that back your recommendations up.”

Sullivan also pointed out that CEOs care about quality of hire, and you should, too.

Most employers pay close attention to metrics such as the cost of hire, he said, but they should be focusing their attention instead on measuring the impact of their hiring decisions.

When you hire Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Lebron James, what you should be measuring is the impact he’s going to be having on your organization over the next 10 years, he said.

In other words, employers need to be thinking about the big picture.

Sullivan also pointed out that most companies don’t measure the failure rates of the people they hire, but should. He used the example of birth control, where there’s a 9-percent failure rate. If birth control doesn’t work, he joked, you might end up with 20 years of misery. Well, the same could be said of hiring. If you get it wrong, that bad hire could be in your organization forever.

Transforming Talent Acquisition

As a talent-acquisition leader, it’s your job to take care of three constituencies: your organization’s hiring managers, the job candidates and, last but not least, the people who work within the TA function.

That was the recurring theme from two TA leaders who spoke about their roles in transforming the talent-acquisition function during two  separate sessions earlier this week at the ERE Conference in New Orleans: Tracie Montgomery, director of talent acquisition and diversity at firm Sedgwick, the nation’s largest third-party administrator; and Steve Knox, General Electric’s head of global talent acquisition, strategy and operations.

At GE, the Boston-based conglomerate’s efforts to recast its image from that of a stodgy industrial firm to a hotbed of digital innovation has, by necessity, included its talent acquisition function as it seeks to attract the software engineers and computer science majors who might otherwise never consider the company as a place to build a career.

“We’re closely partnering with our marketing department on our employee-value proposition,” said Knox.

GE has also has hired an “employee experience leader” to transform its recruiting experience into “a candidate-centric one,” said Knox. “We got some pushback from hiring managers on this, but we reminded them that it’s about the candidates.”

Candidate care is also a priority at Memphis-based Sedgwick, said Montgomery. “I tell my team: ‘Advocate for your candidate. Prep them to let them know who’ll they’ll be interviewing with, explain the career path for that position — it’s TA’s job to get that person ready.’ ”

Knox and his team have also been paying close attention to candidates after they’re hired to see how they’re performing, which marks a change from before, he said.

“We’re now holding TA accountable to how well the people we hired are doing,” he said, adding that determining quality of hire isn’t quite so straightforward now that GE has discontinued its performance ratings. The team relies on regular feedback from managers instead, said Knox.

GE has also replaced its 15-year old applicant-tracking system, which had been “customized by us to the point that it was no longer useful” with a new, mobile-enabled system; using tools such as LinkedIn Elevate to send out tailored content to candidates on a daily basis; using Tableau software to monitor metrics and putting in place GE’s first-ever dedicated sourcing team, said Knox.

Line managers at GE are also helping the company enliven its job descriptions with short videos in which they explain what they’re looking for in candidates, said Knox. This is helpful in attracting diverse candidates, which is a major priority for GE, he said.

“When female and minority candidates see someone who looks like them talking about GE, they tend to say ‘Hey, people like me can work there,'” said Knox.

After Montgomery joined Sedgwick in 2014, she created an internal “talent acquisition college” for Sedgwick’s recruiters to help them become talent advisors, not just recruiters .

“Recruiting is recruiting, but talent acquisition is consulting,” she said. “I had to get my team’s mindset from recruiting to talent acquisition.”

Montgomery put in place a team of three managers to ensure the TA function is hitting its goals in areas such as time-to-hire and regularly surveys hiring managers on their satisfaction with the TA function. Talent acquisition professionals on her team are expected to be able to forge and maintain strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers, she said. “Getting those relationships established is absolutely key.”

GE’s Knox is also focusing on helping his TA team enhance its skills. “It keeps me up at night, wondering how we keep our TA team motivated and developed,” he said. GE has established competencies for the TA team and is using assessments to determine where gaps lie, said Knox. Members of the TA team can also do self-assessments to find their own gaps and are provided with resources to fill them, he said.

“Our goal is to build a world-class TA function,” said Knox.

Getting Incivility Under Control

Does incivility take a toll on today’s workplace?

Well, if we’re to believe the findings of a recent study out of Michigan State University, the answer is yes—and maybe more than we’d like to think.

ThinkstockPhotos-579244800To capsulize, the researchers, who have published their work (titled Who Strikes Back? A Daily Investigation of When and Why Incivility Begets Incivility) in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that experiencing rude behavior reduces employees’ self-control and leads them to act in a similar uncivil manner. (In doing their study, they asked 70 employees to fill out a survey relating to incivility and its effects three times a day for 10 consecutive workdays.)

Of course, this finding is not all that surprising. As human beings, we’re easily influenced by those around us. Right? Probably the more interesting finding is the unintentional nature of so-called “incivility spirals”—i.e., when acts of incivility lead to subsequent acts of incivility.

As Russell Johnson, an associate professor of management at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author, explains …

“When employees are mentally fatigued, it is more difficult for them to keep their negative impulses and emotions in check, which leads them to be condescending and rude to colleagues. This happens even for employees who desire to be agreeable and polite; they simply lack the energy to suppress curt and impatient responses.”

That’s certainly a troubling thought, especially if you work at an organization in which incivility is clearly visible at the highest levels.

The study also found that incivility spirals occurred in workplaces that were perceived as political (i.e., where co-workers “do what is best for them, not what is best for the organization”).

Because the “intentions and motives of others are less clear” at such organizations, the researchers report, employees have a harder time understanding why they were targeted and how best to respond.

You’ve got to think, I might add, that this inevitably would take a serious toll on employee effectiveness and productivity.

In response to what they found, the researchers emphasize the need for managers to provide employees with clearer feedback on “the types of behaviors that are desired,” both informally through day-to-day interactions and formally through the performance-management process.

Certainly great advice. But is it enough to prevent incivility from spiraling out of control?

Job Satisfaction Hits New High

According to the Conference Board’s latest job satisfaction survey, the rate of job satisfaction among U.S. workers is at the highest level it’s been since 2005, with nearly half (49.6 percent) of workers reporting that they’re satisfied with their jobs. The Conference Board notes that job-satisfaction rates have increased steadily since 2010.

Of course, this also means that half of U.S. workers are not satisfied with their jobs. The latest number is also a far cry from the highs hit in 1987 and 1995, when the Conference Board’s survey found that 60 percent of American workers were satisfied with their jobs.

The strengthening economy is a big factor in the higher job-satisfaction rates in the latest report, says the Conference Board’s Michelle Kan, who co-authored the report. “The rapidly declining unemployment rate, combined with increased hiring, job openings and quits, signals a seller’s market, where the employer demand for workers is greater than the available supply.”

In other words, employees today have more options than they’ve had in some time, and they know it — and HR needs to pay attention to their needs. Indeed, while the Conference Board report finds that workers are most satisfied with their colleagues (59 percent), interest in their work (59 percent) and their supervisors (57 percent), they’re much less satisfied with their organizations’ pay and promotion policies. In fact, the five job components with the lowest satisfaction are promotion policies (24 percent), bonus plans (24 percent), the performance review process (29 percent), educational/job training programs (30 percent) and recognition/acknowledgement (31.5 percent).

Gad Levanon, the Conference Board’s chief economist for North America, tells the Wall Street Journal that the high satisfaction rates of 1987 and 1995 are unlikely to be repeated soon.

“It was a whole different world in terms of employee-employer relationships,” he said. “There was much more loyalty. People looked to their employer for more than a job, in many cases.”

Nevertheless, said Levanon, a satisfaction rate of 55 percent may be achievable.

Cultivating a More-Innovative Workplace

Further evidence of the connection between workplace design and innovation was released earlier today, this time in the form of ThinkstockPhotos-178089032Gensler’s U.S. Workplace Survey 2016.

In its press release, Gensler, the San Francisco-headquartered architecture and design firm, says it “uncovered a statistical link between the quality and functional make-up of the workplace and the level of innovation employees ascribe to their organization.”

The survey of more than 4,000 workers across 11 industries finds that the most innovative companies provide employees with “a diversity of well-designed spaces in which to collaborate and to focus.”

As Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins put it …

“Employees truly flourish when they have room to not only collaborate but also have space to focus, and are empowered to work when and how they work best—both within their workplace, and in other locations outside it.”

To arrive at its findings, Gensler created an index aimed at identifying the most innovative organizations, comparing the behaviors and spatial attributes of those at different ends of the innovation spectrum.

The research found that employees at the most-innovative organizations spend only 74 percent of the work week at the office, compared to 86 percent for less-innovative workplaces; are at least 2 times more likely to have access to cafeterias, coffee shops and outdoor spaces; have 2 times more access to amenities including specialty coffee, restaurants, gyms and child-care facilities; and have 2 times more choice in when and where to work.

In light of findings like these, I suppose it’s no surprise that we would continue to run across employers that are pushing the envelope when it comes to their workplace designs. Take Amazon, for example, which was featured the other day in a New York Times story titled “Forget Beanbag Chairs. Amazon is Giving Its Workers Treehouses.

The story explains how the online retail giant is growing actual plants (more than 3,000 species of them) about a half-hour’s drive from its new corporate headquarters in downtown Seattle. They will eventually be housed in one of three transparent spheres adjacent to the complex that will serve as greenhouses.

Amazon employees, the story says, would be able to “amble through tree canopies three stories off the ground, meet colleagues in rooms with walls made from vines and eat kale Caesar salads next to an indoor creek.”

As lead architect Dale Alberda points out, the whole idea behind the project is to “get people to think more creatively, maybe come up with a new idea they wouldn’t have if they were just in the office.”

Remember the good-old days, when high-tech companies would rely on a couple of strategically positioned ping-pong tables for those same results?

It’s the Eve of Digital Disruption

As its name suggested, HireVue’s Digital Disruption 2016 in Park City, Utah was, for the most part, all about distrupting HR through technology. More precisely, the vast majority of the content surrounded hiring, HireVue’s roots. But as CEO Mark Newman made quite clear during an opening general session titled “New Wave of Disruption,” the South Jordan, Utah-based firm is no longer just about talent acquisition. It’s now about coaching and developing talent, too.

Rusty Rueff
Rusty Rueff

Though still a small portion of its business, with around 30 clients, Newman noted that HireVue Coach, a recent addition to the firm’s Team Acceleration Software Platform, is already growing at a fairly fast clip. He predicted that it soon will become a substantial piece of HireVue’s overall business. To date, he noted, training has been ineffective; it doesn’t stick. But by leveraging the power of video, he said, employers can now change employee behavior (primarily for those in customer-facing positions) in a fundamental way.

Of course, as you might expect, Digital Disruption (now in its third year), like most user events, was chock full of client success stories. Hilton. United Airlines. Vodafone. Netflix. But it also featured a number of speakers who looked at bigger-picture issues impacting HR.

One who personally stood out for me was Rusty Rueff, a former recruiting executive at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts who now sits on a number of boards and is an investor in several Silicon Valley start-ups. (I personally had an opportunity to meet Rusty a number of years ago at a much smaller gathering of CHROs.)

Rueff, in a general session titled “Craft(ing) of the Future,” suggested that those in recruiting need to stop thinking of recruitment as a profession and begin to think of it as a craft.

“A profession is defined as an occupation requiring prolonged training and a formal qualification,” he said. “Doctors and lawyers are a profession. But a crafts person [exercises a skill] in making something. We make something of people. We make something of organizations. We make something of cultures.”

To illustrate his point, Rueff recounted his days running recruiting at Frito Lay, where he was charged with interviewing candidates all day long, week in and week out.

“One day, I said to myself, ‘I’m the most powerful guy in the company?’ he recalled. “My other voice said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m the most powerful guy in the company! because if I wanted everyone to have green eyes, I could do that. I could screen out everyone who didn’t have green eyes.’ That’s pretty scary, because I’m out there deciding what the organization’s culture is going to be by who I let in and who I screen out.”

Rueff recalled that he believed at the time that the HR function at Frito Lay needed change leaders—so that’s who he brought into the organization.

“I was a lowly little guy [at Frito Lay],” he said, “but I got to change the culture.”

Rueff told those attending that a crafts person needs to be, among other things, agile—someone who is able to adopt new ways of thinking. He added that such a person is like “an actor who can play many different kinds of roles on many different kinds of stages.”

To be successful, Rueff said, those in HR and recruiting are going to need to begin thinking like data scientists. “You don’t have to have a degree [as] a data scientist,” he said. “If you’re good with numbers, you can be one.” In other words, it’s a skill people can learn.

In addition, he said, they have to “think like the software-design architects of today, not yesterday. [People] who are fast and nimble.”

And they need to think like personal trainers, he said. “One size fits one when it comes to talent in the future.”

Speaking to this notion of one size fits one, another presenter, Molly Weaver, offered up a great example during a session titled “Stop Screening Out Great Talent.”

As director of talent acquisition at Children’s Mercy, Weaver said she was saddled by a hiring process that was way “too long” and “cumbersome” for applicants. So about a year ago, Weaver and her team unveiled a unique program called “Interview First.”

Instead of encouraging job candidates to apply for a specific job, “Interview First” enables them to submit a video via the company’s website in which they share something about their background and what they would like to do at Children’s Mercy. (Yes, you guessed it: Children’s Mercy, headquartered in Kansas City, uses the HireVue platform.)

Each day, two recruiters are assigned to review the videos that come in and parse them out to the appropriate recruiters (Children’s Mercy currently has 10 recruiters and jobs are divided into clinical and nonclinical). The idea behind the initiative, Weaver said, was to just give people a chance to tell their stories. By putting these videos at the front end of the process, she said, Children’s Mercy is able to quickly capture a lot of great talent, people who otherwise might have left the process.

Just because they aren’t the right candidate for one particular job, she said, doesn’t mean they aren’t right for something else at the company or an opening down the road.

Once the videos are evaluated, potential candidates are told they should consider applying for a particular position right away, there may be something for them down the pike or they’re not really a good fit.

Weaver pointed out that affirmative-action laws aren’t a concern for Children’s Mercy (a government contractor) here, since these individuals aren’t applying for a specific job.

So how is it working out for Children’s Mercy? To date, 120 positions have filled through “Interview First,” including nine individuals who were rehires. Interestingly, the new hires, on average, had applied seven times before.

Certainly, a pretty good start in disrupting a process that is clearly in need of some serious disruption, I think.

A Lasting Reminder to Hire Veterans

I’m putting it out there that today’s 72nd anniversary of D-day and Memorial Day a week behind us should serve as reminders of the need for 474510772 -- saluteemployers to keep veterans in mind when hiring time comes along — including all the reminders we’ve posted and published on this subject over the years.

As much attention as the subject has gotten, the numbers are still not where they should be — though a phone call to Kyle Kensing, online editor for CareerCast Veterans in Carlsbad, Calif., a group devoted to helping veterans into new careers, revealed a little good news. They’ve gotten better.

According to him, the unemployment rate among all veterans has been comparable, and even slightly better than, that of the general population for the last two years (5.3 for vets versus 6 for the general population in 2014). However, for the veteran class identified as “Gulf War era-II” (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan), the 2014 unemployment rate was 7.2 and fell to 5.8 in 2015, showing “the positive impact of hiring initiatives,” he told me.

Also, since the launch of the 100,000 Jobs initiative in 2011 (which we’ve written about on this site), Military Times reports 1.2 million veteran hires since its launch. “So yea,” says Kensing, “that goal was met.”

Still, despite these improvements, “and the fact that more companies are making more of an effort to reach veterans,” he says, “there’s still work to be done. The numbers aren’t really where we want them and there are specific things employers could be doing that many still are not.”

For one, he says, businesses could be reaching out more to new hires from the military to defuse the isolation they feel when they enter corporate America.

“A lot of vets say one of the biggest challenges,” Kensing tells me, “is that, when you’re in the military, you’re in a cohesive family environment, but in business, especially when you start out, you can feel isolated and alone.” So employers could be doing more through managers and HR departments to set up mentoring, coaching and buddy programs for these hires.

Secondly, companies could be making even more of an effort to place veterans in human resource roles. The research is out there underscoring the importance of this. This story appearing on the Society for Human Resource Management site pinpoints the HR manager as one of top eight jobs for military veterans, according to a CareerCast Veterans Network report (here is the specific piece of the report citing HR manager as a top job).

So why is that, I asked Kensing? First, he says, the skills developed in the military translate well into HR: responsibility for others, opening up lines of communication, being able to understand what skills people have and what skills people need, and where they need help and where they can shine.

But beyond that, having someone in HR with military experience, someone who can relate to and understand these job candidates, can make all the difference for their success. There again, Kensing says, “more and more employers, from large corporations to smaller and mid-sized ones, are starting to understand this,” but those numbers could be much better as well.

For the sake of stoking this fire as much as possible, here’s a Fox News piece by veteran Rich Eich, a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, on “The Real Reason[s] to Hire a Veteran,” like how they hit the ground running, are used to dealing with multiple challenges, move quickly and are used to learning something new every day.

And here’s our HR Leadership Columnist Susan Meisinger’s piece last year, also detailing the merits of veterans in the workplace and the ongoing efforts to get them there.

And here also is Mark McGraw’s piece three years ago on helping veterans in the workplace as they struggle with post-traumatic-stress syndrome, a problem that persists today.

I guess it all comes down to doing your service for their service. Are you doing enough?

Job Candidates’ Rising Expectations

If you’ve become accustomed to having job candidates jump through hoops in order to land positions at your organization, then you might want to brace yourself for change: Candidates are simply less willing to put up with lengthy application procedures and cumbersome hiring processes than in years past.

466488753That’s one of the major findings from CareerBuilder’s 2016 Candidate Behavior study, which is based on surveys of more than 4,500 workers and 1,500 hiring managers. The study shows that employers are continuing to struggle: Although 76 percent of full-time, employed workers are either looking for a new position or are open to new opportunities, nearly half of employers (48 percent) say they’re unable to fill job vacancies.

In today’s market, companies need to present their best faces to candidates. “It’s important to remember that the candidate experience starts from the very first click and can impact how effectively a company is able to recruit quality candidates, the popularity of its employer brand, the strength and quality of its referrals, and even the bottom line,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s VP of HR.

Candidates are more quicker to walk away from applications that are too cumbersome, with one in five telling CareerBuilder they are not willing to complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more, while 76 percent want to know how long it will take them to finish an application before it starts. However, the majority say they’d be willing to endure a lengthy application process if the company is offering a higher base salary.

Candidates are also less willing to wait around: 66 percent said they’re willing to wait less than two weeks to hear back from an employer before considering the opportunity a “lost cause” and moving on to another. HR must also ensure that information on the company is easy to find, with 37 percent of candidates saying they’ll move on to the next opportunity if they can’t find the information they need on the company.

Candidates also want to see more information in the job description: 74 percent want to know the salary, 61 percent want to see the total benefits package, 46 percent want to see employee ratings, 40 percent want contact information for the hiring manager and 39 percent want information on work-from-home options. They also want to see how the company provides work/life balance (35 percent), photos/video of the work environment (31 percent), team structure and hierarchy of the role (27 percent) and how many people applied for the job (25 percent).

Workers in the West Like Bosses Best

When it comes to finding someone to blame for issues like, say, sagging retention rates or sinking employee engagement scores, managers sure seem to take it on the chin a lot.

Kristen Frasch, our managing editor, pointed out as much on Monday, using the HRE Daily space to reference just a few fairly recent reports that underscore managers’ supposed shortcomings.

The bulk of Frasch’s post, however, focused on Red Branch Media CEO Maren Hogen’s recent “love letter” to managers, in which she offers an “ ‘atta boy’ and ‘atta girl’ to those blamed for everything from a lack of snacks in the workplace to why you can’t have ‘just one extra week off,’ ” and encourages disgruntled employees to also look at themselves when trying to pinpoint the source of their unhappiness.

Now, just days later comes a survey from CareerBuilder that should give managers—more than half of them, anyway—another reason to feel good about themselves.

The Chicago-based employment website and HR software provider polled 3,031 employees, asking respondents to rate their supervisors’ performance, assigning them a letter grade between “A” and “F.”

Overall, 62 percent of employees graded their bosses’ performance as either an “A” or “B,” with 22 percent giving their manager a “C.” Ten percent said their supervisor merited only a “D,” with the remaining 6 percent reporting their superiors had failed, earning an “F” for their efforts.

Pretty solid scores for most managers, but those in the Western region of the United States seem to be doing something particularly special.

On average, Western-based bosses were graded higher, with 32 percent of respondents giving their supervisors an “A” grade, and 35 percent saying their manager deserved a “B.” Workers in the Northeast were a tad more critical, with just 23 percent handing out “A”s to their bosses, and 34 percent reporting their managers were worthy of a “B.”

What’s the secret to supervisors’ success out West? The answer may lie in a laid-back managerial approach that employees seem to respond to in a big way.

For example, 30 percent of workers in the West said they interact with their boss once a week, or less, in person. More than one-quarter of employees in the South (27 percent) said the same, as did 24 percent of respondents from the Northeast and 23 percent of workers in the Midwest.

Less face time doesn’t necessarily equate to less feedback, though. In fact, 69 percent of employees in the West said they feel their bosses provide enough guidance and input, while 59 percent of workers in the Northeast feel their managers offer sufficient support.

In a statement, Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder CHRO, reckons that “we’re starting to see a slight shift of favor toward management styles that are seen as a little more hands-off, which employees view as trust from their bosses.”

Naturally, there’s a point where a manager can become a little too detached. The key, of course, is finding the sweet spot between aloof and overbearing, which many managers—especially those in the Western states—have apparently recognized.

“Everyone craves respect,” says Haefner, “and it seems like bosses in certain regions have figured out the perfect balance to keep subordinates happy.”

SHRM Speaker: Culture Must ‘Rock’

Many people think their company’s culture is about its heritage, about “the way we’ve always done things.” Jim Knight thinks those people are wrong.

“At its core, a company’s culture is about the present — it’s really a collection of individuals and, as they join or leave the organization, it changes,” said Knight, the opening keynote at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Talent Management Conference and Expo in Orlando, titled “Culture that Rocks: How to Amp Up or Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture.” “People say ‘My culture’s not the same as it used to be.’ No duh, sister! People come and go all the time!”

Because culture is shaped by the present, it’s malleable, and HR has an opportunity to shape it through constant communication, said Knight, former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International and author of the book Culture That Rocks. “You have to let people know what you’re trying to do, otherwise people will make it up on their own.”

A shared mindset is the key to success, Knight said. “Individual agendas produce random results, but a shared mind-set produces aligned actions.”

He cited fast-food chain Chik-fil-A as a prime example of a successful company culture that drives performance. Despite the company’s policy of having all stores closed on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath, the average Chik-fil-A restaurant generates $1 million more in a typical year than an average McDonald’s restaurant, said Knight. The company builds its culture starting with the entry-level employees at its restaurants, who receive two days of onboarding.

As part of their onboarding, the new employees watch a company video titled “Every Life Has a Story.” In the video, set to a violin score, a camera pans over a scene of customers at a Chik-fil-A restaurant, pausing over each one briefly as a bit of text appears over each person summarizing their story:  “Just lost his job and is wondering how he’ll support his family,” “Only son recently deployed to a war zone,” “Parents divorced when he was 7 ,” etc.

The video, which closes with the message “Every person has a story … if we bother to read it,” left a number of people in the audience visibly moved.

“As a training guy, I so wish I’d been the one to make that video,” said Knight. The take-away, he said, is that customers crave differentiation and that employees should want to give customers “a little more than what they were expecting.”