Life isn’t perfect…
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Often, it’s just best to be up front. Come out and tell it like it is. Not dress it up as something else. And sometimes that means you’re going to state the obvious. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s pretty easy to identify that life is not perfect. In fact, it’s far from perfect.
The cruellest reality is the virus is taking life away completely, causing grief and heartache for families and friends. It’s affecting daily life for everyone in different ways: relationships, mental health, physical and emotional well-being, finances, education and employment. It’s placing pressures on people that many of us have never experienced, or will have to ever experience again.
Yet out of adversity, we continue to show courage and fight. People appear more accepting and supportive of the vulnerability of others and more courageous in expressing their own. The acts of kindness, community spirit, selflessness and love are stories being written now that will be told long into the future.
In some ways, perhaps the quote, “Life isn’t perfect, but it does have perfect moments” has never been more apt.
What if we project this onto the world of work? Many a corporate narrative would have us believe that perfection in organisations is common place. Rarely do we see candour expressed and vulnerability shown. And it’s fairly infrequent that we see the recruitment narrative and employment story being used as a filter to attract those who are right and repel those who won’t make it. Rarely do we see the balance of reality and magic moments. Wouldn’t it be better if organisations showed up as ‘human enterprises’ in the stories they tell? Being courageous, showing vulnerability, building trust with honesty and authenticity in their communication and creating that sought after emotional connection are surely the human traits employees as well as candidates now crave?
To put that to the test, we conducted a simple survey via Instagram with an audience of 16-23-year olds. Asked whether they expect companies to be perfect employers, our audience of 350 responded with ‘Yes, of course’ 24%; ‘No, nothing’s perfect’ 76%. That’s a whole dose of realistic expectations being laid out in front of potential employers that through their rose-tinted glasses, they are struggling to match because they’re overselling their proposition. Careers sites, job advertisements, social posts all with a glossy coating of loveliness or a veneer of infallibility.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a surprise. In fact, it’s totally understandable. We recognise that attracting the best possible talent is tough. The need to stand out from the crowd, to differentiate and to position your business as ‘the’ employer of choice, is aimed at gaining competitive advantage. After all, 70% of our survey respondents told us that they are more likely to apply for a job that sells them the opportunity.
But, in our view, that doesn’t mean that an employment value proposition needs to be a relentless tidal wave of positivity and perfection. Stop and ask yourself, ‘why are we hiring’? The answer is unlikely to be (and even if it is now, this won’t always be the case) because ‘we’re so great, we just need more great people.’ The likelihood is that you’re hiring for a number of reasons such as growth M&A or transformation. Whatever the reason, there’s always a story behind it. Sometimes, it just needs telling as it is, albeit perhaps not in the sombre tones I started out here.
The challenge for most organisations is being brave enough to show their vulnerability, talk candidly about their challenges and adopt a position of greater transparency. It takes courage. It requires boldness. It’s storytelling without the filters.
At Ceriph, we’re starting out on a process of discovery to identify what different audiences (age groups, role types, industry sectors) expect by way of transparency and how fearless employers are prepared to be in order to meet those expectations.
Watch this space for more over the next few months.