HRExaminer v3.34 August 24, 2012
Table of Contents
Top 25 Trendspotters in HR-How Ideas Move
So far, our various looks at influence have had a hard time getting beyond attributes of popularity. Numbers of friends, connections and followers are nothing more than proxies for popularity.
Influence is much more than that. Influence comes in a broad range of shapes and forms. Sometimes, the only way to see influence is by watching the things or people that are being influenced. A while back, Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt started encouraging people to fly their Freak Flag. Freak Flags have been around since the 60’s since Jimi Hendrix talked about not caring what people thought in If Six Was Nine: “I’m gonna wave my freak flag high,” and David Crosby sang about his long hair, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly.”
Now you see employment lawyers and Inc. Magazine talking about flying freak flags at work. And facebook and twitter are flooded with Instagram photos of freak flag tattoos during HR Conferences. I doubt most of the folks sporting the tattoos and flags at a SHRM conference have any thought of Hendrix or Crosby. Yet, the freak flag as a symbol of self expression continues to influence people 50 years later.
With this month’s Trendsetters list, we wanted to track how ideas move through social media, how that movement changes over time, and who are the people pushing the ideas out into the flow.
For several months now, we’ve been using HRMarketer’s SocialEars to examine and measure our questions about influence. SocialEars is the first of a new breed of influence assessment engines that focuses on precise industries. SocialEars follows the blogging, articles, tweets, facebook activity and other social media actions of over 5,000 people who are active contributors to the online HR industry.
What We Measured
What we measured in this Top 25 Trendspotters list is who is broadcasting the ideas and how they spread through social media. We looked at the links that were tweeted, liked, or recommended more than 10 times over a one-week period and figured out who initiated those links.
We called them trendspotters because we couldn’t find clearer language. There’s something to the notion that someone whose initial stories (tweets, facebook likes, blog posts or recommendations) generate many shares and reshares. The people who made this list made it on the basis of the fact that they were the first to thing our spiders saw about a specific story.
As usual, the article is accompanied by a spreadsheet that will help you understand the results a little better. It shows results for the Top 100 Trendspotters and includes a link to their Twitter profiles.
How To Read the Spreadsheet
The data in the spreadsheet represents an analysis of all of the tweets, articles, blog posts, facebook likes and other social media activities in the HR sector for the six month period between 1 March and 31 July 2012.
The spreadsheet then shows the timing of how those stories spread out over time from the point they were discovered by the trendspotters.
Obviously, the first column is a list of the names of the people in rank order.
The second column tells you the number of stories they saw first.
The third column tells you how many times those stories were linked/liked/tweeted during the first week it was published.
The fourth column is the number of links/likes/tweets on the first day the article/post first appeared and was linked to in social media by one of the people listed. Day 1 is usually the date the post was first published and the autotweets picked it up and pushed it out.
The list ranking is based on the overall number of conversations a person started in the six month window.
Do Autotweets Matter?
As we reviewed the list, it became clear that the majority of the people in the Top 25 were people who retweeted each other automatically. It’s possible and useful to automatically tweet all of the blog posts from a given individual using simple tools.
You might wonder why we didn’t throw those results out.
The truth is that we are in the earliest days of influence measurement and we can’t tell a damned thing until we’ve really explored the data. Does it matter that most of the Top 25 trendspotters spotted each other? Should it?
It’s not clear whether the lesson is that bulk retweeting is pointless, valuable or a noisy disturbance.
We did learn that Fist Full of Talent has a great promotion engine that has each of its writers tweeting out the links to all FOT posts, often multiple times over the first week. As a result, the Day 1 rankings are dominated by FOT writers.
It’s not clear that this actually increases the visibility of a given story. One school thinks that massive automated tweeting (MAT) results in massive ignoring on the parts of readers who want actual human input. The other school is that MAT somehow improves the SEO of a given article.
The jury is out.
What Happens After Day 1?
After it became clear that most of the Day 1 tweets/links were MAT, we digested the data in another way. We ignored the Day 1 results and started analyzing who found and linked to stories on the second day of the cycle. The list changed substantially.
|Day 2 Rank||Overall Rank||Name|
|4||2||Meghan M. Biro|
|5||9||Michael Q Todd|
|18||38||Seth McColley, SPHR|
Although it isn’t perfect (because it assumes that anything discovered on day 1 was automated), the second list turns up some interesting people who you might not think of as trendspotters.
These folks are culling information by hand a day after it is published. They find enough of it to start a significant number of conversations. Often these shares are accompanied by a comment about what they thought of the post, adding their own message or personal endorsement.
This Day 2 Top 25 List may be the more valuable key to getting a story into circulation. Lesser known though leaders are more likely to be willing to engage you in a conversation. They seem to have audiences that trust their work.
Why it Matters
The most interesting thing about the process of examining these questions is the other questions that get spawned. There is little doubt that the Top 25 Trendspotters have a big impact on the market and the flow of information.
The folks at SocialEars are in the thick of this sort of conversation. The second layer analysis is exactly how one spots market opportunities that others have missed. The SocialEars tool is particularly useful in that regard.
Each story is a small news cycle. It can last a day (as some of the MAT articles do) or it can last several weeks. Whatever the duration, a single idea gets transmitted to a wider audience. If you are trying to get your story told (because you have an earth shattering notion, want to change the world or wish to reach further into the market), knowing which people are at the beginning of a news chain is important.
Knowing how ideas move through the HR echosphere is getting easier because of work like this. We’re hoping to refine and improve the analysis over time.
Q1. Do big companies have a cost advantage in talent acquisition.
A1. Of course. Name recognition is a discount on the cost of acquiring and attracting talent
A1. If Big company X has ads for 70 marketing managers and you have 1, they have a 70x advantage in that job.
A1. Big company stability, benefits and mobility are really attractive and easier to sell at home.
A1. Little, unknown companies can seem to be much riskier as an employer
A1. But, most people work for little companies you’ve never heard of.
A1. Big recognizable use their cost advantage to stay on top of current technologies giving them a further advantage
A1. Compared to big companies, the actual cost of recruiting is much higher than traditional cost per hire measures
A1. Brand name recognition = higher response rates. Lower response rates = higher branding costs
A1. Perceived stability = better close rates on offers
A1. Big companies can specialize (internships, management training, grad student programs, niche specific recruiters). This yields lower initial turnover.
A1. Little companies must rely on the expertise of the founder and a small team. This leads to higher initial attrition for fit reasons.
A1. Hiring for something you don’t understand is mistake intensive. Hiring for something you think you understand but don’t is worse.
A1. Summary. Big companies have significant advantages that boil down to lower costs.
A1. Summary: Big companies have better known brand which reduces cost of talent acquisition
A1. Summary: Big companies have higher concentrations of expertise which reduces hiring failure rate because recruiters are more likely to know what they’re doing.
A1. Summary: Big cos can tailor their recruiting approaches by niche.
A1. It costs less (per transaction) to get better talent quality if you are a big co.
Q2. Can a small company build a competitive employment brand?
A2. Absolutely. But you have to carefully understand the costs and resources involved in doing so. It’s a mistake to compete with the scale of larger competitors.
A2. You can compete for the precise people you are trying to hire. You can not compete across the spectrum. But you can’t ever forget the big co advantage.
A2. The big co advantage is bulk, stability and expertise. Small cos have to b nimble and willing to spend for parity. Otherwise, lower quality talent.
A2. Step 1 is understanding exactly how big your brand has to be. The principle here is to be no bigger than you absolutely have to be.
A2. Brand size = $$$
A2. One way of thinking about how big your brand has to be is to multiply the number of people you need to hire by 100 (max).
A2. So if you need 10 people, you have to reach 100.
A2. Overcoming a market disadvantage means avoiding costs that the other company has to pay.
A2. Say you have to hire 500 people this year. That means 50,000 need to know your employment brand. No more than that, probably less.
A2. A really important question is “which 50,000″ people. It’s certainly not any 50,000 people
A2. Most marketers think reaching the largest possible number of people is best way to do marketing. A relic of broadcast era.
A2. Each additional person you connect with is an additional cost. Connecting with too many is as bad as connecting with too few.
A2. The trick to building an effective employment brand is know who you want in the audience & limit your communications to that group.
A2. Big brands can afford to be sloppy and talk to everyone about everything. Little cos have to practice precision targeting.
Q3. What is an employment brand?
A3. Employment brand is a subset of the overall brand. Includes perceptions of the company culture and its desirability as a place to work.
A3. An employment brand varies from department to department and from job to job within a company.
A3. An employment brand is a coordinated set of messages that deliver the sense of what it’s like to work at the organization.
A3. Just as culture varies from place to place, an organization’s employment brand is different in each location.
A3. Employee perspectives, as seen around the web (Glassdoor) are elements of the brand.
A3. Employment brands contain both positives and negatives.
A3. You can’t manage the Employment Brand with a policy about posting. You manage it by making the work environment effective.
A3. Employment Brand – sum of company’s reputation in universe of people who have, do and might work there (+ families and networks)
A3. When brand info is crowd sourced, having either only positives or only negatives reduces the credibility of the information.
A3. An employment brand is more like a choral work (many different voices) than it is like a piano concerto.
A3. In choral works, voices contradict and complement each other. This is called harmonizing. Music without harmony is uninteresting.
A3. Brand is a conversation with a market. Employment brands are no different. Market is the people you need to reach to fill the jobs.
A3. How much branding you need to do is a question of how badly you are outnumbered and clearly knowing who your competition is.
A3. Big cos don’t have to worry about how much employment branding. Smaller competitors need to know this with precision.
Today’s piece is a gift from Scott Berkun. Berkun is one of two or three new voices in business writing who are destined to shape the way we think about work in the future. If you don’t know of his work, this is a great starting point. The essay comes from his book Mindfire. (Here’s a sample) – JS.
#60 – How to be a free thinker
In the same way a man can be chained to an oak tree, a mind can be chained to an assumption, a religion, a political party, or any idea of any kind. But the idea, like the tree, should not be blamed. They are inanimate things and are good or bad only in how they are used by the living. Instead it is the chain that must be questioned, along with the motivations of people who work to close minds while calling themselves educators. A mind is unique in the world for its infinity of ideas, for it can be used to think about almost anything in a million different ways. Any act that deliberately confines a mind to a singular way of seeing the world can not be acting for good. Most communities, from families, to schools, to gangs, have ideas members are expected to adopt without question. This doesn’t make them evil, but it doesn’t make them bastions of freedom either.
Like the rules to a new board game, we read these rules with our minds at half-power, as our goal is to learn and follow. Even under the guise of what we comically call education, most of us, most of the time, are taught to copy. To memorize. To understand someone elses’s theories. What are we being trained for in life by this other than to perform these same thoughtless behaviors when we graduate? And the things that are considered taboo in our societies, acts that violate our traditions, are often followed without anyone involved, from parents, to teachers, to leaders and other enforcers, understanding why. Why is being seen in underwear embarrassing, but being seen in a bathing suit is not? Why are nipples and flesh so scary, when everyone has them? Why are alcohol, nicotine and Prozac legal, but marijuana and Absinthe criminal? It’s un-free thinking, this accepting of an idea simply because someone else said so. If the reasons are so good, they should do well in debate and discussion on their merits, shouldn’t they? Nothing should be beyond discussion.
The beginning of wisdom starts with asking two questions. Why do we believe what we believe? And how we know what we know? They should be stamped on every school book, in every meeting place and in every home where independence of mind and free thinking are advocated. It should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone arrogant enough to dictate orders for others to follow. The children’s game of why, where a child says “Why?” to every answer that an adult offers, often ends with the parent embarrassing the child. “Stop being silly” they say. But it’s the parent who should be embarrassed by their hubris. Why is it so uncomfortable to say “I don’t know”. Why isn’t their pride in their children learning things they don’t know? Isn’t that the basis for progress? We all know less than we think we do, and if we wish to learn more it’s only going to come from taking comfort from questions instead of fearing them. Ignorance is not dangerous if you admit to it. Same for lack of control. It’s a fact most of what we experience in life is hard to understand and out of our control. To feel shame or joy at a fact of life is a decision we’ve forgotten is ours to make.
Without questions we can’t discover the chains we’ve hidden. Chains forced upon us as children when we did not have the will to refuse or ask questions. Chains we bound ourselves to in order to fit in to school, or work, or a community. To be a free thinker means forever seeking relief from assumptions, whether it’s those we’ve made or have been given to us, and to work towards beliefs and ideas of our own choosing. Freedom of thought means a perennial willingness to discover better ideas, smarter opinions, more worthy faiths, more honest feelings, a willingness not only to abandon ideas you’ve held dearly, but to actively seek moments of discovery, moments when you learn a closest held belief has been held for the wrong reasons. The first time I ate Ethiopian food I had to ask three times “Are you sure it’s ok to eat with my hands?”
Never having thought before that a) they are my hands b) it is my mouth, c) I’m paying for the food, and I should be able to do whatever I damn well please with all three. For all of America’s wonders of freedom, we are still tyrannized by the burdens of silverware. Then of course I went to India, and was scolded for eating with my left hand. I’m always wrong at meals it seems. Travel makes clear how arbitrary many rules and customs we defend truly are.
The first challenge is the fear of being wrong
Ready? You are wrong. You are wrong much of the time. I’m wrong too and some of what I write in this essay will be wrong (except for this sentence). Even if you are brilliant, successful, happy and loved, you are wrong and ignorant more than you realize. This is not your fault. None of our theories about the world are entirely true and this is good. If we had perfect answers for things progress would be impossible, as to believe in the idea of progress requires belief in the many ignorances of the present. Look back in time 100, 50, or even 5 years, and consider how misguided the wisest, smartest people of those days were compared with what you know now. Governments, religions, cultures and traditions all change, despite what they say, and there is not a one of them still standing that is exactly the same as it was when it started. The traditions that have remained may have value, but ask yourself: who decided what to keep and what to throw away? And why did they decide what they decided? Without knowing the answers to the questions, how can you know exactly what it is you are right and wrong about in what you believe? Especially if these traditions have been changing for 100s or 1000s of years? It’s ok to be wrong if you learn something and grow from it. In fact often there’s no way to learn without making mistakes.
In many ways you are a wiser, smarter more experienced person than you were in the past. If you believe any progress in your own thinking and understanding, especially regarding your own life and what it means to you, you must admit that the same kind of progress is possible for you in the future. And that progress is accelerated only by freeing yourself from the obligation to always be right. Instead of allegiance to a specific idea, put your faith in your ability to grow and learn. The former is a chain held in place by your own hand. The latter is a door you can hold open, a door to a better self.
The second challenge is other people
Children survive only through conformity. It’s by recognizing the behavior of adults and adjusting to it, fitting in, that they’re able to survive. If babies didn’t learn which kind of cries got them fed, or what kinds of smiles got them attention, they would not live long. We are designed from birth for survival more than freedom. Consider how absurd most advice from gurus sounds if directed at a 5 year old. Start with Buddha’s excellent advice:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your reason and your own common sense.”
This is the opposite of what children are told by every adult in their lives. Schools teach them specific answers, teachers test and judge them on their ability to memorize and internalize those answers, and parents define rules that control children’s lives in spite of the child’s clear desires. We treat children as if they have no common sense, and for good reason. Often they have no sense at all, common or otherwise. But the question remains: at what point do we teach our children to think for themselves? And how can we be certain they’ve unlearned the lessons we worked so hard to teach them until that day? There are no required college courses called “undoing the damage of the last 18 years of your life” or “how to escape the evil tyranny of your corrupted youth”. We are, perhaps as it always has been or always should be, on our own to figure out what freedom means. But there is no starting gun, no wake up call, for when to become free, much less how to go about doing it given how much of our lives function on our being unfree.
Joining a “Free thinking” group can be nothing of the kind, especially if everyone in the group shares the same brand of atheism, deism, or anything-ism. Freedom grows best in diversity. The more ideas you hear, understand and compare, the greater the odds you’ll think freely about all of them. This can’t happen if you mostly spend time “philosophizing” with people who share 97% of your philosophy. Instead you’re likely just sharpening your prejudices. Sharpening prejudices can be fun. I do it all the time. But it’s not thinking, free or otherwise, and it’s not good philosophy either.
The third challenge is to be alone
Many of history’s great spiritual leaders chose to step away from their cultures and their worlds for a time. Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Muhammad all took long retreats away from everything they knew, freeing themselves from conventions and commitments of normal life. Only then were the able to discover, to transform, to learn and understand themselves in ways that changed the world. They had to separate from the chains and bonds before they could be free, and only then, with new perspective and priorities, did they choose to return. For anyone who knew them, I doubt this choice was popular. Their children, friends, landlords, and tennis partners were less than thrilled about the prospect of them wandering off the face of the earth for 40 days, or 6 months, or however long they chose. They say the fish is the last to see the water. But what if the fish could step out of the tank now and then? You are not a fish. You can take that step whenever you like.
This begs the question, when was the last time you were free from others? The last day you spent alone and let all the thoughts you bury and hide in everyday life rise in your mind? Travel, meditation, long baths, a run in the woods, are all ways to give ourselves a taste of the solitude needed to think freely. Needed to understand ourselves and feel who we actually are. How can you know how much of what you think you want, and think you need is really coming from you? It may be that our truest, freest voice, the voice we call our heart of hearts, is always talking, but it’s quiet and timid and can’t be heard over the chatter of everyday life. Unless we make quiet time to learn how to hear it. And of course, we’re still free to ignore that voice, but at least we’ve given ourselves a chance to listen. Only then is it possible to sort through our lives to strengthen the connections with others who truly share our feelings and thoughts about life. Being free has never been easy, which explains why so few, despite what they say, truly are themselves.
Why Isn’t Recruiting Fun For Everyone?
Technology turns fluid relationships into transactions. That’s what they mean when they say ‘it reduces friction’. The whole point of technology is to remove the artistry and replace it with a procedure.
If you look around today’s organizations, you see the ghettos of productivity created by waves of technology. If you let the tech folks completely run the show, you’ll end up believing that everything can be added, subtracted, multiplied, dived, reported on, assessed, improved and so on. Squishing the soul (and all of its friction) out of the equation is how you get those dramatic productivity increases.
How do you measure Joy? How do you automate it? Do you really think a questionnaire will help measure fun?
It’s easy to build an organization of rules embedded in software. While the rules ensure consistency, they are the enemy of innovation. This is the answer to the question "Where is the innovation in Recruiting?"
It’s been driven out by technology.
As it stands, Recruiting is usually a siloed activity kept extremely separate from the rest of the organization. It runs by its own arcane internal rules and measures and offers little interesting for the passerby. If employees are involved at all, they are used as resources, milked for their networks and embedded in a hiring process that is beyond their control.
Does this sound like a recipe for productive growth of the organization.
What if we used technology to include the rest of the organization in the process. (It’s one of the few areas where gamification might actually work.)
Here are the key areas to focus on involve the application of technology in service of creating a livelier, more entertaining experience:
- Make Job Descriptions Fun
Have you ever read anything more boring and less likely to describe the actual job? What if every department was responsible for guaranteeing that the job description matched the job and described an organization that was a good place to work. Retention begins with this oft overlooked tool. Leader boards, participation badges and cash incentives would make a profound difference here.
- Give Everyone a Gateway to Employment Branding
The best people to represent the company are the people who work there. Employment Branding is a 24×7 operation that usually goes unmanaged. Create real opportunities for people to succeed by continuously including them in the right conversation and giving them regular small talk updates. Help them know what to talk about (of course this requires that you do, too)
- Social Media
Social Technology can expand the brand/employment brand exponentially.
The way to make this happen is by lavishing praise on the successes and ignoring the failures. Every job should have a body of sample tweets, facebook posts and blog outlines so that employees have a way of getting sanctioned traction.
- Real Referrals
Pretty soon, we’ll all be getting over the idea that looking at an employees Facebook friends list has anything to do with recruiting. It’s the wrong direction for the process to flow. Employees can be content magnifiers who expand the reach of the company rather than network providers.
Real referrals are driven by word of mouth programs
This is an additional pivot piece in the retention process and ought to generally considered a part of the Recruiting process. If the team is measured against things like ‘time to productivity’ for new employees and shares tangible responsibility for getting the newbie to work as quickly as possible, onboarding can become a pleasurable team sport.
How would you shift the mindset of your Recruiting Function to include more crowd sourcing and team participation? Does technology have any role in this at all?