HRExaminer v3.07 February 17, 2012
Table of Contents
Employment Branding has three distinct facets
There are three distinct facets of an employment brand. Each of them are an aspect of the employment brand and not the whole thing:
- Stories and positioning for people unfamiliar with the brand
This is what most employment branding conversations are about.Stories about company culture, the relative extent of benefits, the aspirational qualities of the company, pretty pictures, good stories and transparency are all aspects of the outreach to novel employees. Active job hunters consume much of this content as they try to figure out whether or not they should apply for a job. This is the stuff that gets the greatest attention from branding specialists and advertising agencies.
- The way that experienced people within the industry see the company as a place to work
Once you’ve worked in an industry for more than a year, you know who the players are and have a sense of what it’s like to work there. You get it at the water cooler or by talking to the gal who used to work for a competitor. Contract workers who move around an industry are great sources of intelligence about what it’s like to work ‘over there’.This view is usually at odds with the other two, even when the reputation is very positive.
- The way that people inside the company see their employer
Working for company X is the core experience companies try to convey in their branding. The internal zeitgeist is hard to articulate and varies somewhat from supervisor to supervisor (or plant to plant in the case of Apple), Nevertheless, there is a core DNA of the experience of working for a particular employer. It always includes a certain amount of groupthink. Like any perception rooted in a core audience, there are advocates, detractors and the middle.
Do you recall the story of the blind wisemen and the elephant? It’s a great explanation of how the same thing can look very different depending on your perspective. Each of the wisemen is sure that he has the explanation of the total elephant. In fact, they each understand an aspect.
That’s what debates that try to stuff complex ideas into little sound bites get you. The poem ends by noticing that the blind wisemen were arguing about an elephant that none of them had seen.
These three facets of the employment brand do not necessarily perfectly correspond with each other. Experience varies by individual. When you go ask people from each of these groups about the workplace, you get a range of answers.
It’s particularly hard to see the realities inside your own bubble. There is almost always some level of dissonance between the story put forth in the formal employment marketing materials (website, standard job ad text, brochures, recruiting talking points) and the way it seems to experienced industry people or insiders. Similarly, the insider’s view is usually different form the rest of the industry.
Sometimes the problem is that a company has a great brand but it’s not the one that they want. Many companies are ‘great places to be from’. That is, putting your time in Company X is a gateway to increased wealth and better assignments. So, you have to put your time in that company if you want to be credible in the industry.
But, no one wants to stay there longer than they have to.
So, that employment brand means one thing to newcomers, another to insiders and another to folks who have left. Tampering with any of those aspects will affect the whole.
My unexpected appearance on a Forbes Top 20 List of influencers gave me a new perspective on my own HRExaminer influence project
I got an email from an executive recruiter this morning. It opened with, “As one of Forbes Top 20 Influencers in Big Data I thought you might be able to provide me some networking assistance for a search I am conducting.”
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “So this is what it’s like.” I googled the Forbes’ Top 20 Influencers in Big Data List. Sure enough, there I was at #17.
I’ve been publishing computer generated lists of influencers for two and a half years. Each list brings a little more clarity about the process. Each time, I dutifully remove myself from the list.
So, I’ve never actually been on one of these things. I’ve never waited for the results, speculated about the importance of my place on them or been surprised and delighted by my inclusion.
The moment was pretty interesting.
This kind of recognition brings a smile and a curious feeling. The smile comes from knowing that my work has been seen and (somewhat) appreciated. The curious feeling comes from knowing enough about the arena to know who should have been on the list.
For my money, Tim O’Reilly (who lives in my neck of the woods) has been a consistent driving force in the evolution of the Big Data story. For sheer sustained impact on the arena, it’s hard to imagine a more powerful driver. But, because the internet is the ultimate ‘what have you done for me lately’ media form, he doesn’t appear on the list.
In these algorithm driven analyses, the use of keywords bounded by a time frame is absolutely essential. It’s the only way you can make the data coherent. It’s only a surprise to a few that the measurement of influence is a classic big data problem.
(That makes it particularly funny to read the comments to the Forbes’ Top 20 Influencers in Big Data List. There you can watch big data experts argue about the big data approach)
In an algorithm driven analysis of influence, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would not make a list of the Top Influencers in American Culture. Instead, you’d get Oprah, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Brad and Angela and Tim Tebow. A significant figure who took a little time off (unless she’s in a Utah rehab) wouldn’t make the list.
The question is “What the hell do you do with the lists?”
The executive recruiter who sent me the note had it right. The lists are all about knowing who is connected to the story right now. The people on the lists are gateways to other networks of people interested in the topic. Influence lists are a powerful gateway for sourcing and the development of talent networks that are actual networks of talent.
They’re also useful as a way of discovering things and people you don’t know.
To most of the people in the Big Data silo, I’m an unknown quantity. They are never in the flow of my wrestling with the coming tidal wave of data and its impact on HR systems. Their focus is elsewhere.
For the majority of human history, people in a silo of information could rightly assume that they had the inside track on who was who. Every square inch of knowledge used to be organized like a closed fraternity. That all ended with the democratization of publishing at the turn of the century.
There are still vestigial aspects of the fraternity system in place. The universe of analysts in HR were all aware of the deal between Taleo and Oracle well before it happened. On reading their commentary at the moment of the announcement, it’s clear that there were a lot of players with deep insight about the deal before it happened.
Some of what people traditionally think of as influence is membership in those closed systems. Some of us think that the sort of groupthink that is engendered by that sort of inbreeding is bad for business.
Influence lists open the doors and let the sunshine in. As the technology continues to improve, they’ll get better and better.
- We are in the earliest stages of a transformation in the way that we look for, acquire, and execute work. The tools and techniques we use to find and hire workers, understand and manage their development, and define our labor market needs are entering an era of flux. The important takeaway: We are not there yet.
- Technology is entering companies through new paths. Where the flow of technology used to be from big organizations to small, and from the government to business, it now moves from consumer markets into the organization.
- There are at least 15 technologies migrating from the consumer marketplace to the business world. These are the social technologies. Right now, the technologies that we use in our personal lives are higher quality and more up to date than the technologies we use at work. This changes the way that companies manage a range of things
- The market is clouded by the claims of vendors and enthusiasts who describe a clear reality that isn’t all that clear. What we don’t know is significantly greater than what we do know about how we will use emerging technologies.
- The use of social media is helping to refine definitions of referral programs. While there is no evidence that social media referrals are effective yet, there is reason to continue to experiment. The idea that my network is the best way for me to find a job is as flawed as the idea that my boss can acquire his workforce by scavenging that network.
- The most effective use of social media for Recruiting and HR functions involves a healthy does of experimentation. Competitive advantage goes to the organizations that find formulas that work for them. Today’s winning toolset is always hand developed and carefully customized to the organization and its unique staffing issues. The vendors who stay the course will be the ones who help with the experiments.
- Social media highlights the fact that HR and Recruiting practice are extremely regional. The tools and techniques that work are highly dependent on industry, organization size, local demographics, and the availability of the right skills in the local labor market.
- Much of what is called social media or social technology is really an emerging approach to being able to collect and use new forms of data. Legacy platforms are usually ill suited to developing the sort of peer to peer intimacy that social media promises. That leaves older systems in the position of broadcasting to social media outlets and trying to harness the discoverable data on those sites. While the results are somewhat anti-social, organizations are developing an appetite for the information in social media sites. That data helps clarify the characteristics of the human capital that an organization deploys.
- Somewhat surprisingly, we were unable to discover significant evidence of the use of community in enterprise settings. The evangelists for Social Technology are way out in front of the actual usage. While community is bandied about as the ultimate end of the new technologies, the evidence points elsewhere. Currently, Social Technology is focused on the creation of data, not relationships. This first generation of social technology is decidedly not very social.
- The report describes a reality that is particularly interesting to the owners and operators of job boards (both commercial and corporate employment sites). Whether or not social technology provides sourcing value, it will be the competition from now on. Energy and resources that could be flowing into job boards will be sidetracked as customers chase the shiny new objects. Job seekers will move away from corporate sites.
If you’d like to better understand social media and technology in HR and recruiting I’d recommend you read my full analysis.
There are not that many must see HR events on the global stage. TRU London is one.
Next week, I am going to make what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the European hub of Recruiting excellence. The TRU London gathering is a learning swarm. People interested in Recruiting from all over the globe descend on a small hotel in London’s Indian neighborhood.
What follows is a mob scene as a couple hundred of the global industry’s brightest minds cram into the basement of the hotel. Calling it loosely organized is generous. If you’ve ever watched a session of the British House of Commons, you have a basic sense of it. Somehow, the crowd and hubbub produces an amazing stream of connections, insight and forward motion.
TRU London is what an intellectual marketplace would look like if you ever tried to build one. There is a Darwinian (and unwritten) process through which ideas are vetted and delivered. The session leaders have little in the way of a schedule and are on their own. Ideas are bought, sold and traded in a jillion little conversations.
It has the feel of a trading floor.
At the center of it all is the amazing bundle of energy known as Bill Boorman. The entrepreneur, trainer, events master, network organizer, promoter and consultant brings his daily rain of ideas into the heart of the event. He gathers the troops, strong arms the sponsors, wheedles concessions and opines broadly.
There are a million TRU conferences (it seems like Bill does one wherever he stops for longer than a day). London in late February, however, is the heart and soul of the empire. There are not that many must see HR events on the global stage. This is one.
This year, I’m going to be hosting two sessions on Wednesday. At TRU, Powerpoints and prepared remarks are an absolute no-no. Instead, a session is what happens in a room for a time. Bill creates the agenda on the fly, so the time isn’t particularly fixed.
The rooms have the traditional norm of an unconference. If you’re in, you’re expected to be engaged. If you’re not engaged, you’re expected to get up and hunt down something engaging. No feeding of pap to disinterested staffers on a boondoggle. This is a competitive jungle of ideas.
My sessions come from the research I’ve been doing.
In one, Boorman and I will have a debate about influence. As I’ve tried to measure and understand how influence operates in our industry and how ideas move around, Bill has been one of the loudest critics. With any luck, the conversation will cover the use of influence measurement in sourcing, whether and why looking at how ideas move matters, things that might be missing from current approaches and a little of what it’s like to turn up on the lists and what happens to those who do.
The other session will be about the way that technology moves in Recruiting. Based on the work I published in the 2012 Index of Social Technology in HR and Recruiting, I’ll explain what I discovered as I talked to several hundred industry players and vendor executives. One of the key points involves understanding why British companies are able to be so successful in the US. Bill has agreed to let me use a white board for this one.
I’m looking forward to being there, seeing old friends and meeting new. Drop me a line if you want to get in touch while I’m in London.
Here’s how Boorman defines the experience:
An unconference is a gathering of minds, experiences and opinions where the attendees (or active participants) lead the conversation.
There are 4 simple rules:
1: No Presentations
2: No Powerpoint
3: No Name Badges
4: No Pitching
Apart from that, anything goes.
- We don’t have presentations because the best knowledge is in the room. By bringing together participants from all kinds of backgrounds with a shared interest. Job Boards, Recruiters (Corporate and Agency), Technologists, Mobile Specialists, Branding Companies and more, all with a shared interest in talent attraction from a different perspective. No talking heads to listen to and nod or nod off.
- No Powerpoint because we want the eyes to meet in the middle and everyone to have the floor. Each track, (session), has track leaders with a background in the topic, but their job is to start the conversation, be available for reference and sum things up. The stars always come from the participants. (We select track-leaders from participants at previous events.)
- No name badges because we believe that if you don’t know who someone is you should introduce yourself and start talking. No need stare at their chest to work out if they are worth it.
- No pitching because we don’t have exhibitions or stands. Any give aways have to be creative and relevant and any product pitching gets shut down by the other participants. People will buy from you if they respect what you say, not what you pitch.
Each track lasts an hour, with 3 running an hour. You can move between tracks as you wish, it’s not considered rude and there is no need to stand on ceremony. Get what you want and move on, like an all you can eat buffet!
Visual Resumes? Not So Much
Information flow is a huge problem. As the pile of social media data swells, companies are going to have an increasingly difficult time parsing all of the stuff. Then the questions of storage and access come into view.
Quickly, the question is becoming how to contain the spiraling costs of recruiting while adequately vetting the candidate.
At the same time, candidates want to be seen as individuals and really want a chance to tell their stories. Much of the verbalized frustration with the ‘black hole’ and bad candidate experience are really articulations of this need to be heard and respected. The systems that make recruiting possible leave a significant hole in this regard.
But, it’s not the company’s job to make every candidate feel good. Respect can be communicated procedurally and transparency can be a part of the process. But, as long as the company can’t control the number of resumes that it receives, it has to manage those resumes as a net resource drain.
And, that’s the problem with the emerging crop of visual resumes: they take longer to digest, they drive costs up. Visual resumes are an attempt to use pictures and images to beef up the story that a resume tells.
Will job hunters love them? Undoubtedly. Will recruiters hate them? Probably.
The right place for Visual Resumes is in small settings. If you are trying to get noticed by a little company that doesn’t have enterprise applicant tracking, it might work. The idea is really somewhere between a brochure and a CV so people who need brochures should be able to use the format.
I’m open to hearing someone tell me why these things would work in large companies with Recruiting process automation.
But I just can’t see it.