Gore HR Gurus Astound at Outside-In Seminar

Graham Williamson of WL Gore speaks at an Inside Out Seminar
Graham Williamson of WL Gore speaks at an Inside Out Seminar

The wind was whipping and the morning snow flurries were making a last stand as I walked Thursday morning, February 26, 2015, to the front door of the University Delaware’s historic Goodstay Mansion on the school’s Wilmington, Delaware, Campus.

I was hopeful.

This meeting was the second talent acquisition seminar I attended in as many months.

Comcast/Universal’s Beth Bunting Arnholt led the first, a discussion of organizational change; today’s was a discussion of branding led by two WL Gore talent gurus, Graham Williamson and Steve Schuster.

This one was significantly different, wonderful, and overwhelming.

You see, what made this one a bit different, wasn’t that it was so much about branding in the marketplace, but rather branding through W.L. Gore’s recruiting and retention processes.

Let me say that again, a science and technology company is/was concerned about its branding through its recruiting and retention processes.

“To create a work culture requires work every day,” said Gore’s Regional Recruiting Leader Graham Williamson.

Mr. Williamson, whose refined British accent makes everything sound like deep profundity, said that whenever we talked about our companies we are indirectly making promises.

Again, another interesting thought.

After Mr. Williamson gave an overview of the firm’s commitment to excellence and all that means in the grand HR context. His partner for the morning, Steve Schuster, expanded on the themes.

Mr. Schuster said that all points along the recruiting process are measured with hopes of improving it.

The goal is for 90 percent of all candidates – including the ones who don’t get the jobs – is to rate the process as very satisfied.

I imagine it’s pretty easy to get the people who are hired to say they liked the process, but to get the ones, who aren’t, seems a chancy proposition.

Even so, he said better than 80 percent of all candidates rate the experience as very satisfied.

It was easy to see that WL Gore does not consist of a bunch of nice touchy-feely guys, but rather the recruiting and retention process and that effort is an extension of the firm’s overall branding.

“W. L. Gore & Associates has made its name by creating innovative, technology-driven solutions, from medical devices that treat aneurysms to high-performance GORE‑TEX® fabrics,” its website says. “A privately held company with annual sales of more than $3 billion, Gore is committed to perpetuating its 50-plus year tradition of product innovation.”

Mr. Schuster said there are five things that each Gore candidate has to demonstrate: Passion and Drive; Integrity and Ethics; Networking and Sponsors: Informal leadership; and Accountability.

To get a good feel for what Mr. Schuster was talking about, I took the time to visit the “about” section of the website. It is available at http://www.gore.com/en_xx/careers/whoweare/about-gore.html.

Obviously, Gore thinks recruiting and retention is a critical component of its culture and that extends from their products forward.

It was a great presentation, so why did I feel so blue when I left the Goodstay Mansion? The sky had cleared a bit, the wind ebbed, and the sun peaked through, but I felt like a cloud was hovering.

I felt gray as the snow filled morning sky and full of cold comfort.

It occurred to me that most employers don’t look at workers as extensions of their products and processes, but rather view them as interchangeable commodities.

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