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The silos of HR get in the way of excellence. A comprehensive integrated human capital strategy results in well trained employees in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. The goal ought to be a system that anticipates, executes and shifts focus on the fly while the team gets better and better.
In most companies, each of the silos (Recruiting, OS, Learning, Compensation, Payroll, Benefits, Talent Management, and the other sticks of gum in the pack), work their own agenda with a firm understanding of what is and isn’t the job. It’s like an assembly line with each specialty working to time and motion studies to decrease costs and improve output.
The net result, most of the time, is that HR is not only a direct tax on revenues, it is an indirect tax because of its dampening effect on productivity. Rather than being the source of organizational excellence, the silo structure (we are HR and you are not) results in suboptimal performance by the organization. Most folks in HR don’t even understand how to think about the real cost and impact of their work.
Recently, I’ve been studying the policies and practices at Virgin America (VA). Since the first of the year, I’ve made about ten cross country trips, all with this interesting new airline. The nice seats and onboard WiFi got me on the plane. The extraordinary customer service and genuinely professional happy employees are keeping me there.
Last trip, I flew from San Francisco to Boston with one of their Recruiters. He was headed to Boston for a party, from San Francisco, he was headed in for the day and flying home. (Every VA employee tells travel stories).
He told me about the company’s desire to avoid hiring people from within the industry. “We don’t want to be like other airlines. They’re all grumpy and unhappy. We are looking for people who are delightful to be around. We look for self-motivated happy people. The less they know about our business, the better.”
Tonight, I caught the brilliance.
I was headed back to Bodega Bay from Boston a day early. The VA website makes it easy to shift flights around. The website is like everything else about the company, engineered to avoid causing hassle for customers.
But,when I got to the airport, a little late, the woman at the check in counter told me the plane had been delayed. “Is there a restaurant nearby?” I asked. “I’m looking for something with a chance that I can find a zero carb meal.”
She told me that Legal SeaFood, one of my favorites, had a small operation at the other end of the terminal. “If you hurry, you’ve got time for dinner.” I ambled down the walkway. She was engaging and gregarious, asking about the Bay area, what I was going to have for dinner and generally taking an interest in me.
Just before I started to eat, she sat down at my table. After a little small talk, she said “I don’t want to rush you but the delay has been lifted and the plane has started boarding.” I was astonished. She’d walked at least 250 yards to make sure that I caught my plane. In 35 years of traveling, I’ve never had that experience.
Being a guy, I assumed it was some combination of my charisma, good looks, intelligence, charm and all around great personality. Then, just as I was finishing, she came back. Now, I was sure there was something special about me.
We talked briefly. She said, after a little questioning, that she had a great job. “I love what I do and this is a fantastic place to work.”
I asked whether or not she was alone in her perception “I used to work in one of those places where everyone goes to retire. I thought my skin would rot off. This job is amazing. The company s fun and there is huge career potential.”
I told her about my conversation with the Recruiter. “We’re all always looking for the right kind of people. If I get in a grocery line and the gal is on the ball and friendly, I ask her if she wouldn’t want to work for VA. Same goes for anybody I encounter who has the right stuff. Did you ever think about working for VA? Oh, by the way, they’ve been boarding for about 15 minutes now. You probably want to pay the check.”
As she got up to leave, she said, “I really hope that I talked to everyone in the restaurant.” As I got on the plane, I discovered that she’d been delivering the same level of service to a half dozen other travelers.
Amazing. I generally expect snarls from people who were the check-in lines. She loved her job and took it to a whole new level.
I’ve had similar experiences with other VA employees.
That is social recruiting and employment branding in a nutshell. I’m sure they use technology to solve much of their hiring problem, But, rather than being the focus of the work, great manners, real enthusiasm, a little extra care and taking the time to treat people like people will win the day. Employment Branding doesn’t start with messaging, it starts with holistic, integrated HCM policies that create synergy and energy.
It is possible to know everyone you intend to recruit five years in advance. Not only is it possible, it’s the most strategic form of recruiting. By clearly articulating your requirements, you can transform Human Capital Acquisition from a reactive game into a proactive offensive strategy.
The problem with the term “Human Capital” is that it perpetuates the notion that human beings are interchangeable anonymous widgets. People who are treated as if they were capital, start to behave like capital. They move to the source of the highest return as quickly as possible without regard to loyalty.
Most recruiting happens in response to a variety of ”surprises”: Attrition higher than the forecast; the unanticipated departure of a key contributor; unanticipated success in a new market; failure to adjust to changing conditions; the final release of “new” requisitions. Although the precise details of any given hiring requirement can never be perfectly predicted, they can be anticipated with a high degree of accuracy. What is often called “Strategic Recruiting” is really just a common sense approach to things that can be known about an organization.
Reactive processes are compounded by tools that work against effective recruiting. Applicant Tracking Systems, by and large, create overwhelming pools of data that inhibit clear decision making. They provide solid legal defenses and organizational buffers to cope with large volumes of data. They very specifically do not improve recruiting results.
Much is made of the importance of strategy. In an organization, there are two manifestations. Being Strategic and Strategic Planning.
The most important part of being strategic is being so well prepared that you are always on the proactive side of problem solving. There is nothing more strategic than a function which sets standards for anticipation. Since strategy is shaped by circumstance, the company depends on constituents that can continue to move the ball forward in changing situations.
Dwight Eisenhower (the greatest planner of the American Century) was known to say: “the plan is everything, the plan is nothing.” By this, he meant that planning is supremely important with one tiny exception. Reality never, ever unfolds the way that you plan it. It is paramount to have a thorough and detailed planning process. It is equally important to understand that things will not unfold the way that you’ve planned them.
Planning helps prepare for a variety of circumstances. In much of the western world, scenario planning, a technique that relies on viewing the future from a variety of perspectives that are designed to discover and challenge core assumptions, is used to build executive team competencies in dealing with the unknown. For most of us, however, participation in strategic planning means filling out a seemingly endless supply of spreadsheets and forms. It takes courage and tenacity to convert strategic planning, as it is experienced by most recruiters, into a useful asset for the organization.
Please welcome George LaRocque as he debuts his first contribution as a member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. George has been in the Human Capital market for more than 20 years and is one of the few executives in the space who migrated a successful career in staffing to the vendor side. He currently serves as Managing Director, Sales Consulting at Starr Tincup. Full bio…
Technology innovation is like grease in a machine. It helps things move along faster, smoother, and easier. When it breaks down though, things come to a screeching halt. Most all of the innovation in human resources has major technology implications on the front end, or in support of it. And sometimes, as in the case of social media today, or the emergence of the web itself in the 90′s, technology provokes the innovation.
Who’s Driving HR Technology Innovations?
With nearly 20 years in the human capital space both as a practitioner and vendor, it seems it’s roughly the same cast of characters driving the discussions that matter most about HR technology. Though heavily driven by vendors and moderated by analysts/thought leaders, this ongoing dialogue is where the innovation is spurred in the market. Sure, many involved in the dialogue have come and gone along the way – flashes in the pan enjoying their 15 minutes. But it’s mostly the same voices. This post isn’t about those pundits though. It’s about you, the practitioners.
Along with the small group of thought leaders moderating the conversation, there is a very small list of practitioners who contribute. And the few who are participating? They actually are the conversation and in turn the drivers of technology innovation that the rest of the market tries to implement. With practitioner voices so important to the conversation though, why is it that so few actually take part?
Lack of time is one obvious answer, but I think that’s a crutch. There are a handful of conferences that even venturing out to once per year would begin to get you engaged in the dialogue. But if the time and the budget (money is always the second crutch in the set) just don’t exist, then MAKE THEM BRING THE CONVERSATION TO YOU.
Bringing the HR Technology Innovations to You, the HR practitioner.
Taking part in online communities is a starting point. But you can’t just lurk – you have to put your toe in the water and contribute something. It’s just a conversation though – so fear not. But, if you really want to drive the innovation?
Start first with developing an understanding of the innovation happening in the market – what direction it is moving, and how it may impact your business or department. Then select some vendors that are in alignment with your key objectives or challenges and begin to develop relationships with them – centered on evaluation of them as vendors, and their products/services. The relationships you then develop with vendors – and the influence with them that you build over time will get you to the BEST vendors to ultimately knocking at your door to work with you - AND – will ensure you have the MOST leverage in the actual buying part of that process.
But the real kicker? Those relationships will even allow you to influence the direction of product development with certain vendors which then brings perhaps the BEST result. The more you share with the right vendors over time – the SMOOTHER THE IMPLEMENTATION, THE BETTER THE USER ADOPTION, AND THE FASTER YOU GET TO ROI (if you care about any of those).
Vendors are HUNGRY for prospects and customers that will engage. Your challenge won’t be finding a receptive audience at all – your challenge will be selecting them and managing that process. And that’s one of the things I hope to contribute here on HRExaminer. You can be a more educated buyer, you can be more influential in the market, and you can receive credit for the innovation you have impacted. You just didn’t know you could. And when you drive innovation and get known for it? Good things happen.
Our sponsor Pinstripe, Inc. designs, builds and delivers high-performance talent acquisition and management solutions. Pinstripe’s innovative approach to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) integrates sourcing, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and engagement into a complete, end-to-end solution. Pinstripe on-demand hiring solutions are tailored for specific clients across a spectrum of industries including financial services, healthcare, technology, telecommunications and other major industries. For healthcare organizations, Pinstripe Healthcare works with clients to attract the best available talent so they can deliver high quality patient care and reduce overall labor costs.
Please welcome Jessica Lee to HRExaminer! Jessica holds a unique position on our team because she is both a contributor and our editor responsible for coordinating and editing all content for the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. By day, Jessica is a senior employment manager and HR professional based in Washington DC at APCO Worldwide. Full Bio…
Just when did being an HR Generalist become so undesirable?
A few weeks back, I chaired and helped plan a one-day conference for recruiters by recruiters in Washington, D.C. (where I work and live), aptly called recruitDC. Lots of great sharing and a ton of learning took place and we ended the day with a discussion on career development for recruiters – after all, you go to a conference, you take in all of that learning, and for what?
During the course of that discussion, the audience was informally polled on the kinds of roles they were aspiring to. “Show of hands for folks who are looking to grow into an HR Generalist role?” You could practically hear the crickets in the room. Can you imagine? Of 230 recruiters, only one person raised her hand and said she was looking towards the role of HR Generalist. One person! All of a sudden, being an HR Generalist seemed so ugly to me.
Sure, you might argue that it was a recruiter’s conference – what else would I expect? But that sentiment – of very few people wanting to become HR Generalists – it’s everywhere. I promise. From deep in the HR trenches, I promise you this is true. No one wants to become an HR Generalist. People don’t want to be called HR Generalists. You could repackage it and call the role an HR Business Partner yet still, the reaction is more of the same.
I still call myself an HR Generalist though. Regardless of my level, my organization’s size, regardless of my given job title, I will always wear that badge as for me, it boils down to a mentality more than anything else. You can and have the ability to do a little bit of everything – recruit, employee relations, learning and development, some benefits possibly sprinkled in. You’ve mastered enough to do it all but more importantly, you believe in doing it all because you see the interconnectedness of all of those pieces in each employee’s lifecycle. It’s not as if you recruit and hire, then can just let go. Things you learn through recruiting for a team, or recruiting a particular candidate – all of that carries into organizational development, employee relations issues and more. And you’ll come up with the most effective solution possible for whatever the issue by harnessing everything you’ve gathered along the way throughout an employee’s lifecycle. It always all ties back together somehow. (Queue the circle of life music…!)
That all said, the best HR Generalists I know? The ones I have found to be most effective, most in-tune with the business, and having the greatest impact are ones who still recruit, or they’ve done a significant amount of recruiting in the past. Recruiting is, after all, without a shadow of a doubt, the best place to learn the business of any organization. Just think about the process a good recruiter might go through to learn the requirements of a position so that they might find the best possible candidate. Personally, I need to know everything I can about a role I’m recruiting for and the team its on to the point that I can credibly speak to candidates for whatever the position is as if I had been in it before, to the point where I have candidates telling me quite frequently that they’ve never met a recruiter like me who can answer questions like I can. Just think about what being able to do that truly means as far as my IQ for the business. And isn’t that level of acumen what you would want for your HR Generalists too?
We’ve simply got to get more recruiters interested in the HR Generalist path. Or more HR Generalists hanging around recruiters. Either way, the divide between the two has got to narrow.
Approaching Personal and Organizational Motivation as Experience Design
What if we could use the concepts in web user experience (UX) design to rethink how we motivate ourselves and our employees?
Background: My business is online marketing and web design. It’s not just a job – it’s something I care about. Prior to founding my company exceler8 I worked in corporate America for over twenty years and interfaced with HR as a job seeker, hiring manager, and even a stint where I worked for HR in corporate training. In every role I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of HR.
One specialty of web design is called user experience design (UX for short). UX designers create websites that appeal to the motivation of the user by enabling certain experiences.
When combined with marketing fundamentals, creativity and other areas of web design like web usability, UX produces positive user experiences and better results for the website owner. A great example of this is Google’s search engine. Google combined a strikingly simple user interface with uncluttered, fast loading results pages full of highly relevant results. Google’s experience connected searchers with easy, fast and good. We wanted more.
You can find many non-web examples of user experience design in company practices and products. Think about Nike, BMW, or Apple. Apple took the graphic user interface and mouse developed at Xerox PARC and created an experience that changed computing forever. Apple was successful when Xerox’s effort stalled because Apple focused on making the complete experience of using their computers more intuitive. It wasn’t about the piece parts of using a mouse or a pointer. What Xerox created was cool and what Apple created was useful.
Apple’s UX focus lives on today in their similarly successful iPhone interface. Steve Jobs has admitted that the iPhone interface actually sprung out of a project to make an intuitive touch-based tablet computer, not a phone. Apple’s culture of user experience design is no coincidence. The person often called the father of user experience is a former Apple employee Don Norman (recent interview).
The UX model is a great one to use as a template for better marketing, sales, product creation and HR. As HR leaders, you’re challenged with figuring out how to get your people to create and do more. And enjoy it! And stay with you longer! Many times though, HR leaders get stuck in their own paradigms and forget about the fundamental human element that is the basis for their very function. You’re only human after all.
Opportunities to create better experiences permeate every part of the HR organization from recruiting and onboarding to leadership and compensation programs. The trick is to focus on the whole, not the piece parts. Your onboarding process may seem great but it won’t deliver a positive experience if you haven’t prepared the hiring manager to continue the transition. And you know all to well that the hiring manager is going to ignore HR altogether unless you’ve established a relationship of value.
- Julian, contributing editor HRExaminer.com