No VB Rec

The Death of “Values-Based Recruitment”?

by Matt Mattson

Our friend Dr. Gentry McCreary posted a blog recently which he shared on social media with the tagline, “That day I declared the death of values-based recruitment.” Needless to say, this grabbed my attention.

Let me say up front that I agree with Gentry. The way we’ve been doing recruitment for a long time is not resulting in the organizations that many of us desire. He’s right that we (educators and fraternal professionals especially) have been talking about values-based recruitment for well over a decade. There’s a bunch of other stuff in the post that I agree with. I’m fine with killing the term “values-based recruitment” too, actually. The only people who say it are the people who are frustrated with the way recruitment is actually being done. We can call our preferred recruitment method whatever we want, as long as we remember that it’s how we DO recruitment that matters. I’m sure Gentry would agree.

The idea of putting values into recruitment is actually a pretty difficult thing to do. Recruitment is hard enough — students are busy, focused elsewhere, and don’t see recruitment as part of doing fraternity/sorority, but instead as the task that must be done so that fraternity/sorority can start. Because of those reasons and more, making the values of a values-centered organization central to the actual execution of recruitment strategies is difficult. Since it’s easier to focus on far more accessible concepts for 17/18-year-olds, our organizations do just that.

Similarly, “365 Recruitment” sounds terribly hard. But that’s another post for another day.

I’m thinking Gentry’s overall point in the blog is that instead of trying to force the “Values-Based Recruitment” education down our members’ throats, perhaps we should be more practical in what we’re trying to get fraternity/sorority members to actually do. I can dig that. (If that’s not what he meant, my apologies… but it’s what I mean.)

So, practically… what do we want?

I think we want our members to attract new members in ways to reflect the things we’re proud of about fraternity/sorority, and that set clear expectations of what it should mean to be in a fraternity/sorority.

How do we do that? Well, that’s what we’ve been working on since 2002. We’re getting closer every year. Turns out it’s kind of a complex and nuanced system with lots of levers. But here are a few recommendations, in practical terms.

  1. Encourage increased networking. The number one reason people don’t join is because they’re never asked. What’s more, most non-Greeks no very few fraternity/sorority members. Values-based recruitment is hard to do if we allow our members to sit back and wait. Further, we teach that “Quantity Drives Quality.” By this we mean simply that the more people a chapter has to choose from when selecting new members, the better its chances of selecting higher quality (more values-aligned) members.
  2. Know what matters and talk about it. Telling undergraduate fraternity/sorority members to “talk about their values” is terrible advice. Talking about values words is boring and doesn’t drive connection. On the other hand, helping them (in multiple ways) have powerful conversations about the things that matter most to them and their chapter is smart practical advice that will lead to more values-alignment (either or both the ritual values or the chapter’s/members’ personal values). This is why we’ve done conversation/relationship training (Social Excellence) for years. This is why we invented the iValU/weValU programs. This is why we teach members to Pre-Close and have adult conversations when it comes time to gain commitment. This is why we’ve done research and now do education on retention — where we learned that misaligned expectations is a top reason why so many people who join end up quitting.
  3. Performance-Based Selection. We normally call it “Values-Based Selection,” but since we’re rightfully challenging that word package today, I’ll call it “Performance-Based Selection.” That’s what it really is anyway. We have taught, since the beginning, the importance of having a written set of objective, measurable criteria through which to filter prospective members’ eligibility. Here’s our fraternity example. I’ve personally been tilting at this particular windmill loudly for years. I firmly believe that if our fraternities, in particular, took this piece of advice seriously we could make some serious headway.

KJ wrote about this a while back. Jessica wrote about it too. I wrote this and this and this about it.

I love this line from Gentry, “Stop trying to convince your students to sell their values, and start convincing them to sell the more altruistic forms of brotherhood and sisterhood. Convince them to sell how membership in their organization will provide prospective members with a sense of belonging and connection, with a group of people who will support them and have their back.”

YAAASS GURL! (Did I do that right?)

I love the research Gentry has done on brotherhood/sisterhood. To me it boils down to “how will this make my life better in ways that actually matter to me?” Does the way we do recruitment demonstrate that fraternity/sorority will make a PNM’s life better in ways that actually matter to them in their current life stage? Can we express that to PNMs in a way that inspires them to want to commit to it and share it with others? That’s probably not done by listing or “trashing” our values, but values will always remain at the center of that process.

As social animals, our primary instinct that drives so much of our behavior is the instinct to connect. For safety, security, opportunity, influence, and power. We want to connect to our tribe, our group, our family, our brotherhood/sisterhood. That’s instinctual. We want to connect with people who have shared values or values that will enhance our own current reality. That is brotherhood/sisterhood. Separating values from brotherood/sisterhood isn’t possible, but that’s also not what I think Gentry is suggesting.

I guess what I want to say most is… THANKS GENTRY! I appreciate when people poke and prod some of the outdated or bedraggled philosophies of our industry. I think talking about “values-based recruitment” and actually teaching people to recruit in a way that makes us all proud aren’t mutually exclusive, but deserve to be re-thought. One of our core values at Phired Up is Innovation. We don’t do the same old schtick for decades. We keep pushing constantly to look for new ways to teach that will get better and better results. Your recent blog post will help us do just that. Keep it up.