Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Out with the old / in with the new

This is simultaneously the last post on my Blogger account and the first on it's new home.

What you need to know.

First, I have decided to use my old company's url for the blog. This is There are two reasons for doing this. First 'brand' - I wanted something which I could tell people about & that we'd both remember. Second 'corporate firewalls' - there are some big, prominent companies who have stopped access to blogspot sites as they are deemed 'personal use'. Either that or the writing was deemed too disruptive.

Second, for those of you subscribing to the RSS feed you will notice no change. Business as usual. You don't need to do anything.

For those of you not using the RSS feed you really should. If you need more information about RSS the BBC published a simple guide.

Third, if you're one of the very few people who subscribed via email I suggest that you change to the RSS. It's much better - honest.

The positive changes.

There are some technical changes that moving to Wordpress will enable. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of the comments for example. I will also start classifying the posts by categories which should help you find old relevant posts.

The negative changes.

I will lose some of my comments & trackbacks on old posts. Over the next few days I will try and restore them. Please be patient.

Other things

If you were currently linking to the old blog please can you change the link to the new one. The old one will remain up, at least for now but it'll add one more click to get to the new content. Oh, and thanks for the links - I really appreciate them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Understanding the people

I'm not sure how many employee opinion survey presentations I have sat through or been shown. They tend to say things like '25% of people in our retail arm are engaged'. So what?

To get value out of these things we need to be a bit more sophisticated with the data. The way that the data is usually segmented (by division, sex etc) is interesting, but generally not that insightful. To get more information you need to look at creating your own segments, based on finding interesting clusters.

What you generally want to understand is the groups, the likeliness of somebody having an certain set of opinions. You probably want to drive this from a result that you are interested in - for example 'what do our high performers typically think?' or 'what behaviours do engaged staff show?' Basically, you're interested in segmenting people not by their demographics (gen X, Y etc) or division within the business but by attitude. This will give you an understanding of which organisational levers you can pull which will be most influential to your chosen group.

There are a few techniques that you can use for this, one of which is CHAID (Chi Squared Automatic Interaction Detector). SPSS's AnswerTree product is widely used here.

What have I seen? Well we've seen that high performers are generally most interested in organisational issues (leadership etc), where the average people are more focussed on their role. We have seen that people who feel underpaid generally also are keen for more work / life balance and have spent longer in their current job. What do your people think?

Bias in the interview process

On a few occasions I've rolled out advanced interviewing courses. The target groups were often senior managers. Unfortunately the slides that went with those courses have long been lost.

From experience the most powerful part of the courses was a discussion of the typical types of bias that can occur. If you understand the typical types of bias you are more likely to understand when you're being biased, and a good interviewer can then counter it or ensure that you gather additional data to qualify it.

Wikipedia has a list of typical cognitive biases in it's article on Buyer decision processes. Most can be directly applied to the selection process.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hiring Managers

Johanna Rothman posts about hiring managers, saying that they shouldn't be doing their own sourcing. Agree (mostly). That is a tactical job. We can step in and do actual hires but we'll use a team of external researchers to map our competitors, provide us with backgrounds of target candidates etc. We'll do it for very senior hires. Sometimes a call from a senior company representative opens more doors.

However Johanna says we should be adding value:
in job analysis, determining the interview team, who'll ask which kinds of questions, how you'll audition, how you'll decide about candidates, what to make as an offer, checking references, and starting the person working in a way that makes sense.

Let's face it, that's about as tactical as doing the sourcing & just as open to bringing in experts. I will bring in a psychologist when needed, we'll outsource references to the sort of people who do due diligence on management during M&A deals. Other times I'll step in.

The hiring manager's job is to know when it's appropriate to be hands on. It's about knowing who the experts are, when you need them & when you don't.

It's also about setting the strategy. It's not about worrying about the 1 passive candidate when you can worry about what you can do to develop relationships with 500. It's about mobilising the whole organisation, removing blocks, monitoring the competition, understanding the changing labour markets, facilitating a liquid internal labour market, building your employment brand. It's all about connecting these and a hundred other things together.

I have the utmost respect for Heather & guess she would agree with me on most of this. There are transactional in-house recruiters out there but I'm not sure she is a great example. The smart hiring manager knows that if you are focussing at the individual sourcing level you're adding little value & might as well be outsourced 'to the experts'.

Focussing on Learning

Personal development. Developing their people. Helping them learning. Helping them help themselves and each other to learn. Oh, and a bit of training.

Yes, training comes last and rightly too. Training is useful, but for many things it's one of the worst ways of helping the organisation learn. Training these days is pretty commoditised. Few providers offer anything different, well maybe apart from The Mind Gym.

Face it, your employees like training because it gets them out of the office, and they don't really like that. It is also pretty tangible - 'I had this issue so I went on a course'. Easy to measure.

Oh, and HR provides training. 'If one of my team needs to develop I can offload it to HR' - bingo (if it doesn't work it's all HR's fault)

Let's refocus this. It's not an 'HR issue' it's a business issue, and that is where is should sit. No, not booking training courses but delivering the organisation's learning.

So what does the HR provide? Well it should be encouraging things to happen. How about setting up a few interdepartmental workshops? Get them talking to each other. How about influencing the communications agenda? It's not the CEO preaching that makes people listen, it's about conversations. HR is usually number 1 or 2 user of internal comms so has a good place to start.

Why doesn't everyone use the intranet? Because it's not easy to find what you want or is explained like you want to say it, not how they want to hear it. Bring in folksonomies, put information on wikis where they can question and update. Use blogs, RSS feeds - give them the choice to publish what they're doing and listen to who they want to. Ever considered that this might raise their engagement? There is probably an inverse relationship between your control and their interest.

It's not about big programmes. it's about starting small 'learning fires' - little, easy to implement local initiatives - and then watching them fan the flames.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A new job board

A new job board - so what? Well I thought that this was an interesting development as it initially seemed to be a move in the wrong direction.

Last week DirectEmployers Association, a non-profit employers organisation, announced the launch of, what on the face of it seemed to be another yet another job board. A lengthy press release is available.

DirectEmployers has provided an employment search engine for some time. On it you will find all jobs currently posted by the organisation's members. It seems to be the only job search site that is truly global, though the focus is the US. It directs the job seeker to the employers website so the application process can be the same.

I have written before on why I think that job search will eventually replace job boards as search is currently replacing categorised lists. Why then could one of the pioneers of job search be moving in the 'wrong' direction?

One of the issues for a job search site is how to balance the quantity / quality issue. Job seekers are going to want to go to a site with the highest number of relevant jobs for them. So to be successful you need to have a large number of jobs (quantity) but you also need to have a low amount of 'noise' (the quality side of the argument). has always been very high quality, probably the highest level of any large search / job board. It has a good level of quantity but to shine in needed to raise the quantity. How to do this? Increase the number of jobs without adding 'noise'. How to significantly reduce noise? Charge, even a minimal charge. You could also ensure that posters have to be the 'owners' of the jobs (that is not a third party agency). From the site I'm not sure if this is the case.

What got my initial 'Why are they doing that?' to a 'That's a smart move' is that quickly I realised that they haven't replaced the search, they've given a way for non-members to include their listings at a very low price (around 10% of a traditional job board) so as to increase quantity but without increasing noise. This will increase the power of their search.

It gets better. Along with Simply Hired, DirectEmployers has announced a partnership with LinkedIn. LinkedIn obviously seem to get where job hunting is going. What is great is that they talk about
LinkedIn will tell you how many people in your network can help you find out more about the company and get the job.

That is, an acknowledgment that the network might be better served to help the candidate research the company rather than finding a 'backdoor' through the company's referrals scheme.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Online Candidate Behaviour

Joel Cheesman discussed the importance of corporate web sites in online recruitment starting from online consumer behaviours. Whilst I think he is absolutely right comparing the consumer to the job-hunter I believe that he jumped to his conclusions too early.

What I won't disagree with is his view that candidates usually start with the search engine. This will generally throw up the main job boards and a few companies or agencies that use pay per click etc. These pages will then be bookmarked and the job hunter will next time bypass the search engine and go to the job boards (Of course this could be a vertical search such as Indeed or Simply Hired). I also suspect the top 3 listings account for the majority of click-thrus.

However, I do disagree with his assertions on when job seekers use the information that is on the careers site months before taking the decision to apply. This disagreement is based on doing quite a few behaviour studies over the last 4 to 5 years, seeing other surveys (which generally confirmed my studies) combined with a model I've developed based on a view of consumer behaviour. Let me try and describe this model.

I have stated on several occasions before that job-hunters display similar behaviours as consumers of large expenditure items such as housing and cars. This is in terms of such things as switching propensities. However the fundamental difference between most consumption and job hunting is that in consumption the consumer holds total responsibility for making the purchasing decision - car companies rarely refuse a consumer (except, for example makers of very high-end limited-edition cars) whereas in job selection the candidate and company both try and make a decision on fit. Both conduct research on the other. Submitting your application doesn't mean you've completed the 'purchase'

The second difference is all around opportunity costs. For a candidate, except maybe for the graduate*, the time cost of research is greater than the time cost of applying. In consumption it's almost always the other way around - the time cost of research is a lot less than the cost of the purchase (especially for the expensive items that the consumer/candidate behaviour seems to match). To maximise their utility the candidate is better off searching for opportunities than researching about a company who may or may not have an opening.

Do we see this? Yes. A typical path through a careers site is straight to the available jobs. They want to know if there is any point investing any more time at your site. (we're talking about the small percentage who go directly to your site, maybe because you're a prominent firm in the function they want to work in - PwC in audit for example, or you're a big local employer).

When they find a relevant job they make a decision to apply pretty quickly. Here you can encourage relevant applications by giving a great job spec, written in a language applicable to an outsider. You could even provide links to supporting information on your site. How about putting a list of useful links on the job description - sort of 'find news / more information about OurCompany's work in audit' for example with links to the relevant information on your site (it doesn't have to be the career site). This extra information will help them position themselves effectively.

With a marginal cost getting pretty close to zero, and a time cost limited to any CV revision, sending in your CV directly to a firm is similar to requesting a brochure - you're not committing at this stage, your just starting the research process.

What happens when they use a job board or vertical search? Here the evidence that I see is that they find a sufficiently interesting role and then use your on-site search to refine the search. It's rather like deciding that you are interested in a model of car and then using your site to determine which engine size you want. It might be the one they originally found on the job board, it might be a different one. The key factor is that they used the search engine or job board to find you & they focussed on using the search on your site to select the role they feel is most appropriate.

When do job-hunters look at your 'career-blurb'. My understanding is when they get an interview as part of their preparation. At this stage they will be using it in conjunction with other parts of your site & increasingly third party resources. Talking to friends or friends of friends is also used extensively here. In the vast majority of cases your career site isn't persuading them to apply, it's helping them prepare to meet you. Remember this is a valid part of the research process that both you and they are doing, but a career site focussed on this is very different to one aiming to get applications in (which I think is pretty pointless - don't think that because that's the way you want them to act it's going to be the way they will).

Some conclusions:

Are passive job seekers surfing your site? No, almost never unless they are also consumers, in which case they still go to the job search first.
Is the career site info redundant? No, but don't think it will encourage many to apply. It's for a different part of the process & the sooner you recognise that the sooner candidates will think you've a great careers site.
Is search engine optimisation relevant for the HR dept? Yes, absolutely. Vertical search, local search etc will make this even more important.
Are candidate behaviours online similar to consumers?
Sort of, but you need to consider opportunity costs. Some things become relevant, some redundant.

* Why different on graduate sites? Many companies still ask graduates, through a separate application process to complete an online form. The average time taken seems to be around 2 - 3 hours. Given this hire cost graduates will conduct more research on your firm. This does not count research on career direction. See one of my earliest articles for my view on how graduate recruitment should evolve.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Talent markets

I'm surprised how quickly a traditional business like private banking is open to thoughts about labour markets.

Something that I haven't gone into much detail of late is that in the last few roles been in the wonderful position of being able not only to work out how to get the people we need for our jobs but being able to change the 'product' that we take to market - what the offering is all about. Part of this is being able to challenge where work is located.

Recently I've been having conversations about where we are going to locate our front-office people. If the market for Italian bankers is stronger in Monaco than Switzerland why don't we build our team there? These are questions the business is very eager to investigate.

We're not alone. Google last year opened shop near Microsoft - it doesn't take a genius to guess why. In large administrative centres I have been able to demonstrate the link between distance-to-work and saturation of local labour markets over time. Track that and you realise when it's time to shift the work elsewhere.

John Hagel, one of my favourite writers, mentions this on his recent blogpost - Flight of the Creative Class:
Where value originates and who captures it will increasingly depend on the evolution of talent markets and the relative capability of firms (and nations) to rapidly develop and amplify the value of this talent. Product markets and financial markets will of course still matter, but the center of gravity for value creation and capture will inexorably migrate to global talent markets.

HR's value to an organisation will rise when it can start having these conversations. Unfortunately I see far too few people in the average HR organisation who can and want to have these conversations with senior managers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Welcome home Mac

I've just got one of my Macs back from repair. It had a power supply problem - we had a power cut or surge at about 2am a few weeks ago and something happened that the computer didn't like. Fortunately the local Apple service centre managed to fix it.

We had been using the computer as a hub in the house. Whilst I had thought of a back-up policy for the data what I hadn't realised were the problems that I would have if I lost lots of the ports. Most of my data was on a series of external drives (320Gb ones) linked by Firewire 800. Then there was the ipod, the iSight FW camera, the printer, scanner....... you get the picture.

My poor little Powerbook was bought because I thought I didn't need all of this stuff directly connected, I would just use it connected to the other computer and connect over the network. That presumed that I would have something with lots of ports available. In Apple terms that means a Power Mac. Without it I was lost.

It's back now so I can sigh a sigh of relief. Somebody once said that technology was there to make our lives easier. It might do but we do end up relying on it, and when it is not there we struggle.

Social Networks

For anyone involved in communication, organisation design, learning (in the broadest sense) and even some areas of technology understanding how social networks are constructed is beneficial. I have written about how new tools are going to be used for external recruitment, but my feeling is that the most immediate 'resourcing' benefit is using them to look at internal employment markets, partly because you have some chance of understanding these.

Yesterday, via a PubSub subscription I came across Bruce Hoppe's blog 'Connectedness', one of the most useful collections of writings on this subject I have found to date. If you, like me, are seriously interested in this stuff I suggest you take a look.