I’m a big fan of cool tools. I have an iPad Mini and a Pebble watch. I’m typing this on a Chromebook (and I can’t wait to get the HP Chromebook 14). If there is a writing app out there, I’ve tried it. If there’s a note taking app, I’ve tried it as well. Both usually get relegated because of my love for Google Docs.
As we are wrapping up SourceCon though, what stuck out to me wasn’t so much the latest tips and tools to help those closest to the ground. The biggest takeaway was that sourcing — as a defined, widespread function across multiple industries — is beginning to drive some real, significant, and recognized strategic advantages.
Sourcing old-timers will dispute the notion that sourcing is just now beginning to drive strategic value. And you can go back to the earliest iterations of how sourcing really started and you’ll see many great examples of how sourcing has driven bottom-line results for decades. No joke. I’m not minimizing it one bit.
Between the audience growth here at SourceCon and the maturity of the topics and tools that enable sourcing though, what you’re seeing is an active evolution of how talent acquisition is understood and done on a very essential level. Sourcing is moving beyond the early-adoption phase. Just like it would be insane to manage any sort of requisition load without an ATS, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the essential nature of sourcing for talent acquisition.
Consider me a biased source. I was the SourceCon editor for over a year. But I have no dog in this fight anymore. But this has been festering for years and if it weren’t for a recession that gutted corporate recruiter budgets and decimated agencies, it would’ve happened years earlier.
Three trends that are pointing to this evolution to me:
- The ranks are getting larger — It’s not just about SourceCon either. The money is getting better as Editor-in-chief Jeremy Roberts talked about in the opening keynote and there are more corporate roles for those who want it.
- The conversation is changing — Beyond doing the job, we’re now talking about expansion, structure, and strategic initiatives that are critical parts of a larger corporate view.
- More mature software platforms — The rise of mature sourcing tools is more than an isolated canary in a coal mine. It is an indicator of corporate spending and investor optimism.
As sourcing continues to move beyond early-adopter phase, I think you’ll see:
- More leadership involvement — Not just increased sourcing leadership but talent acquisition and yes, even HR leaders are going to be taking more notice and be deeply involved in sourcing. The expansion of sourcing is going to have more stakeholders, not less and will require working more closely, not less with these key roles.
- Talent shortage time — Talented sourcers are rarely without a job for very long. Sourcing expertise, especially at the strategic level, is going to be short for years. There are many educational opportunities for sourcers but look for more companies to build these teams internally.
- The wide and fuzzy gray line — The line between sourcing and recruiting is going to become more clear, but not for awhile. As sourcers start act more like candidate marketers (focused on demand generation and branding), there will be a clear delineation between the two.
And of course, we’ll still have cool tools. In fact, if the last two years are any indication, the tools of the trade are getting cooler. But, I’m particularly excited about the growth and evolution of sourcing as a necessary functional component of talent acquisition teams everywhere.
The cloud cuts out waste and that’s why people love it. Companies and individuals call upon storage space in the magical ether as they need it, without spending a penny more than they use. Gone are the days of servers idling half empty in a building, barely used hard-drives cluttering up desks. Everything becomes more efficient, organizations get leaner, the fat is trimmed.
But what if the fat that the cloud cuts out isn’t machine fat at all? What if it’s human fat?
I’m not talking about Fitbit making you fitter or some freaky new plastic surgery in the cloud procedure. I’m talking about applying the principals of the cloud to managing the human workforce. Imagine, instead of just drawing on servers and processing power on an as-needed basis, companies also draw on people that way. A workforce that operates like the cloud, swelling and shrinking at a moment’s notice.
The way organizations are using people in their organization is changing, and it is diverging with two radically different paths and two different promises.
One ideological path takes us away from humans as resources into something of an organizational alignment. Finding people and teams with shared ambitions, moving toward a common goal. The other further entrenches people as resources, to be bought like any other good. Plug and play and if one resource burns out, replace it with another to meet your objectives.
Funny enough, both promise freedom and progress and play with the idea that business ambitions are simply a collection of human ambitions. They just try to go about solving for that reality in a different way.
I don’t have anything smart to add in here other than to acknowledge that this, more than many of the other articles I typically read on the subject, made me think about what work in the future might look like.
I’m on my fourth wedding ring (I’ve only been married once though). I’ve lost a lot of things really important to me (my favorite Portland Trail Blazers hat is in the back of seat pocket 17C on an American Airlines flight, if you ever find it), but the ring thing is always most embarrassing.
Personally, I’ve loved the feel of tungsten carbide rings since my buddy Sam got one when he married. So I got one too, from a traditional jewelry store. I lost that one a very short time later in the Columbia River just north of where I live now. I went to Zales to get a second one only to have it crack. Of course, I went back to them only for them to tell me I should’ve bought a protection plan (for a year old ring that was nearly as hard as a diamond?). Clearly, it was defective but they wouldn’t take it back.
Given that I had spent a few hundred dollars on rings and because my head was hot due to me not getting my cracked ring replaced, I searched for tungsten carbide rings online. And I found out my favorite retailer has them and they are a fraction of what I paid in the past. So after I lost some weight to the point where my ring no longer fit, I didn’t hesitate to go back to Amazon again for ring number four.
I honestly should’ve known better, too. I bought my wife’s engagement ring online in 2004, sight unseen. Why? Because the price was unbeatable, seller’s reputation was impeccable, and the return and resizing policy were awesome. Didn’t need any of that by the way because I nailed the purchase and size.
The reason I bring this up is because transparent pricing and availability is one of the last big disrupters in the enterprise software space. While businesses don’t necessarily shop like consumers (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), the way that people are evaluating enterprise software is beginning to shift. I’ve heard of well-networked HR pros pulling RFP’s from other HR pros for the vendors they are shopping.
People always want to challenge me on this, too. People always negotiate big purchases! Really? Because the Costco Auto Program doesn’t exist. Because sites like Zillow don’t exist. Oh, and I guess Salesforce doesn’t just do this, right on their stupid website?
I’m not saying somebody is going to pull out their Amex Black Card and put their ATS purchase on it through a web portal (though, they could and they might in the future), but I am telling you that the RFP process is garbage and that someone is going to come in some day with all of your pricing in the region and demand the least lucrative deal on the planet.
And you’ll probably say yes, if only because you want to crack into the mind of an HR pro that comes to the table that prepared.
Laurie Ruettimann had a good post about this and the whole thing is worth a read. Here’s the pertinent quote:
But there is a new generation of human capital and HR professionals who have graduated from top-tier labor programs, have a strong relationship with their colleagues in finance and procurement, and will start evaluating human resources technologies differently. And there are new sales and marketing professionals who have stopped condescending to their clients and now assume that human resources professionals are “educated buyers” with a greater understanding of how technology works.
Someone in your segment will dictate the cost of transparency and availability. If you’re not enabling your buyers to make better purchasing decisions, someone else is. Either that or information availability for buyers about the market is already well beyond your expectations.
Personally, I’m just glad I don’t have a wife who knocks me every time I lose, break, or grow out of a ring.
I’ve always been a pretty open book online. Toward the end of May though, something happened that changed that whole perspective. I wasn’t ready to share what happened and I honestly don’t know if I ever will be. But it consumed my mind for months and every time I sat down to write something other than client work, that’s where I got stuck.
Look, I’ve been writing for awhile. Writer’s block has a fairly formulaic way of being overcome. This was different. But weeks turned into months and I never got out of it and I didn’t feel motivated to push it. Outside of posts that I felt were important to get out, not much else happened.
So, what could I do? Well, here’s what I did:
- I’ve lost about 15 more pounds since many of you saw me at SHRM
- I moved twice, once in Seattle and now, I’m in Richland, Washington
- My wife got a promotion, and is still awesome
- We climbed to the top of Mt. St. Helens with my family
- Enjoyed one of the most glorious summers in Seattle with lots of time spent with friends and family
- Did awesome work at The Starr Conspiracy
As soon as I let go the anxiety I had about not writing anything in this blog for weeks at a time, I finally got over the hump. It feels good to be back on the blog and looking forward to sharing more serious takes down the line.
For the last few years, one occasion has marked every summer: an email from HR Technology Conference co-chair Bill Kutik asking me, almost too politely, to post something about the show and to give you a discount code. So if you came here for the $500 off discount code, go ahead and use REHAUL13 (all caps) when you register. I don’t get anything for it, unfortunately.
Now why should you attend the conference this year?
Well, if you have never been and you’re interested in HR technology, this is a conference you have to experience at least once. It’s a show, in every sense of the word, for those affected by HR technology.
That’s not to mention that Las Vegas should be the permanent location of the show and you can’t legitimately reason with me on this point. The fact that you don’t have to go to Chicago and pay a pretty penny a night for a hotel strangely isolated from one of America’s largest cities is the big selling point. If you want to stay at the conference hotel, great. But if you don’t, there are plenty of other great options close-by plus great nighttime entertainment of all stripes.
What I continue to enjoy about the conference are the collection of people I end up seeing again or meeting for the first time at this conference. That, along with the content at the conference, has noticeably improved every year for the last four.
If you have already gone, especially to these last few, you probably know what to expect and whether you’ll be coming. If so, I hope to see you there.
I would also be mistaken if I didn’t mention that this is Bill Kutik’s last run as co-chair of the conference and the first for Steve Boese, who will continue to take the conference to great heights.
Lastly, if that wasn’t enough, come a little early for HRevolution and get an up close, personal view of some of the movers and shakers in the space outside of the stuffy confines of the big show.
I can’t wait for Vegas and I hope to see many of you there. If you’ll be there, make sure to send me a note so we can high-five.
People ask me what’s the biggest change from being an editor at a trade publication to being an editor at a marketing firm. Topically, there aren’t many differences. When you’re writing for content marketing, you want readers to take notice. And HR people want information about the issues they are facing in their jobs. Stuff that will help them today, and yes, hopefully get them thinking about buying your wares.
Of course, how I deliver those words are anything but the same.
At ERE, we delivered information a couple of different ways. Primarily though, that would be through a blog post of some sort or maybe doing a podcast or video. For bigger pieces of information, we would deliver that in a conference session or a webinar.
At The Starr Conspiracy, we do a greater variety of pieces. Some of them you get to see, like when we get to work on white papers and webinars for the firm. Most of the time though, you won’t know it’s by us. I know, weak.
The biggest change though isn’t the types of pieces I’m writing but the terminology that I’m now using. I’ve been illuminated to the differences between a solution versus a platform, a suite versus software, and when to use the word technology (hint: every time). There’s an HR technology élite that care about these terms deeply (along with other terms like SaaS, cloud, architecture, and big data).
I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. It clearly does, at least to some folks. I’m a stickler for words.
I’m also not so sure most buyers care as much about these terms, though. For example, if I call an applicant tracking system a platform, would a customer just assume that other technology providers could build on that platform or, at the very least, have a well-documented API that has applications built for it? Does it matter to the end buyer or are we just talking features, benefits, and typical “What’s in it for me?” type of questions?
I know the price tag here matters as well. After all, if a vendor you’re spending $5M with can’t manage to describe themselves consistently, you might be a little worried about what’s underneath the hood. If it’s a $5k beta test though? I’m thinking you get a little wiggle room.
Despite all that, I think I manage to keep the words uncrossed enough to make sense. The good thing is that in my heaviest writing assignments, I’m not usually worrying about software, solution, platform, technology or suite terminology. I’m trying to think of HR issues, especially recent ones, that we can help people with.
As you can probably tell, that’s probably a good thing too.
“Some of my closest friends are technical recruiters.”
That was my response to someone who asked me why I showed up at Talent 42. And for a guy who doesn’t do conferences, who doesn’t report news, and who doesn’t interface with practitioners on a day to day basis, I can see why my attendance was perhaps a bit odd.
In reality, there was much more to why I showed up:
- It was in Seattle
- It was put on by two of my favorite people in Seattle
- A bunch of people I like were attending and speaking
- There was valuable content, even for a guy like me out of the trenches
- I’m always interested in trends
That last one really struck me about Talent 42. The idea of these focused, niche events is what I was interested in being a part of. Would it continue the tradition of last year’s great event? Would it fizzle, either by doing stuff that was already done or trying to expand beyond its original scope? Luckily, it did not disappoint.
And really, when you compare it to the last show I went to (SHRM), the difference is night and day. The sessions were smaller but the content was picked through with a fine-toothed comb. It was clear that when they picked content, they asked themselves one question: would this help technical recruiters bring more people into their organizations?
If the answer was no, it didn’t make the cut. That’s an important distinction.
At larger shows like SHRM, you can have anything. Anything. Like Dave Ramsey giving a clearly stock speech to a room of HR practitioners. I’m sure he is a good guy but he didn’t belong at any HR conference. But somebody made the argument for him to be there and since the subject matter was so broad, you could include him and most people wouldn’t blink an eye.
Talent 42 is miles different. It’s full of real advice from people who have done the work. Building in-house coding academy? Dude, I think I could figure this out myself now. Mark Tortorici teaching about the technology these guys and gals are recruiting for and Marc Hutto on how to do telephone research for people who don’t answer their phones.
I wish I could have made it to the second day because I heard the roundtable discussions were really a hit (alas, I was moving). I also missed Glen Cathey completely which made me a sad panda.
This is also why I’m looking forward to this fall’s SourceCon (in Seattle as well). Again, a niche conference that you can ask yourself a simple question when programming the agenda: does this help source new people into organizations?
If you are a technical recruiter who missed out on Talent 42, I’m sorry because you’re going to have to wait another year for the next one. If you want a conference that you’ll get some actionable items to take back to your office tomorrow, Talent 42 is the best one for those who recruit technical talent. If you want to network with a bunch of HR practitioners who have no idea what you even do and pick up some swag, well, I have a few conferences to recommend. Just don’t miss this one because I will see you there next year!
I just got back from SHRM’s annual conference.
That’s what I wrote a week ago on my flight home before turning off my computer and getting some much needed rest. Thanks to a pending move (yeah, again) and some backlogged work, I’m just now getting back to thinking about the conference.
I spent very little time in sessions (only hitting a few), I spent a little more time in the social media lounge and press room (mainly to catch meetings), and I spent most of my time on the expo floor hall. I’ve been to SHRM annual as a practitioner, a speaker, and a member of the working press, but never someone deeply interested in the marketing side of the industry.
I’ll spare you the whole marketing fails that happen at every conference I’ve been to ever other than to say that this is the lowest hanging fruit in the whole world. If you can find the people in your organization who can work a booth and get a half-decent location in the hall, you’ll win.
Between swag grabs, ultra-aggressive dudes that scan your badge, and running into people who are stopped looking down at their phone, there was actually a lot of interesting things going on.
I know us bloggers like to get cynical about things like trade shows. Believe me, being to one like SHRM encapsulates and magnifies all of the bad shit that everyone in this industry complains about. And by everyone, I mean everyone: practitioners, vendors, organizers, and press alike.
But I had more than a dozen meaningful conversations with people I probably never would’ve met if not for SHRM. When you wear The Starr Conspiracy shirt, HR ladies (and some dudes) will approach you out of nowhere and ask you about it. Once I told them about what we do and my background, I ended up directing more than my fair share of people looking for particular solutions. I stuck around and listened to pitches by sales reps who were 60 days into their stint at a vendor. I wandered and criss-crossed the expo floor looking for something that stuck out.
Other than a few clever booth constructions, nothing really did though. That’s a view of a guy who has been to a lot of shows though and pays ultra-close attention to the leading edge of HCM. Take it with a mountain of salt.
What stuck out to me about this SHRM is that I made it my own. I set out with particular goals (to meet certain people, to meet new people I didn’t know, to talk to vendors I’d never spoken to, and to learn more about buyers and the people who influence them). I had a great time. And I told my colleague Emily that I want her to come with me next year. Not just because she’d be fun to go with but also because it would be great to experience SHRM through someone else’s fresher eyes. I got a taste of that with some new friends I met wandering the halls and that’s what I’ll take back with me.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve been on a long, slow journey to becoming a less chubby dude. Last fall, I topped out at 260+ pounds. This wasn’t the heaviest I had been but it was pretty close. Prior to hitting my max, I had tried every fad diet that allowed me to continue eating meat (and tangled with a few that made me reduce meat input significantly). They all seemed like sound approaches. 10-20 pounds might come off, but in a few months, the diet would collapse. I would end up traveling or visiting some place that made strict diet requirements impossible to follow and would fall back into old eating habits. I would be back to square one soon enough.
I’m not a dietician or a medical doctor but that’s not good for you.
So when I posted a while ago that I had lost significant weight (as of this writing, down 43 pounds over 8 months), it seemed surprising even to me. I had three holidays at various families in the winter, a vacation to Hawaii, and I traveled for work. I managed to continue losing, on average, 1-2 pounds a week.
What changed? A couple things:
- I kept track of how much I ate and how I felt — I committed to doing this using an app called MyFitnessPal to let me easily track calories.
- My brain was reprogrammed pretty quickly — Using this app consistently, I could estimate most meals pretty easily in my head after a few months. Proof being, I didn’t use the app at all in Hawaii and afterward? I lost about a pound. Same with travel and the like.
- I started moving — I tried couch to 5k but I’ve been sedentary for so long, it was pretty pathetic and painful. Slowly, I’ve been able to jog longer and further distances while increasing my stamina. Hiking distance and hills has helped the stamina as well.
- I started lifting heavy things — Since I work from home, I spend conference calls where I’m not required to take notes lifting up random things. My stool and heavy things within easy reach of my desk are all targets. When I make it to the gym, I slowly build strength doing that though it hasn’t been a huge priority at this point.
The whole goal has been to simply slowly adapt my habits so that I know things like: how full I should feel, what foods give me energy and help me think, and how often I need to be active and what sort of things I can do. It seems like basic stuff but when you’ve been ignoring it for more than a decade, it is a new feeling.
When people ask my secret, that’s literally it. Listen to real science on the issues, keep track of what you do, and listen to how your body feels. Eat well and exercise regularly. Also, clean behind your ears. It works.
Yet, I still drink coffee and energy drinks. I still eat bacon and cookies. I still like beer, wine, and some good rum or bourbon (though, not as much anymore). Now, I surround those things with mostly good choices while avoiding overindulgence.
The toughest challenge hasn’t been the diet or getting back into exercising though, it was the realization that there is no real shortcut for this. I could go faster, if I cut more calories, or ran more, or lifted more. But there is no shortcut to losing 80 pounds. There is no shortcut to getting back into running, hiking, or playing basketball after so many years out. It’s humbling and motivating to know how long it took to get to this place and how hard I’ve had to work at it. The rewards and regrets of easing off a decade of unneeded weight (and everything associated with that) is finally hitting home.
Bring your own device (or BYOD) is all the rage. Device policy and administration is beyond my pay grade. For that, you can talk to Steve Boese. What I can tell you is that there are a couple schools of thought when it comes to thinking about employee wants and technology from the HR perspective:
- Screw these guys. We pay them good money, they get to heft around an eight pound ThinkPad and a locked down Blackberry.
- Screw these guys. We don’t pay them good money but they are still our employees and have to do what we say. Drop that three year old tech on them!
- BYOD stands for buy your own device, right? It can’t cost more to administer these different devices than it does to purchase them.
- We should subsidize the purchase? Hell, for that why don’t we just buy them what they want (within a certain group of choices) and retain ownership of it?
- We bought brand new computers in 2009! We don’t have them budgeted for replacement until 2014.
This conversation drives me crazy. This is the raging debate about bringing your own device to work?
How about this: why don’t you pick the policy that actually increases the performance and satisfaction of technology users in your organization?
Maybe this seems like a common sense thing to you. I hope it does. But too often, HR (and management, or finance, or whoever you want to assign blame to) break it down to a straight cost discussion or a political power discussion. This is dumb and I’ve dealt with it in the past, too.
For example, we had well paid developers doing programming on single 19″ CRT monitors (those big, boxy, tube monitors) when 22″ LCD panels were available for under $500 a pop. Why? Because buying new monitors was too expensive.
Ignore the stuff out there about huge productivity gains with multiple monitors. Or, take it with a grain of salt. The fact is, you don’t need huge productivity gains (or losses) to gain back an ROI. A very modest increase in productivity (we figured in our calculations to be about 5%, studies said that it could be much more) meant we were getting a return on our LCD purchases within a couple of months. Over the life of a decent LCD panel, it would pay itself off 12-fold in productivity gains. The same could be true of any device you purchase or subsidize so that the employee can be as productive as possible.
Even if it isn’t about performance, shouldn’t employee satisfaction also be a consideration? I’m not saying you have to change to a BYOD policy or a corporate owned, personally enabled (COPE) policy either. Some employees are just going to dig the equipment you provide and mandate they use (and sometimes, that equipment does kick ass). Some of them won’t care. But if it does matter and it does impact performance or satisfaction, isn’t it worth a more thoughtful consideration than disregarding out of hand an additional cost that is likely a pretty small fraction of the total cost of employment?
I don’t really care what you choose in the end. At all. But if you haven’t thought through more than just raw costs on it, I would urge you to consider all of the factors in play here.
What’s your policy on devices? Do you do BYOD or COPE? Is your CIO the tech overlord?
This week, my blog turns seven. My first post? It was about a candidate that showed up with booze on his breath.
After that post and the one right after? I got my first writer’s block. I was already out of ideas and I just started.
I’ve mentioned before that this blog wasn’t my first step into blogging. I did the LiveJournal thing for awhile. I even resorted to updating static HTML before blogs were a thing. One thing is for sure, though: this blog has been more productive than any of those other things.
Some people hit a wall with writing. I get it. I can say that other than the last month and a half, I’ve been writing pretty consistently (3-4 times a week) for this entire time. It hasn’t always been here, of course. But it’s been somewhere.
I’m still here and I still have stuff to write about. Why? Because I unabashedly believe that proper talent management is the most important thing organizations can do to succeed. Everything else flows from that. Good HR, recruiting, management, and training practices make a huge difference and great organizations appreciate that. My views, my position in the industry, and my career has evolved which make it fun to continue writing about but the industry is changing as well. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes recklessly. I’m cool with both.
Do you know how to explain that slight obsession to someone who doesn’t get it or doesn’t care? Why I view sports through a prism of management? Why I can’t help but overhear interviews at Starbucks or one-sided phone calls in airports talking about the person’s formal performance review? I haven’t figured it out yet.
I know some people are wishy washy about the HR space. They come and go from the scene. I’m all about cashing paychecks at the end of the day too. I like the ones that have stuck around and have invested their careers in it, even if I don’t always agree with them. Even if they sometimes hold us back. Even if that sometimes describes… gulp… me.
Here’s to another seven years of writer’s block, staring at a blank screen on my couch for hours, and massaging pop culture, sports, and my cat into posts about HR systems, performance management, recruiting, training, bad managers and anything else I come up with. And thanks for sticking with me.
I’ve been out of day-to-day HR for four years. It was one of the best decisions that was ever made for me. That’s not just because it set me on my current career path (whatever that may be), but it opened up a space for someone who liked doing HR.
I’ve obviously stayed close to the space in that time. This week though, I got a little closer than comfort to the function. HR software provider Silkroad invited me (and, for full disclosure, paid my way there) to their users conference in Florida.
Those who know me know I don’t go to most conferences for pure education. Usually it was either my conference (so I was working), I was speaking, or I was covering the conference as a journalist (so I was focused on reporting what I saw).
That wasn’t the case here. This time, I was at the conference like an attendee for the most part. Outside of a lunch with Silkroad executives, I was focused on experiencing the conference like a normal HR person would. So I listened to the keynote speaker on the first day (Dan Pink) and there were some parts where I saw some uncomfortable laughs from my pseudo-colleagues:
- When he suggested that performance reviews were simply CYA’s
- That to get the most out of white-collar, knowledge workers, you had to start first by paying them fairly and well
I won’t play armchair psychologist but I’ll tell you what I heard from attendees:
“I love the ideas, Dan. We’ve tried to convince our executive team for years on this. It is hopeless. We’ll drive engagement the best we can within our constraints.”
The theme transpired in other areas of the conference too. New social tools within Silkroad’s product are great but scary, as these HR pros imagine the worse case scenarios. They imagine how they sell this to an executive team that is probably thinking the same as they are.
And that’s fair. I’ve seen what a little bit of openness and social in an inappropriate and immature workplace looks like.
I’ll tell you what I saw: I saw a product that got out of its own way, allowed HR pros to do their job better, and to push employers toward a more progressive and engaged workforce. What I saw were HR pros driven by compliance, efficiency, old-school executive thinking, and squeezing value out of the product without making things uncomfortable at their job.
Let me be clear: I don’t think this is a problem with Silkroad, or with their HR customers. I’m sure the same story gets played out at other user conferences, regional SHRM meetings, and happy hour get togethers among HR pros.
When you follow the bleeding edge of HR like I do, you might assume that everyone is going the way of progressive HR. I love that part of HR. It keeps me fired up and it is something everyone can aspire to.
In that same vein though, we should also acknowledge the uncomfortable reality of HR as it largely exists today. Should we be happy with it? Should we think that’s all we can accomplish? No. The answer is clearly no. But let’s acknowledge that we need tools that not only help HR pros move forward but also tools that help them deal effectively with the present.
I was asked to chair this week’s Recruiting Innovation Summit, put on by my former employer ERE Media. At it, we explored some of the leading edge ideas from people who are as passionate about making recruiting better as I am.
It was also the first time I ever emceed an event. That experience is probably another post altogether.
As part of my new position as part of The Candidate Experience Award council, I paid special attention to recruiting trends and technologies that will improve the candidate experience. The event did not disappoint on that front. There are some really cool ideas that are bubbling up from early adopters, entrepreneurs, and people that build products at some of the big boys. Here’s how it shook out from my perspective.
Making the application process better
A couple of the newer solutions we saw at the Recruiting Innovation Summit really tackled some ways companies could improve the application process for candidates.
iMomentous talked about their mobile apply. Talent Board Member Ed Newman really dove deep into the idea that a mobile apply approach isn’t going to be just a nice thing to have, it is going to be a must have. There are a lot of companies out there trying to crack this nut and it is going to become a reality (though it isn’t going to happen overnight).
Resunate had something really interesting: a way for candidates to optimize their resumes depending on the job description. Imagine if this was on the front-end of your application process? Helping candidates putting their best foot forward could be the ultimate candidate experience play.
Making the candidate experience fun?
Two different types games impressed people at the summit this year.
ConnectCubed created a couple dozen games that actually help employers determine if someone will be a good fit for a job. What they found is that people played the games and enjoyed them, even if they weren’t necessarily going for a job. It was one of the more fascinating ideas presented and I wished that they would’ve shared more of the games.
RMS embedded their employer brand into an actual game. They got a lot of eyeballs from a lot of people who might have not otherwise seen them. Best of all, it came to you in a fun environment of trying to prevent a world disaster (right up their alley, if you know what RMS does).
Monitoring the candidate experience
Last year’s startup competition winner Mystery Applicant came back to talk about what they have been working on since they won the award last year. It was fun to understand just how much data they are pulling in now about the candidate experience. The deeper we dive into the data, the more we know we need The Candidate Experience Awards.
There are many more companies (new and old alike) out there taking on the candidate experience either directly or indirectly. Whether that means a smoother apply process, better communication, or understanding and relieving the pain points in your process, the level of importance is only going to continue to grow.
There’s a lot of people out there who don’t have a passion for their chosen career. Maybe there is limited emotional fulfillment from it or maybe it is just completely soul crushing. There’s a lot of in between.
I’ve learned from Laurie Ruettimann that the answer to your career crisis is not to change jobs and follow your dream of becoming whatever it is you think you want to do. The answer to your career crisis is to do something with your life that is fulfilling and find something in your career that you can live with and pay the bills.
That’s basically what I told people in this podcast for ReadItFor.Me but I’ll take it one step further and tell you that if you’re good at your job, you’ll be happier overall.
Take this from someone who has done career changes thinking that following my passion was going to be an awesome experience, fulfilling in its own right. It can be but if you’re not good at it or you’re constantly struggling, you can actually start to hate your passion. That’s not good.
Now I used to work in Human Resources as a practitioner and manager. I really believe that good HR is the difference maker in all organizations. That without good, foundational HR, your potential reach as an organization is limited. It is so foundational that when it is done correctly, it doesn’t even seem like HR, it just feels like it is the secret sauce that keeps everything moving. People are on the right page, they enjoy working together, and there is a culture that supports and enables a higher level of function.
Oh, and everybody is good at what they do.
I don’t think I was good to bringing the nuts and bolts to this overarching philosophy to fruition in the workplace. I was impatient and when things slowed down, I eschewed collaboration, and dropped buy in. I was discouraged and I actually started to doubt everything.
By the end of my HR career, I was done. I wasn’t sure that I’d be done with HR completely but I knew it wasn’t going to be me going back into the same position I was in before. I’m sure there were improvements I could have made but I also knew what I wasn’t going to be good at in the long term.
When you’re good at work, you have more opportunities to get paid fairly for what you do and you have more control of where you live and where you work. Those are important things. If you’re really good at work, you aren’t devoting all of your mind share to fighting through work issues and you can devote it more to something you are really passionate about. If you want to play in a band that has weekend gigs or you want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, these aren’t things you’re going to be getting paid for but they are things you can pay for with a job that you’re awesome at.
If you have a job you’re passionate about, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal. Maybe you’re not crazy about sales but you are crazy about taking three week trips to Italy in the summer. Getting very good at sales makes that happen. Then you’ll see your job for what it really is: a vehicle for making your passions happen, whether it is in or outside of your chosen career.
I have a startling confession to make: I like Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know. You’re shocked. While I was a big fan of the Star Trek movies, I wasn’t a big fan of the original series. But The Next Generation? Yeah, that got me going.
So they have the entire series up on Netflix and I’ve been going through it a few episodes at a time. All of the campy goodness is just great. I watched an episode last night that made it clear that HR obviously exists well into the 24th century.
First of all, some context for all of you who aren’t Trekkies. In the 24th century, within the Star Trek universe, Earth is part of a utopian alliance of alien worlds called the United Federation of Planets. The series takes part during a relatively peaceful period where everyone’s needs are taken care of. Nobody is hungry, there aren’t supply shortages, and nobody worries about getting paid. Basically, the people who work on these faster-than-light starships are there because they just want to be there and they are enriched by their work.
In an episode in the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge disobeys an order from Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Captain Picard takes La Forge into his office and reprimands him, telling him (and I’m not joking), “This incident will have to be filed in your permanent record.”
Here was my response to my wife while we’re watching this:
Me: @#$%&!# HR?
Me: HR! There’s HR in a utopian 24th century!
Look, I love HR, but if Earth does turn into a utopian, peaceful society, I hope nobody has to be working in the HR office at the United Federation of Planets.
Last fall, I bought myself a Samsung Chromebook for my birthday. Coincidentally, I also got one of the first units because I ordered it directly from Google when they initially released it and they shipped them from California so I got mine quickly. When I received it, I pulled it out and wanted to type something out on it (because I use my computers primarily for writing, that part is pretty important to me). I busted out a long review and posted it on Amazon as one of the first reviews and that was it.
Or so I thought.
The Chromebook has been one of the top selling laptops on Amazon for nearly six months (#1 as of this writing). My review has been reviewed as helpful by 4,842 of 5,048 raters (just shy of a 96%) and has been read by many more thousands of people. It has over 300 comments on it. I get web traffic and e-mails about the Chromebook several times a week.
I submit to you, quite humbly, that it is probably my most viewed writing on the web. It doesn’t exist on my site and I don’t get anything from it (other than the random visitor or e-mail).
I will tell you, I thought of writing the review here but it didn’t make sense. For one, it doesn’t really fit in with what I typically write about. So I was fine posting it to Amazon because I knew it would get read heavily by those in the midst of a buying decision. I was writing impartially, so I was trying to cover the device—warts and all—even though I was generally a fan of it from first boot.
As the comments started rolling in, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that my own site wasn’t receiving much of any benefit. Even for those who found me, most wouldn’t be interested in being long term subscribers. The more I thought about it though, the more I was pleased. I don’t make a lot of money on this site but I really don’t believe most blogs generate significant income from advertisements (or any other creative, content-oriented approaches). Instead, I think most people who blog earn opportunities and an audience that would be tough to land otherwise. They may get an opportunity to write but more frequently, they get other opportunities to provide value.
I think if I was so focused on just building stuff on my own blog, I wouldn’t be able to do fun things like write a huge review on Amazon.com and wonder if there is anything to it. I would’ve wrote it here and it would’ve received three comments. I wouldn’t have wrote my article about purple squirrels for the Harvard Business Review blog.
With so many off blog alternatives for writing, it is easy to see why a lot of people abandon the blog concept altogether. One thing I am convinced of is that if you are serious about content creation, you need a hub. This is my hub. I may give out Twitter or LinkedIn sites on my bio as well but all roads eventually point back here. I may have spokes of content out there but if someone wants to get back to me, there is only one place that happens.
It’s not a new or unique idea but it is one that I have come to fully embrace. While I may not write as often as I’d like to here, I know I will always have something to write about and that keeping a strong hub is important. And while I’d like to see this site continue to grow, I know the bigger opportunities will come from outside of me writing a blog post here. That’s why posting externally and trying new things is still important.
I spent a week in an office for the first time since July 2009. I have spent days in coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other people’s offices but never a full week of that in one place and at one desk.
I thought it was going to be mostly annoying but to my delight, it was mostly not that at all. I don’t know if that’s because of my great new co-workers or nearly four years of office sensory deprivation talking. Let’s just call it both.
Somebody asked me if I liked working from home and I responded enthusiastically that I do. When asked why, I said something along the lines of, “I’m kinda a loner.” It felt like a loser, cop-out answer. The more I thought about it though, the more it felt right and not at all like a weird response that a guy who doesn’t interact much with people in person would say.
Okay, maybe it is a little like that.
I’m not going to get into the introvert/extrovert thing because it is out of my pay grade, but I will tell you that some people are fueled by having activity that surrounds them and some people are fueled by having calm around them. Some people like a mixture of both environments.
I’ve worked with all of them. I worked with a lady who would jam her earphones in and blast some Enya or whatever New Age music she had on her playlist so loud, I could hear it from where I sat. Interrupting her meant certain death. Similarly, some people pulled themselves into meetings and conversations and then would rush back to their desks and pound keys or make phone calls.
I could deal with both. I liked a certain amount of social time but if you put a gun to my head and ask me what I preferred, it was probably that time to myself that keep things moving along for me.
So when I say you kinda have to be a loner to work from home every day, I really mean the kinda part. You don’t have to be anti-social to make it work. But without thinking about it, you have to fall on the side of being powered by internal forces rather than feeding off the energy of people close by. Otherwise, those coffee shops are going to make a killing off of you and fellow customers won’t always be appreciative of your desire to chat.
For a little context, a few years ago, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t have a social media policy for your organization. In it, I said:
My point is that however you’d treat the employee in a similar real life situation is how you should treat them when it comes to social media. There are very few truly unique situations when it comes to social media and then it goes back to my point about not making policies for a handful of employees or possibilities.
And about a year ago, I wrote a post about how these social media disclaimers (i.e. “My views do not represent that of my employer”). In it, I said:
I’ll tell you what that disclaimer means in the real world: jack squat. Only, at least on Twitter, I never can tell people how ridiculous the whole disclaimer actually is in 140 characters without sounding like a jerk. And also because this statement is ridiculous for a wide variety of reasons, all of which need to be further explained.
Trish McFarlane asked me if my views have changed on social media policies in the last few years. Succinctly, the answer is no. I’m not going to go all, “let’s fight the man” on this one but I, for one, will not be signing any social media policy. I would recommend most people do the same.
Now that’s a bit tougher if it is embedded into a handbook, obviously. As a former HR head, I also wouldn’t necessarily advocate just breaking those rules because social media policies are dumb.
Then again, you should probably break those rules anyway.
I don’t know if anyone has ever been fired for a pure social media policy violation. I have to believe it is pretty rare. What policies like this help with is:
- Getting people with hard-to-pin-down performance issues onto a performance improvement plan with greater ease
- Firing people who probably needed to be fired anyway for a variety of reasons
- Getting people on the boss’ shit list closer to the firing line
- Firing people who were egregiously awful on social media (who – policy or not – would have been fired anyway)
- Firing people who violated other guidelines already covered (NDAs and confidentiality agreements)
If that’s how you want to operate, you can do all of that without a social media policy. In fact, many organizations pull it off with great frequency. But can we be real? If you’re having issues with people using social media in your organization, a policy is a super ineffective prescription. As I said in my social media post, education should always be the top priority for those who want to be a visible presence online. And you should stop hiring people that you would be worried about getting online and actually saying the words that come into their minds.
You remember that, right? (RSS/e-mail subscribers may have to click through) If you had AOL back when dial-up internet was still the hottest thing on the block, this cheery but brief “goodbye” meant that you were signing off. You couldn’t chat with your friends, receive e-mails or access the storehouses of data that existed on the internet without dialing back in. That sounds great, other than the whole speed issue. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The big news is that today is my last day at ERE Media. I start a new job with The Starr Conspiracy next week (I didn’t even take a long weekend!). It has been a weird few weeks. I know new routines will settle in with time and new co-workers will become more familiar but I’ve been with ERE for over three years.
I’m a huge fan of what ERE does for the industry. The team is great and they’ll continue to move forward. There have been no sour feelings from me during any part of the process. I stayed on longer and worked harder than any other exit I’ve done. I still care about their mission and I cared enough to know when it was time to pass the reigns to other capable hands.
I don’t want to single out anyone but I can’t say enough about ERE founder David Manaster. In an industry that can seem full of egos and outright bastards, he’s a great change of pace. I trust, respect, and, most of all, thank him for allowing me to come on, break things, and make a mess. If he starts working on something new, you better be paying attention.
I’ll be writing a bit more here and for The Starr Conspiracy. And I’ll still be obsessed with HR, recruiting and sports. I get to still work on cool things. I feel completely dumb when I tell people how I got where I am right now. I’m a lucky dude.
It will be weird logging out of my ERE accounts today, though. I’ll imagine that short but cheery AOL “goodbye” as I click logout. I won’t be completely disconnected this time but I will feel a certain end to all I’ve done here. That’s both the best and worst part about that short goodbye.
“Our goal is to reduce turnover by 25%.”
No it isn’t. I hope not, at least.
Having reduced turnover as a goal leads to all kinds of strange, short-term thinking that lead to deranged organizations. A counter-offer when your 325th best salesperson decides to take another job? Lengthening the corrective action review process? Pushing beyond the budget on labor costs because your team is too expensive? Ploys and programs designed to cater to middle and low performers who may be a flight risk? Yep, yep, yep and yep.
You may even have an executive who is looking at some dashboard in a system and she is instructing you that you have to get control of turnover. She may want to build some goals around reducing that number. Nod your head and then walk out of her office and ignore that.
Reducing turnover may be an okay outcome but it is never a goal. And even if it is an outcome, it is a lousy, broad measuring stick. 2% turnover sounds great until you realize that your organization is bleeding only high performers and high potentials.
So can we agree that reducing turnover is a stupid measuring stick and that it shouldn’t be used as a goal or outcome?
Maybe? I’ll take it. If you are using it for an outcome, make sure what you’re measuring is meaningful.
If someone in your organization is complaining about high turnover and reducing it isn’t a goal or outcome, what’s the proper response? The proper response is finding out what the real issue actually is:
- Our labor costs are too high. How are we investing labor dollars? Why can’t we do a better job of doing that?
- Our recruiters are spending too much time on replacements. Is there a resource allocation issue or are we short on recruiters?
- We’re losing people after 6/12/18 mos. What are we doing in our hiring process that sucks so bad?
- A top performer left. Yeah, his boss was an asshole. Maybe we should get rid of him?
- Our culture needs to be changed. Guess what? Culture change will cause massive turnover too.
- We aren’t performing well as a company. And you found a metric that may or may not have to do with that? Really?
- The company isn’t well managed. Trying to blame general management issues on turnover is like blaming In-N-Out for your gut.
Turnover is a symptom like body aches. Body aches can be really bad when you’re sick because it can indicate the flu but body aches can be fine if you’re getting back in shape. Should you keep track of turnover? Sure, and if you can, get as granular as you can (who is leaving and why?). Does reducing turnover take precedent over increasing profit, value, and company performance or reducing costs, administrative burden and culture issues? No, never. And don’t forget that.