HRExaminer v3.10 March 9, 2012
Table of Contents
For the most part, HR Departments and Recruiting divisions are treating the rise of social media as a data bonanza. From that perspective, the future most resembles the vision of TalentBin, a company that plans to scrape and aggregate social data much as Indeed does with job information. The idea is that the more data you have, the more you can know or understand. Somehow, in the thicket of data, there is some form of competitive advantage.
According to Intel executive Kirk Skaugen: “There was more data transmitted over the Internet in 2010 than all the data ever transferred online before.” (SiliconValley.com). The logarithmic increase in data flows will continue for the foreseeable future.
As data overwhelms everything in its path, it will become the defining element in the evolution of HR and Recruiting. Organizations, drowning in the avalanche of data about people and their performance, will increasingly look to HR to figure out the meaning and performance relevance of all that data.
While the promise of social technology is increased levels of intimacy between individuals and their world, the current reality has more to do with surveillance. As individual targeting data becomes more precise, there will be an inevitable explosion of customized services. The irony will be so much customization that consumers recoil from the intrusion.
As the ability to segment audiences grows, the volume of data from sensors and other sources will also multiply. The “internet of things” will contain billions of objects, from household appliances to toothbrushes, from lawn moisture monitors to personal biometrics, from individual environment monitors to deeply personalized investment data. In 2011, there were 22 Billion things already connected to the internet. By 2015, that number is expected to exceed 1 Trillion.
HR Departments are going to have an increasingly difficult time managing the intersection of what employees experience as consumers and the internal needs of the organization.
New questions are possible because of new kinds of data. The emergence of data science and the rise of social network analysis make it possible to see and understand aspects of human behavior and performance that were not quantifiable 18 months ago. Leading organizations will rapidly establish new types of performance benchmarks that combine internal and external data.
While data is pummeling the corporate walls, demographic shifts will be taking a deep toll. Throughout the Western world, native-born populations are in decline. That means that any culture desiring growth will be an increasingly competitive market for the best and brightest immigrants. Countries suffering from recession based xenophobia will create sustained disadvantages by trying to keep immigrants at bay.
At the same time, the decline in types and quantities of services provided by Western governments will accelerate. Important data like local demographics will be decreasingly available. Governments will be increasingly focused on the answer to the question: “What is the Minimum Viable Government?”
Tomorrow in part two of our series: Some specific trends
Yesterday, we covered an overview of the future. Here are specific trends to watch:
- Role of HR
By 2015, the role of HR in transformative companies will be “to optimize the network that is the organization.” Companies like HumanConcepts, the workforce planning, transformation, and logistics software company, will be at the forefront of thinking about the way that individuals act as gateways to organizational performance.Besides this new role of organizational shepherd and diagnostician, HR will increasingly be responsible for providing the data that drives decision making about the role of people in the company. While it is unlikely that HR will ever have full control of a company’s people (like government HR Departments do), so much data will be flowing through HR systems that the Department’s influence will necessarily expand.
The big question facing the HR Industry is where to find the expertise required to execute HR in a data-rich world. Expect to see the rapid rise of consultancies that focus on the creation of meaning. The number of institutions offering HR program management courses will increase. And, unfortunately, many people from other functions will be brought in to ‘help’ the struggling HR pros.
- Role of The Recruiter
No role will change more rapidly than the recruiter’s. Shifting demographics, rapidly evolving jobs, an avalanche of technology and data, responsibility for branding and involvement in community conversations add up to an overwhelming change at this nexus of the organization and the outside world.Recruiting is the gateway through which employees make the transition into the company. Although great energy is expended trying to portray the discipline as a rational process focused on productivity, Recruiting orchestrates and delivers the rites of initiation and passage.
Nowhere else in the organization is the brute force of transparency felt so directly. Recruiters are the direct face of the employment brand in the marketplace and must, as a matter of course, deal with the rapidly evolving story that is the organization’s dynamic reputation. Recruiters are the frontline.
The demands of organization for specific kinds of talent are changing. As the onrush of information informs and rearranges traditional processes, hiring managers are clarifying and revising their requirements. It becomes the job of the Recruiter to provide insight into talent availability and realistic time frames for filling slots.
As Recruiters become savvier about labor market conditions, they become invaluable assets n the process of determining the organization’s future. No succession plan is meaningful until it is validated with external market data. That’s going to be a part of the recruiter’s job.
- Data Collection and Storage
Data is going to break every container it encounters in the way that Hurricane Katrina broke the dams in New Orleans. Driven by the requirements for storage of social media in Recruiting, incremental performance data, biometric information and more, HR departments will be clogged with information that they have no choice but to acquire, index, and store.
- Data Visualization
Making sense out of all that data will become an organizational imperative. Buried in the flood of information are the keys to unlock a kaleidoscope of productivity gains. The only way to start to understand the insight embedded in the data is to use newly evolving visualization techniques. For several decades, HR will be discovering incremental notions about human performance that come from being able to make correlations that used to be impossible. In order to make this sort of progress, visualizers, who specialize in the assembly of meaning from large piles of data, will start to join information curators in the HR Department.
- Predictable Response of Legacy Software Providers
Legacy software companies emerged at a time when the very definition of the data an organization collected was subject to a ‘requirements analysis.’ The overarching question was always: “What information is important enough to collect.” The first containers to break will be those that belong to the software firms. The idea that the data will dictate what gets collected is so counterintuitive that few of them will survive the change. What will emerge in their place are companies that overlay visualization on disparate data. There have been early indications in companies like Inform (acquired by SuccessFactors in 2010) and Peoplefluent (who introduced an interesting data presentation layer in 2011).
- Privacy Issues
Data will break the court system. The flood of information will accelerate so rapidly that governance will become virtually impossible. As the courts try to navigate five year old data questions, marketing firms and data collection operations will move out light years ahead of their ability to maneuver. Privacy will become a huge consumer issue that can not be readily addressed by either legislation or enforcement.
- Emergence of New Platforms
The market is getting ready for vendors who are able to absorb the levels of data that will characterize 21st century organizational life. The most likely source of the new players will be either organizational collaboration operators like Saba, Rypple, Chatter and Yammer, or new performance management and enhancement companies like Sonar6 and CubeVibe.
Here are the remaining trends to watch:
- New Performance Measurements and Meaning
The carb intake of your diabetic section chief has a direct impact on productivity. Your CTO’s divorce creates predictable judgment issues. These are the tip of the iceberg. Music choices in the cube, spicing in the cafeteria, the density of the fog, the trajectory of the local sports franchise, and traffic congestion all have direct impacts on the bottom line. As those correlations (and many, many more) come under management, we will be redefining the way we shape jobs and describe performance.
- The Future of Talent Communities
For some companies, there is no better way to navigate the future than by building an interactive talent community. Over the coming years, many will be built. The hardest thing for companies to navigate will be the respect, time and attention required to make the communities thrive.
- Managing A Contract and Virtual Workforce
At this year’s LinkedIn users’ conference, a speaker asked the assembled audience, “How many of you work from home at least part of the time?” A large majority of the audience responded in the affirmative. Many jobs, like the recruiter’s, do not really require significant time onsite. This makes the jobs viable for outsourcing, contracting, or some other form of reshaping. While most forecasts assume that virtual work and contract relationships will evolve in a linear way, the next five years will actually see an explosion of alternative relationships. This will provide a range of administrative challenges including redefining employment branding.
- Near Death Experiences for Job Boards
If you ask around, the proponents of social media are loudly proclaiming the death of the job board. Referral systems, mediated by social websites, will somehow trump the old broadcast advertising approach. It’s not likely in the short run. More predictable is a retrenching caused by overly optimistic forecasts about social media.
- The Virtual Classroom as Organizational Metaphor
Learning will be permanently changed by classrooms that integrate multimedia, online participation, video, audio, chat, and collaborative whiteboarding. The net result of colloquium in this environment is an explosion of insight and creativity. Organizations will shudder from the volume of positive proactive output.
- Too Much Feedback
Before the end of 2012, there will be tools on the market that let employees deliver feedback on every imaginable aspect of organizational life. Grumpy with your boss? Give him a one on the friendliness scale. Want to recognize the cafeteria worker? Give them points. And on. And on. Many of the tools will arrive from outside of the walls of the company. Expect to hear stories of people who show up to annual reviews with +Ks (from Klout) given by other employees. Ultimately HR and front line supervisors will have to make sense out of all the critiques and attaboys. While it’s getting sorted out, there will be no end of raised expectations, hurt feelings and attempts to game the gaming system.
- Mobile Technology: Sensor or Workstation
Mobile technology in the workplace merits a study of its own. For the moment, it is not clear whether the mobile device is primarily an input or output device. The great evangelists all position mobile as the future of advertising. There is, on the other hand, good reason to understand mobile devices as the primary source of the data that will overrun our organizations. Mobile is likely to be the source of personal and performance data and the gateway to external markets, rather than a device for engaging (current or potential) employees.
- Career Path Shifts
For a number of years, there has been an observable shift in the HR career track. When the VP of HR slot is filled from within the ranks of the department, people with Recruiting backgrounds have started to have the advantage. As demonstrated in this report, the vast majority of contemporary social media usage is for Recruiting purposes. Expect to see additional gains in this area.
Virtual classrooms and other collaboration technology can unleash a kind of synergy that is very difficult to manage. One of the largest problems facing 21st Century managers is how to contain and control the creativity that will be unleashed by technology. Initially this will be perceived and treated as an attention problem. Ultimately it will come clear that employees are still the greatest asset a company has.
Since social media involves people who supposedly know each other, people assume that friends and connections constitute a network that will behave along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’ The idea is that it’s a simple matter for network referrals to be used to fill a company’s workforce requirements.
“6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (6DKB) game is often used to illustrate the way that people are connected or ‘networked’. 6DKB is a trivia game based on the concept of the small world phenomenon. It rests on the assumption that any individual can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon within six steps.
While it has become common to refer to one’s collection of friends and connections as a network, and to accept that the 6 Degrees principle applies universally, things don’t quite work that way.
The fact is that the 6 degrees idea depends on knowing who you are trying to reach. If you know the person’s name, you may be 6 phone calls away. If you don’t know their name, it’s an entirely different problem. Then, you are an infinite number of degrees away. And, that’s the problem you face when you are trying to recruit employees.
Referrals are the best way to find new employees, right?
You are no more likely to hire all of your employees through a referral program than you are to broil everything you eat.
When you’re hunting for team members who will give the company a powerful competitive edge in a specific technology, do you want the VP of marketing’s frat brother or the Nobel prize winning scientist? Conversely, when you’re staffing a call center, do you want a hot shot Harvard Business School graduate or the brother-in-law of your best performer?
It is critical to never use referral programs to staff functions with check writing authority. The financial security issues are simply too great. Each position should be closely evaluated to make sure that the benefits of a referral process outweigh the disadvantages.
Referrals, like any Recruiting methodology have their place. They can be a short-cut to the perfect employee. They can also cause culture-rot if managed without care. Tapping into the collections of friends your employees know on social media is no panacea
All referrals are not equal. Referral programs range in design from high volume candidate flow drivers to the sort of referral you might make about a bottle of wine or a good restaurant. While the implementation approaches range widely in effectiveness, the idea that all referral programs yield predictable and repeatable results persists.
For the most part, social media driven referral projects boil down to betting that a network of friends can be converted into a competitive workforce. Is that really a smart idea?
Hiring for Diversity
by Heather Bussing
Diversity is a tricky concept, both legally and socially. The idea is that each applicant should be judged on her abilities, experience and knowledge rather than stereotypes about who she is.
In practice, anti-discrimination laws are almost impossible to apply. Employers can’t either hire or reject workers based on a protected factor. (Protected factors are race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, marital status, religion, disability, medical condition, genetic information, military status or age over 40. State laws often protect additional factors such as sexual orientation.)
Theoretically, a company’s workers should reflect the general population in the community. There will always be some variation based on the job and the availability of qualified people. But the reality is that most people like to hire people like themselves because it’s comfortable, and they think they know what to expect.
So what do you do if you look around and realize your workforce is monochrome, male and Methodist? You can’t just go hire a bunch of people based on their race, gender and religion to change your numbers. (For a great discussion of reverse discrimination, see Robin Shea’s White Guys Need Love Too.)
So how does a company hire for diversity without also discriminating?
Equal is not the Same
The traditional approach to equal opportunity has been to presume that you should treat everyone equally and exactly the same. In a culture where Whites are the majority, companies pretend that everyone is White. If they treat everyone like themselves, then they can’t be accused of discrimination. Now, try that on in reverse. You are the only man in a company run by women. They treat you exactly as if you were a woman–great shoes, by the way. You are being included and treated equally. And you are probably really uncomfortable.
Then in the name of equality, the employment lawyers have created “neutral” policies that cover every aspect of work. The policies must be applied uniformly, under all circumstances, for “consistency,” “fairness” and so “people know what to expect.” The trouble is, there’s always some situation that doesn’t fit the policy. So you either have to start making exceptions that undermine the whole thing. Or you apply the policy without exception even when it’s arbitrary and unfair.
There are cultural, gender and race differences that are worth noticing and honoring. It’s one of those places where the Golden Rule loses some shine.
While you can’t consider protected factors in hiring, you can look at each candidate as a person. Hire for personality, attitude, curiosity, sense of humor and creativity. For a great list of perfectly legal attributes to look for when hiring employees see Jay Shepherd’s The 10 most important traits for job candidates.
Build Up, Don’t Break Down
Another method of avoiding discrimination claims is to break each job into component parts, tasks and required training or knowledge. The idea is you can match these objective, nondiscriminatory, factors and hire based solely on qualifications. This method is especially appealing because you can send the job requisition to a third party to source and screen candidates without ever knowing that someone is Hispanic or deaf or 50.
While this is a perfect approach to replacing the sensor in your dryer or adding memory to a computer, it’s not so effective for hiring human beings. People can’t be broken into component parts or defined by degree or years in a position or company. Categorizing, classifying and evaluating by component skills alone just objectifies people, which is as demeaning as stereotypes.
One of the really amazing things about people is that they are capable of learning new things every day and changing over time. Getting the right person to grow with the job is far more important than finding someone whose CV matches the job specs from last year.
It makes much more sense to hire people that can make your business better, who can make it money, and most importantly, the ones you want to spend the week with. So instead of looking at the job and breaking it down into tasks, look at what your business is trying to achieve, and build it with people who can grow with the company.
Diversity is Good for Business
Monocultures of employees who look the same, think the same and hang out with all the same people are bad for business. Having a diverse work force with broad networks of friends and connections increases the people who know about your company and how great it is. And that increases your potential customer base. (I owe this insight to China Gorman who helped push me out of my legal thinking and into the big picture.)
Diversity also spurs innovation. When you are too close and have been doing something the same way for a long time, it’s very hard to see how to improve or change it. Having different people with different perspectives brings fresh ideas and insight into your company. They show you how your company really fits into the market, and how you can better serve the businesses and people who are your customers.
Bottom line: Don’t set up a hiring system to avoid discrimination lawsuits. Hire people who are good for your business. And that probably means people who are different from you.