HRExaminer v3.25 June 22, 2012
Table of Contents
We were meeting with a client to discuss a new search. As we walked out, my new Project Manager looked at me in amazement. “I can’t believe you said that to their CEO!”
I thought I was pretty well behaved in that meeting. I just told the CEO to either raise the salary or lower his expectations because he was being unrealistic. He agreed to be more realistic, so we agreed to take the search … problem solved.
Apparently, after 10 years of running my own search firm, I’ve gotten so comfortable speaking truth to power that I’ve forgotten the mantra of the recruiting industry (and victims everywhere): “I’d love to, but my boss would never go for it.” (You hear this chanted in unison at every recruiting conference).
Most recruiters are trapped, frozen in place, unable to innovate. Simple problems become unsolvable because of the corporate power structure. “I can’t tell the CEO that!” Small experiments get squashed under the weight of “If we do that for you, we’ll have to do that for everyone.” Smart innovations get hammered against the anvil of “How are we going to justify that to the CFO?” Every week you can read in the blogs about someone tying themselves in algebraic knots trying to prove something to the corporate suits.
The sands of the job market are constantly shifting. Damn near everything you should be doing is impossible to justify at first. You simply have to go on a hunch, experiment, try new things, learn, adapt, and keep improving a little bit at a time.
Here are just a few of the experiments we started more than three years ago:
- Opting out of the ATS: The number of candidates who hate Applicant Tracking Systems is, well, all of them. (Given the choice, less than 5% of our candidates apply online). So, to ensure that we put no barriers between ourselves and great people, we manually upload more than 25,000 resumes per year into our ATS. And then we go back and edit them so that our Thank You and No Thank You letters go out without spelling someone’s name in ALL CAPS or all the other silly things that happen when you manually upload 25,000 resumes. We spend over $20,000 every year on this dull task just because we don’t force candidates to apply online. Our ATS vendor finds our behavior really odd, and has not bothered to improve their error-prone resume uploading process because “nobody else is asking for it.” Really, who can justify kissing off $20,000 just to make the candidate experience a little better? Don’t ask, your boss would never go for it.
- Being social: You may be surprised to learn that some clients and some candidates are skeptical of search firms in general. Personally, I think we’re more lovable than puppies. But since our job is to talk to those skeptics, we’re digitally approachable. We maintain a blog for job seekers, a blog for hiring managers, a Twitter account for job seekers, my Twitter account for hiring managers, Kelly Dingee’s personal Twitter account and posts on Fistful of Talent, a Facebook fan page for job seekers, and two email newsletters. I also serve on the Editorial Advisory Board for the HR Examiner and write a weekly piece for The Washington Business Journal. That makes eleven social media mouths to feed (in addition to the federally mandated individual Facebook and LinkedIn accounts we all have). Eleven social media accounts … seriously? Our whole company is only fifteen people. Try justifying that to your CEO.
- Improving the quality of hire: Most hiring managers are not skilled interviewers. So rather than complain about that fact, we create customized behavioral interview questions for our clients, and help them develop work sample testing to rigorously assess every candidate. This process takes some serious effort on our part, and it requires that we present a large slate of candidates (because it knocks some candidates out of consideration). The effect of making this change was to improve the 3 year retention rate on our placements–our one year retention rate was actually unchanged. But because our retention guarantee is one year, we did a lot of extra work without any direct benefit to us—our client gets all the benefit of longer retention. So did this experiment fail or succeed? We think it’s a big success, but how would I prove that to a CFO?
I’m really glad we started these experiments, we’ve learned a lot. But even after more than three years, I’m not sure I could justify any of them to a corporate overlord.
This year at SHRM, I’m moderating a number of panels in the bloggers lounge. Stop by. There will be streaming Video
Monday, June 25
10-10:45am “Legal Issues Facing Social Media Today”
Elizabeth Lalli Reese, JD, SPHR, HR Business Partner, Shared Technologies, Arrow Electronics and
Maren Hogan, Principal Consultant, CMO, Red Branch Media and Blogger.
1-1:45pm Back to the Social Future: It’s all about Relationships and 1:1
Sarah White, CEO and Principal Advisor, Sarah White & Associates, Blogger @imsosarah
Gerry Crispin, Chief Instigator, CareerXRoads, Candidate Experience Awards
Tuesday, June 26
10:15 – 11:00 Tech Salaries: What’s Hot? What’s Hotter?
A conversation with Tom Silver, SVP, North America, Dice
Marriott’s coup (launching the first real game for employment branding purposes) is spawning an enormous wave of nonsense. Built on painstaking reasearch and as a part of a massive problem solving process, the Marriott game is the conclusion of a rigorous process.
But, that’s not the answer that most software developers want to hear. If it takes expensive research and custom analysis, it’s really hard to license. So, the games will be delivered in advance of problem definition in an awful lot of cases. Then, the mantra of gamification will be repeated, ever loudly in case you didn’t get it the first time.
The silly trend about the so called gamification of daily life will take extraordinary twists. While there is an important lesson to be found in game mechanics, it’s not an idea that will be useful most places. Before it’s all said and done, we’ll see attempts to gamify almost every imaginable bit of mundane minutia.
Most software products and services are developed in the absence of clear understanding of the customers. That’s a good part of why technology adoption rates are so low in practice. As the Software as a Service (SaaS) model shoves success metrics off on the customer, new and exciting approaches to getting user level buy in will be trotted out.
You can bet that gamification is going to figure prominently in the misguided attempts to automate stakeholder commitment.
Instead of wondering why we ask employees to do stupid things, we are about to be deluged with gimmicks that try to motivate with fake money, fake status and fake accomplishment.
Here are some of the kinds of things you should expect to see.
In this game, players are incented to complete the corporate data collection process. A series of badges and titles are awarded to people who fill in expense accounts and the web of HR documents on time (or at all).
- Succession Plans and Zombies
This game is for all of the people who know that they could do a better job than the current management team. Each person is allowed to construct their own corporate succession plan. Then, players wager a percentage of their paycheck on the outcome.
- Angry Boss
Players throw various kinds of boss at pigs. Each level includes a hidden agenda that can be discovered by flipping the boss off properly.
- World of Workcraft
Nothing much actually gets done in this game. But, there are lots of meetings and if you go to enough of them, you can give advice to novices.
- Talent Management Bingo
Who are the most valuable people in the organization? All employees are issued a bingo chart. Numbers are called based on meritorious accomplishment. Unless you are the management team’s favorite. Then you just get to fill it out yourself.
- Wage Slave Trader
Employees earn points for getting to work on time, limiting facebook usage, actually doing work, and eating lunch at the desk. No one wants to be the Mayor of tardy.
Checking in has never been more fun. Monthly bonuses given to the players who leave their desk the least.
Your virtual employee is really the new guy in the department. Help him grow by feeding him orientation papers, HR forms, inside tips about brown-nosing effectiveness and
guides to the best bathroom stalls.
Reviews of food from the company cafeteria and the roach coach.
- Mr. Golden Boy
Points for delegating your to do list the fastest. Lose points for any task left on your list at the end of the first coffee break.
- Sourcer’s Surprise
Sourcers find new candidates then cast resume and interview spells to make them perfectly fit job requirements. The goal is to get paid before the spells wear off. (oops, we already have that one).
Can you think of any other internal processes that will benefit from gamification?
It’s Never About the Functionality
Can you tell the difference between new recruiting technology and pornography? If you listen to the ‘old school’ bunch, there’s not that much. Like porn, new recruiting technology promises the delivery of your fantasy. Often, it’s mostly in your mind.
The weird thing about most companies that sell new recruiting tools is that they don’t really understand the value they are delivering. If that sounds odd to you, try to remember having a discussion about having children with someone who didn’t have them. No matter what you say, it’s impossible to convey the realities that become obvious once you are a parent.
The folks who sell and deliver recruiting stuff usually have it one step worse than that. Their job involves telling someone who is a parent about having children when they don’t have them. For most vendors of recruiting tools, the value is hypothetical.
They’ve never been recruiters.
That doesn’t mean that new recruiting tools and techniques are a bad idea. Far from it. You just can’t look to your suppliers to understand what you’re getting. No matter how much they tell you you can.
The past 20 years of recruiting history are about the evolution of the recruiter from information processor to proactive marketer. Beginning with the fax machine, which enabled recruiters to move information more quickly, the first steps were about speed. Once the industry was firmly fixed in the 21st century (with universal email), speed of data delivery became a standard, not a differentiator.
And, that’s the first thing that you should know about recruiting technology. When you have it first, it sets you apart from the competition. When you get it last, you’re just keeping up with the Joneses.
Once speed ceased to be an issue, recruiters began to focus on productivity. It’s no accident that the kerfuffle about being on the receiving end of the fire hose followed the universal adoption of email. In the early 1990s, the recruiter with the most resumes always won. By 2002, the question had changed to relevance.
That’s where sourcers got their real start. Although there were visionary players (like Shally) in the 1990s, sourcing came into its own in the 21st century. The right slate of candidates became increasingly important.
The thing that you should notice about this retelling of the story is that each improvement resulted in more precise work being done by the recruiter. Each step forward in technology creates a deeper specialty in recruiting.
It used to be that you could place a newspaper ad and wait for the results. Today, you have to build your own audience, maintain relationships with them and reach out when the demand arises.
Technology does not make recruiting easier. It makes it better and more precise. Great tools increase the level of detail that can be managed.
Techology expands the things that a recruiter can do. It makes them do-able at the desktop. It increases both the acountability and responsibility that can be accorded a recruiter.
That means that the value in video interviewing doesn’t really have much to do with video. It means that social recruiting is less about social and more about precision targeting. It means that workflow systems are about making sense not making processes. It means that communities, even though they require relationships are not about relationships. They’re about supply chain management and just in time inventories.
Most vendors sell functionality and the benefits of the functionality. They have a hard time understanding the real value of their products.
But you can always be sure that the technology is never about the functionality.
Candidate Experience meet Employee Experience
HR is not fun.With the possible exception of a strange exercise offered by the OD department, few employees smile when they think of HR. Between administrivia, Employee Assistance, payroll, training, recruiting, referral programs, absence management and the rest of it, HR has the very tough job of explaining and implementing infrastructure.
It’s sort of like a whole department devoted to the seatbelt speech that you get each time you fly. There is nothing fun about it.
Perhaps this is why the typical HR generalist has a hard time understanding the whole Candidate Experience thing. Why should a candidate experience a different sort of HR than the rest of the company?
At the end of the day, the HR task is thankless. Faced with an endless array of options and opportunities, the team has the novel challenge of trying to get compliance in benefits submission. Many people never complete their benefits enrollment forms (or make major errors when they do).
Enter Alex, the automated benefits counselor. A product of an interesting company called Jellyvision, takes one of the driest bits of administrative hell and makes it pleasant. The process is simplified and well explained while keeping the tempo upbeat and moving to completion.
This is one of the places where you should watch the video. The experience of using Alex to complete the form turns an awful thing into a small pleasure.
The video demo shows you the end result of the hard work that the Jellyvision team execute. Alex is an interactive tool built on complex branching designed to simplify the process down to the basics. Alex establishes a new benchmark in benefits administration.
All around us, people are realizing that the ‘stickier’ the experience, the better the results. Check out this safety video from VirginAmerica. By mnaking the burdensome ritual of listening to the board flight attendant talk about seat belts into something fun,VirginAmerica gets better safety compliance while making customers smile.
The folks at Jellyvision have a twenty year track record in making dry things fun. That’s the real work at the company, turning infrastructure drudgery into the foundation of workplace delight. It’s an interesting task they’ve set out for themselves. The company began as an educational film group. They wanted to find boring subjects in order to make them interesting. Their underlying theory is that learning happens more effectively when people are laughing.
If you make it fun, people will pay attention.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see SHRM endorse that as an aim of the profession. Alex may be the first step in the movement to improve employee experience.