If you’ve been to Austin, Texas, in the past couple of decades, you may have seen this message on T-shirts and bumper stickers: keep Austin weird. The slogan arose when a caller to a local radio station was asked why he was donating money. “I don’t know,” he replied. “It helps keep Austin weird.” The phrase went viral, and the Austin Independent Business Alliance adopted it to drive a buy-local initiative. It worked. It worked because it added a singular element to the city’s brand: pride in being different.
We can do something similar with every new hire we make. Every person who lends their expertise to our workforce also lends it a bit of personality to its culture. It is this living group image that not only creates a one-of-a-kind work environment but forms our brand. And for any business to get ahead, it must differentiate itself from the pack. Capitalizing on our uniqueness is one effective way to do that.
You can work on uniqueness as you source and select job candidates for open positions. Here’s how.
By Talent Channel
If you usually hire only full-time employees or only contractors, change it up. Explore new ways to associate with workers to add a new element to your organization. Try tapping craft collectives, consultancies, or online freelance platforms. Reach out to interns or volunteers. Borrow employees from companies you’ve worked with in the past. Automate low-skilled work with the use of algorithm software or robots.
Each new channel you source from will slightly shift the demographic and interpersonal dynamic in your company. You might find that part-time or unpaid workers are superior choices to achieve certain objectives. You might become known as the company that bots freed from paperwork, or write another chapter in your business history. Every new step you take adds a unique aspect to your culture and brand.
By Individual Traits
Some companies use personality tests and demographic data to learn which type of people form the core of their workforce. Metrics can also show where we are deficient. Adding different types of people—from different backgrounds, with different thinking or management styles, etc.—changes the team dynamic. And each person adds another biographical “page” to our company story.
We can reinforce our brand by hiring more “like” people, or we can change or expand our image by hiring more “unlike” people. Get personal in your first contacts with job candidates. Find out what they love to do, what they have done, what they dream about. Like supporting a community radio station, you can use these idiosyncrasies to stay weird.
By Team Spirit
Suppose you feel your company is already weird enough. Then, build on it! Maybe you’ve tracked the coincidence that a number of employees coach kids’ sports, or bungee jump, or do Medieval reenacting. Whatever forms the nucleus of a unique feature can become a focus for your brand.
Use your interview process or ask your talent acquisition partners to help you vet candidates to fit with the overarching personality of your company. All things among applicants being equal, you can prefer that person who helps out with school gymnastics or loves to jump off bridges or wields a broadsword in their off-hours. Like the folks in Austin, identify what it is that sets you apart from the competition. Take pride in being weird.