Category Archives: values-based recruitment

Lessons from IBM’s 100th Birthday

IBM celebrated its 100th birthday last month and the iconic company’s history offers several parallels for fraternities.

On values-based recruitment:

In those days, Big Blue was the place everyone wanted to work and invest. It recruited the best graduates from the best universities, imbued them with its core values of “excellence,” “customer service” and “respect for the individual,” and sent them out in blue suits and white shirts to sell the world on electronic computing.

On doing the right thing, even when it may not be popular (for example, taking a stand against hazing):

Here’s a company whose researchers won Nobel prizes, whose executives stood up to discrimination and prejudice before it was fashionable, and whose name could invariably be found on the list of major donors of the best universities and cultural institutions. And its computers outfoxed the world’s chess champion and took the crown in Jeopardy.

On upholding the company’s core values in the way they were meant to be:

It wasn’t, however, just the strategy that had gone awry. As Steve Hamm writes in a book commissioned for the 100th anniversary, “Making the World Work Better,” some of the core beliefs that had carried the company through other periods of transition had become impediments. Respect for employees, according to Hamm, “had morphed into a sense of entitlement, “excellence in all things had turned into a decision-inhibiting perfectionism, and “the best customer service” became an exercise in giving customers what they said they wanted rather than presenting them with the breakthrough innovation they never knew they needed.

On the willingness to break tradition:

By 1993, things were so desperate that IBM for the first time reached outside its ranks and hired Lou Gerstner, an executive with RJR Nabisco, as chief executive. Gerstner mounted a painful rescue that included closing facilities, selling off businesses and firing 35,000 employees. Gerstner’s strategy was to move IBM out of low-margin equipment manufacturing while moving more aggressively into software and corporate outsourcing of computer services. Under the current chief executive, Sam Palmisano, who took over in 2002, that strategy includes a strong focus on cloud computing, strategic consulting and data analytics.

Read the full story here.

How’s Your Away Team?

Home field advantage is highly touted in the sports world for obvious reasons. The home team gets the larger crowd with far greater support. The home team is more familiar with the nuances of the field because they practice there every day, which means they know what the wind does, how the sun’s glare works, and most importantly how cold and/or hot it gets.

What does all of this provide for the home team?  Comfort. They don’t take a plane or a bus to the stadium; they arrive from their homes refreshed and ready to play. Not to mention they are treated like gods when they arrive with eager fans fawning for autographs and pictures. It’s the ultimate self-esteem booster.

But what about away games? It’s new, it’s not yours, the fans despise you or find you irrelevant, you’re a drop in the pond, and you have to exit your comfort zone. Key phrase being “comfort zone.”

This same concept applies to recruitment. Sure, it’s nice and safe to recruit inside your chapter house because it’s comfortable. You know where everything is, you know everyone there, you’re surrounded by friends and brothers, and if you have a trophy case you have a silent testament to your successes.

Now imagine those recruits you invited to come down to the house for a BBQ (a cliché recruitment event if there ever was one) as the away team. Do you think they feel comfortable? Do you think you get to see the actual them or do you get a nervous version?

Flip this concept on its head. Challenge your chapter to be the away team. Go out into the recruit’s comfort zone (hometown, dorm, campus dining hall, hangout spots). Interact with them in their environment where they feel comfortable. You just might find out your away team is better than you thought.

Random Thoughts

If fraternities are supposed to stand for such values as honor, integrity and respect then why must every national office employ a full-time Director of Risk Reduction?

Why are marketing campaigns to eliminate hazing almost always directed at our our own members rather than the general public?  Isn’t it pathetic that we should have to convince our own members that the mission of our organization is in fact good?

The few chapters that are either too cool or too dysfunctional to attend Grand Chapter will inevitably complain the most about the new bylaws and policies they didn’t bother to vote for.

If chapters are so proud of their diversity, loosely defined, then why do pledge programs insist on making everyone the same (“our #1 goal is to mold a united pledge class”)?

If hazers are so confident that arbitrary harassment builds brotherhood then why not advertise every activity and expectation during recruitment?

And if hazers are so confident that hazing has an ounce of relevance to real life then why don’t they list “endured hazing pledgeship” on their resume?  Or do they understand that no employer would take them seriously?

Why do some chapters spend more time developing marketing campaigns to make themselves look good rather than actually being good in the first place?

Why do chapters spend so much time trying to motivate members for recruitment rather than just recruiting people who don’t need to be motivated?

If hazing is supposed to teach respect then why are the loudest proponents of hazing always the least respected members in the chapter?

Don’t Table this Idea for the Next Meeting

Nice post from Matt Mattson at the Phired Up blog.  Here’s an excerpt:

While wandering around USC’s campus the other day making friends (which was a blast), I happened upon a very creative student organization recruitment tactic.

There were a number of tables set up along the main drag of campus — there were some political groups, the Greenpeace folks were out there, a guy selling tickets to play paintball, a Relay-for-Life group, and a gospel choir selling delicious $1 cookies.  All were doing good work tabling, but there was one other table that really stood out to me.  They had a sign hanging on their table that read, “What’s Your Beef With Christianity?”

Now, religious content aside, I was first intrigued because their sign was a QUESTION, and not a statement.  So, I walked up and asked them about it.  I assumed they were an atheist/agnostic group that was looking for like-minded people with whom they could commiserate, but I was wrong.  At first they wouldn’t really tell me who they were, they just said…

Merely sitting behind a table to “get your name out there” is not an effective recruitment strategy (especially if you’re just surfing fb statuses on your iPhone).  It’s about as effective as littering the campus with recruitment calendars and expecting prospective members to flock to the chapter home.  It just doesn’t happen.

Recruitment means actively finding people who will fulfill the vision of your organization.  And, as this lesson shows, part of the recruitment process is the willingness to engage your critics in genuine conversation.

We Must Protect this [Fraternity] House!

This video interview with Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank offers lessons for both large and small chapters alike.

For small, struggling chapters: Nothing is out of reach.  Maybe things aren’t going so great right now but there’s nothing preventing you from being the chapter that seems to dominate everything on campus.  Utilize all of your resources, set tangible goals, recruit the right people, make smart decisions and you’ll get there.  If a start-up like Under Armour can take market share from a behemoth like Nike then anything is possible.

And for the large, successful chapters: Maybe you’re the “Nike” on your campus, so to speak.  But just because your performance is untouchable today doesn’t mean it will continue automatically.  Just look at all of the now dormant chapters that previously had manpower well above 100.  Chapters that reject change and renewal (remember the White Rose?) have never fared well.

Fraternity Recruitment: Lessons from National Signing Day

Last week was National Signing Day for college football programs around the country. I, being a huge college football fan, was not merely interested in “star ratings” or “class ranking,” but in what the coach thought of his incoming freshman class. For full disclosure I am a Michigan fan and these comments come from Rich Rodriguez’s press conference.

In his press conference it was hard not to draw parallels between his recruiting process and ours. He talked about negative recruiting and how other schools do it, but he doesn’t. Apparently high school players and their families are actually turned off by negative recruitment. At the end of the day, all the student has heard is “Michigan this…” and “Michigan that…” not why the recruiter’s school is a good fit. How do you view negative recruiting? Is it a practice that helps or hurts our chapters?

Rich talked about the importance of building relationships with the students during the recruitment process.  Rich is not out there doing all of the recruiting himself; and neither should our recruitment chairmen. The entire staff is out there getting to know the players and their families and then talking to them about Michigan and why it is a good fit for them.  Is your entire chapter involved in recruitment? Are you building relationships with PNMs?

As hard as it might seem there was also a discussion about encouraging players to explore their options. Rich wants student-athletes who are excited to be at Michigan and know it is the place for them. It is hard to do that if they haven’t looked anywhere else. The staff encourages guys to look at other schools. Do you encourage guys to look at other chapters to make sure they have made the right choice? Why or Why not?

The last thing Rich said was something I had never thought of, but was a great point to make: “We’re not really selling. Sometimes recruiting does look like salesmanship, but I heard one time you’re not selling anything you are just giving people what they want. Maybe I sound like a salesman telling you that, but really when you are putting your school and your program out there, you’re just giving people what they want and what you think they want is a chance to play in a great atmosphere for big time football and get a great education and be around good people.”

Are we trying to sell people? Or are we providing an opportunity for great guys to get exactly what they are looking for? In the fraternal world we are a “big time program”; through our scholarship programming we should help them succeed academically and our chapter home should have a great atmosphere filled with good people. However, we have more to offer than that. Football teams don’t have core values or the LEAD program and they aren’t partnered with Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude’s or Character Counts! Are we mentioning all of this during recruitment? Are we giving guys what they want? When we offer these things we get guys who are drawn to these ideals, those are the guys who might not be “starters” or “national champions” today.  But a few years from now when we learn what the class is really made of, they will be our “starters” (officers) and might have laid the foundation for us to be “national champions” (Rock Chapters).