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Top 100 Influencers v 1.69 Bret Starr
A surprising number of the people who influence the direction of the HR Industry come from Texas. Of course, Austin, with its technology industries (driven by the live music culture) produces a fair share of the ideation. But, Dallas is a major (if not THE major) Recruiting hub. And, all those small towns out in the middle of nowhere seem to produce bright young minds that ache to make a dent in the HR arena.
Apparently, young Texans dream of making music, playing football, drilling for oil, building technology or doing HR. Ask a Texan and they will assure you that it’s in the water, that anything worth doing is worth doing big. From the outside, one wonders if it gets a little boring when ‘the stars at night are big and bright’. Regardless, Alice Texas, somewhere between Laredo and El Paso produced this week’s member of the Top 100 Influencer’s club.
Bret Starr is one of five partners in the nearly legendary HR Marketing firm, Starr-Tincup. William Tincup, the firm’s other named partner, was an early member of the Top 100 group. He has, as they say in Texas, hit the dusty trail. The firm bears both his name, his indelible imprint and a smattering of his DNA..
Of Tincup, Starr says, “I could not imagine a better partner than William Tincup. Our agency is rooted tin the amazing creative work we did together. All I can tell you about William’s future is that it’s going to be fun to watch. The guy can not help but make a lasting impression wherever he goes.
There’s a reason that Starr-Tincup routinely wins honors as a great place to work. Cool policies, great people to work with and interesting stuff to work on. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of their eye opening takes on HR, wander through the website. Starr-Tincup is the freshest view you could imagine. You can get a sense of what they do in Bret’s mantra:
“If your marketing doesn’t make you nervous, it isn’t great marketing.”
The Top 100 interview has several recurring parts. Bio, the current gig, industry trends, technology trends and key industry influencers are the basic topics. Bret wouldn’t be in the information repackaging business if he didn’t have an interesting take on these questions.
On the standard query about the people who influence the industry, Bret said “It’s not a who, it’s a what. Industry media, Vendors, the US Government and the TV show The Office are the key influences in HR today.”
- “About 10% of the people in the business read blogs, go to conferences and, in general, stay up on the trends in the business. The other 90% get their information from this smaller group. Everything you know about best practices and good ideas evolves out of a small universe of people who feed on the industry’s media.”
- “Innovation flows from entrepreneurs to practitioners. Since there is no federal think tank for HR or HRTech, everything that’s interesting emerges from the vendor universe. If you want a fast education about HR and HRTech, meet with one vendor a day for a year.”
- “Tax credits, discrimination laws, disclosure, privacy regulations and a thousand other forms of social and economic manipulation shape the basic HR environment.”
- “The show The Office has made us all ask why we go to work. It’s made the whole culture aware of the results of stupid policies.”
From Bret’s perspective, there are a couple of trends worth really focusing on. He thinks that Rewards and Recognition are the sleeper opportunities in HR. As the economy comes back, focused programs that deliver rewards will be the glue that holds the world together. Employment brands, which have been savaged by the downturn stand little chance of being the backbone of great acquisition programs. He also sees a huge growth in strategic wellness initiatives as they help companies managing spiraling health care costs.
Bret sees a huge wave of single purpose apps with an intense focus on Usability and a sexy user experience headed our way. “The mid market is going to explode as real value comes packaged in single purpose apps designed to consumer standards.” He believes we live in an app world.
Bret Starr is one of the architects of the messages that drive the ways that our industry sees itself. It’s interesting to note that he didn’t mention marketing firms in his analysis. That’s because he’s happier to see his clients get the attention.
- John Sumser
He’s pretty handy with a shovel too. – Julian
Genius or Crook?
The line between transformative leader and criminal might be best understood as a whim of the grand jury. What seems like brilliance in the group-think of a company’s leadership ghetto often comes to haunt the team. Players seem to become perps almost overnight.
Human Resources, particularly in its Talent Management modality, holds some (if not most) of the responsibility for identifying, acquiring and nurturing the people who energize the organization. Leadership development, succession planning, recruiting, compensation management and competency analysis all demand sound people judgment skills. To be useful at all, the HR team must be able to have and hold good (and articulate) assessment of the organization’s key players.
One great question is whether or not it’s even possible to see the difference between genius and criminality. Another is how much emphasis is to be placed on the risk of discovery. Still another is whether or not it’s possible to generalize these issues at all.
Both innovation and leadership require the ability to see opportunity where others do not believe it exists. Agility, speed and market advantage are all gained by going where the others can’t or won’t. It is this entrepreneurial and (apparently) risky behavior that we want and expect from our best and brightest.
Here’s where it gets murky.
The very same instincts that are used for seeing opportunity are the ones used to see opportunity that crosses the legal line.
Are you surprised by the fact that no HR organization has published material talking about how to avoid being the next Enron or Lehman Brothers? Could it be that the folks in HR and its supporting industries are incapable of seeing a bad apple when it’s in the bin? Could the difference between a bad apple and a good one be so slight that no one could tell?
And, what is HR’s role once the rotten fruit is discovered? Stick to payroll and leave it alone? Try to intervene? Go to the regulatory agencies? Resign?
As transparency becomes the organizational norm, HR is going to get larger responsibility and increased accountability. How will we bear up and what is our proper role?
Please welcome Mark McMillan back as a returning contributor to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Mark is co-founder of Talent Function, where he combines executive coaching expertise with ten years of recruitment software industry experience. He started his software career for the Oracle Corporation and later joined BrassRing as a Director of Strategy and Business Development. Full Bio…
I recently read Pete Carol’s book on leadership, Win Forever. Pete Carol is the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The autobiography chronicles the evolution of his leadership through his failures and successes as a professional football coach. The book ended up leading me through a very confronting exercise.
Pete Carol’s leadership epiphany came after his firing by the New England Patriots– the second time he’d been fired by an NFL franchise. Searching for answers, he reviewed the works of legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden. Like Carol, Wooden had several undistinguished years at UCLA prior to winning his first [of ten] championships.
“Coach Wooden’s real breakthrough came the moment he had developed his philosophy in a full, complete, and systematic way….He had figured out absolutely everything about his program–his belief system, his philosophy, his delivery, and a million other details that made his first championship possible. He had done more than just become aware of all those details inside his own mind. He had refined them to the point that he could explain them to the people around him.” (Win Forever, Pete Carroll, page 70.)
Fully articulate your philosophy. Write everything down. It sounds dead obvious, doesn’t it? I decided to give it a try as if were leading a recruiting function. Giving it a try delayed this article by three weeks. This is my final result.
It was way more difficult than I would have imagined. Boiling down my beliefs and priorities forced me to review my experiences about what’s worked and what hasn’t. There is something inherently intimidating about it.
Have you fully articulated your philosophy? I work most frequently with leaders of the staffing function. I commonly see energy invested into the development of operating manuals that detail the recruitment process. Absent is the articulation of a leadership style or underlying philosophy. Most of the philosophy goes unstated.
Am I advocating the production of some slick, over-produced poster that sits in the recruiting conference room? No, I’m not. When I was an employee nothing made me feel more like a cube-dwelling wage slave that needed cheering up than programmatic “culture” collateral. The real value here is to go through the process as a way of clarifying your philosophy and the details of how things should work to define your leadership.
The recruiting domain is one of the most transient outposts in a business. A constantly changing recruiting staff engages with managers that recruit sporadically. It’s a petri dish of miscommunication. The ability to clearly articulate what you believe is a powerful tool to build effective recruiting teams. While I don’t believe in posters, I do believe you should be able to draw up your philosophy on a dry erase board with a moment’s notice. If you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing on the back of a napkin, then a manager will probably let you lead. Your contract recruiters will “get you” pretty quickly. Clarity produces resonance.
Professionals that produce at a high level have systems that are based on clear philosophies. A clear philosophy is like a piece of sculpture. You chip away at it. You look at if from different angles. You build it to reflect ideas. You infuse it with your experience.
And when it’s done, the piece has its own identity that captivates and inspires others. Because, leadership is about what happens when you’re not there.
I’ve been talking to HR Execs over the last several months. I’m noticing something. There’s a change. We’ve crossed a line. Something’s up.
Here are some of the things I’ve heard:
- I am tired of hearing that ‘getting it’ is better than ‘doing it’. When getting it means not doing it, it’s an expensive thing to get. Doing it makes it possible to get it in the first place.
- I am extremely tired of investing my time and energy into free services that are supposed to make my life easier. They never do. And, I’m left drowning in the certainty that I no longer know what I am doing.
- I am tired of crap that changes just as I am getting used to using it. Developers (all of whom are either smarter than me or think so) make up new ideas about how to use stuff faster than I can absorb the old ones. As soon as I start to get the new and improved way, there’s another newer and improveder way.
- I am tired of free turning out to mean ‘ill-conceived’ or useless. The only part of free that is actually free is the part that doesn’t come directly out of my wallet. The weeks and months of learning stuff that doesn’t work or gets changed as soon as it does also comes out of my wallet in lost time and opportunity. That free stuff is really, really expensive.
- I am tired of feeling like understanding the latest toy is preferable to getting my job done. Sometimes the tsunami of the new drowns out my memory of what I was doing in the first place. While I may not be suffering from ADD or Autism, I want to hide from the next new thing you want to tell me about.
There is a change going on. We’re doing our jobs differently. It’s as if we’ve all been growing up and then, when we weren’t looking, something turned us into adults.
All around, advertising performance is changing. Mailing lists aren’t working like they used to. The marketing world is talking about targeting and retargeting.
I think this all has something to do with the maturity of the Software as a Service (SaaS) approach to delivering value.
Right now, SaaS Salespeople feel perfectly comfortable selling their ability to update software across the user base as a benefit. The SaaS business model only works when all customers use the same iteration of the tool. From one perspective, this offers the ability to innovate with amazing agility. From another perspective, features are produced without any friction.
The result is the sort of chaos that comes from an ever changing goal line. While agility is important, organizations resist change for a reason. Too much change, too fast is disabling. The problem with poorly implemented SaaS installations is that they destroy an organization’s ability to build on what it has learned.
In an enterprise setting, some of the randomness of rapidly evolving functionality is staved off by contract cycles and installation agreements. In the consumer markets, however, eternally new software, which must make developers happy, ceasely erodes the ability of the marketplace to move ahead.
The crack in the mirror is becoming clearer. Now that we have tasted unregulated change, we’ll start to hear about governing it.
I’ve only seen half of the Saba enterprise suite and I’m blown away. If the company doesn’t emerge from this year’s HRTech with a pocketful of awards, it will have more to do with the show that the merit of the Saba offering. They have advanced the profession of HR by decades with their new tool set.
At its heart, the new Saba product line completely embraces all of the things that hold promise in social media. Collaboration, conferencing, multi-partner video conversation, cross-functional communications are wrapped around a single employee profile. With the profile at the center of the organization’s data, the combination of crowd sourced recommendations and certifications through the leaning management process make the Collaboration engine the ultimate knowledge management tool.
Saba is a publicly traded company, a survivor of the dot com era. Always cash flow positive, the 700 person firm is rooted in training and learning management. Recent years have seen them spread the offering into the rest of the HR stack and well beyond the normal confines. 51 of the Fortune 100 are customers. There are 19 million users across huge enterprises including extremely large government shops.
These days, Saba says that they are in the “People Systems” Business. That’s their terminology for the blend of learning management, talent management, real time collaboration tools and social software. Accelerated by their 2006 acquisition of Centra, Saba is changing the definition and practice of enterprise collaboration.
Viewed through the lens of Talent Management, collaboration is more than simply working together. As the system learns about its users, collaboration is increasingly about knowing how to vector the right resources onto the problem. Saba’s integration of idea management tools, social networking capabilities, network analysis and analytics creates a category of Human Capital management tool set that doesn’t have a name yet.
They’re bringing network analysis and forecasting to bear on succession planning. They deliver methods for accessing the best parts of the best people at the best time. It’s a comprehensive management and deployment tool for all of the human assets in the organization.
I like to think of it as Human Logistics. That gets you away from the old names and ideas into the new category that Saba is engineering. Human Logistics is the planning and study of the entire employee/department/division ecosystem through its lifecycle. Large scale logistics analyses in the defense complex cover the other side of this equation. Saba makes it practical to imagine effective and rapid redeployment of resources based on collaborative experience.
I’ll tell you about the Talent Management System in a couple of weeks
In The Know v1.35 Workforce Analytics
5 Links (plus a bonus) to soup up your understanding of analytics in HR.
- Competing on Talent Analytics
Jeremy Shapiro and his coauthors Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne Harris, bring Human Capital Analytics to the heart of the business conversation. In this HBR article, they define a framework for understanding the various uses of data to make HR more of a decision science. Run over to the bookstore and buy the current HBR for this one. It’s the harbinger of a sea change.
- Measuring Human Capital is Hard. Let’s Fix That…
More Jeremy Shapiro than you could ever imagine.
Subscribe to his RSS feed so you don’t miss his occasional pearls of wisdom. This is ground zero in the HR Analytics movement.
- NorthgateArinso Survey Reveals Only 54 Percent of Respondents Use HR Analytics
“Based on the survey, organizations that were global and had a larger number of employees were more likely to have deployed HR analytics within their business. Within those organizations, the metrics most commonly measured were headcount, compensation and workforce planning. 88 percent of respondents needed at least a week to process data and provide results to the team, indicating that either the KPIs being measured were not being properly monitored, the data was not being utilized in an effective manner or that additional training needed to be done for the HR tools. Underlying these points, 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that they don’t have strategic goals attached to the data gathered.”
- OrcaEyes Launches SonarVision On Demand Workforce Planning and Business Intelligence Solution
Dan Hilbert’s company is coming to market quickly. SonarVision claims to be the scientific way to build an organization that out competes the competitors.
- Taleo Launches Enterprise Analytics
Taleo, in an effort to stay abreast of SuccessFactors successful integration of Infohrm, is putting real muscle into its analytics projects.
- ‘Where’s the Rest of Me?’
The industry’s head curmudgeon, Bill Kutik, lays out an interesting picture of the competition between SuccessFactors and Taleo. Guess what? Talent Analytics, that’s what.