HRExaminer v3.17 April 27, 2012
Table of Contents
Disruption is a Process
Today, we’re publishing the first in a series of free white papers about the various forms of disruption that are entering the HR and HRTechnology industries. Disruption undermines the existing ways of doing business by providing a faster, lower cost, higher quality alternative.
The first paper in the series is called, “New Models in Outplacement: Disruption Comes to HR”. You can download a free copy here.
In future papers, we’ll look at HR’s role in privacy, the emergence of Talent Markets, Cheap video’s impact on Training, Employment Branding using social media and a host of other topics.
Here is a sample section from “New Models in Outplacement: Disruption Comes to HR“:
The pattern of disruption repeats itself with frightening consistency. Look at the last hundred years of corporate history. The most consistent predictor of marketplace failure is sustained marketplace success. Somehow, the seeds of dissolution are virtually always sown in sustained performance. Disruption is most likely to happen in the heart of market leaders.
Disruption is an approach to innovation that allows new players to successfully subvert an existing hierarchy. They do not match exiting performance standards. Instead, new players serve their customers differently.
As the disruptor perfects its technology and approach, it begins to unseat the established market leaders. Beginning with the low end of the market, the new entrant marches forward delivering previously unheard of value at a surprising price. Ultimately, they reach a tipping point where they are delivering enough of the old school value and more of the new. At the tipping point, the market shifts.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of being a market leader as disruption takes root. To this day, the music industry calls its customers pirates and sues them– as if it would turn back the tide. Hard disk drive manufacturers struggle to deliver solid-state technology. Retailers are puzzling how make their physical locations relevant as the FedEx driver replaces their clerks. Electronics retailers look on in horror as customers shop their inventory, and then order from Amazon while standing in the store.
Predictably, those being upended blame their customers, demonize the upstarts, and seek solace in relationships with large, long-term customers. The solutions put forth by the upstarts seem to come out of a universe that is impossible to imagine. If late fees are the key to proﬁtability, how can you stay in business without them? If record companies are the keys to distribution, what do you do when distribution is everywhere? If people only buy the music that they really like, what happens to the album?
Being disrupted feels like you’re tied to a stake in a burning ﬁre while the vandals dance around and taunt you. Bad behavior tends to break out as the incumbents respond to their feelings. When they begin to bad-mouth the new entrants, you know you’re near the tipping point.
UpMo’s Solutions Point to Impending Disruption in Internal Mobility
Recently, we’ve been taking a long look at UpMo, the internal mobility startup. Currently branded as a retention tool, the service allows employees to chart career paths and evaluate internal job opportunities. They summarize their positioning as “UpMo fosters enterprise professional networking and internal mobility that spurs motivation, engagement and productivity.” The emerging tag line is, “Keep your talent in house.”
Most startups reach a “pivot point” sometime during their early stage. “Pivot point” is code for saying our original idea ran out of oomph but the pieces can be rearranged. In its early incarnations, UpMo was pitched as a career navigation tool. The core technology (which is still a part of the offering) is a clever career mapping app that lets you try to forecast the next steps in your work life.
The team at UpMo discovered that the very same pieces could be reconfigured to let companies build an inventory of employee skills. Since the most cited reason for voluntary termination is ‘a better opportunity’, the UpMo team reasoned that attrition could be decreased by giving a clearer view of internal job possibilities with embedded career navigation.
As the conversation with UpMo evolved, I began to realize that HR rarely plays a role in several aspects of the internal talent economy of their organizations. As workers move from project to project, it rarely reaches notice by the HR Department. HR tends to document changes in grade, pay status, promotions, transfers, performance measurement, training course completed and so on.
Often, the real work of a company is expressed in small projects that are coordinated by project managers rather than first level supervisors. The internal project economy tends to run on reputation and political vectors rather than the HR preferred meritocracy. Project teams form and disband and the relationships established during those periods are the foundation of most internal mobility.
Not all companies have an dominant internal project economy. But, organizations whose products involve technology and service are in an inevitable trajectory towards the project world. And, all contemporary shops have some degree of project based organization.
With scale, a matrixed organization becomes a great way to manage complex project driven companies. In that setting, the best way to optimize effectiveness is to make talent as transparent as possible and to help employees self-navigate the environment. In that universe, UpMo is headed in the right direction.
That points out an interesting market opportunity and conundrum. The transactions that take place among projects are as hidden from view as the various contract and temp employees who come into the organization through purchasing. Project work, contract employees, free agents and temps are all a part of the project economy controlled by the organization but usually out of the reach of HR.
UpMo’s trajectory is worth watching because it points to another aspect of HR that is about to be disrupted.
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.
by Susan Strayer
As long as I have been in talent acquisition, I also have been career coaching. Even as a full-time HR leader in corporate America, I worked with coaching clients on the side to ensure I was always in touch with a key stakeholder: candidates.
I’m finding both recruiters and job seekers are trying more and more desperate practices to make the process work.
Case in point: Last week I met a frustrated job seeker I’ll call Alicia. She’s currently working for a large corporation and has been looking to move on for some time. She tells me she’s in the midst of the hiring process with a consulting firm, but she’s run into a big problem.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well, the interviews have gone really well and they’ve given me a verbal offer with a dollar figure attached,” she says, “but earlier in the process they asked what I was currently making. I gave them the average salary for someone at my level across the entire company.”
Alicia works in an arm of the company that for a host of reasons pays less than the average across the company. It’s not a cost-of-living thing—it’s client and travel related. She’s also in the midst of transferring to the part of her current company where she would make the increased salary.
I grimaced: “You should never lie in a job search, Alicia. A salary is about what you’re worth in the market, what the value of the position is, and the budget they have for the role.”
“I know,” she replied. “And that’s the problem. Now I’m screwed. They called yesterday and want proof of my salary. Not just details on what I am making, but an actual pay stub.”
Yikes. Here’s where it gets interesting. Alicia sent in the requested application and pay stub with a note explaining the situation—why she gave the figure she did, how she was transferring to the new part of the company and how she was already doing work with clients in that part of the company.
The recruiter pushed more—asking Alicia for email documentation of the transfer. But internal emails are proprietary, so Alicia didn’t feel comfortable sharing them and told the recruiter so. She then added “I’d hope that the offer you gave me is based on the expectations of the role, and not the salary history of the individual candidate.”
When the recruiter finally got back to Alicia, her offer was cut by $15,000. She turned it down. And when I heard that, I wanted to throttle them both.
Desperation. Is this where we are with recruiting? As recruiters, are we so desperate to please hiring managers that we’ll lowball the offer to save a few bucks? Do we not know that current salary shouldn’t be the only factor to consider? After all, if we didn’t have the budget, we wouldn’t give an offer we couldn’t afford.
But it’s not just the recruiter’s fault. As job seekers, are we so desperate that we have to lie to get what we think we’re worth? Do we not have the faith in our value in the market, an ability to research or the confidence to share our salary expectations at the same time we share our current salary? I guess not.
The worst part is that no one won here. The recruiter had a chance to fill a role with a successful candidate in budget. Alicia had the chance to get the job she wanted. But because we’ve forgotten the basics, everyone loses.
Of course, this all could have been avoided. Alicia shouldn’t have lied in the first place. And the recruiter could have asked for both current salary and salary expectations giving Alicia the opportunity to make a case. But they didn’t. Now they both start over wasting time and resources.
This isn’t an isolated incident. As talent acquisition leaders, we are continuing to put pressure on recruiters to meet demanding needs, measures and metrics. Then we look back up—up at our hiring managers, our demanding leadership teams. They put pressure on us and we pass that on to the front line that can often result in rash decisions, or just a lack of basic training.
What’s causing the desperation? Maybe it’s that we’re so focused on where recruiting is headed, we’ve forgotten how we got here and where we came from. Maybe it’s time to go back to the basics. I’ll say it again, Alicia shouldn’t have lied. But if the recruiter had set the stage correctly, asking for current salary and salary expectations, the scenario could have been avoided.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Have you trained your recruiters today?