10 Outrageous, Attention-Grabbing Talent Management Practices

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Jan 7, 2016

If you’re battling to recruit and retain top talent, you must have talent practices that go beyond the mundane in order to get their attention.

And, if you expect to impress the even more valuable innovators or creative types, you must go further and do something truly bold to get their attention.

In the Silicon Valley where I work, it is simply an accepted practice for top firms like Google and Facebook to use some form of what I call “outrageous talent management.” Unfortunately in the rest of the world, most in HR and talent management are so risk averse and conservative that when they hear about one of these outrageous practices, they instantly think, “I would never try that.

It will only take a minute, so why not gauge your personal reaction to 10 of these outrageous recruiting and talent management practices?

10 attention-grabbing talent management practices 

Scan these practices and see if your organization is doing anything like them that will get the attention of top talent not-looking for a new job.

  1. Using Tinder to recruit — Most recruiters use mainstream social media like LinkedIn to find candidates. But you should keep an open mind about also using other, less mainstream social media sources where top candidates can also be found. The CEO of the startup Mychefit has been successfully recruiting chefs using the dating site Tinder. She even noted that it beats LinkedIn. “I was using Tinder obviously for dating and then I saw some profiles where they were wearing aprons”… “I approach them and ask if they’re a chef, before explaining that I’m interested in hiring them.” You should also consider social sites like Snapchat,, or Eventbrite, and gaming sites like IGN or GameSpot that are frequented by your target audience.
  2. Facebook rewards employees who live close — Having shorter commute times aids workers because they are less fatigued and they get to spend more time at home with their families. To help reduce commute issues, Facebook has begun offering subsidies to its employees who buy or rent within 10 miles of their Menlo Park corporate headquarters. Employees can get a one-time subsidy of between $10,000 and $15,000 (the city’s fire department pays $12,000 a year extra if firefighters live within 10 miles). These supplements help employees with the outrageous housing costs in the Silicon Valley. But facing a short commute, they also make it more likely that employees will stay later at work. And, it increases the likelihood that employees will simply drop into the office whenever they have a stimulating idea. Commute time should be a major focus of talent leaders because research by consultant Jeff Parks found that at one manufacturer “at 13 miles, which is about a 30-45 minute commute, the probability of quitting jumped to more than 92 percent.”
  3. Recruiting using TV ads — Because of its wide reach and impact, the most common channel for product advertising is TV. Historically lean recruiting budgets have limited the use of TV for recruitment. However, that has all changed in recent years after major firms like Walmart, Coors, and Koch have pioneered the use of TV ads for employer branding and recruiting. Recently, GE made a major investment in TV recruiting with its “Get yourself a world-changing job” campaign. Because TV commercials use video, they have the added advantage of allowing the viewer to “see and feel” the passion associated with working at the company. Another advantage of TV ads is that they reach both active and non-active job seekers.
  4. SAP opens a “recruiting café” — Cafés and coffee shops are great places for doing computer work and meeting and interacting with people. Corporations like SAP have realized that they can take advantage of those interactions by creating their own public cafés. The goals include informally meeting with their users/customers, as well as innovators and potential recruits. The German-based SAP’s HanaHaus café (Hana is the name of its software) in downtown Palo Alto is miles away from its main office building. The café is instead in a central location in the Silicon Valley and close to Stanford University. This makes it an ideal public work/meeting space for nearby techies. The café gives SAP staff opportunities to offer software advice and to interact with techies and entrepreneurs who might eventually become customers, partners, or recruits. Its presence may also help to build the firm’s conservative employer brand. Capital One has a 360 Café located in San Francisco’s financial district. Because it is on the first floor of their own building, Capital One “innovation center” employees can simply walk downstairs in order to interact with patrons that use it as a community workspace. Its close proximity to many techies, innovators, and entrepreneurs allow the firm’s employees to quickly and easily to learn, to test concepts, and to bounce ideas off of the patrons.
  5. Uber develops a mobile game to recruit — Uber built its well-deserved reputation for outrageous recruiting by booking rides with its competitor’s drivers, and then using the “captive time” to recruit them away. Its latest recruiting approach is a mobile game called UberDRIVE that lets potential drivers get a feel for what it’s like to be a driver for Uber. The game allows users to test their navigation skills using a Google map. The game is designed to be a fun way to attract drivers and like many mobile games, there is a chance to earn in-game cash. A player that is interested can sign up and start the recruiting process within the game.
  6. Obscuring resume information/blind interviews to decrease bias — As part of the recent push to minimize discrimination, obscuring names on resumes to reduce bias is becoming a more common practice at firms like Deloitte, Google, BBC, and HSBC. Some firms are also hiding specific resume information that does not predict on-the-job success (i.e. GPA, University, hobbies etc.). Other firms use blind interviews to reduce visual reduce visual bias or written questionnaire interviews to reduce audio bias.
  7. Personalized onboarding reduces turnover — Many firms are discovering the power of personalization in recruiting and onboarding. In the case of onboarding, WIPRO found that after six months, the new hires who experienced a personalized employee focused onboarding process were as much as 32 percent less likely to quit than those from the traditional company-focused onboarding. Google also found that by giving hiring managers a simple email “nudge” (a subtle reminder that is also a trend) the day before a new hire starts, lowers the time required for the new-hire to reach their expected productivity level by as much as 25 percent.
  8. Re-think the attraction capabilities of your job descriptions — Most job descriptions as written are painfully dull, and as a result, they do little to attract top candidates. Research by Schmidt and Derek Chapman found that postings that focused on what employers can supply to meet a candidate’s needs “received almost three times as many highly rated applicants,” as did descriptions focusing on what abilities and skills the organization demands of candidates. You need to develop a process to ensure that it differentiates your job, sells, and does not discourage applicants, and that it uses words that your targets use in their search string. Google conducted an experiment and found that by involving women in the writing of job descriptions (and thus minimizing the use of “masculine words”), you could dramatically increase the number of women applicants. There are now vendors that offer software that can identify and replace the words that discourage woman applicants.
  9. Aggressive targeted poaching — Attracting top talent from top competitor firms makes you better while weakening your enemy. The CEO of Yammer offered a bounty to any Yahoo employee who was “pissed at their company’s ways.” The offer stated “Quit your job within 60 days and Yammer will give you a $25,000 signing bonus.” Yammer received at least 70 resumes as a result of the bounty offer.
  10. 100 percent remote college recruiting replaces campus visits — In a modern world where you can easily find all top college students on social media and interview them on Skype, it’s now possible to completely bypass campus career centers. Firms like Nestlé Purina, McKinsey, and BCG have all had success with remote college recruiting. Avoiding the multiple on-campus recruiting and interviewing restrictions can allow a firm to get the best candidates early in their academic career. In addition, it can dramatically broaden the number of universities you cover while saving unnecessary travel costs and time. 

One last outrageous trend — LSD for creativity?

You probably don’t want to emulate this Silicon Valley trend, but you should be aware of it.

A shocking emerging Silicon Valley trend that you probably haven’t heard of is the use of micro-doses of LSD by individuals in order to stimulate productivity, creativity, and innovation. Steve Jobs once proclaimed that using it “was one of the most important things in my life.”

Programmers and engineers have long used everything from meditation, energy drinks, and Adderall to boost productivity. But there appear to be few limits on what employees, especially those working at startups” and entrepreneurs, will try during and after work to stimulate their minds.

This expanded usage of mind-altering substances may partially be a result of the popularity of psychedelic drug usage at the popular Burning Man Festival. There is of course only anecdotal evidence that these micro-doses actually produce desirable results, but the trend does reveal the high value that the Silicon Valley places on increasing innovation and creativity.

Final thoughts

If you step back for a minute and think, it makes logical sense that creative types, innovators, and techies would be attracted by the firms that also use creativity, innovation, and technology in their people management.

These types expect innovation to permeate the entire organization. If they don’t also clearly see it in recruiting and talent management, they simply won’t consider your firm as their next employer.

And for smaller and lesser-known organizations, being able to find these practices on the Internet may be the single most impactful thing you can do in talent management.