HRExaminer v3.04 January 27, 2012
Table of Contents
Candidate Experience Requirements
The basic idea is that any person who visits an employment website should be treated with respect, as a minimum, and delighted, as an objective. The basic steps in that process are:
- acknowledging receipt of an application,
- avoiding postings that say little or insult the intelligence,
- eliminating out of date postings,
- monitoring an application against open opportunities,
- staying in touch with relevant information,
- letting the candidate know when their application is going to be flushed from the system,
- providing material that is interesting to candidates,
- eliminating unnecessary ‘clicks’,
- making sure the website runs quickly,
- offering suggestions to those who most likely are never going to be working for you,
- describing the hiring process (how long, what’s involved),
- illuminating the culture with profiles of successful members of the workforce,
- addressing known PR problems (Here at Enron, we have a renewed emphasis on ethics),
- having a clear and compelling message,
- eliminating things that waste a candidate’s time,
- providing ways for candidates to build their networks,
- and so on.
Like cramming for a math final after skipping the class all semester, the active job hunter is faced with a sea of conflicting number one priorities, often without the resources required to effectively fill in all of the blanks. Clarity about the next step, self-confidence (in spite of whatever prompted the need to shift jobs), an orientation of accomplishment and a clear sense of “What Do I Want To Do” are the most basic components of this standard recipe for a nervous breakdown.
That’s right, people who are actively looking for work tend to be scattered and faking it. Otherwise, the layers of embedded conflict would eat them alive.
When you write for this audience understand that you are dealing with explosive levels of conflicting value. What feels good is certainty and the ability to relieve the tension.
Truth is that after about a dozen thorough readings of job ads, they revert to skimming. The web actively encourages this approach…it’s a skimming medium. Following a skimming phase, the job hunter reverts to reviewing opportunities briefly and punching a resume button in response. It’s extremely Pavlovian.
Under the right circumstances a job hunter can submit around 600 resumes in a 10 hour day of looking for work. Our research indicates that the pace can be sustained, unabated, for about 15 days (or 9,000 resume submittals). That’s what they tend to do unless you can reach them early on (by getting the data right) with a compelling story (content) about why they should apply to you.
It’s a difficult audience with an extremely high payoff.
The most important thing to remember when crafting advertisements for this group is that they are not “passive”. Delivering ads to a “passive” audience requires an entirely different set of tactics.
When Lars Schmidt launched NPRLife, a twitter hashtag that gives an inside look at working at NPR, it was one more in a series of bold, inexpensive moves. Schmidt, who has built Recruiting teams around the media industry, is the prototype of a pioneer.
In conversation, Lars seems to have a built in reminder. Somewhere, in the back of his brain, a little alarm goes off. "Say it now. Say it now." Then, as if you’ve never heard him say it before,
"Never let what might go wrong get in the way of what could go right."
In practice, that means he takes a lot of whacks at the jungle to see if there’s a path. Although Schmidt doesn’t describe himself this way, he is the poster child for a rapid experimentation, rapid fail approach to getting things done. Try it, see if there’s traction. If there isn’t, stop. If there is, do more.
He tells the story of his second or third day at NPR (where he is the Director of Talent Acquisition)."I’d just gotten there. All of a sudden, I was supposed to be co-hosting a hackathon with Google at South by Southwest." As he details the scramble to understand the problem (why co-host a hackathon?) and generate useful collateral while packing, you get a clear picture of Lars in action.
This is a guy who creates a reality distortion field that causes stuff to happen. Somehow, he aligns himself with the fates and good things flow in his direction.
"Never let what might go wrong get in the way of what could go right."
So, why is NPR hosting hackathons?
"We compete for talent in three distinct areas. The thing you’d expect, media and journalism is on the nameplate. That’s a tireless hyper competitive area that is our legacy. In recent years, however, our digital team has come into its own. NPR is really a digital operation. We compete directly with high-tech companies for the best talent in technology and other digital expression. Finally, we compete for business people. That’s where our recruiting has its deepest local orientation."
That’s an impressive span for an operation driven by contributions. In this role, Lars is demonstrating how to make a little budget go a long way.
"Branding is critical for Recruiting", he says. "In the news business, the product is the brand that matters. In Digital, it’s our national employment brand. What matters locally is how we’re perceived as a place to work. These are distinct manageable aspects of Branding. In our industry, we call it Employment Branding. It’s really just a layer of engagement with the overall brand."
We spoke about influence in four different ways.
- Influences on Lars
One of the great things about most influential people is that they give credit easily. The list of people who influence Lars is long and you’d recognize most of them (They are almost all on this Top 100 List). He tells glowing stories about being welcomed into the social media scene by an army of people who are generous with their time and insight.
- Influence as a trait to hire for
Both the Media and Digital components of the NPR employment Brand
are environments where influence and audience reach matter. While there is no current activity to use influence as a hiring criteria, Lars clearly understands its utility.
- Influence as a way of reaching potential employees
Part of the brilliance of #NPRLife is that it gets its traction from the reach of the people who work for NPR. The initial launch was accelerated by a series of tweets from a well known on-air personality.
- The measurement of Influence
We talked for some time about the idea that influence can be measures. In general, we agreed that
things are very primitive now but that you have to go through the primitive phase to get to useful tools.
Keep your eyes on LArs Schmidt. His experimental attitude is exactly the way that innovation will percolate into our R&D free environment. In his case, influence is a combination of position, temperament and the willingness to leverage whatever you have.
JIBE Takes Helping Veterans to a Whole New Level
The United States Military is a land unto itself. It’s a place where the language is a sub-dialect of English focused on the specific tasks and realities of military life. It’s hard to overestimate the difference between being inside and being a civilian.
At about $1 Trillion in annual budget outlays, the first layer of Defense spending is over 4% of the economy. When you add the local impact of those dollars, it’s easy to argue that Defense has a 10% footprint. The size of the budget swings significantly depending on whether the military is actively engaged in conflict operations.
It involves a lot of people. Roughly 1.5 million people are active military, 500 thousand civilians support them, another 900 thousand are in ‘reserve’ forces. That’s nearly 3 Million before you count the various shapes and kinds of Defense contractors, vendors, suppliers and family members. (Wikipedia)
The unique tasks and orientations of the military make it a relatively closed ecosystem. But when it shrinks and swells, it has significant consequence for the worlds around it. Military veterans have extraordinary levels of experience. Responsibility, which is won slowly in civilian life is big and rapidly acquired. Being responsible for the lives and safety of your peers on an always on basis matures active duty personnel quickly.
Because it is a highly technical environment, veterans are comfortable with the complexities of decision making in a high stress, high data, high ambiguity environment.
Under ‘normal circumstances’, about 250 thousand people leave the active duty military each year. As the various global conflicts conclude that number will grow for the next several years. The predictable problems associated with translating military experience into civilian language significantly slows the rate at which veterans make the transition.
The unemployment rate for vets is bad and getting worse. "Fair or not, eight years in the Army is viewed by some employers as eight years without private-sector skills and experience," says Business Week. "The skills issue is particularly troubling. Hiring is strongest in jobs that require specialized education, and weakest for blue collar jobs……Even military jobs that are in the right ballpark for growth industries — say, software or electronics technician — may involve specialization that doesn’t readily apply to Silicon Valley’s Web 2.0 or software-services jobs."
The Recruiting industry’s response ranges from the simple to the downright astonishing.
Jobvite recently released "Apps for Heroes", a toolset that allows employers to post jobs directly to the Veterans Job Bank. This simple job cross-posting function makes it easier for employers who want to to reach out to veterans. Jobvite also allows employers to attach a Button to job posting that makes it easy for veterans to attach their military experience to a job application. There is some controversy associated with the approach. Veterans military experience packages include a lot of non-relevant data including health information.
Meanwhile, JIBE, the New York social Recruiting startup, has taken the game to a whole new level.
JIBE’s job matching tool for vets translates veterans skills into the language of employers. Veterans enter the military terms for their experience, JIBE translates. It leaves non-relevant, private information in the hands of the vet. On JIBE, a Veteran can find any job, regardless of whether it’s been specifically targeted to them. JIBE automatically matches their skills from their Blue Button to jobs on the site. They don’t need to rely on the company to select it as specifically targeted to them. JIBE also has marked jobs as Veteran Friendly if the company has committed to the President that they are hiring vets.
Although the JIBE tool can be used to cross post to the Veterans Job Bank, JIBE also annotates any jobs from employers who have committed to being veteran friendly. In addition, JIBE also streamlines the tax credit application process by giving employers the information they need in the job application.
It’s amazing to see parts of the industry moving to make life easier for veterans. There appears to be an innovation race that comes down to who can deliver the best actual help to veterans. We score the competition as a win in round one for JIBE.
But, like the problem itself, things are not going to stand still as we tackle the problem of reintegrating our veterans.
There are few people in the HR industry who are as influential as Tim Sackett. The widely respected author of HR’s Guide to White People, Sackett is one of those influence the influencers kind of guys. Belligerent is his disdain for political correctness, Sackett is the epitome of the tough minded HR pro who is still willing to plan the company picnic.
The Sackett family has been in the HR business from its inception. Generation after generation, the Sacketts have plied their trade. Tim’s great, great, great, great grandfather Yul, was the 18th Century progenitor of the George Clooney character in Up In the Air.
It was London, 1792. The new cotton mill was established as a model for the fair treatment of workers. Its Utopian owner, the son of a wealthy merchant family, understood that the keys to real productivity involved shortening the work day to 14 hours, daily five minute bathroom breaks and the ability to have children chained with their parents at the looms.
Yul, a Scandinavian native, was hired as the mill’s first paymaster. He screened new workers for hygiene and bugs, tallied the deductions for purchases at the company store, delivered the pay envelopes and administered the punishments. Known throughout England as the exemplar of Best Practice, Yul’s counsel was sought at the leading companies of the age.
One day, during a meeting with the mill owner, Yul put forward a radical new idea. “Beating our wayward employees, while personally enjoyable, doesn’t really seem to be doing much for productivity. Why don’t we simply have them removed from the premises and never speak to them again. It would be like putting your problems in a trash sack and having them hauled away.”
“A trash sack,” the owner replied with a glint in his eye. “That’s brilliant. Got a problem, sack it. It’s so simple. I should have thought of it.”
“Oh, it was your idea, sir.” replied Yul in an HR tradition that persists to current times.
And from that day on, he was known as Yul Sackit. The surname was franco-fied to Sackett when the family migrated to the United States some years later.
As you might imagine, generations of service to organizations as professional paymasters and behavior optimizers guaranteed that the Sackett clan remained on the edge of poverty. In the days of the land rush, the family took a covered wagon and headed west. When the head of the clan saw that they’d reached Wyoming, they parked the wagon a build the homestead. It was then that they discovered that the offer for 40 acres applied to the state of Wyoming, not the town of Wyoming, MI.
As a young man, Tim was constantly confused about the question of whether he was from Wyoming or from Michigan. So, he began his post high-school education at the University of Wyoming. Quickly discovering that the open prairie was a bad place to be in HR (unless you like restaurant chains), young Mr Sackett returned to Michigan.
The rest is, as they say, history. Sackett’s trajectory from confused adolescence to HR Rainmaker took less than a decade once he finally got to work. (He took a six year sabbatical between undergraduate school and grad school to walk back from Wyoming to Michigan.) Now firmly into his 40s, Sackett is starting to imagine changing the face of HR.
With his own personal industry transforming Mr. Potato Head kit (he calls it the Sack-kit), Tim sits in his office envisioning a new nose, different eyes, altered lips and approaches to facial hair for the world of HR. He routinely clarifies his vision of the industry’s new face in his periodic rants at the legendary Tim Sackett Project.
One of the ironic keys to having a broad industry influence is not caring what other people think of you. Tim’s bio on Fistful of Talent makes it abundantly clear that your opinion of him simply doesn’t matter:
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy! After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!
You can see the signs of Sackett’s influence everywhere you look. That framed and autographed photo behind the local HR Vp’s desk? It’s Sackett. Most intro HR text books are being revised to include the Sackett story. Next year’s SHRM conference will feature a Sackett Pavilion.
It’s rare that I get the opportunity to document the influence of the self proclaimed most powerful man in HR. You really need to keep your eyes on Sackett. One day soon, you’ll be changing all of your documentation to eliminate the phrase Human Resources Department to replace it with Sackett Department.