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Top 100 Influencers in HR v1.71 Alice Snell
There are not very many people who have been researching Human Capital issues as long as Alice Snell. The Vice President of Taleo Research has been covering the space for 15 years. Widely seen as a voice of reason in a sea of hype, Alice effectively navigates the line that separates corporate advocacy and best practices documentation.
With roots in Recruiting (she was involved with Kennedy Info as it began its transition into the digital era in the mid 1990s), Alice has been at the epicenter of Recruiting research since she went to work for iLogos. Founded by Yves Lermusi (now CEO, Checkster), iLogos professionalized recruiting research and was acquired by Recruitsoft in 1999. The avid handicapper of the Human Capital Software Industry will know that Recruitsoft quickly became Taleo.
In other words, Alice has been a part of Taleo since before it was Taleo.
“After I wrote a book for job hunters in 1994, I gave up on print,” says Snell. “It was clear that digital communications were going to turn everything around. As a result, I jumped into technology analysis. I was looking to see the impact of Tech on HR. Let me tell you, it’s been fast and amazing.”
“When I say fast, I mean that many changes take generations. The internet completely disrupted the employment process in under a decade. Job boards and ATS systems totally changed the way that we get work. That change fueled many of the other adaptations in the rest of HR. While some people think HR is a laggard organization, I’m hear to tell you that everything is different a decade later.”
“Today, organizations are looking to comprehensively inventory and optimize their human capital. They are learning to consider job design as a make or buy decision. It’s a whole new world.”
“What’s happening is that organizations are becoming able to use talent pools to acquire talent. Then, they identify gaps and find the best fit for everyone involved. Talent Management is all of the Work That You Do On Your Workforce,” she says.
Alice’s influence and stature are due to a couple of factors. As a representative of a major player in the software business, she reaches and represents the learning of thousands if customers in thousands of organizations. Doing so for ten years has given her an inside look at the real world of Human Capital Practice. She brings wisdom and channels the experience of a very specific crowd.
It’s no accident that some of the most influential players in the industry do not work in it. Like Alice’s view of Talent Management above, they work on the business not in it. A single change in the user interface drives the day to day experience of a huge user base and all of the people who interact with the software as employees or job seekers.
One way of thinking about influence is that it’s the ability to have an impact. Where power is the ability to make specific things happen, influence is the business of increasing the likelihood that something will happen. When Alice delivers a story about best practices, there is every reason to believe that they will be adopted.
All this is not to suggest that Alice only walks in a world where everything is automated “I see a pretty broad spectrum of practice. Some people are doing amazing things with pencils and spreadsheets. But, real results, driven by decision making rooted in data, comes from the companies with high levels of automation in their HR functions.”
Taleo’s mission is to enable Strategic Talent Management in Organizations. Alice’s role in that process involves speaking, consulting, doing primary research and keeping up with the explosion of Human Capital related information. “The hardest part is staying on top of the research tsunami.”
Alice, like many of the players in our industry, sees a transformation happening in leadership. “A recent IBM study shows that engagement is the foundation of great leadership and good employee development.” She is busyily focused on the development of tools to manage critical talent pools. She sees an HR function that has made the change to a productivity focus and increasingly driven by organizational results.
Find some time to talk with Alice if you see her at one of the conferences. She’s an old hand and understandds the evolution of the profession far better than most. Follow Alice at her blog for Taleo Research.
Hank Stringer, CEO of Stringer Executive Search joins the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board this week. Hank has 30 years of experience as a successful high-tech recruiter, entrepreneur, and recruitment technology innovator. Forecasting a talent shortage in 1994, Stringer founded Hire.com, the first ASP business model, utilizing the Internet to scale and automate interactive recruiting relationships and processes. Hank has published numerous articles on recruitment and talent management in the workplace and is an accomplished and recognized speaker on recruitment issues. Today Hank leads the team at Strictly Talent. Full Bio
For the past 4 years Mad Men has been an award winning Sunday night TV show on TNT. The show has such a following that even the Wall Street Journal dedicates 4 reviews each Monday to the previous night’s show. Why does this show, which takes us into the halls of the Madison Avenue advertising business in the early 1960’s, deserve such a following and review?
The show, created and produced by Matthew Weiner, is exceptional. The characters are well developed with flaws that are personal and cultural. This was a time when people at the office smoked cigarettes all day and night and drank scotch, some midmornings and every afternoon at 4. The liberation of the ‘me’ generation with all it’s pot, free love and anti-establishment purpose was just taking root. It was a cultural inflection point or perhaps, a cultural tipping point.
It’s not just remembering the time. We are just as interested in the advertising business because we all remember the jingles, the slogans and the ads that caused us to consume. And we enjoyed the consumption. Nothing wrong with that. We just discovered that some of the honesty and truthfulness we relied on may not have been, like reaching for a Lucky Strike instead of a sweet, all that healthy. We also learned that the manufacturers and promoters knew it. Their motivation was the dollar not the health of consumers.
I see parallels between the advertising business at that time and the privacy concerns we see unfolding today through social networks. Interesting that privacy issues around marketing and advertising have been with us for some time. For example, we all complain about junk mail.
Where did junk mail make its start? Look no further than the Reader’s Digest. Some are old enough to remember the thick book of stories mailed out every month. The book would lie next to the couch or in a bathroom, and would get picked up in moments of leisure. The stories and articles were always well written, and there was usually something of value or interest to everyone. As I remember, there were few advertisements in the book itself.
The market was not quite so sophisticated but the company did understand the value of home addresses. Readers Digest sold their mailing list over and over and over. This was a significant shift from newspaper or television advertising to the masses to direct advertising to individuals.
Over time, zip codes were understood as marketing information; the buying habits of residents were studied. The value of the address data increased as telephone information was linked, allowing companies to call you up and pitch their product in person. Advertising insurance to Tupperware became the rage.
Then consumers began to rage. Over the years, people became so frustrated with junk mail and home calls (always in the evening around supper time) that the government got involved. And now we have no-call-lists and standards for home mail. Still, we feel we have too much of both.
Don’t get this wrong, I’m not arguing about the value of these activities– just the results. Sifting through those results (junk mail) may be worth the effort, especially for a young man joining a mail in contest to win a Dick Tracy police watch in 1967. (Note if you don’t know about Tracy’s watch, Google it and learn…we have dreamed of Skype for a long time.)
It also seems like the Reader’s Digest “give them great content in exchange for their personal information” model is back. The VC’s on Sand Hill Road south of San Francisco would have a field day with this business model. If we just get enough Reader’s Digests out in the market, in front of enough eyes, we can monetize the model and make millions.
Enter Facebook, lots of personal information and a huge privacy backlash. It’s Reader’s Digest redux– on steroids.
Internet sites we visit deposit cookies on our computer that follow us where we go on the Internet and track how much time we spend there. This information is extremely valuable to advertisers because it is segmented to show detailed consumer preferences and spending habits. This is great news for companies advertising or marketing products or services.
But having this information available is a headache for computer users who get tired of seeing the same ad and information follow them from page to page on the Internet. Eventually, the consumer mentally unplugs from ads they see on the Internet and stops responding– even if the offerings fit who they are, their culture, lifestyle, or even what they really want to buy next. Side bar: I remember sitting with a professor from the Netherlands at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas in the early 90’s. The Internet was still text and Andressen and crew were just releasing Mosaic. The idea of a browser opened up all kinds of ideas. The professor and I spent hours discussing how to sell a pair of shoes on the Internet. Of course, a concept like Zappos never came to mind, as we were more concerned with how to sell socks, belts and shoe polish along with the shoes. Oh well….
Are social networks a phenomenon that could be the next Reader’s Digest? If so, where does this lead and what are the privacy implications? Does society react with answers to privacy issues through the government or through private enterprise?
If Orwell were here today he would probably not be surprised that his ‘big brother’ has arrived, and it appears to be a partnership of technology companies and the government. We are photographed, followed, studied, and recognized if not as a person, than as an ip address. Our actions are both known and anticipated. There are satellites, drone planes and recording equipment that we never see but that see and hear us.
Privacy is a thing of the past. Junk mail and phone calls at dinner are the least of our worries. There are a lot of people who have detailed information about us and who use it. We should be prepared.
We have already seen the implications of a YouTube, Facebook, Google world where everything is potentially on display all the time. This means that if you care, you should live your life in a way that will make you and your loved ones proud at all times.
Maybe we need an Internet life-coach that provides structure on how best to live in this new world. Wait a minute. We already have that – it’s called the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. The government will attempt to deal with this, but as always, will politicize the issue for personal and party gain. It will spend more of our money and come up with nothing of sustainable value.
Private enterprise, on the other hand, will play a significant role creating solutions to solve real and perceived privacy problems. We already see it happening. Suddenly confidentiality and anonymity are words we see used to assure users their information is safe at certain sites and portals.
Use of these terms is interesting to me because a group of visionary entrepreneurs I worked with at Hire.com in the mid-90’s introduced the value of anonymity to the recruitment software market as a value to attract and retain passive talent. We believed that people who were seeking new jobs would be interested in a change if they felt safe about how their resume and personal information would be viewed and shared. The concept is a given today. Yet, resumes stored on sites offering confidentiality are scraped and the information sold as a way to increase revenue and value for the owners of the site. That is an important point, the business model of most employment career sites are designed to create revenue for the owners first. Providing a solution that provides value for the talent and employer first is an afterthought, if any thought at all. Job boards, corporate career sites, job aggregators, resume blasters and social networks all have sourcing value. They are places to find people or jobs; they are not great places to link the right person with the right job.
Basically all are based on the premise that if we acquire lots of jobs and lots of resumes then recruiters and candidates can search to find the desired information of interest. This process worked in the day when we ran ads in newspapers and took in information we could handle. But with the Internet and the numbers of people reached globally in an instant, the results have clogged the pipes.
Today, talent expects to send their resume into a ‘black hole’ never to hear from an employer, while the majority of companies are overwhelmed with responses. And they don’t have the human beings to discern and assess the talent base – no matter what storage and search systems they have invested in to handle the talent flow. In short, we have created a talent mess and I propose the Mad Men of Facebook and other social networks are making the problem worse, not better.
The business models Internet investors propagate encourage entrepreneurs to create sites that attract hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. Once that is accomplished, we can ‘find a way to monetize.’
I believe this approach is rubbish. We need to identify the problem to be solved first, then figure out the solution. If the market agrees with your approach, the market will digest.
We’ve lost this in most of our recruitment technology. If a solution sources 10s or 100s of thousands, that just gives you more junk mail to sort through. When it comes to careers, it is finding the one right talent for the one right job. Solutions today sell ads, seats and personal information and have lost the recruitment art of one to one relationships.
While the market is rushing to aggregate and sell job and personal data through all things social, it may be worth going the exact opposite direction—in depth personal interaction and asking people’s permission before using their personal information.
Just as private clubs have emerged in earlier cultures, so will confidential networks on the Internet. Confidential networks where people have control over the information they share and who they share it with. Networks designed and committed to business models that are transparent and ensure that personal information is never sold. Networks that provide a high degree of value for an understood and accepted cost, that are permission based, and that communicate only when the value is known.
These may exist today in certain markets and amongst certain groups of people. They do not exist in the talent market place. The words anonymous and confidential are used at sites but seem more marketing tools verses goals of the site to protect.
Reader’s Digest successfully sold individuals’ personal contact information because the people did not know. Now we do know. Check the reaction Facebook users gave Beacon. Social sites should expect more negative reaction when their personal information is sold to advertisers.
So, while having lots of data is possible, navigating the junk mail for the Dick Tracy watch is getting harder and harder for both the companies and the candidates. So it’s time to remember that finding each other at the right time is what really matters. I’m not sure that having thousands more prospects and lots of private information available publically is actually improving that process, as a matter of fact I’m sure it doesn’t.
We find greatness by tackling the imperfect. Waiting around to get it right always produces ‘analysis paralysis’. It’s better to put a stake in the ground and get started than it is to sit around waiting for perfect inspiration, the right timing and an unassailable position of strength. It’s easier to navigate when you’re moving. It’s easier to criticize when you are standing still.
These are the fundamental design principles for our ongoing research into influence in HR and the industries and institutions that serve it.
That experiment, which includes the algorithm generated lists of Influencers on the HRExaminer and the 18 month old Top 100 HR Influencers project, is an attempt to understand how influence works and how it changes over time. From the beginning, several things have been apparent:
- People who work in the business have less influence than those who work on it.
One of the amazing things about the HRExaminer Influence project is that we are seeing the emergence of some ‘dirt under the fingernails’ professionals who are able to exert industry-wide influence. That’s a consequence of the democratization of publishing and early days of social media. Still, only a small percentage of working level professionals wield big levels of influence. They generally don’t have an adequate marketing budget.
- People who have influence tend to broaden their base.
Although it isn’t uniformly true, there seems to be a threshold for industry wide influence. Take a look at the current list of Online influencers in Recruiting. Many of them have broader interests than just recruiting. It appears that enlarging one’s perspective is a part of survival in consulting and academia.
- Influence changes based on trends, familiarity and focus.
The spotlight is not a permanent place. People move up and down in rankings of influence because their work and routines change. Bill Vick, who was number 2 on our first list of Recruiting Influencers fell off the list. He decided to pursue other things and his publishing and content shifted with him. Alice Snell, whose content output is like clockwork, held a relatively steady place.
- The method does not reflect actual real world influence.
John Sullivan falls to the bottom of our online list. His real influence is felt in conference rooms and auditoriums. Lou Adler doesn’t even make the list at all even though he is a (if not the most) critical part of the training infrastructure. Kevin Wheeler is absent as well. These three people are the heart of influence in the Recruiting silo.
I expect that online influence and real world influence will increasingly overlap over the next four or five years. Once the old guard moves on, online influence will be the primary form.
- There are other (many) very useful ways to think about influence.
The goal of our projects is to start and maintain an industry wide conversation on influence and its meaning. In flat, global organizations, understanding and being able to harness influence is the key managerial skill. Very little work is being done to train tomorrow’s leaders even though it is clear that hierarchical leadership is doomed. Josh LeTourneau is doing interesting recurring investigation of network influence.
So, last week, we released version 2.0 of our look at Influence in Recruiting. Predictably, some new issues emerged.
- Every new list creates some level of controversy
On its release, version 2.0 was called two different things. In some places, it was labeled “Top 25 Most Influential Recruiters”. In others, it was called “Top 25 Online Influencers In Recruiting”. Apparently, the nuance was enough to raise the eyebrows of a few critics. “There are only 10 working recruiters on the list”, they cried. The best way to think about these lists is probably “People who produce online content that mentions the keywords we think represent Recruiting and have measurable audiences and mentions in conversations online.” (Makes a crummy title, though) Since it’s more or less impossible to tell who is or isn’t a Recruiter (the only current measure is self-identification), we decided to leave that question alone.
- Our algorithms leave something to be desired
It’s way early and we’re learning as we go. The tool gets somethings right and some things wrong. Because the underlying database is huge (the social graph), it’s not all up to date all the time. This round of analysis had about 50% more errors than the last one.
- The categories are starting to blur.
Nearly 60% of the people on this list also appear on one or more of our other automatically generated influencer lists. Some of this is a weakness in the tool. Some of it is caused by the economic environment (everyone is doing more than one job). Some of it comes from the natural broadening that influencers undergo.
- Online Influence is fickle and must Be maintained.
Less than six months after the release of v 1.0. almost 40% of the people on this list are new to the list. Social media relentlessly requires fresh new and relevant content. The minute you change focus or routine, your leverage shrinks. The world of online influence is all about ‘what have you done for me lately”. You can not rest on your laurels.
Here’s last weeks list with a couple of annotations. One column indicates whether or not the person appears on our other lists. The third column shows ranking in v 1.0. As always, we value your questions and recommendations.
Other Top 25s
|1 / Peggy McKee||
|2 / Chris Hoyt||
|3 / Amybeth Hale||
|4 / Bill Boorman||
|5 / Jim Stroud|
|6 / Dave Mendoza||
|7 / Shally Steckerl||
|8 / Jon Ingham||
|9 / Michael Long||
|10 / Jessica Lee||
|11 / Peter Gold||
|12 / Barry Deutsch||
|13 / Paul DeBettignies||
|14 / Kris Dunn||
|15 / Alice Snell||
|16 / Josh Bersin||
|17 / Jennifer McClure||
|18 / Kevin Grossman||
|19 / Josh Letourneau||
|20 / Glen Cathey||
|21 / Jason Buss||
|22 / Trisha McFarlane||
|23 / Dr. John Sullivan||
|24 / Sharlyn Lauby||
|25 / Mark Stelzner||
In The Know v1.39: Influence
You’re going to hear more and more about influence. At some point, there might actually be useful stuff about how to get specific things done using it. Until then, we’re all going to think and stew.
In the new world of work, no one has any authority. We all represent a team. In most cases, more than one of our team mantes can over rule us.
So, we’re learning to manage using influence. It means that we make decisions without firm backing and try to make sure that the holes are filled in as we go along.
I’m nostalgic for the days when the boss could get away with saying ‘It’s my way or the highway.’
Here are five pieces that will help you stay on top of the dialog about influence.
- Hey FOT, Get Me Promoted Already! (And What the Bleep is Social Capital?)
Josh LeTourneau is fast becoming the online human capital industry’s resident network analysis expert. In this piece, he helps you understand something you already know: Social Capital trumps Human Capital. That is, who you know is more important than what you know. Of course this isn’t entirely true. But, in the world we are beginning to inhabit, with its flat organizational structures and multiple forms of alignment, influence is the most important management skill. LeTourneau takes the reader on an adventure through basic definitions while illuminating the way that Social Capital works. A gem.
- More On Social Influencers
Jon Ingham is an enterprise software maven in the UK. In this piece, he documents an assessment of social influence completed at a recent unconference. As we figure out how to talk about influence and the way it can be used to enhance systemic performance and productivity, we’ll be doing beautifully simple experiments like this one.
- Net Map Toolbox
This blog is devoted to the sport of mapping social influence. Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes. By creating Influence Network Maps, individuals and groups can clarify their own view of a situation, foster discussion, and develop a strategic approach to their networking activities. Net MAp is an interesting way to start to develop facility with managing influence and influencers in the real world.
- Managing Experience and Influence in a Social Business Environment
There is no broadly accepted language to use when discussing influence. Even the term itself suffers from overly broad definitions. The author of this post suggests that the best foundation for influence is experience. Wisdom, gained from actually doing something is infinitely preferable to a hypothetical.
- Cynical Girl Goes All Influential
Laurie Reuttimann has a gift for oversimplifying things in a way that makes them stick. Here, she makes fun of the idea of influence while demonstrating its importance.
Here’s a smart piece from exactly 10 years ago. At the time, we were facing serious labor shortages as the dot com thing exploded. While the thinking about labor supplies has certainly changed, the fundamental point of the article continues to be valid.
Tools wear out.
The competitive advantage accorded to early adopters (when they aren’t busy being fooled by their own enthusiasm) is not a permanent improvement. The people who are making hay today with social media are not generating repeatable results. Rather, they are benefiting from the fact that they are ahead of their time.
The question of whether social media has long term recruiting relevance remains unsettled.
As pragmatists, we have little time for questions like “Why”. The academic arena concerns itself with “Why” while those of us charged with running businesses are better served with questions like “How”, “When”, “Where”, “Who”, “What”, “If” and “Whether”. “Why” is usually better left in the hands of a company’s founder. It tends to disrupt the workflow. If it has to be addressed, “Why” belongs to strategic planning and budget processes. It’s not really a democratic question.
The “How of it” is simple. As we mentioned in our last article, all tools degrade in effectiveness in a shortage driven marketplace. A prudent manager (or recruiter) must constantly search for new weapons while polishing skills on the current set. As more customers discover a given tool, its ability to generate results declines.
To reiterate, it’s an arms race.
The underlying reasons are simple and combine basic mathematics with first mover advantage.
When a new service or form of service opens its doors for business, it introduces novelty into a niche. In the early days of job boards, it was not unusual for a customer to receive 125 valid responses to a job opening. The ratio of jobs available to online candidates was skewed in favor of jobs.
As word of the successes of very early adopters spreads (that’s what marketing and sales forces do), more customers join the fray. This increases the number of jobs in the mix and effectively reduces the likelihood that a given job will get a match. Three years into the job board business, the problem was too many non-qualified candidates. Quantity was declining, but quality declined at a faster rate.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of a given tool settles at a market rate. With 70,000,000 job ‘postings’, it’s little surprise that current results are so low. A company that posts a single job to the internet risks receiving no valid responses. Targeted carpet bombing services (like those offered by RecruitUSA) offset the risk but are vulnerable to the same dynamics.
As each niche opens up, the same trend seems to take place. So, early users of the ‘left handed astrophysicists career board’ should expect better results than later users. Even the tiny niches will settle into a predictable delivery of a results stream, however.
This basic trend extends to every new addition of the arsenal. Today is a very good time to be using free agent sites. It’s a great time for referral networks and placing computers in the homes of every employee. On the other hand, you can tell from the AIRS moves into diversification that the desktop based candidate acquisition programs (like our Seminar in a Box) are beginning to show the same declining effectiveness.
It doesn’t mean that the tools don’t work. It just means that there are very real limits to the ultimate utility of a given tool. Knowing that tools are subject to decreasing relative effectiveness should be the source of strategic inspiration. Having a function dedicated to the discovery of new tools as they emerge is critical to maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace for candidates.
Not getting this simple principle is the reason that so many CDI employees are watching their stock holdings erode. It’s at the root of the massive decline in staffing company valuations. It’s the barrier that new entrants have to figure out.
It’s also a platform for real marketing success. Imagine the success of the player who figures out how to reverse this trend for its customers.
The HRExaminer archives are a dangerous place to visit. Here’s a decade old piece on the nonesense of using ‘cost per hire’ as a recruiting metric. Still, today, this is the prime measurement in many places.
The idea of adequately planned replacements (non-reactive recruiting) is still taking root but the progress has been slow. Here’s what it looked like in 2000:
Anyone reading this newsletter will be familiar with the ongoing debates about “cost per hire”. Somehow, the unique history of the Human Resources function and the nearly complete absence of basic business education in the industry has conspired to create a narrow view of the relative importance of Recruiting.
- The sage Saratoga Institute, often seen as the ultimate source of HR thinking, typically describes “cost per hire” as the sum of administrative costs and expenses.
- Infomart-USA, a hiring practices auditing company, estimates the national average at about $4,400. They consider the following elements of cost per hire: Uniforms, Advertising, Agency fees, Employment fairs, Employment office salary expense, Employment office facility expense, Estimate of time spent in training, Recruiter travel expense, Internal recruiter expenses, Internal recruiter labor expense, Referral Bonus, Recruiting & Training Expense
- HRLive (which isn’t very) offers five year old data that suggests an average cost per hire nearer to $8,000.
- American Incite, an odd online Executive Search operation makes a lengthy argument that the base salaries used to calculate the administrative cost per hire is deeply understated. Yawn.
While these overly complex approaches may well capture the number of dollars spent on an average hire, they hardly begin to capture the cost of a hire. Hiring managers, insulated from the nonsense measurements of the HR folks, have a clearer picture. The cost of a hire is the money lost because the hire wasn’t made. Well recognized in MBA programs and broadly understood throughout the rest of the organization, the simple concept is “opportunity costs“.
At its most basic, the opportunity cost associated with a particular hire is the productive revenue lost because the hire wasn’t made. Ask an IT manager with 20% of her desks unfilled whether she cares about the administrative costs in the Recruiting department. Of course she doesn’t. She’s working weekends and late evenings while continuing to miss deadlines. She is experiencing the real cost per hire: revenue lost from employees who weren’t hired.
Here’s an easy way to get your arms around the real cost per hire in your organization:
Take the annual sales of your company (or division) and divide it by the number of employees. This is the annual revenue per employee.
- Divide that number by 250 to get the daily revenue per employee.
- Multiply daily revenue per employee by the number of days it takes to hire an employee.
- If you want, add the dollars spent by the Recruiting Department (it’s a minor fraction).
- This is the real cost per hire, generally it’s 5 to 10 times the administrative costs.
This view of “cost per hire” points out the importance of reaching real global standards for reductions in the hiring cycle. Current “state of the art” approaches try to reduce the cycle to under a month. We believe that the real answer is to target a recruiting cycle time of minus 30 days.