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Paul Hebert is a founding member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. As the Managing Director and lead consultant for I2I, an influence consultancy, he guides companies in their alignment of the behavior of their employees with the goals and objectives of the company through incentives and rewards. Full bio…
Just as the manufacturing-focused company of the past needed to know the best factory design, machine maintenance schedules, upgrade and purchase requirements for the automatons that created their products. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) HR department needs to adopt similar expertise – but focused on the new machines – the human ones.
Business back in the early part of the 20th century really didn’t care about employees. Machinery and assembly lines were the focus of production and the nexus of value. Henry Ford is (in)famous for wondering why workers brought their heads to work when all he really needed was their hands and feet. Mr. Ford, along with many others, took the industrial age and put it on steroids. The moving assembly line and interchangeable parts created mass production and the need to reduce variation, reduce customization, and reduce costs. The goal was to put everything into a process that could run almost without intervention. Or as little intervention from humans.
This worked so well in the plants it became the dogma for the rest of the organization. Including the personnel department – soon to be renamed Human Resources.
But even with a name change – the hangover from the industrial revolution still remains in the HR department.
Most of the work done in those cubes and offices is to streamline, control, process-ize and reduce variations in the way in which employees are treated. Some of that is driven by government regulations – but I submit, most is simply because that’s “what we know how to do.”
The industrial revolution elevated the machine over the “man.” The process, and the machines that chugged away within it, created the value for the company. People were extensions to the machine – the tail to the dog.
Value = People
But that changed about 20 years ago. Humans are now the nexus of value at almost every company. But most companies still manage their business and their people like Henry Ford did over 100 years ago.
That is the disconnect.
In the past HR was required to manage “human” resources in order to make the machines and the processes more cost effective.
The key today, and in the future, is to understand how to maintain and get the most out of humans in order to drive business results.
Humans require a much different maintenance manual. For the future HR needs to be expert at psychology – not just a dusting off of old theories like Maslow but an understanding of evolutionary psychology, social psychology and all the theories. HR folks should know about Deci and Cialdini. Top level HR professionals should have a strong understanding of behavioral economics and the way in which humans make decisions – rationally and irrationally. Names like Airely, Tversky and Kahneman should roll off the tongues of new HR professionals as easily as EFCA and COBRA do today.
HR also needs to transfer that knowledge to the front-line management who are tasked with managing the workforce. Too often however, stuck in the industrial age mind-set, the focus is still on creating systems and processes for management – eliminating the key fact that humans are infinitely variable. Management is a messy process – one that doesn’t play well with rote processes, forms and rules. Those are “operations” concepts – not human ones.
HR is the place where efficient production of yesterday’s product/service and innovation for tomorrow’s comes together. How a company creates value is becoming less reliant on the machines in the factory (most of those are now in third-world countries anyway) and more on how the humans get along and produce within the company.
Ultimately, someone will be (in)famous for saying…
“Why do workers need to bring their hands and feet to work – all I need is their brains.”
That’s when we will know that HR has arrived.
The United States is a tasty market. These days, companies from countries with sturdier economies are mining the domestic market. Little footholds, smart functionality, intelligent pricing and good customer service go a long way.
The US HRTech market is significantly more sophisticated and ready to buy. Offshore vendors find the market to be easier to penetrate for just that reason. While customer acquisition costs are very high in the domestic market, they are higher still when the customers are not ready from a technical perspective.
Last week, I spoke with Stephane Le Viet, CEO of Multiposting, a 4M Euro company in the same business as eQuest, Arbita and other Job Ad Distribution companies. Le Viet, who is a seasoned player with experience at McKinsey and as an internet cinema entrepreneur. He exudes a kind of self-confidence that is often missing from the entrepreneurs in our space.
Throughout our conversation, Stephane emphasized ‘the proper way to get things done’. At first, it was extremely off putting. Much of the contemporary view of the HR market is that there is no such thing. Our models in the HR industry are almost always about adaptation, innovation, improvisation and discovery through mistake making. The idea that there was a proper way to do anything was grating.
You know all of that fuss about social Recruiting? You’ve got to admit that there’s a lot of fluff and not much substance. Everyone is so busy trying to figure out the meaning of life that they seem to have overlooked the simplest thing: a repeatable interface that stands in between a fan page and the ATS; a simple application process; the fundamental recruiting tool.
And that’s what you get with WorkForUs … a tool that properly solves one problem. It takes the people who want to apply for jobs on your Facebook Fan page and helps direct them through the process. For a modest fee per job, you can route job hunter traffic just as you’d like it.
Review: New Tools
Much of what passes for social recruiting is neither social nor recruiting. The high value pieces of the recruiting process involve judgment, assessment, selection, evaluation, interaction and conversation. Most internet eased recruiting tools don’t do much more than publicize opportunity and collect data.
Ultimately, the recruitment advertising model is going to change. Job ads, regardless of the setting (your website, a job board or in the flow of social media) have a very low conversion rate. As other methods mature, the generation old practice of matching traffic with opportunity will give way to better targeting. It’s not clear whether any of that evolution will have a meaningful social component.
There are glimmers of new models at eLance and BountyJobs. Both companies are a part of a wave that imagines work as an auction and reputation process (ebay for individual projects or recruiters). Demographic targeting projects from enticeLabs portend a future in which candidates are actively hunted as they browse the web. Jibe makes it possible to convert your facebook network into job hunting information. StrictlyExecs (a new project from visionary Hank Stringer) focuses on relationships in small batches (and therefore gets closest to Social Recruiting)
For the most part, innovation is a slow and halting process in our neck of the woods. Rather than a leap into the unknown, most HR buyers prefer tools that look like the stuff they are already doing. Job Boards are more like newspaper classified ads than they are like network objects. Social Recruiting really means placing job ads on social media sites. Getting the market to fully embrace something new is an uphill battle.
That is why the market will go towards offerings like WorkForUs (reviewed recently) and JobMagic in the short to medium term. Familiar functionality set in newer, hipper communications channels is a key to fast market traction. While the ultimate shape of Recruiting is not an extension of the past, it’s much less risky to embrace something familiar. There’s not much in the way of early adopter advantage but there’s not a lot of downside either.
Where WorkForUs has a focused set of functions, JobMagic is growing to look increasingly like a fully featured cross posting tool for all social media. The WorkForUs integration with Facebook is cleaner and simpler. The JobMagic approach resembles more fully featured tools that cross social media property boundaries. Where WorkForUs is a Facebook job board application, JobMagic has broadcast capabilities that reach 300 different social networks.
Years ago, job posting services differentiated themselves based on how many outlets they reached. If social recruiting were simply another variant of traditional recruitment advertising, it would be a fine thing to post your jobs, like blanket bombing, across hundreds of networks. It will probably work very well until the downturn is over (that may be a decade!)
Meanwhile, the rest of the advertising industry is getting clearer and clearer about the importance of targeting precision. You really don’t want to waste your employment brand on people who are not interested in the message. As people get used to very targeted advertising, they will come to expect it from Recruitment Ads as well. Job Board style broadcast techniques are spam regardless of the context.
If you are experimenting with Social Media as a recruiting environment, try WorkForUs. By focusing on a single environment (Facebook), you can control your investment and costs. If, on the other hand, you are committed to broadcasting your way into the hearts of your future employees, JobMagic is right for you. Both tools will provide a smooth transition from Job Boards to Social Media without requiring new skills or much in the way of change.
If you want to get a real bang for your buck, you’ll need to get on board with some of the more visionary operations we mentioned. Like all decisions, next generation platforms offer risk and reward. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Unique is the new normal. Each and everyone of us is somehow persuaded that we are the ones who are living outside the mainstream. Our little customized universes are separate from and better than.
This is the new universe. Even though it is still primitive, we are able to radically customize huge swaths of our experience. This cements the notion that we’re special and unique.
The surprising paradox is that we’re being fed this diet of content through remarkably identical pieces of hardware, software and libraries of content.
And, in that universe, single guys go on vacation to reenact their virtual getaways with their virtual girlfriends. The worlds we used to imagine as separate, virtual and real, are merging. Social Media Addicts are busily forecasting a future where everyone joins them. Lots of people, late to the last revolution, jump in line in order to avoid being last again.
The weirdness of an important time in cultural transformation is that it just like this. Headscratchingly strange. You think there’s something there and there is and then there isn’t.
I can’t be the only one who is simultaneously awed, confused, threatened, invigorated and overwhelmed.
It’s worth reading the article about the Japanese guys who are going on vacations to memorialize the virtual trip they took with their virtual girlfriend. Creepy? Pretty much. A portent of the future? Pretty much.
Played on a Nintendo DS, the virtual girlfriend thing is like the earlier virtual pets. Behaving along certain lines gets you boyfriend points and keeps the relationship alive.
Recruiting systems of the future will make candidates feel unique, just like an iPod.
It won’t be long before the Virtual Recruiter makes its way to your iPad. Want to remain in the queue for that promising career opportunity? Be a good candidate and keep doing nice things for your Virtual Recruiter. There will be points for referrals, connections to gate keepers, updating your resume. Win enough good candidate points and you’ll make the short list.
The rest of HR will follow rapidly. Need training? Send your avatar to good employee college. Visit the virtual benefits clerk to get benefits management points. Get more points for setting your goals and even more points for making them.
Welcome to Virtual HR.
In The Know v1.31
Five links for thinking about the Future of Work
- Steve Jobs In Concert
Rental, Streaming, Subscription. That’s the model for digital rights management unveiled by Steve Jobs yesterday. It’s the future of music, video, books and other content. It’s the future of hirer-worker relationships. Some compensation, some variable pay, some licensing, some retainer. No more insidious ownership of the employee.
- Maintaining Human Machines
Paul Hebert’s amazing piece is a must read. “The key today, and in the future, is to understand how to maintain and get the most out of humans in order to drive business results.” In a world where work is about brains, the structures we use to manage it are changing.
- Best and Worst Jobs: 2010
One of the things you never see in the workforce planning stuff is the relative attractiveness of the job. The relative coolness of a job is a critical factor in the availability of workers in the medium and long term. Great workforce planning involves understanding social trends as well as the demands of the organization. Labor supply remains misunderstood.
- PWC on the Future of Work
A starter library for the big consulting firm view. Don’t miss the world’s least interesting use of graphics to describe scenarios. In spite of the misguided graphic, the library is a good starting point.
- The New York Times on Gartner’s View of The Future of Work
If you get beyond the futuristic jargon (swarming work is another way of saying ‘project), this is a nice cluster of topics. Work is going to change from a variety of pressures, demographic, economic, technical. Gartner has a good bead on the process.