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Column: Here’s why we need Hireland – and why it will work

Co-founder of jobs creation initiative Gerard O’Neill on why he and his friends wanted the national conversation to turn to job creation – not job losses.

Gerard O'Neill Gerard O'Neill is a business man, author, part-time economist and a director of a market research agency in Ireland (Amárach Research).

A NOT-FOR-PROFIT jobs creation initiative vowed this week to encourage employers to hire skilled people who are out of work. Hireland.ie was launched just a fortnight ago and already, over 1,500 jobs have been ‘pledged’ by companies around the country.

Today, Hireland’s co-founder Gerard O’Neill explains where the idea came from – and why he and his fellow volunteers think it will work.

There’s a simple psychological insight behind Hireland: people copy other people. Our tastes, beliefs and preferences are influenced by what
others like, believe and prefer. It’s only human: we’re social creatures after all.

But what has this got to do with job creation? It all began back in February 2011 when a group of friends – with backgrounds in marketing, media and business – started discussing how best to tackle Ireland’s unemployment problem. They soon realised that we have a communications problem in Ireland not just a job problem: we hear about job losses all the time – monthly live register statistics and all that – but only intermittently about job gains. Sure, the big job announcements get plenty of attention. But most of the time, most of the jobs that are created happen in ones and twos in small and medium-sized companies throughout the country. No fanfare, no press releases.

So the idea was simple: let’s create as much news about the businesses that are hiring as we currently hear about those that are firing. Better still,
why not give Irish business men and women the opportunity to publicly state their intentions to hire, thereby inspiring others who might be sitting on the hiring fence to get off it and take on new staff.

It’s back to psychology again: by making people’s behaviour and choices more visible then there is a greater probability that others will be inspired to copy them. It works for brands so why not for employers?

Easier said than done of course. Such a task would require a smart advertising campaign supported by national and local media. Luckily
for the group of friends they had other friends: and some of them even worked in national and local media. And so Hireland was born: a campaign aimed at Irish employers and decision-makers, supported by half a million euro worth of free advertising, editorial and marketing from the nation’s television, radio and press owners and a great crew of editors, designers, researchers and project managers.

After just one week of launch, Hireland has already seen over 1,500 jobs pledged by Irish employers on the Hireland.ie website. But we are only
at the beginning. The initial campaign will run until the end of February as the message rolls out across different channels, both online and
offline.

We’re not asking anyone to hire staff ‘for the good of the nation’

The target is to get 5,000 jobs pledged by the middle of 2012. Hireland will ultimately need more support to achieve its aims as the goodwill
support of the media has already been committed to the launch. Future funding will be required to sustain and extend our campaign to get Irish
employers copying one another (in a good way, that is!)

Remember, Hireland is a voluntary movement, organised by business people for business people. We are not asking anyone to hire staff ‘for
the good of the nation’. Instead, we believe (and our research shows) that it makes good business sense to hire sooner rather than later.
Firstly it sends a message to your customers that you will be able to do more for them. It also sends a message to your staff, one that will boost
morale. Finally it sends a message to your competitors: you’re hiring and growing so watch out…

But we will get there: we have already demonstrated the extraordinary appeal of the Hireland message in these difficult times. Hireland shows
how that we must switch from tunnel vision – with its focus on problems – to ‘funnel vision’, focused on opportunities. It is only by seizing the
opportunities that we will solve the problems that we face.

All recessions end in recovery and so will this one. We’ll get there one job at a time, one sale at a time. So if you’re an employer, go ahead: hire
one.

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About the author:

Gerard O'Neill  / Gerard O'Neill is a business man, author, part-time economist and a director of a market research agency in Ireland (Amárach Research).

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