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At the heart of good recruiting, retention based on personal desire, great customer relationships, solid team work, clear delivery of results and, increasingly, any business success, is the mastery of relationship management. Relationships are hard to develop in volume and many people take statistical shortcuts in processes that develop relationships based on the luck of the draw. The reason that Direct Marketing techniques generally have a bad name is that they tend to treat people like objects as a precursor to a deeper form of relationship. The message in this approach is “if I can figure out what value you bring to me, I will invest in a deeper relationship.”
No good relationship begins with the proposition that it will depend on my understanding of the value I’ll get. They begin with the question “What value can I give?” They start with the notion that the “objects of our desire” are people first. When they are “objects” first, the very beginning of the relationship is sowed with the seeds of its ultimate failure.
In situations that require people to sift through volumes of potential relationships, the tendency to objectify feels like a quick shortcut to successful completion of the task. Reviewing hundreds of resumes to arrive at a “shortlist” of ten which will then be sifted to an interview pool of three or four is a task that demands sensitivity to data and the nuances of personal PR. Remembering that each resume represents the desires, hopes and aspirations (and sometimes desperation) of a person is a nearly superhuman task that requires the constant availability of forgiveness, a sense of humor and a willingness to see beyond the data. It is tremendously hard to keep this perspective fresh and foremost, particularly in a reactive environment.
Rather than focusing on being “x-kind of Relationship Manager” most ATS systems (or CRM systems for that matter) might be better called Potential Relationship Databases. Like the personals section of the local newspaper, they give a lonely recruiter or salesperson the opportunity to initiate a relationship. It is the process of evolving and maturing relationships, however, that characterizes real sales or recruiting effectiveness. It’s a process that can be supported but never automated because it involves the feelings of the person doing the recruiting or selling.
While there are tons of sales training programs that do it, we’ve looked and looked for either a managerial training program or a recruiter’s training program that focuses on a simple truth: Your effectiveness depends on how you feel about yourself and others. All of the sourcing and record keeping programs in the world won’t begin to compensate for a recruiting process that treats potential candidates as objects. To the extent that current systems perpetuate the myth that data constitutes a relationship, they are major contributors to the problem.
Steve Smith from The Starr Conspiracy, returns to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board with his article on Three Talent Lessons From General Surgery. The Starr Conspiracy has worked with more than 300 clients around the globe in the human capital space, including some of the industry’s biggest and best-known brands.
Three Talent Lessons From General Surgery
By Steven Wade Smith
I’m not an HR guy. I’m a communicator who has spent a lot of his career working with HR people. One of the things I’ve learned about HR: You guys are put in a position to say “no” a lot. I feel for you. It isn’t fun.
That’s part of the reason I love my job. I’m in marketing. I have an expense account. I buy people lots of drinks and expensive meals. I get to say “yes” a lot. People love me. I’m fun.
Of course, there is a downside to all that. When I buy drinks and nice meals for people, I partake in drinks and nice meals, too. I’m talking lots. You might not believe it, but saying “yes” has a price tag that goes way beyond falsifying your expense report.
I know what you’re thinking. Sounds rough, buddy. Take a hike. But rough it is. I found that out firsthand, when I found myself in an emergency room, staring up at the ceiling with a pain in my gut that felt like a stick of dynamite had just gone off.
Turns out I’d melted my gall bladder, a not-entirely essential internal organ. Think appendix, except bigger and with a much lower Klout score. Hey, gall bladder surgery is the No. 1 general surgery in the U.S., according to the guy who vacuumed mine out. Who knew? Sounds like a certain organ needs a better publicist.
So, anyway, destroying your gall bladder has something to do with martinis, thick steaks and nice cigars. Guess who’s saying “no” now? There are a lot of my clients who will literally be choking back tears as they read this paragraph. There, there. Let me get you a hot cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal.
To make up for the cocktails and filet Oscar that I won’t be buying you, I’m here to offer a little free knowledge, accumulated during my convalescence. You know what I’ve learned?
Lesson No. 1: Succession planning isn’t just for senior executives
Yeah, I own a company, but I actually do real work, too. So when I suddenly found myself in the hospital, my business partners and my copywriters had to pick up the slack immediately. Succession planning and management at all levels of your organization matters. I’ve written a lot about this over the years, but it has a whole new meaning now.
I got lucky. I’ve got a team of highly capable, flexible copywriters who were able to keep things on my content team running smoothly. I have great business partners who were able to pick up the slack in operations and business development. Through an accident of good hiring, I made myself entirely replaceable.
Can you say the same thing? Would your team or your company be able to function without you or any other key employee? Don’t wait to find out, like I did. You might not be so lucky.
Lesson No. 2: Your employees should be focused on quality
I’m not a newcomer to the healthcare system. I have years of experience consulting for a major hospital system and a company that manages emergency health services. My respect and admiration for the people in healthcare have always been immense. It’s difficult work to consistently deliver with skill, compassion and excellence.
After a week at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, my esteem for healthcare providers has only increased. Everyone from doctors and nurses to the techs and the transport and housekeeping employees was focused on patient satisfaction, safety and clinical excellence. I know that’s not an accident. I knew I would receive a survey from Press Ganey a few days after I went home – and I did. I gave the hospital great marks.
Is your company as relentless about the pursuit of quality? Do you hire people who are oriented toward that end? Do you have the training and development to help them learn and grow? Can you measure and improve individual and organizational performance.
If you work in an HR or L&D function, your work has a direct impact on quality. How is your work improving the overall quality of your organization?
Lesson No. 3: The best résumé isn’t always the best hire
One of the happy accidents of a convalescence that extended into October was that I found myself with plenty of time to watch the baseball playoffs. I’m ecstatic that my Texas Rangers are heading back to the World Series. After a generation of futility, the past two years have been gratifying to watch.
What I love about this team is its ability to put egos in check and perform for the good of the club, if not for the benefit of individual stats. Who needs an ace starting pitcher like Cliff Lee? The Rangers became only the second team to win a best-of-seven series without getting a win from its starters. This team isn’t just a collection of superstars. There’s lots of homegrown talent. Some guys were brought on board by savvy trades. Then there are some retreads and rejects who are overachieving or finally getting a chance to shine. Mr. Boomstick, Nelson Cruz, the MVP of the American League Championship Series, was once a castoff – a player who literally no other team wanted. These guys actually seem to like one another and to have great chemistry. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Take a look at your talent acquisition processes. Are you simply hiring the candidate with the best-looking résumé without any consideration for team chemistry? Do you have a Nelson Cruz in your organization – the superstar waiting to happen? There is an opportunity today to take advantage of other companies’ hiring and firing mistakes. What are you doing about it?
The Final Cut
Saying “no” sucks. Saying “yes” is a lot more fun. If you want to say “yes” to something, do it in ways that help you build a better company. That’s all any CEO wants out of a company’s people functions, anyway. The three things I mentioned are only a start. If you have other ideas, let’s talk about them over drinks. I’m buying. Is carrot juice OK with you?
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…
The Avatars in Our Heads
by Mark McMillan
On October 6th, at around 5pm PST, I excitedly jumped to the Apple website to see if the latest version of the mobile operating system had been released. When it comes to the release of new Apple products, I’m a bit like a kid on Christmas morning. I don’t just drink the Apple Kool-aid — I bath in it. The excitement drained from my face as soon as the Steve Job’s memorial page filled the screen. His death wasn’t a surprise, but it was still a tragically sad moment.
Even though I never actually met Steve Jobs, I had a relationship with him. You see, I carry around my very own projected, Steve Jobs avatar. He is a voice that I consult with in the privacy of my own mind. These avatar relationships are fascinating, and worthy of examination. For most of us, our own inner avatars can be more influential than the real people themselves.
Over the last decade, I’ve watched every Steve Job’s product announcement. I was captivated by him. In my mind’s eye, I have a composite image of Steve Jobs wearing his trademark blue jeans and black turtleneck. I regularly summon by Steve Job’s avatar whenever I’m looking at a new software product. What would Steve Job’s think about this? And, I have to tell you, my inner Steve Job’s voice is pretty hard on enterprise software products. “Where’s the soul? Where’s the art?” “You call this innovation?” Where’s the innovation? He motivates me to challenge the status quo. He’s my friend. He tells me to be inspired. Me and my Steve avatar — we just get each other.
Beyond the famous avatars are the voices of important people in our lives — our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, bosses, and teachers are common voices. These internalized voices can be permanent fixtures in our head, even after they are dead. These voices reveal themselves all of the time. Sometimes they are positive and sometimes they keep us from something that we want. They can also be debilitating.
As a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), I work with client’s to discover and re-program these voices. NLP is the study of how humans make meaning out of the information that they experience through their five senses. We humans have programs for creating memories and assigning meaning to events of our lives. We store pictures, voices, and feelings in our minds that can have a profound influence on how we interact with the world around us. We are compulsive, meaning-making machines. Uncovering these old voices is a bit like an emotional archeological dig. A skilled NLP practitioner can read a person’s eye movements as a clue to when they are actually checking with one of their ancient avatars.
To illustrate my point, my Dad’s voice is one that I carry around with me all the time. When I was about 14 years old, I overheard my Dad making a comment to my mom that “I was lazy and needed to be pushed.” At the time I had enlisted my Mom’s help to get my Dad to back off our baseball training regime. He would require me to get up before school, around 5:30am, to practice pitching. I was tired of it and I asked my Mom to talk to him about it. Now the truth of the matter is that I was many things, but lazy was never one of them. But in that moment, I assigned meaning to that day – I decided that I was lazy. Now, it’s still a little emotional software bug that runs in the background when I’m afraid and I want to experience a familiar feeling. The funny thing is that I have talked to my Dad about this incident and he never thought that I was a lazy person. But despite all of that observed adult reality, on bad days, I still run the “Mark is lazy” program. With the help of my NLP practitioner, I have chipped away at this one and it doesn’t run quite so often.
The avatars in our life are complex and powerful. Their power often transcends intellectual knowledge. They can be both constructive and destructive. They are fascinating and they make us – us. What does this have to do with human resources?” Fortunately, my Steve Jobs avatar is on my shoulder with semi-frustrated expression. It’s about HUMAN resources right?
What voices are you listening to?
If Bill Kutik were Neil Young, HRTech would be his Bridge School Benefit. The annual conversation marathon, now headed for its fifteenth year, is ground zero for the universe of people who think that technology ought to be at the heart of HR. In Vegas for the first time (after years in Chicago), the LRP team (which includes Kutik and HRExecutive editor David Shadovitz), jammed the festivalwith content and the opportunity for discovery. With conversations led by Naomi Bloom, Jim Holincheck, and Jason Averbrook, the halls were full of the kinds of influential luminaries who show up to jam on the Bridge School Stage.
There is something Fellini-esque about the pace, the content and the intensity of the partying. China Gorman captures it well when she says this is the best conference for HR folks who want to do business. Kutik and co have created a dynamic self-sustaining environment for the exchange of ideas, business cards and opportunities. This is the one place where you can see how it all fits together.
This year, things got started with a Vegas-ready version of HREvolution. In some ways, the start was the high point. HREvolution is the brainchild of a group of next-generation HR Leaders who have a knack for organizing and thinking about the coming game. They warmed up the space on Sunday and led an alternative session on Wednesday. Most notable of the HREvolution offerings was the brilliant ‘Talent Anarchy Hacklab’, a radical (and effective) new approach for instituting organizational change pioneered by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen.
In general, there was a shortage of new ideas and innovation from the vendors at the conference. The primary themes could be easily summarized as:
- Rebranding: If it doesn’t move, paint it. There were a significant number of rebrandings and repositionings. They all seemed to have an eerie similarity.
- Innovation 1: Social Media. Fully 1/3 of the vendors were offering some form of social product. For the most part, it was data intensive and not social at all.
- Innovation 2: Square Rectangles from Apple. Someone has persuaded an army of intelligent people that a lot of work is going to be done from mobile phones. Lots of vendors and presentations shouted enthusiastically about the prospect. Little real value was in evidence.
It’s been four long years of economic downturn. Even the brightest vendors with the smartest offerings have been feeling the pinch. The paucity of new initiatives is clearly related to the lack of Research and Development. We’ve turned the corner on the era where the government and the military supplied our new ideas. Now, they emerge from the consumer markets. We’re not good at harvesting those ideas yet. And, for the most part, we haven’t adjusted to the fact that it’s more expensive to convert consumer stuff into enterprise tools than it is to take them from the government.
There were some gems. You had to wade through the propaganda to find them. It seems like the vendors might not actually know which of their new ideas are keepers. Besides the aforementioned ‘Hacklab‘, these things caught my eye:
- HRMarketer quietly introduced its SocialEars. Focused on vendor needs, the tool takes the idea of influence measurement to the next level. By tracking a huge number of bloggers, journalists, commentators and others, HRMarketer is able to present an idea of the pulse of the conversation on specific keywords.
- Lumesse is defying the market’s logic and delivering both SaaS and On-Premise functionality. In the rest of the world, both Oracle and Salesforce.com are headed in this direction.
- There was a ton of talk about improving performance management. Sonar6 offered really interesting visualizations of organizational performance. CubeVibe was hovering in the background with a more instantaneous view of the problem. Rypple is pointing in a similar direction. The basic idea is that performance evaluation already is a 24×7 process. It’s the systems and reporting that are out of synch.
- The CandE awards barely overshadowed the fact that Elaine Orler’s Talent Function is rapidly becoming the preeminent source of recruitment campaign design and technology implementation.
- There are a ton of companies offering tools with which to integrate social data into a form that supplements the resume. Veechi, thesocialcv and TalentBin all make interesting products. So far, none of the vendors goes beyond the parlor tricks that are possible with scraped data. Still, these are companies to watch as they grapple with explosive volumes of personnel information.
- Charles Jones is, hands down, the folksiest and most approachable CEO in the industry (with the possible exception of Patersons’ Andrew Pearson). You just want to trust him with your business. It’s a surprisingly scarce commodity. You get the immediate sense that the friendliness is the frosting on a high-performance no-nonsense culture. The company was showcasing a sexy data layer. The real story is the powerful integration going on behind the scenes.
- SHL is exploring the combination of visualization and the amazing treasure trove of data they’ve built over the years. There must have been 30 vendors who were trumpeting their ability to do ‘benchmarking across the customer base’. That’s easy in a SaaS environment and hard if you don’t presume that people have to share a platform.
- When you meet the folks from TALX, you start rooting for them before you start the conversation.
- Monster is reinventing itself from the inside out. BeKnown and SeeMore are the next genration of products. The team is fresh and open to experimentation.
- Ceridian‘s expansion of its relationship with DayForce suggests a real change in the integrated workforce management world is afoot.
- HumanConcepts sold off the SMB portion of their business earlier this year. Fleshing out an enterprise quality team, Martin Sacks is assembling a powerhouse. The product enables you to visualize and execute organizational agility.
- OneWire was making the rounds talking about their New York based talent tools. They prove the point that HR and Recruiting are local sports.
There were deeper stories being told. Everyone knows that the emerging problem involves changing mindsets. Immediate data, flowing from every imaginable orifice, is the future of all organizations. HR’s mission is rapidly evolving to become ‘optimizing the network that is the organization’. Meanwhile measurements of things that could never before be measured will swamp us with stuff that needs to be effectively visualized.
Kudos to Jeanne Achille and the Devon Group. I could have never navigated the schedule without their help. Thanks.