Table of Contents
“HR’s vocal critics are predominantly male and focused on the department’s seeming inability to cash in its own chips while complaining about the need for more of them. A more useful approach might be to help HR Practitioners gain effectiveness in organizational politics or to help illuminate the real power that they hold.”
That’s a paragraph from “What HR Thinks and Feels”, the HRxAnalysts report.
What’s the report about? The report is based on a three-year research study of the demographics, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of HR professionals. I like to think of it as “the secret lives of HR pros.” It illuminates the real power HR holds. Check out the table of contents:
• Leisure Activities
Bret Starr adds some context:
“I’ve used the data in the report to create engaging brands, messages and marketing campaigns that appeal to HR buyers on pragmatic and emotional levels. But I can also see how the report could be used to create industry-specific sales techniques, refine requirements for HCM products and services, or even HR career development.
Check out this sample passage:
HR IS WELL-EDUCATED
46% of all HR professionals have pursued postgraduate education. 16% have earned an MBA. 14% have earned some other master’s degree. And 4% have earned a doctoral agree. Postgraduate degrees are prevalent at all ranks (including generalist), but chief executives are much more likely to have an MBA, some other master’s degree or a doctoral degree than their lower-ranking colleagues. Starting at the director level, more HR professionals have pursued postgraduate education than not.
That’s one of about 1,000 data points in the report (no kidding). After analyzing this data with George LaRocque and Bret Starr, I feel like I know every HR professional in the country personally. Their hopes and dreams. Their professional ambitions. The value they provide and the power they hold. It’s in the report.
P.S. Bret, George and I will be presenting a one-time-only webinar on the topic of “What HR Thinks and Feels” next week. I’ll send you an invite to remind you about it but if you want to register right now, click here.
Claudia Faust returns to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board this week with a post about online applications. As a recruiter and leader of corporate recruiting organizations for 15 years, Claudia Faust brings her passion for people and analytics to hiring and retention. She has recruited and managed staffing organizations for globally recognized brands such as T-Mobile USA, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Sprint PCS, and Burger King Corporation. In 2006 Claudia founded Improved Experience to provide business intelligence diagnostics for Human Resources and staffing leaders. Full bio…
The Trouble with Online Applications
by Claudia Faust
Recently I completed a study for a client who was receiving negative feedback about her company’s online job application. Her quest for drivers of dissatisfaction posed an interesting question: what really causes poor experience in an online application? Is it technical glitches, cumbersome usability, poor content, or simply cranky, unqualified job seekers who are tired of competing for jobs in a depressed market?
Applications are a complex trigger in the hiring process. By the time one is submitted, an employer has invested in a career website/applicant tracking system, branded, advertised, and engaged candidates into opening the application. Assuming the candidate actually submits an application, the fine print is filled with disclaimers. The “don’t call us, we’ll call you” email is sent. And the job seeker’s information is sucked away into the candidate unknown. Managing candidates is a costly business: high-touch (intentional or otherwise) comes at a price, the impact of which can’t be underestimated.
Candidates see it from the other side of the curtain, of course. It’s hard work, and more than a little humbling, to look for a job. Recent economic woes aside, consider this factor as well: job hunting is only one of many things that candidates do online. Internet use continues to grow at an exponential rate, as does the ease and intuitive nature of some of its more common activities : social networking, gaming, emailing, texting, and search. Face it. Job seekers know what makes a good online experience and what doesn’t. And they bring evolving expectations to an application near you.
Many factors can influence experience at the application stage. The challenge is to determine how each of them is at play. For example:
Technology – How old is your online application software? How compatible is it to current internet browsers? What is the condition of internet access points for job seekers? Which users have the most technical difficulty? How reliable are third-party service infrastructures?
Usability – How easy is it for job seekers to “learn” to use your particular software? How quickly can they do the tasks required to complete your application? When job seekers return to your candidate portal, how easy is it for them to remember how to use it again? When an error is made while using the software, how easy is it to recover? How pleasant is it to use the software?
Clarity – Technically a subset of usability, I suppose, but important enough to consider separately. Do candidates understand what information they’ll need on hand to complete the application? Do they know the time commitment required to get it done? Are instructions clear on each page? Can they see the progress made toward completion of the application?
Candidate Expectations – How sophisticated are your candidates in terms of internet usage? How easy do they expect the collection and uploading of digital information to be on your site? What do you tell them to expect about your hiring and assessment process, if anything? Is that process clearly communicated anywhere? Better yet, is the delivered experience consistent with your description of it?
In my estimation, poor candidate experience at the earliest stages of talent acquisition is due to employers that don’t differentiate right up front between the general job seeking population and qualified future talent. Imagine for a moment a world in which completing an application for your company was a permission-based activity, and that no one was considered a candidate until you deemed them so. In other words, what if it was not possible for just anyone to drop a resume into your ATS. Instead, the candidate had to be pre-qualified to gain access to the real juice of your company’s candidate experience?
The benefits of this demarcation line would be substantial: candidates win because submitting an application suddenly becomes evidence of mutual interest, rather than a one-sided “notice me!” gesture from the faceless crowd. De facto, it would also carry with it a “membership has benefits” cachet– a ticket to candidate experience that is intentional and easily compared between employers in a competitive talent landscape.
Employers would win in this scenario as well because the cost of building relationships with future talent suddenly becomes controlled, in contrast to an open-checkbook approach to influencing employer brand among the masses. Candidates become a defined pool of desired talent, and the cost and quality of delivered experience to that group can reflect an intentional, targeted, and manageable recruiting strategy.
This approach shifts the focus of true candidate identification back to the hands of the sourcers and recruiters where it belongs. And candidate experience remains a competitive differentiator for employers, as it should be.
How to be Happy
by Bret Starr (reprinted with permission)
Steps 1 – 832: Have Friends
Music to read by: Do you Realize? (Song), The Flaming Lips (Band)
Ever heard of the Grant Study? It’s a long-ass research project (nearly 70 years) that has followed 268 Harvard college sophomores (classes of 1939-1944) and a second cohort of 332 disadvantaged (but non-delinquent) inner city kids from Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945 (think Goodwill Hunting, but back in the day – basically good kids but with few breaks).
The two cohorts have been participating in questionnaires at least every 2 years (and a battery of medical and psychological exams on a less frequent basis). The list of subjects includes 4 would-be senators, one presidential cabinet member and even John F. Kennedy.
The study was architected by George Vaillant, and was named for the department store Magnate W.T. Grant who funded the initial research. The goal of the study was to identify factors contributing to the “good life” – or happiness.
So what did Vaillant (and other stewards of the Grant Study) find out? What is the secret to happiness? The key to the good life? Here is what Vaillant himself said in an interview with the Atlantic (quoted here from a book by John Medina):
“The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
According to Medina in Brain Rules: “After nearly 75 years, the only consistent finding comes right out of It’s a Wonderful Life. Successful friendships, the messy bridges that connect friends and family, are what predict people’s happiness as they hurtle through life. Friendships are a better predictor than any other single variable. By the time a person reaches middle age, they are the only predictor.”
Dan’s been my friend since college. Now he’s my business partner, too.
What about money? According to Medina (a really happy guy and a developmental molecular biologist to boot), “Money doesn’t make the cut. People who make more than $5 million a year are not appreciably happier than those who make $100,000 a year, The Journal of Happiness found. Money increases happiness only when it lifts people out of poverty to about the mid-five figures. Past $50,000 per year in income, wealth and happiness part ways.”
So do you have any work friends? Or did you step on their backs to make more money? Use some logic here. If friends are more important than money when it comes to happiness, and if we spend most of our time at work, isn’t it logical that we’ll be happier if we work harder to develop meaningful relationships at work than we do trying to screw everyone on our way to the corner office? Or don’t you want to be happy?
I have an amazing coffee maker. The Capresso C1000 was one of the original kitchen robots; it makes coffee from beans and water. The output is a creamy concoction that rivals the best espresso you can find in the nichey-est local coffee shop in San Francisco.
What seemed like an outrageous investment ($900 at the peak of the dot com thing) turned out to be very reasonable when spread over a dozen years. At about $.10/day, the thing brews pleasure every morning. It makes pressure brewed coffee rather than the drip coffee that is the American Standard.
The company behind the machine is the real story. Every four or five years, after I have completely failed to do the proper maintenance, my coffee maker goes on strike. It just refuses to work. I box it up, send it back to kitchen robot heaven and wait about three weeks. (They are long weeks without my morning nectar). Like magic, it turns back up on my doorstep, fresh and ready to go. Great product, great service, great experience.
I have one complaint about the coffee maker.
I’m usually pretty good about doing the maintenance required to keep things running. Oil changes, routine cleaning, laundry and the dishes are things I enjoy. You figure out what’s required; take care of business; and the world operates smoothly.
With the C1000, the front panel is a maze of buttons and lights with ‘intuitive’ labels. Making coffee in the morning means pushing the buttons and making the lights change. It’s reasonably simple to learn.
But, when maintenance is required, all of the lights go off in a visual cacophony. The manual, 20 dense single spaced pages, will tell you want to do if you can wade through the technical material. Since it doesn’t happen very often, each event requires relearning the maintenance manual.
What I really want is one button marked ‘fix everything now’. In lieu of than, I’d like the machine to help me while I fix it.
This is also the problem that plagues most approaches to ‘workforce analytics’. Like my Capresso C1000, analytics generally give you a status report without any guidance for problem solving. While knowing that you have a problem is the first step towards dealing with it, any mediocre consultant can help you notice that things are hinky.
With all of the fuss about the integration of analytics into enterprise HR Systems, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between what we used to call ‘reports’ and what we now call ‘workforce analytics’. While the reporting is increasingly precise (that means knowing exactly whose butt will be kicked at the next staff meeting and for what reasons), access to the information required to start solving the problem remains a challenge.
It’s as if, while you were listening to the stereo, you needed to get a report about it’s loudness and then go over to the unit to figure out how to turn it down.
Yesterday, I saw a demo from Stepstone Solutions, the global provider of Talent Management Software. As we were digging under the hood, it became clear that Stepstone approaches this question differently. They’ve figured out how to keep the analytics tied to the underlying data in a way that makes problem solving easier.
When you are unhappy with the way the system is operating, you click through the dashboard to the underlying data and start solving problems.
In many organizations, the analytics department is completely detached from the operational HR team. Data analysis is seen as separate from actually doing stuff. Like Quality Control in the days before it was integrated into operations, analytics often act like an audit function.
The Stepstone approach assumes that the user is in the business of continually improving her performance. By making their analytics a gateway to actionable data, they are changing the way that HR learns.
And, I’m going to send them over to Capresso to work on the next generation coffee maker.
A brand is a sign of maturity. Young companies only have them under peculiar circumstances. Like a badge of honor (or dishonor as the case may be), a brand is won. A brand is earned.
Early in their lives, companies are untried and untested. They offer a tool, service or other good to buyers of various stripes. Those early buyers bet heavily. Early customers have to believe that the company will last long enough to fulfill the order and that what they are buying is worth the price.
There’s virtually no room for branding in an early stage company (even though that’s what it needs most). The early employees (usually the founders) spend their time and energy getting to know the market and the customers. Formal branding initiatives are hard to find money for. That comes later.
You’ve probably heard the oft repeated notion that a brand is a conversation. That’s not exactly right. The core direction is right; a brand is a verb, not a noun. It’s more accurate to say that a company is a conversation. The brand is the set of things that stand for that conversation.