Cultural Fit and Experience: A One-Two Punch

Posted by: in Corporate and Strategy, Culture, Human Resources, Organizational Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends, twist, W2O Group on December 1, 2015

When searching for the “perfect” job applicant, organizations are beginning to find more often than not that they are willing to overlook a lack of specific qualifications in favor of ensuring the applicant is a good fit for the existing culture.

More and more employers want to know who they are hiring and how they will relate and work with other employees. As many organizations have already figured out, recruiting shouldn’t only be focused on an applicant’s GPA and past experience anymore. Rather a focus on the individual and what their interests may be outside of the workplace.

Employment site Glassdoor has collected hundreds of thousands of questions asked by hiring managers, and the following four ranked among 2015’s 50 Most Common Interview Questions, though they have little to do with work:

  1. What are your hobbies?
  2. What’s your favorite website?
  3. What was the last book you’ve read for fun?
  4. What makes you uncomfortable?

Why does this matter?culture fit and experience

According to a research paper conducted in 2004 by Development Dimensions International (DDI), an international talent management company, 78% of respondents believed that organizations and hiring managers do not assess for culture fit because they do not know how to do this.

Oh how the times have changed. Employers now seem to have a much better understanding of the importance of colleagues being able to relate to one another to accomplish any given task. In recent years there has been a shift to hiring for culture and focusing on training and developing employees who may be new to the workforce, such as millennials.

With the workplace changing and more millennials climbing the corporate ladder, more research is being conducted by experts like Dan Schawbel, author of Me: 2.0, who identified specific needs of millennials in search of positions. According to Schawbel, “millennials want a culture that’s less hierarchical, more flexible, and more understanding of difference, because millennials are the most diverse generation.”

As culture continues to become increasingly important and effecting employee attraction and retention, making sure you pick the right people is crucial. You now not only need to make sure a candidate has the background criteria you are seeking, but can also thrive in your existing culture. As culture begins to play a bigger role within organizations keep these five questions in mind to help you identify a candidate who will help keep your business moving forward.

Read the person behind the paper.

  1. What unique talent does this applicant add to the existing team?
  2. What similarities do they have with existing team members?
    a. Did they attend the same school?
    b. Do they have similar interest outside of the office (traveling, sports, etc.)?
  3. Does the applicant’s personality match that of the existing culture?
  4. How will the company leverage the applicant’s expertise to help grow the current staff’s skill set?
  5. What will this applicant add to the team aside from their experience?


By: Michael Petrone

Michael Petrone is a Corporate & Strategy associate at WCG

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Central Time & the Long Hallway

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on November 23, 2015

anita bose_It’s only an hour time difference from the East Coast but adjusting to Central Time was honestly a shock to my system. In the best possible way.

I’m a firm believer that doing the same thing in the same way for too long saps us of our energy and creativity. Having lived, breathed and worked in New York City for the last two (plus) decades, I knew I needed a jolt to the system. A few months ago, I finally made the big break and moved to the great Midwest. And, at the same time, I took on a new and challenging role at W2O Group.

A big change. Momentous. Seismic. I went to college and grad school in New York. I’d spent my entire adult life there. But that was exactly the point. Being in a new place unlocks your senses and forces you to observe things differently. Whether it’s a new city, a new apartment or a new office.

W2O’s Chicago office is very different than our 150-person stronghold in downtown Manhattan. Our small but mighty, tight-knit and fun-loving group is housed in very hip, West Loop offices in the old meat-packing district. At first I worried that being in a smaller office would be isolating. I was immediately surprised at how wrong I was. W2O has mastered the concept of virtual teams. Our staff readily and successfully works across time, space and organizational boundaries. We thrive on it. Granted, technology and effective systems make this possible. But it’s also a testament to how the company has grown and evolved over a short time – from a one-person consultancy to an integrated international operation with 12 offices and over 400 people.

We think of our colleagues as all working along a “long hallway” – creating, collaborating and handing off assignments and clients across geographies and time zones. And being in Central Time has its advantages. Yes, New York is an hour ahead which means we start work earlier to accommodate. But the mere two hour difference with the west coast allows for much more fluid collaboration with our Pacific Time clients and colleagues. W2O’s approach means that we match our clients with the best staff members who have the most relevant experience and appropriate skill set to service their business – not just geographic proximity. In an industry where identifying talent is always a struggle, this methodology allows us greater flexibility in developing strong cross-functional teams that can best address our clients’ most pressing needs.

In my short time here, I’ve already worked with rock star colleagues from every one of our offices, and with clients on both coasts and those based in Chicago.  Working along W2O’s “long hallway” has truly energized me. As has the much-needed jolt– both physical and psychological – of moving to Central Time.

(View the official release welcoming Anita to the W2O team here).

By: Anita Bose

Anita serves as Head of Client Development at W2O Group.

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Going. Ahead. With Gage: An Interview with Jennifer Gottlieb

Posted by: in Communication, Culture, executive insights, Going. Ahead. With Gage, Innovation, Insights, Thinking Creatively, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on November 12, 2015

Jennifer GottliebWelcome to another Going. Ahead. With Gage interview! I had the privilege of interviewing our COO and Head of Client Service, Jennifer Gottlieb. She was recently moved into this position after spending almost a decade helping to build the agency.

What is your vision for the W2O Group?

My vision for W2O Group is to create an agency that does not yet exist today: an agency that is built upon the unmet needs in a radically changing market. We are seeing the convergence of many different disciplines, from analytics to marketing to communications to digital, and we must provide for clients a streamlined, nimble, cost-effective solution that produces amazing breakthrough ideas with ROI quickly and effectively.

How does your vision fit with W2O Group’s vision?

W2O’s vision is to bring disruptive ideas that are grounded in analytics and data to the forefront in many different ways. My job is to operationalize that. If we are trying to bring a disruptive solution to the market, my vision is to make sure that can be realized. We do that by remaining in touch with what the clients need and matching those needs with our solutions.

Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the company in the next few years?

The research and analytics division are poised for the biggest leap. That group fuels everything we do and provides all of our insights. I think we’ll also see growth in creative content that can be used across different mediums and different areas of the communications and marketing mix. Lastly, the convergence of health and technology is a huge area of innovation and growth that we are on the front lines of.

What are you currently doing to help us get there?

I am doing a lot :), but there are four key things I’m most focused on:

The first is talent. We are hiring new, fresh talent for both our current needs and in areas that we’ve not hired in before, such as integrated marketing leaders that come out of bigger and more modern digital and advertising agencies; we are also hiring a lot of young millennial talent that are very digitally and socially savvy.

Another is trying to figure out how a matrixed organization that has been challenged to be more fast-moving can work even better. Reducing some of the processes that clients see with larger-scale advertising agencies and bringing that together the nimble nature of what a public relations firms have always known and lived by.

The third is coaching and mentoring our staff by helping them understand how to walk in the shoes of the client, be heavily client focused, how to take our ideas and apply them. A key is helping our team learn how to live in their clients’ heads and not just our own.

The fourth is to help better define who we are as an agency of the future and what makes us different and make sure that we are doing our own communications and public relations so that people know what to pull us in for.

What are your top two business challenges at the moment?

Number one would be what I call driving the bus and changing the wheels at the same time. We have to continue to be an amazing, award-winning, communications and public relations firm for the many clients that got us here and continue to fuel our success. But we also have to marry that up with the needs that clients are asking us for in terms of digital and mobile capabilities and big branding and positioning asks.

We’re being asked even by our public relations clients to expand our thinking and our offerings, which is a reflection of what they are asked for now internally as well. It’s about making sure we deliver A+ work on the core work that we were raised on at our firm, but making sure that we are bringing in the right talent and can deliver on the right stuff that clients need to innovate and evolve.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received came from a woman I worked with for a short while who then became my client. She said: “If you walk into work every day assuming you have 10 fires to put out and you only have 4, you’re having a good day.” She taught me to embrace the madness and the challenges because that’s what really evolves and teaches you and grows you at the end of the day.

So, I go into every day not afraid of those challenges. I know that every day is not going to be an easy, smooth day, and when I do have one of those it is the exception to the rule. I’ve learned to embrace the messiness of having to solve problems, and I’ve become passionate about diagnosing issues and tackling challenges for the industries we serve, the clients we support and the teams we lead.

What advice would you give to junior employees who want to grow their career in your company?

My advice would be: work really, really hard and don’t be afraid of hard work because it’s the one constant overtime that gets people where they need to go.

The second would be to ask a lot of questions, volunteer for things you don’t even know how to do, be curious and always want to stretch and do more.

I used to sit in my entry-level job with a stack of paper a foot high! It would be letters to mail, envelopes to type up, a memo to type up for my boss. I was the entry-level assistant, and they would say to me that at the bottom of my in-box is something really awesome to do. I thought that was a good way to look at it. What I teach people is that through the big pile of paper (or the computer full of email) you are learning many skills that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

The third piece of advice is to not minimize the importance of the first year of working, where you learn how to a corporate work environment operates. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the fact that there’s a big transition from school to work and there are certain levels of knowledge about how to function in the corporate world that not all junior employees have.

My fourth suggestion is junior employees should know their skill sets. There are a lot of tests these days and they are usually pretty true to form, and I really encourage people to do these tests as they enter the work force or to help decide the kind of career path they want to take because I think it’s very telling in where someone’s skill set and assets will be most valuable.

Thinking of your most successful current employees, what characteristics do they share?

They are driven, work incredibly hard, are very proactive and responsive, are solution-oriented, are humble, take feedback well, know how to manage themselves, and aren’t afraid to put a stake in the ground and have a point of view.

Also published on LinkedIn

By: Gage Grammer

Content and Community Specialist at W2O Group. Background in Strategic Communications (PR and Advertising) and Writing. I have a rockin' French Bulldog named Phantom!

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Millennials Unplugged: The Facebook and ARF Sessions

Posted by: in Advertising, Analytics, CMO, Communication, Communication Strategy, Content, Millennials Unplugged, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thinking Creatively, W2O Group on November 11, 2015

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel titled, Millennials Unplugged: What Are We Learning from Millennials? Moderated by my colleague, Bob Pearson, the panel was part of an event put on by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and hosted at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Joining Bob on the panel were Natalie Malaszenko, SVP of Marketing at and Founder/Provocateur of MoStrategy, LLC, Maureen Craig.

Bob-Natalie-Mo panel

As the title suggests, the focus of the panel was what we (brands/marketers/communicators) can learn from Millennials. It’s clearly an important topic due to the fact that in the U.S., Millennials just overtook Baby Boomers as the largest demographic in the country. This not only changes the way marketers need to market, but also how employers think about the needs of their employees. I spent a little time covering this very topic in one my recent Marketingland articles discussing the real meaning of what it means to be “mobile first.

During the panel, Bob asked (and occasionally answered) questions of Natalie and Maureen. All three did a great job keeping their answers informative and pithy. A few of the key soundbites I took away were:

  • Millennials want to engage with brands differently. They are willing to do it emotionally.
  • It’s important as a brand to have heart, soul, purpose when story telling with Millennials. The key is to the find balance of analytics/insights with gut instincts.
  • Bob mentioned a recent article where Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest announced the visual search tool for the social image site making it a “search engine for experiences.”
  • Metrics are important to understand how customers are consuming content along their journey – but how does this impact how we measure?
  • With so much data, importance on using gut to guide is stronger than ever. Also critical to look at how the consumer’s (and in particular, Millennials) media is shaped.
  • At the end of the panel Q&A, Bob referenced the impetus of the panel which is a blog series he created with his 19 year old daughter, Brittany. The format for Millennials Unplugged is that they pick a topic and then both answer from their own points of view, often with other Millennial voices pulled in.

For the second half of the panel, Bob fielded audience questions through a tool called Pigeonhole. Not only was it a cool technology but made it easy to field questions from the audience in an orderly and weighted fashion (the audience gets to vote on the relevance of each question).

Here were a few that piqued my interest:

How has cutting the cord impacted TV advertising dollars when engaging Millennials?

  • Mo – Millennials get a kick out of Boomers and GenXers anachronistic use of tv (similar to land line phone).
  • Natalie – key word is storytelling. Ads need to be created with storytelling in mind and that ads could/should have life beyond tv.

Beyond the headlines of 3-second attention spans and lack of brand loyalty, what are some positive opportunities for marketers in learning from Millennials’ habits and expectations?

  • Natalie – key is to enable Millennials’ behavior vs. trying to change it.
  • Mo – takes offense at the idea of a three second attention span (not accurate). She thinks of Millennials as t-shaped – tremendous depth and huge reach (via new social/digital platforms). Can apply what they’ve learned from Call of Duty to shopping for groceries. What can we do to congratulate that and take advantage of that?

How do you value sharing vs. reach & frequency?

  • Natalie – don’t diminish importance of reach and frequency but sharing is the ultimate metric. It is a sign of passion.
  • Mo – her company is constantly looking at what it takes to encourage a climate of sharing.

By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

Find me on: Twitter Facebook
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

The T-Factor

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on November 4, 2015

Cly 10

Being the “new kid” at W2O Group is equal parts exciting, scary, inspiring and eye-opening. And joining a new agency for the first time in five years has resurfaced a key idea for me – how the diversity in a group amplifies all of the individual talent within. I call this an agency’s “t-factor.”

In our industry, we’re constantly discussing the “talent pool” and how to bring on the best of the best. Whether in media relations (my area of expertise), digital, analytics, account management, etc. But the problem is that we tend to focus on roles in isolation, and not in relation to a broader ecosystem. We look at expertise and skill sets in solving a specific or immediate problem. And that can lead to homogeneity – in background and in thought.

That’s why I’m so happy to already see in my short time at W2O that our most talented colleagues come from completely different backgrounds and disciplines. Take this stellar earned media team – it’s an eclectic mix of smart and curious media specialists, former account executives and former journalists who’ve come over to the “other side”. This type of mix benefits our entire team and enables us to counsel clients in the most effective way possible. It helps create true empathy, since we’re evaluating decisions from all different vantage points.

Fifteen years ago this wouldn’t have been the case. Today it’s a different game – the talent pool is filled with specialists, generalists, tinkerers and everything in between. And that’s incredible for all of us. Growing, learning and shadowing others is not only encouraged, but expected here – how refreshing!

In the few short weeks since joining W2O Group, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a stellar mix of all-star colleagues with backgrounds as varied as could be – former C-suite execs, reporters, political advisors and even former clients. Selfishly, I know working with all these folks means I’ll be stretched, molded and taught by the best of the best in our industry. It’s a little daunting, but as a result, I know my personal t-factor will only increase.

Bottom line? Today’s talent pool must be diverse, varied and multidisciplinary – in both experience and thought. I’m thrilled to jump into that pool here at W2O Group.

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.