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Recruiting Is Not Recruiting, HR is not HR
The other day, my nine year old stepson was referred to the principal’s office by his teacher. During recess that Monday morning, he told a number of his friends that he’d “had sex with two girls over the weekend.” While the teacher was shocked and dismayed, I had a hard time controlling my laughter.
Things look pretty different when you’re parenting a second batch.
The single largest myth about HR is that so called ‘best practices’ are somehow transferable between organizations and functions regardless of the organization and the function. In Recruiting circles, people will tell you with a straight face that Recruiting is the same thing regardless of the setting. The idea is that something about hiring a barista is somehow related to hiring a public company CEO.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like saying that there is some common ground between my nine year old’s virginal naivety and Charlie Sheen’s lifetime of having sex with two women. While they both will tell you that they spent their weekend the same way, the actual experiences are completely unrelated. Charlie Sheen’s best practices will do the kid no good. While the young man’s best practices might help Charlie out, we’re sure he wouldn’t see the wisdom.
We’re moving into a very important part of the maturing of the HR industry. Call it early adulthood.
The first generation of professionalized HR is coming to a close. It was a wild, wild west show with a single professional association and vendors gobbling up market share in a war that focused on features. Today, most of the features have stabilized, the professional association is looking a bit worse for the wear and most industry events happen in very local venues (Oh, you didn’t know that?)
In HR’s early adulthood, we’re going to see
- The vendor playing field shift its focus from features to brands. Increasingly, contracts will be won and lost based on reputation and measurable cultural fit;
- The professional associations and various publications will continue their trend towards regionalization. This will be spurred on by social media (the most interesting HR events are regional Ie the ERE Meetups, HRevolution, HRandTech and TNL). Even more local brands will appear;
- Regional and industry specific ways of doing HR will begin to be understood;
- Smart diagnostics that allOW the prescription of HR practices based on organizational attributes and philosophies (size, centralization vs federation, talent acquisition vs development, outsource vs DIY) will take their place;
- Organizations will begin to be overt in the decision of whether or not HR is a strategic weapon (most will choose not)
In adulthood, organizational differentiation is the mature path. Where it matters, each company will tailor its own model of HR. Where it doesn’t matter, efficient external operators will do the grunt work while HR evolves into a program management function.
The point is that all of the generalizing about HR has come untethered from its roots. The major trade shows are increasing their emphasis on practitioner presentations. Why, because no one is able to make real sense out of the bigger trends. It’s a mosaic of local stuff buried in a blizzard of white noise.
With maturity comes individuation. It’s the path between the big talking nine year old and the big talking 40 something..
Heather Bussing is a returning contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
Behaving Badly Online & Defamation
by Heather Bussing
As business involves more interactions on the internet, the legal and practical implications of what you say and where you say things online is changing. Access to information is instantaneous—thoughtful responses and time to consider are rare.
It used to be that something was written, set aside, edited and mulled over before it was published in one of a few media outlets. Today, information, including photographs and video, get Tweeted, posted, linked, Youtubed, Googled and emailed instantaneously. The opportunities to create havoc and legal liability abound.
Part of it is the disconnect of between the author and the audiences. There is a false sense of intimacy in being able to communicate so quickly to multiple audiences of one. Posting our hearts out from a computer, we are completely removed from the checks and balances of body language and voice inflections inherent in in-person communications. We like what we’re saying. We think we’re right. It’s often difficult to know when we are completely out of line until it’s too late. And once you post, it’s pretty much too late.
So it is important to use good judgment and remember you are working in a wide-open universe where information travels quickly and freely and can hang around for a very long time. The main rule is simple. Unless you want a million perfect strangers to know it, don’t post it.
There is also legal liability for behaving badly online. Saying and doing mean things to others in public can create personal liability for you and potentially your partners or employer. This generally falls under the category of defamation. (Other misuse of information, content and images can create copyright and other intellectual property problems too.)
Defamation is saying something false about a person in a way that damages that person. Defamation is the general category. Libel is saying it in writing. Slander is saying it verbally. False Light is making someone look bad based on false information.
The key to any defamation claim is that the speaker or writer either actually knew the information was false or a reasonable person would have known that the information was false. So there is an objective standard about whether you should have known what you were saying was not true.
The primary defense to most defamation claims is that the information stated was actually true—whether you knew it or not.
There are other important defenses. Public figures usually cannot sue for defamation because of free speech protections. So you can pretty much say anything you want about Charlie Sheen right now without liability. But since he’s rich and acting oddly, you might still get sued. Tiger blood and all.
Other potentially damaging statements are privileged, such as the things that are said in litigation or in employment evaluations because the importance of a free exchange of information outweighs the individual’s hurt feelings.
Also, personal opinions that are clearly stated as opinions rather than statements of fact are protected speech and not defamation.
You Can Be Legally Responsible for Employees’ Defamation
It is essential to understand that vicarious liability applies to defamation claims. That means that if you are acting in the scope of your job when you say something defamatory, your employer or business partners can also be responsible for everything you say. If you are an employer or partner, you can be held responsible for what your agents and employees say, even if you had nothing to do with it.
It gets especially tricky when the internet is involved because damaging statements get published, republished, linked to, and tweeted quickly and exponentially.
The courts are having trouble figuring out how to apply the law. It used to be that publishers could be liable for defamatory content in their publications because they had some level of control over what goes into the publication. But distributors were generally not liable because they just sell the stuff and don’t have editorial control.
Courts have struggled to extend this distinction to the internet, holding that system operators or website owners can be liable for content posted on their site if they have some level of editorial control or if they knew or should have known that the statements were not true. But if they are just distributing the information without editorial control, then they are usually not liable.
Website operators are essentially damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If you make an effort to moderate what goes on your site, you become potentially liable for everything there. If you take a completely hands off approach, your potential for liability goes down– but so does the quality of the content of the site.
What to do
If you are a website operator: It’s better to know what is going on and immediately take down inappropriate or potentially damaging and/or false information than to rest on the ” I don’t control it” defense in a lawsuit. Your integrity and the integrity of your site and brand are essential to your ability to do business over the long run. You don’t have to be a hall monitor. But it’s much better to prevent the damage — to yourself and others– than to try to defend against it later.
If someone is saying something damaging about you online: Contact the person immediately and demand that the post be removed. Even if that works, it may already be too late. So you should also probably issue an immediate response. Explain why it’s not true–stick to the facts. Avoid name calling. If you are really pissed off, get someone you trust to give you objective advice before you post anything. You want to put it to bed, not amp up the hostility and open yourself to liability for defamation.
This is contrary to the old PR and legal advice to ignore it and avoid giving it the honor of your time and energy. It used to be that you wanted to avoid repeating the damaging information and diminish the exposure—responding just kept the issue alive and created further damage. However, with the internet, there is no way to know where the information has gone or to whom. Also the volume and speed of the river of information has made the attention span of users extremely short. So it’s much more important to put a swift, firm, and honest response online for anyone who connects to the damaging information.
If you are a blogger, commenter, or writer online—watch what you say and do and where you say it. You are the one with the most to lose. Saying mean or embarrassing things about other people almost always backfires. If you have an issue with someone, call or email them directly and handle it offline.
When (notice I did not say “if”) you screw up, make your apologies public as well. Taking responsibility for your online actions not only demonstrates your integrity and maturity, it will also reduce the chance of getting sued.
It’s really about maintaining healthy personal and professional relationships—which are the essence of good recruiting, developing a positive brand and effective communications.
Attraction vs Promotion
Marketing that works well has the net effect of reversing the flow of the phone traffic and lead generation. With no clear marketing strategy, the enterprise is forced to identify every potential sales target by name and then reach out and create the relationship. The hard work of physical lead generation is a part of building or rebuilding a business.
Marketing, when executed effectively, is all about making the prospect of doing business with you so attractive that the normal dynamics of promotion become inverted. It is an offensive game that deteriorates at the moment that it shifts to the defense.
Recruiting, as currently practiced, is a defensive and reactive process full of promotional techniques. Placing an ad on a job board, hiring a staffing or search firm, and, filling a requirement after it is identified are all reactive behaviors executed in defense of a set of circumstances that happen out of the control of the recruiter.
The industry that has grown up to support Recruiters and other HR professionals assumes that a reactive posture is the starting point. When you sift through all of the BS from all of the suppliers, it’s all about catching the horse after it’s left the pasture. The ‘best places to work’ meme, once a way of attracting people is now a cynical game played by well-heeled larger firms.
The problem with promotion as a development tool is that it makes people want to run away. Promotion, as demonstrated by the cold call or the surprise demonstration, introduces the ‘prospect’ to a strange thing and asks that s/he consider it without regard to schedule, quality or need. The presence of fear in promotional tools is precisely the reason that cold calls and direct marketing approaches have such low rates of closing. When you reach out cold to a prospect, your batting average falls rapidly.
Attraction, on the other hand, gradually and interestingly introduces the prospect with no threat of immediate sales pressure. Usually, attraction oriented tools and processes give the prospects something of value well in advance of the sales pitch. Advertising is much more about attraction, through increasing brand awareness. Advertising takes time and focus. It operates on different rhythms than the direct approach. It is friendlier with a relaxed pace.
Community development is an even longer path.
Now, of course, you have to beat the bushes to get started or restarted. Recruiting in an early stage enterprise has a higher promotional content than a mature operation should have. But, promotion as a development tool is best left to fly by night operations.
The question is why the Recruiting industry has avoided the more productive approach of building attraction into its basic processes. We think the answer lies in not understanding that the acquisition and maintenance of Human Capital requires a solid infusion of regular capital. Since the question is rarely understood in those terms, Recruiting is treated as an expense rather than as an investment.
Recruiting is an investment and always requires an investment at the front end. Techniques that attract candidates are the best ways to convert so called passive seekers into active seekers.
Bob Corlett returns to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Bob has worked in staffing and consulting for over 25 years. He is the founder and President of Staffing Advisors, a retained search firm near Washington DC. He developed The Results-Based Hiring Process® and is one of Washington’s best known thought leaders on staffing and recruiting. Full Bio…
Why That New Metrics Initiative Will Destroy Your HR Career
by Bob Corlett
My wife makes her living analyzing the academic achievement of students in our public school system – (thanks to the “No Data Left Behind” act). So, when she moved over to a low performing school, with a new, data-driven principal, I was interested in how that would play out. Would brilliant analytics and new leadership improve the academic performance of the school? Naturally we were hopeful, because I’m a process guy, and well, analytics is her job. But analytics were not the key to the school turnaround. They were helpful, but secondary. It’s something else that’s turning the tide.
Time magazine just ran an article about the schools in Finland. The Finns are rock stars in global education – by almost any standard they have outperformed virtually every other country in the world for many, many years. How do they do it? With more metrics? No. They did it with better teachers, and just a few metrics.
“The Finns … do as little measuring and testing as they can get away with. They just don’t believe it does much good.”
The Time article shared 3 BFO’s – (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) about Finland:
1. “Finland’s sweeping success is largely due to one big, not-so-secret weapon: its teachers … It’s the quality of the teaching that is driving Finland’s results”
2. “The U.S. has an industrial model where teachers are the means for conveying a prefabricated product. In Finland, the teachers are the standard.”
3. “In the U.S., they treat teachers like pizza delivery boys and then do efficiency studies on how well they deliver the pizza.”
One of the keys to the Finns success was selecting the right people to become teachers, investing in their development, and then freeing them to use their expertise to teach, unconstrained by a standardized curriculum geared toward standardized test scores. No “teaching to the test” in Finland. Instead they start with a highly skilled professional and trust them to use their judgment. There is a lesson for HR here.
The transformation in my wife’s school did not happen two years ago when better metrics were introduced. The transformation only happened as better teachers were introduced, and teachers who resisted accountability left. Great people first, a few metrics second – metrics are only useful in the hands of a skilled operator. W. Edwards Deming, the godfather of the American quality movement cautioned that “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” But my corollary is this: “A bad person will screw up a good system every time.” Great metrics did not help the bad teachers.
When you ask the question “What are some good metrics to use in an HR department?” you are already on the wrong track. That first wrong question will launch a misguided drive toward an efficiency goal, often at the expense of a business imperative. (It will lead you to think it’s a good idea to lower your cost-per-hire by making top candidates all apply through your irritating Applicant Tracking System). Efficiency oriented metrics initiatives like these are a career disaster. They simply turn HR into pizza delivery boys (or, as John Sumser would argue, girls). You’ll train the real decision makers to say, “Hey HR, while I am driving real business results why don’t you go get me a pizza (or new hire? Oh, and can you guarantee delivery in 30 minutes?”.
If you are not steeped in metrics now, don’t borrow them from some other organization. Instead, look at two or three things that consistently drive results in your organization (like hiring great people, and then start looking for ways you can have a measurable impact on that.