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When I got home from the TRULondon conference (more about that later), I discovered that my son had terminated his Facebook account. I was surprised by the level of concern I felt. Cut off from the constant flow of information bits about his life, I felt worry and sense of loss
Ray’s patterned release of status updates gave me the feeling of being clued in. The dribs and drabs of online small talk were a convenient substitute for real connectedness. The mere threat of losing that connection created a palpable fear in my heart.
Right there, after my parental instinct to fix something, was a series of surprising insights.
Facebook has become the global water cooler. Tidbits of information pass themselves off as intimacy and understanding. The barrage of minutia is warm and snuggly, just like the feeling you get before you die from hypothermia. Meaningless noise, delivered with appropriate timing, passes for a deeper reality.
Our social instincts are fooled by constant stimulation. Facebook helps us maintain the illusion that obnoxious little sound bites and cleverness are a substitute for intimacy and depth. We trade bumper sticker sensibilities. We posture to make our little accomplishments seem bigger than they are.
Somehow, the constant pinpricks of awareness soothe our anxieties. We belong to the great oneness and have immediate access to transcendent experience. Abraham Maslow died a little too early; Facebook is ushering in the era of instant self actualization through marginal disclosure.
“OMG, is there something wrong with Carly? She hasn’t issued a clever gem in 36 hours. Has she fallen off the interesting wagon? Has the pathetic ness of her life caught up with her? How sad. Should we call someone? Do we need to send her a self-help book on restoring interestingness to your dismal life? Should we arrange an intervention?”
I decided to check things out with my usual advisors. As I asked around about the ubiquity of facebook, I found some interesting things:
- All of the brouhaha about employers using facebook to screen candidates is resulting in the proliferation of faux-facebook accounts. Some Gen Y folks are treating their Facebook page like a resume. It looks much better than they do in public. Their ‘real status’ is elsewhere.
- Like the mythical disappearance of email (in favor of texting), numbers of the under-30 set (and even more in the under-18 group) are eschewing facebook. Too many grownups.
- Many of the people I talked to about seemed hungry for a deeper conversation. Cleverness sprints are not for the timid.
- There was an undercurrent of ‘are you serious’? Most people understand that ‘community’ means watching the 7% of people who like to perform. As has always been the case, most people are lurkers.
The bottom line is that Ray is fine. He’s an artist. His job is to notice questions that aren’t being asked and then ask them. (Of course, Google has a cached copy of his facebook page. You can only terminate your online present and future, never your past.)
Meanwhile, what are all of these people talking about when they say ‘Social Recruiting’? Contrary to the hype, Facebook contains precious little information to help you distinguish someone’s viability as an employee.
At the bottom of this piece, you’ll find a list of all of the memories and reflections published about the The PCRecruiter Unconference (TRU) London event held last week. (It’s a combination of several other lists but mostly Martin Couzins‘.) There are thirty seven (and arguably a couple of others). That’s one article for every five people who attended the event.
The material ranges from the marginally related commentary to the launch of a series of musings about the future. Lots of breathy reviews and a few powerful insights. For the most part, the extraordinary volume of material showcases the problem with social media and the unconference movement. Making room for a broad range of viewpoints creates an editorial problem. As interesting as each of the thirty seven pieces are, there is no reason that anyone should read them all. I’ve bolded my favorites but wouldn’t suggest that those posts give a comprehensive view.
The world is waiting for the best method to wade through multiple streams of similar content. My own obvious bet is the HRExaminer model which pairs a strong editorial voice with a curated selection of seasoned industry experts.
Just to qualify myself a bit, I’ve been around the unconference scene since the beginning. I helped with the planning and led a track at the first ever unconference in the industry in January, 2007. (Jeff Hunter gets the credit for pulling that together). By the summer of 2007, we’d begun delivering the Recruiting Roadshow, an unconference like event that we took around the United States (ten cities in 18 months). The downturn did the Recruiting Roadshow no favors. The idea evolved to Recruitfest in 2008 and 2009.
Since the 2009 Recruitfest, there’s been an explosion of small group centric events that you might consider unconferences. Without question, Bill Boorman and the TRU Events series are among the leading lights of the Talent Industry’s unconference scene.
Here are a few of the common difficulties of the unconference scene:
- At its essence, the unconference scene celebrates the wisdom of the crowd. Experts are sidelined in favor of conversation managers.
- The approach doesn’t always work very well. Conversations tend to drift to the lowest common denominator. They are apt to be hijacked by an Ali G clone who gets the rhythm of the conversation but not the content.
- In a larger setting, the flaws of an unconference would be fatal. When Ali G’s twin sister repeatedly disrupts the track conversations, it’s nearly endearing. No more than 20 or 25 people are inconvenienced at any single point in time. If the rooms held 10 times as many people, there would be real havoc involved.
- The ad hoc nature of session design is another one of the endearing features of an unconference that won’t scale. With decisions being made on a moment to moment basis, the very definition of being a track leader includes having thick skin. Your session may or may not happen as advertised or when advertised. Larger settings involve bigger egos and require more thorough planning.
In spite of these weaknesses, most of which create intimacy at the expense of size, the unconference movement is clearly focused on
- A Democratic Conversation: Rank doesn’t merit respect in this setting. The distance between expert and non-expert is intentionally minimized
- A Fluid Agenda: As the conference unfolds, ideas are spawned, new sessions invented and plans are thrown in the can. Spontaneity is the hallmark of an unconference.
- Breaking the Facilities: Few places were designed for a conference that is a perpetual series of breakout sessions. Unconferences always have facility issues because they break new ground.
- Discovery of New Facilities: From the re purposing of comedy clubs to the use of novel institutions, Unconferences are able to embrace offbeat facilities.
- Room for new talent: Unconferences always feature people who couldn’t get an audience elsewhere. They are becoming the new career path.
- Integration of Vendors: In these informal settings, much weight is given to participants with a clear world view. This favors vendors who are ghettoized in other settings.
From the outside, last week’s TRULondon conference must have looked like a swarm of bees in search of a queen. The crowd ebbed and flowed around a series of underground bunkers in the CIYT Hotel in Banglatown on London’s East side.
By day, Banglatown is a sea of Pan Asian eateries that stretches for many blocks. On weekend nights, it’s a rave scene. While i has the feel of the streets of New Delhi, the residents are generally third generation immigrants. The tiny bit of rough and tumble left in the neighborhood is all there for the tourists.
Somewhere between 120 and 200 HR, and Recruiting industry folks wedged themselves into the sub basement of the hotel in a windowless series of rooms and foyers. They consumed about 35 tracks of information from a cadre of presenters, experts, raconteurs and entrepreneurs. You could feel the passion (particularly when it was passing for real knowledge).
The tracks themselves ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. At one end of the spectrum, old war-horses held court and opined the strong views of elders. At the other extreme were conversations that barely merited their allotted time led by the passionately uninformed.
This is what a marketplace of ideas looks like. The individual is respected and allowed to wade into the game. Boorman’s approach bears refinement but is headed in the right direction.
Here are the write ups:
- Andy Headworth - look at Tru London
- Andy Hyatt – An introduction to the world of unconferences, starting with Trulondon
- Ayeright – Imagineering
- Beyond Interactive – Our Thoughts
- Bill Boorman – My #trulondon thinking and the #trugrad program
- Bill Boorman- Reflections on Alex Charles’s master class
- Charlie Duff – Employability skills – graduates and beyond (might not want to bother, you have to log in)
- China Gorman – The King of all social recruiting
- Felix Wetzel - The Future Series: Born of #Tru
- Geoff Webb – A radical in London – notes from Tru London 3
- HR Connexxions – Five take-aways from Tru London 3
- The HRD – HR being (or not needing to be) strategic
- Heather Bussing – Does authenticity make your butt look big?
- James Mayes – #TRU Review
- James Mayes – Influence vs impressions, Tweetreach and conferences and New Twitter app Twileshare
- James Mayes – The TRU word cloud
- Jamie Leonard – #TRU Review
- Jon Ingham - Tru London – be social to compete
- Laurie Ruettimann – Off the grid Fridays – nostalgia and #trulondon
- Lisa Jones – #TRULondon Wordcloud
- Lisa-Mari Jones – Tru London 3 experience
- MR Linkedin – The Good the Bad and the Ugly
- Mark Lennard – My two days at Tru London
- Mark Wiiliams – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! (My thoughts on TruLondon 3)
- Martin Couzins – The Official List of All Blog Posts
- Meghan Biro – Recruiting: Power of people connectivity
- Mervyn Dinnen – Recruiting like Radiohead
- Peter Gold – Adopt a student and help them find a job
- Peter Hros – 10 reasons you will never miss the #trulondon unconference again
- Rhiannon Hughes – The world of graduate recruitment – please mind the gap
- Social Talent – The social agency Tru London 3 Live blog
- Sourceress – #TruLondon 3 – Never Be Untru
- Stephen O’Donnell – #TruLondon Imagineering
- Wise Man Say – 10 Lessons from TRULondon 3
It used to be easy to tell what was and wasn’t software. If you did it on a computer, it was software. If you sat in front of a screen with a keyboard to use it, it was software. If you manipulated data with it, it was software.
Software produced either paper or an electronic message to another machine. There were people to help when the machine broke (maybe).
That world was clear. Investors found software valuable because it could be licensed infinitely. It lived inside the computer and was repeatable. Just like music.
So, what is Amazon?
You sit in front of a machine (or, increasingly, pull the machine out of your pocket) to use it. Instead of paper, products come to your house. As a result, Borders (a chain of stores) is going out of business.
Amazon destroys friction in its supply chain while expanding it using data developed by monitoring that very system. The larger it gets, the more effective it becomes. Why? Because it is an organic self-correcting information system that integrates goods, services, customer satisfaction, data processing and the data that comes from that data processing
And then, what is software today?
No one has a good definition that helps you to understand when the process within the machine stops being software. Like Amazon, most companies are collections of systems that use people, goods, services and data. They just don’t usually act like an organic whole.
Every company that serves the Human Capital / Human Resources marketplace delivers much of its value through a terminal, laptop, mobile device or desktop. Everything save strategic consulting is delivered electronically and features information that has been processed to suit customized needs. Yet, they insist on calling themselves by old fashioned names. That is their achilles heel. That is where they limit themselves.
In fact, they are all software companies.
We’re at the edge of a great transformation. Recruiting Marketplaces (BountyJobs), Staffing Agency Replacements (ReadyForce), Contingency Labor Exchanges (eLance), RPOs (RiseSmart), Learning and Collaboration Platforms (Saba), Recognition Systems (Rideau), Job Boards (theLadders) and Talent Management Systems (Stepstone) are in the process of blurring familiar boundaries. These companies are building market expertise into their data processing systems.
Rather than trying to define themselves by old categories like software, these companies are following Amazon’s lead and packing expertise, content, and even people into their technology integrations. The question they answer is not how to automate anything. Instead, they use data to continuously perfect, optimize and streamline their deliverables.
And those deliverables are always information.
The new giants of our industry will be companies that get you the best data at the optimum moment to drive the smartest decision. That’s what Amazon does. That’s increasingly what Apple does.That’s what the companies I cited above all share in common.
They do not focus on process automation. They focus on the delivery of the best information when it’s needed. They make capital go further, whether it’s human or financial. They deliver information turbocharged systems that are self optimizing and self correcting.
The technology is leaping beyond the bounds of those 20th Century categories.
Marc Effron joins the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board this week with his post on building the right capabilities. Marc is the President of the Talent Strategy Group and author of One Page Talent Management. Marc’s talent management consulting provides a highly practical, broadly informed perspective to clients like American Express, Advanced Micro Devices, Fidelity Investments, and many more. He has served as VP Global Talent Management for Avon Products, started and led the Global Leadership Consulting Practice at consultancy Hewitt Associates. Marc was also Senior Vice President, Leadership Development for Bank of America. Full Bio…
Enough Excuses: Build the Right Capabilities
by Marc Effron
It’s getting a bit too predictable. If 2011 unfolds as the past few years have, a global strategy consulting firm will issue a report about the critical challenges in human resources. Their conclusions will sound two major themes:
- Senior executives worldwide are unhappy with the quality and depth of their organization’s talent. They’re unsure that the right capabilities are in place and quite sure that HR is to blame for any gaps
- When HR executives are asked to rate their own function’s effectiveness, their responses will be an order of magnitude more positive than how they’re rated by others.
We can rationalize why HR features so poorly in these reports but, honestly, our excuses for not delivering on our executives’ needs are starting to wear thin. “Our CEO doesn’t support talent development!” (Most CEOs desperately want great talent. They might not like the solutions you’ve proposed). “Our budgets have been cut!” (So have IT’s but they still manage to provide me with email and internet). “Our managers won’t invest the time to grow their teams!” (Yes, they will. You haven’t made it easy or compelling enough).
Out of excuses, our best plan is to admit that our capabilities are woefully short of what’s needed, then work furiously to catch up. A good starting point is to define what really allows an HR or talent leader to excel. To do this, we need to cut through the academic prose of typical capability models and present the (often unacknowledged) truth about how HR and talent leaders become truly influential.
My friend Jim Shanley (ex-Bank of America talent executive) and I created the 4 + 2 capability model to do just that for talent management leaders. The succinct version is below. You can contact me for an article with the longer version.
The Core Four Capabilities
- Business Junkie: Great talent leaders both know and love business. They understand the company’s strategy, how the products or services are produced and how they go to market. In addition to knowing their business, they genuinely love business. They wake up every morning thrilled to participate in the pursuit of making and selling things that produce a profit for their company, jobs for their employees and returns for their shareholders.
- HR Disciple: The HR Disciple has a broad understanding of the core talent management areas along with compensation, recruiting, organization development and engagement. They are a true student of the discipline of human resources.
- Production Manager: The best HR and talent leaders know that their job is to produce talent using a production line mentality. They must understand the raw materials available to them, the tools that can most effectively cut, shape and polish that material, and how to ensure that the finished product meets quality standards. They ensure the talent machine actually runs and produces talent.
- Talent Authority: A successful talent authority has a great “eye for talent.” They understand what it takes to succeed in a given role and have the ability to quickly summarize how well a given candidates fits with those needs. They carry in their heads an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of every leader in their charge.
The Differentiating Two
While TM leaders must be Business Junkies, HR Disciples, Production Managers and Talent Authorities, achieving their full potential requires more. The two differentiating capabilities are:
- Trusted Executive Advisor: The trusted advisor provides wise counsel on talent issues in a way that considers their client’s ego, personal hopes and fears, and reflects a deeper understanding of the organization’s financial, operational and political realities. This demands a high degree of professional credibility and strong executive relationships
- Courageous Advocate: The Courageous Advocate is appropriately aggressive in voicing their opinion. “Appropriate” means knowing how to select which battles are worth fighting and the politically productive way to bring potentially incendiary issues to the table. “Aggressiveness” means not being afraid to raise sensitive issues, to fight for what you believe is right and to push back just one more time.
We have a long journey ahead of us to meet our executives’ increasing demands for talent-filled organizations. The shortest path is to drop the excuses and start building the HR capabilities that can actually get us there.