Monthly Archives: February 2012

The one with the golden envelope

If you watched this week’s Academy Awards the host, Billy Crystal, in his opening monologue said something along the lines of “because that’s what people want to see, millionaires presenting each other with gold statues”. To a certain extent he’s right, because if the claims are to be believed over 1 billion people watch the Oscars show. In a similar vein, the Brits were dished out last week and Adele’s sign language apart, it was largely an exercise in inviting to perform all the people who would later pick up the little statues and give the gushing speech.

Like them or hate them the Oscars and the Brits are both examples of award shows that make sense to me. Not that they are necessary but they do make sense – get more exposure through a nationally/internationally televised event which translates to more downloads/units shifted/bums on seats. And let’s face it, all the back patting and air kissing aside, that’s what it’s all about – shifting more units.

When it comes to niche awards within an industry or profession – and HR has them and is by no means the only profession that does, the awards make no sense to me. So many of you will have attended one – rock up at swanky central London venue, drink, listen to over paid comedian churn out stock material, listen to 19 awards being presented with citations but no speeches, drink more. Stagger into the office the following morning, looking green and claiming “lots of good networking”

It seems to me (a caveat in itself) that what you are effectively winning is ‘the best of the 8 or so companies who have entered as judged by a small group of people chosen by the organiser’. It doesn’t include all eligible companies/individuals, it’s not exhaustive and is very subjective. The beneficiary? Clearly the organiser and the venue (buy a table of 10, surround it with people in their finery who buy wine etc) but I don’t see the benefit for the individual or organisation.

OK so I’m not completely stupid (all the time) I understand that external validation of one’s work can be a benefit in demonstrating achievement internally and also who doesn’t like a good night out with your colleagues? But in terms of shifting more units – I don’t see the link? Does winning an award make your programme/strategy more successful internally? Does returning to the office clutching some form of gong unlock fortune and glory? Anyone??

There’s a joke I was told some years ago about a man who week after week prays to win the lottery and every week he fails and finally he screams to god that he feels let down and his prayers are not being answered, to which god replies “do me a favour, buy a ticket”. Maybe all of this is simply because I’ve never clutched one of those little gongs myself….

*wanders off to practice acceptance speech


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The one with my rose tinted view

I always had this notion that the recruitment function was something akin to the A&R function of a record label.

The ‘A&R man’ was the one who spent their lives going to gigs, trying to find the next big thing and nurturing them their early rise to a point where they can justify signing them (or beat another label to the punch). The Artists & Repertoire function was historically responsible for scouting and development of new artists for the label and their success was measured by the success of the acts they signed.

You could argue in the Cowell era of manufactured pop (which could be likened to a brief assessment centre resulting from an open application) that the days of that traditional A&R function are numbered but Mr Cowell et al are making lots of money, big sales numbers and attendance figures are being posted by bands that have grown the old fashioned way and been scouted. Either way the people who get all the way aren’t chosen by a team of people sat in a darkened room listening to 30 seconds of music and then deciding…at least I hope not!

The other aspect of A&R that matches my notion of recruitment is that A&R are measured by the success of the artists they sign – hence my conversation last week about measuring the quality of hires brought into an organisation. Whether my job title involved Resourcing or Learning I’ve always seen it as part of my role to ensure that not only did they get signed but also they got the best chance to succeed once they were in the building.

It seems from some conversations last week my notion of recruiting maybe somewhat outdated as it seems a portion of recruiters see their responsibility and accountability as stopping when they ‘sign on the line which is dotted’ and whether that’s a sign of times and the volume of work a recruiter is saddled with or the role has evolved past my notion I’m not sure.

The other distinction that came out in conversations last week was the number of people who see recruiting as a function distinct from Human Resources and maybe here again I may be behind the times. It prompted me to tweet at one point “When did recruitment emancipate itself from HR?” as when working as a recruiter I saw myself as an HR professional who specialised in recruitment. To listen to some of the conversations last week this isn’t a view that many recruiters seem to share.

There’s no big finish to this post but since attending TruLondon last week, posting the blog on Quality of hire and spending the weekend reflecting on both these thoughts have been bouncing around my head so I thought I’d share them and see if anyone has a reaction one way or the other…

P.S. I am wholly prepared to concede that my notion of the A&R function maybe related to my rose tinted memories of listening to unknown bands in smoky pubs

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The one with a quality measure

“I went to TRULondon and all I got was this lousy blog post”

Trying to summarise a 45 minute multi-person conversation (for that read bun fight) into a blog post is something I find very difficult but here goes…

Yesterday I attended #TRULondon5 and having taken Bill Boorman up on his invite to run a track about 20 people were assembled to have a conversation about measuring quality of hire.

I started by setting the scene (which I’d also done in a post you can read here) and giving some clarity on keeping the conversation on track and no veering off to what was seemingly everyone’s favourite topic social recruiting. I think I may have enforced that a little strongly at times so if I did trample on anyone I’m sorry!

Rather than try and summarise the narrative here are some of the points that arose:

  • Are we trying to define quality or value? Some believe the difference to be semantic and what we are really trying to define is contribution.
  • Some thought value was the intangible and quality the hard measures. Others (mostly me) thought value is the tangible and quality was akin to value plus cultural fit.
  • Understanding the expectation of the role is key. Very different for entry level to senior management and an organisation doesn’t want/need everyone to be high flying innovators etc
  • There was a conversation about understanding ‘what good looks like’ with particular reference to a basketball player called Jeremy Lin (who I had never heard of). There’s a great post about him here from Hung Lee. It lead to discussions about the circumstances under which people succeed and what it takes to make talent flourish.
  • Length of service or tenure was asserted as ‘the one true measure’ which met with some agreement and some disagreement. Given the rising cost of employment it was a means to deliver a return on investment for the costs of recruiting/inducting/training etc
  • Given the rising role of contingent workers (not just temps but contractors, interims & consultants) some discussion arose about how that would impact any measure of tenure and also the disconnect between clarity of expectation on a contingent worker versus a permanent worker
  • Tying quality to performance was discussed at length. With objections raised about the subjectivity of performance measures, how performance expectation isn’t understood at recruitment stage and how difficult it is for recruiters to influence hire once the individual is in role.
  • Measuring assessment scores of new hires versus those of current employees was discussed as was of course the need for objective assessment and clear data. This of course would challenge some organisations on their current hiring practices and also requires a significant wealth of data to already exist.
  • An interesting point was raised around measuring an individual’s value as a social recruiting asset – so how many referrals they give the organisation which resonated with the concept of net promoter scores. We didn’t discuss this at length but it was certainly different.
  • The concept of following up with hiring managers and asking them structured questions was raised after the track but quickly shot down as requiring too much time and would be yet another thing that would end up being chased for

And then, as all the air seemed to have left the balloon, the fabulous Laurie Ruettimann interjected with a point which took the discussion to a whole different place and it went something like this…

“We need to get people jobs to stop them rioting”

which seemed as good a place as any to end….

Running the track was an interesting experience, they are difficult beasts to tame and I definitely don’t think I heard the silver bullet idea; I did get to understand opinions from different people and hopefully move the conversation on a step. This of course only represents my perceptions of the conversation and hopefully some other participants will comment.

For me, if I were implementing a quality of hire measure it would be a data driven exercise comparing the performance scores of hires against their group (whether that be function, division or whole organisation) to understand where they were in comparison to the whole. I think this would be sustainable and rational but would require the recruitment system and the HR system to interact which could of course lead to the end of the world. And yes performance measures are subjective but they are the subjectivity that gets believed (and actioned in many bonus schemes) so let’s get over that! I may be wrong  (often happens) but let’s at least do SOMETHING…

The importance of this can of course be questioned (‘why do we have to measure everything’) but if I was the CEO/HR Director I want to understand that quality is being brought into my organisation. If I’m the hiring manager likewise. If I was the recruiter I would want something to challenge the hiring managers with (a push back to contingent hiring decisions) but also a measure that empowers me to challenge the cost/time challenges that are ever present…

Having reflected on the experience the one thing that has surprised me is how recruiters perceive themselves in the organisation and how they see their role….but we’ll save that for another day.

In the meantime a few of us took part in a livestream chat after the track which you can see here if you can face more!


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The one with the rarefied air

If accounting has it’s big 4, law has the magic circle then the firm I met with yesterday are the recruiting equivalent – what is sometimes referred to as a top-tier search firm. My objectives for the meeting were several-fold – obviously getting a job was the first, but given my ambition has a slightly longer term it was about building a relationship, understanding the levers and building their general awareness of me.

It was a very interesting and informative meeting with someone who ‘knows their onions’ had some interesting views on the market and how it feels at the moment and some very useful advice.

During our conversation we discussed several individuals with whom I’ve worked and what became clear to me was considerable intelligence was gathered and retained on people considered ‘high potential’ that may form future targets for searches. What was more interesting was the time scale over which this information was gathered and the focus on verifying information that would form the support to any shortlisting decision – we’re talking 5-10 years.

What appeared completely absent was any form of ‘social’ awareness – whether the individual was active on any form of social network, whether they contributed to any networking or forum, any blogging (micro or macro) and measurement of influence was based on delivery and reputation not on an algorithm (Klout, Kred etc)

Given their approach there are two ways to look at this (well broadly two):

1. Their approach is dated and needs to evolve

2. Their approach is valid for what they do

I’m not sure on the answer and I suppose only time will really tell but it did cause me to reflect and left me with one lingering question: the reputations and impact made online are they only made online? In other words does the impact we have “on here” really only impact those who play and in the ‘real world’ is the measure of reputation far more impactful than anyone with a high klout score would choose to acknowledge?

For my part I am going to play both sides of the fence, because in all honesty, why not?


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The one with a little love in the room

So it’s that day again…the day where the supply and demand curve makes dinner for 2 and a dozen roses double in price, every TV show run idiotic features and every person who’s single feel either smug or like reaching for a bottle of wine. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Now whether St. Valentine was the patron saint of lovers or actually it was just dreamt up by Geoffrey Chaucer I don’t really mind. The reality is the modern Valentine’s Day is a commercially impactful expectation fest which has very little to do with love and lots to do with supply chains!

I was involved in an organised chat on Twitter recently which asked a question along the lines of “which is better for networking, online or face to face?” and my answer went something like “One enhances the other. Maintain & grow through online. Enrich and in-depth in real life. Also hard to get drunk online ;)” and I stick by that. I have a number of friends and a relatively small family but thanks for the wonders of Facebook and Twitter I pretty much know that they are all OK and getting on with their lives. Likewise for business contacts Twitter and Linkedin provide a similar source of information.

It does sometimes feel in this time of the rise of social media that it’s only those I’m connected to online that I stay truly up to date with and at times I find myself wondering about those not connected and should I be doing more (or shouldn’t they just get over it and get in the game). It was interesting catching up with a friend i’ve not seen for 4 months last week and in the course of the conversation she confessed she both lurks on twitter and reads most of my tweets – the catch up was much easier I can tell you!!

An organisation I worked in for some time had painted on one of the walls of it’s staircases this:

“The unit of value is the customer relationship”

Having walked passed it thousands of times I got to a point of immunity to it but in reflecting on the nonsense that Valentine’s Day has become I think that whilst the word customer was appropriate in that context should I take a moment and think about the value in my relationships.

So there it is, my thought for the day – think about the people that matter to you, both business and personal and maybe take some extra time today in understanding and appreciating them and the value they bring to you and if you do have a significant other make sure they get a big snog too!


Having discussed this post with one of my closest friends last night he made the comment ‘bosses never send you a valentines card do they?’ so maybe that’s another thought…not sure how anonymity will work there though 😉

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The one with the electric windows

When I was a kid one of my Dad’s friends had a Ford Granada. At the time my Dad had a Ford Cortina (for anyone under 30 – google it!) and the Granada was the bigger, better, shinier version. The thing that most intrigued me as it was the first time I had seen it was that the Granada had electric windows. Imagine – being able to open the windows without having the twist and turn the lever. It was cool!

If you think about cars their innovations follow a progression which I would describe as:

  • Luxury optional extra
  • Luxury defacto
  • Standard optional extra
  • Standard defacto
  • Commoditised

The irony of some car brands is that actually this progression gets messed around and the luxury still make an extra what the standard brands make defacto (my Ford Fiesta had a rear windscreen wiper as standard!) but largely I think the progression holds. What starts out as a wow i.e. electric windows or iPod connectivity, becomes an expectation and reaches the point where it just isn’t noticed.

I was having a conversation with a friend over the weekend who is consulting at a well known plc. She has gone in there with a specific brief and is really enjoying getting stuck into what must be a very challenging organisation. In catching up we chatted about loads of things but it was the following comment that she made that stuck in my head,

“The previous HRD left to plaudits about the redesigned, reengineered and reenergised HR function but if that’s what they call redesigned….” (I may be paraphrasing, we’d both had quite a few wines but you get the point)

I shared the analogy of the electric windows and she went on to describe an HR function that was amazing at ‘the electric windows’, ‘the iPod connector’ and the ‘dual side climate control’ but actually the engine was rubbish and the car wouldn’t move.

If you read anything (this blog included), attend a conference or get into a conversation externally it is likely you will hear about and describe whatever people think the electric windows are but does our relentless focus on the new and exciting blind us to the role we are supposed to play in the organisation?

Whilst a lot of what HR had to deliver to a business isn’t exciting or conference worthy (who wants to talk about offer letters) to return to the car analogy – without a petrol cap you won’t get fuel to the engine at all… More to the point is the ‘stuff’ that gets the car going what the business value from HR where the new and shiny is what we choose to get focussed on with each other?

Personally, being someone who enjoys novelty and change I think previous bosses would at times be  pulling their hair out trying to get me to focus on the basic and maybe much as it for me would we all be served to take a moment thinking about what makes the car actually run rather than just the things it has that we can boast about?


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The one with a positive index

Hands up who’s fed up of financial doom & gloom? Whilst it’s not difficult to validate the doom or gloom what I do find frustrating is that the general behaviour seems to be to jump on the bad news stories and ponder with cynicism any good news stories.

It could be argued (by me if no one else wants to) that inertia and risk aversion will keep the patient alive but with only with a ventilator and the only way to get this back to anywhere near fighting fitness will be some bold moves, courage and displays of confident decisiveness.

The consumer confidence index produced by GfK was flat year on year between January 2011 and January 2012 (although had improved by 4 points from December into January) at the same time the Reed Job Index is 9% higher than it was in January 2011 with only a 2% improvement from December into January.

The Reed index was created in December 2009 (and set at 100) and now sits at 123 but are we in better or worse shape than we were just over 2 years ago? You can probably argue it either way depending on what perspective you take and what data you use but I personally would like to think the worst is over and we now fully understand the problem (fingers crossed) so just step forward those bold confident decision makers….

As part of Reed’s PR effort I had a conversation with Marketing Director of, Mark Rhodes and our conversation covered a breadth of information around the job market. Whilst Mark acknowledged the index was based on data from and I politely alluded to where that would position the data in the market considering reed’s brand we discussed at length the fundamental weakness in an index of this nature as it measures jobs being created not jobs being filled.

If you’ve worked in HR you’ve likely at some point completed the ONS questionnaire on headcount and recruitment which usually in my case involved a chasing call from someone in finance with the threat of punishment for not completing it.According to the ONS there were 29.09million people in employment (between 16-64) in Jan 2011 vs 29.12million people in the same age group one year later. It would take a far greater statistician than I (that’s a long list) to compare the reed job index with the ONS data but the ONS number os 0.03 higher for the January 2012 data.

So Reed produce some good news and what do I do with it? Well not exactly treat it with cynicism but maybe some scrutiny and I wanted to use this to ask some questions:

  • Does increased confidence in employment feel valid to you in February 2012?
  • Do you think more jobs are net being created than are disappearing?
  • Do you think jobs are being created and remaining unfilled? If so, why?

I’ll leave you with those and bid you a good weekend!

What I confess I forgot to ask is how many endocrinologist and lollipop people vacancies they’ve ever had on Reed….next time!

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