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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

An easy sell - Geneva

Mercer placed Geneva joint 1st again in their 2005 Quality of Life survey and as the summer festival season starts I'm not at all surprised.

My wife & I are big culture fans. In London I spent an extraordinary amount of time at events, pre-show parties, post-show parties, post-post-show sessions, you get the picture.

When we announced that we were moving to Geneva lots of people cried 'you'll be bored'. Not so my friends.

Whilst we don't have the art scene that London has we do have a great choice in live music, again, not as big as London but with the benefit that you can actually get tickets.

This year we've managed to see REM, been to the Jazz festival at Cully (Seu Jorge was great), been to two modern dance productions by the surrealist Alias Compagnie we've got tickets to see Esa-Pekka Salonen at Verbier do Stravinsky, Berio and Hillborg, a few nights at the Montreux Jazz Festival and then a few nights at Paleo. Then there is more ballet with the Bejart. And this doesn't include all the free music nights sitting in the parks with a friends & a few bottles of the local rosé, the summer theatre in the Orangerie, the 30 something public museums & galleries.

The Tour de France comes delightfully close & today we've got the start of the Tour de Romandie today with cycling through the steep cobbled streets of the old town.

All of this of course is great news for the recruiter. Convincing someone to come to one of the safer cities of the world, with skiing 45 mins from the front door in the winter and summer evenings lounging around on boats on the lake and all this going on is not too difficult.

As neither of us are Swiss we don't see this as our home for ever. But it's a good base for now.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Trust, technology & employee performance

A few weeks ago, on the For Immediate Release podcast, Shel Holtz ranted about employee trust and monitoring technologies. I listened, smiling. Little did I know that it was going to be so timely.

36 hours later I was sitting in the office of one of the board directors and the topic of a 'Values and Behaviours' project came up - had I done something like that before? (Yes) what should they think about?

Lots of companies have published 'values and behaviours'. Most are worthless. What differentiates the ones that work and the ones that don't? Well the good apply their values to everything they do. They become checklists for everything the firm does.

Trust is almost always part of a company's published values. So how, as Shel points out, does monitoring emails & online behaviours constitute trust? It doesn't, it can't. Neither does blocking internet email access, blocking blog access because it is 'personal use', stopping personal calls...

Great workforces are ones where everyone is treated like adults. Most people, most of the time know what they should do. The best places to work often have made allowances to help staff do other 'life' activities more easily. The contract here is 'you're here to perform to the best of your ability, we'll try and provide a supportative environment and you'll be measured and rewarded for the contribution you make.

Lynda Gratton's book 'the Democratic Enterprise' - liberating your business with freedome, flexibility and commitment' offers a good summary of this. It is well worth a read.

Metrics - just because something is fashionable doesn't mean it's right

There seems to be a lot of talk about metrics at the moment, mainly about how poor the current indicators are (cost per hire, time to hire) and how we should all replace them with such things as Quality of Hire and even a sort of Return on Investment of recruitment.

I suspect that I've been looking at these sort of things since my first time as a recruitment manager - some 8 or so years ago. I've debated them with others and spent far too much time thinking about them. For some years I decided that I was probably just being a bit thick but as I aged I have decided that maybe I could have been right after all. (Though of course stubbornness probably increases with age) The reason I couldn't work out how to calculate such stats is that they probably can't be calculated.

OK, some caveats. First I am of the 'no stats is better than bad stats' school of thought, especially when credibility is at stake. Second, spending my university life studying things such as econometrics gave me a love of models, but also an understanding of what makes a good one - that is, I'm a bit critical of these things but also love them.

Quality of Hire - why it is only appropriate in a few, limited situations

The first problem here is how to define quality. My Swiss friends tell me that one way of indicating quality is "does it have a 'made in Switzerland' label on it"? (The Swiss being keen of totally over-engineering things - just see what happens when they make a camera) Of course performance of people is far more complex.

You could use things such as performance appraisals, targets etc. but the problem here is that they usually don't accurately describe the contribution the person makes to the firm. The 'closer' you are to the client the easier (maybe) it is to measure contribution but add management into the mix and it all gets very hard.

The other area where you might be able to accurately measure contribution is if the person is completing a heavily process-defined role. If they are making widgets you can count the number of widgets. However, anything to do with knowledge working is very hard to identify and measure the contribution because much of the value is derived not from the individual, but their relationships with others.

So if you can't define and measure quality how do you measure quality of hire? Of course you can use the performance measures that you have but be aware that they're inaccurate and that by setting them as goals for selection you might accurately select the 'wrong' thing.

Let's presume you can define performance, then the function will probably come out as something like this:

P=fn(Tt, Ti, A, E) where

Tt= trainable talent (knowledge, skills) - you can test this
Ti=inherent talent - you can get a good view of this
A=Attitude - you can get a good view of this, though it changes over time
E=Environment - this is out of the control of the recruiter

Let's presume we can develop a great selection model, with measurement around a bunch of relevant competencies. You use it with a group of people that is large enough to be statistically relevant, you measure the performance after a period of time and then you use your data to constantly validate the contribution made by each competency which you accurately measured. What would be the problem here?

Well (a) few people recruit so many of the same type that you can build a good model and (b) it all presumes that the environment remains constant, and this is rarely the case. Things that could change this are management changes, process changes, technology changes, external economic changes... the list is long. If any of this changes, was the performance a factor of the environmental change or your accurate selection?

To measure quality of hire there is an inherent time lag - that is, performance is shown over time as the person learns about their new environment. The individual may deliver the most performance in later roles. They may be average in their first role but great in the second. This would be the real performance of the person, but how do you measure that?

How accurate can selection be? Well, I reckon that you can get about a 70% accuracy on selection for anything other than the most 'process' role. You will get a normal distribution from those people you do select and I guess you want this distribution to be higher than if you had no selection (which of course you are unlikely to be able to test) and that the average is higher than your existing population (which will change when the new people join)

Finally, was that performance driven by factors you selected on or the value added by development, management etc. Try convincing your managers that an individual's performance is purely a result of your selection.

Return on Investment - innacurate and worthless

Again let's consider the average knowledge worker or manager. To measure ROI you need to understand the return - the economic contribution the person makes to the firm, and the investment. The investment is possible to measure, but not as easily as you think. The economic contribution is extremely difficult.

First, value is often based on the relationships between individuals and not the individuals themselves. You would need to understand the networks accurately and measure the additional value of all those relationships. A great manager may not actually 'make' things but by coaching might release value in others. To measure the economic value you would need to identify this value.

Secondly, these models are dynamic, not static. If a department loses someone they don't not do that persons work, they reallocate it. This effects intangibles such as departmental morale which in turn impacts performance. You need to model and understand all of this.

You could try saying 'without this person we would be $x worse off' but remember facilities could probably say 'without desks we would be $y worse off'. Both would be silly.

Can you estimate all of this to a degree to provide worth? Yes you probably can, especially in a non-complicated environment. Go and hire yourself a team of economists who can do time-series analysis on dynamic models. And prepare that the model will change as the environment changes. Understand it's a 'best guess'

My take on one of the reasons that HR has a low credibility in most organisations is that it tries to 'copy' other parts of the organisation only to make a mess of it. Most senior management with any comprehension of numbers will soon see the weakness of either ROI of recruitment or Quality of Hire. Go in with a dollar value of the economic contribution that an individual makes and most will probably smile sweetly and then smirk behind your back. Either that, or want to understand how you modeled accurately a whole organisation. Remember if you had an accurate model they could then manage it perfectly.

Final word - stop worrying about things you can't measure, stop feeling you have to 'prove' your contribution and start concentrating on making your managers appreciate your contribution. What ultimately matters is their perception of what value you add.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

College recruiting programmes

Kevin Wheeler, writing in ER Daily discusses how to focus college recruitment activities away from the roadshow model. It is an excellent article & one that I want to build on.

His analysis is spot on. His 4 negatives are sharp. You can validate most of this stuff from your data. Look at the cost of acquiring CVs as well as the hires and compare methods. Look at your existing staff, especially experienced hires, where they studied and now compare this with where you go. At one firm we did a basic 'where did our high performers study' analysis and the top performing school wasn't even on our list. To make it even worse it was 400m from their careers office to the front door of the corporate HQ.

I've managed these programmes in several firms, in several sectors. I've operated across Europe and even into Asia. What would I recommend?

(1) as Kevin suggests go virtual. Build a database, segment, capture them 3 years before graduation, build a communications plan that focusses on their information needs. What resources does your firm have that they would want? For many firms this might be possible. At a global media firm we had a great image library & provided a tool that let them send ecards with some of the world's best images. If you are a FMCG you might be able to send vouchers, samples etc. Think about it, there's usually something that you can do that is cheap. Use targeted email (maybe even SMS, though there are some big issues here that are outside the scope of this article.) Small email shots, to highly focussed groups. I've regularly had 60% click throughs by focussing. Most campaigns get about 2%. Send the former and people won't think of it as spam. Spam is only what you don't want.

(2) Focus on how your people can help them. Give up the roadshow but don't necessarily ignore face to face contact. If you know what skills you want then the chances are some of your people already have them. How about offering speakers on topics they have experience on. The schools will love you, the brightest most interested students will turn up, it will be totally focussed on the skills you want and guess what, people will come and ask about jobs after the talk. The dynamics of these presentations are totally different and your ability to sell how great your firm is in this area is stronger.

(3) Read some of my earlier writings on this subject (here,hereand here). You probably have to rethink how your firm looks at this part of the talent market

(4) Use internships wherever possible. Apply similar selection methods (or at least the same competencies). Choose the high performers during this time. Give people experiences that they are going to rush back and tell people at college about. It's really hard to accurately select those with little work experience but you will see the high performers after a few months. Again, this often means rethinking how your firm looks at this part of the talent market.

(5) Please, please, please avoid horrible 'youth' campaigns with smiley people looking cool. It's patronising

(6) Do understand how college students use communication channels. I've used a discussion board about working and applying to the firm with great success (it significantly reduced questions sent by email). Be transparent with your process. I think blogs of recent hires talking about their work would work. Students often don't really know what work is like.

(7) I hate sponsorship of college events / sports clubs etc. It's a personal thing but I've never been able to justify the spend by the stats.

(8) Don't give pencils / notepads / beer mats etc. Do you want someone to join you because you gave them a pen? Spend on this stuff is often huge

(9) Online testing is good, but it has to be seen as relevant

(10) Back in the 80's Boston Consulting Group (BCG) coined the term 'Time Based Competition' to describe being competitive on the basis of being quicker than the competition to complete a process. It is highly relevant when applied to the college recruitment process.

Very funny, but off topic (Macromedia & Adobe)

John Gruber, at Daring Fireball, has published a Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Adobe’s ‘FAQ’ Regarding Their Acquisition of Macromedia & very sharp it is.

I'm a big user of Adobe's Creative Suite (I have the professional edition, though I have rarely used GoLive). Photoshop is really useful as I am a keen photographer, I do most of my business diagrams using Illustrator (gosh I'm lost and frustrated having to use Powerpoint to do this now at work, but then Microsoft would never claim the drawing tools are a Illustrator competitor), InDesign to lay-out most documents (I use Word as a text-editor) and the full version of Acrobat to package up documents in a format that I know most people will be able to view 'as-is' (It also does great slideshows for sending out).

Of course Gruber's post has nothing to do with resourcing, but for poking fun at corporate-speak it's wonderful.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More referrals network in recruitment news

Via Charlene Li at Forrester, news of a partnership between Simply Hired and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn as most will be aware is an online network & a related tool. Simply Hired is a job search engine similar to Indeed (I posted earlier views on Indeed and job search) Charlene describes the combined offering really well:
When you do a search, you can see if any of your contacts work at the company through a link to LinkedIn. So I could see that for a marketing job at E-Loan, I had 19 connections in my network, most of them at least three degrees away.

Many people, especially those who will potentially use online networks for job hunting will already be a member of something such as LinkedIn. Users don't want to join different networks for different functions. LinkedIn, because of its existing user base certainly has a head start therefore over some new entrants in the job-referral market.

As to how it and the new referrals networks are positioned, as I wrote before, referrals work not because you give people lots of money, but because they believe in your organisation and want to sell it. This is why having a referral bonus at $5000 encourages few extra referrals than having it at $500. Splitting the fee down the network will therefore encourage subsequent levels to sell it but do you really want your 'sales channel' to be an untrained mass focussing purely on the commission? My comments on developing channels for selling a job apply equally to the referral chain as they do to recruitment firms.

My original comment on those tools was that in the long-term stand-alone referral providers will be best suited to the mid-sized firms who want to automate a process and don't have a sophisticated recruitment system. If this type of networking does take off the big recruitment systems folks will just add it to their functionality and clients will use whoever makes it easiest for them to use a network - reposting isn't going to cut it. The Hire.coms, Brassrings, Taleos and Jobpartners control the clients eyeballs and should win the battle.

This new announcement though is different. Instead of building the referral out from the recruiter to the candidate it shows the network from the candidate to the recruiter. What does the corporate recruiter therefore need to do?

(1) Ensure that your key employment value proposition is understood by your whole workforce so they can act as reliable representatives
(2) Develop your referral process so that you can handle applications from people that your staff hardly know. (They didn't originally refer their friends anyway, it was always acquaintances)
(3) Ensure that your recruitment system can handle referrals just as any other source and that they don't bypass the process. Make sure it doesn't cause you an administrative nightmare.
(4) Understand that you now have a new stakeholder in your recruitment process (employees) and consider what that means for your communications.
(5) Join LinkedIn so you can be a key link.

Who should be most worried about these developments? My take is that it should be contingency recruiters who active candidates have previously used to make approaches for them. The candidates will start to take some of that ownership back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Text based job search in Kenya

Short aside: Reuters has a lovely article entitled Kenyans Text Messaging Their Way to Jobs

Applicants Bill of Rights - should this be published?

Dr. John Sullivan, writing is yesterday's ERE, discusses what he describes as an 'applicants bill or rights' - here in Europe we would probably call this an 'applicants charter'. However you describe it I'm not sure it really adds much value in the majority of cases to publish this, and is a great opportunity to disappoint.

It's not that I disagree with any of the themes Dr. Sullivan suggests - we seem to be on exactly the same wavelength on 99.9% of things and seem to have reached the same conclusions through our experiences however many thousands of miles apart. I'm not coming to his writing through aspiration, but as one who has implemented much of it and who reads it with a smile of confirmation - a sort of 'I've done that, and yes, that worked and that doesn't'.

Back to the article, he makes a great case for engineering the recruitment process from a candidate's perspective. This is rarely done, just in the same way as customers aren't really central to many customer facing process designs.

Back in the heady days of BPR I worked in a management consultancy and we spent a huge amount of time looking at process redesign, mostly in customer facing parts of retail financial services firms. We modeled lots of this stuff using electronic process modeling tools and then could run simulations showing where the bottle necks were going to be, how moving one part of the process to stage 5 instead of stage 2 could save hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was all great stuff but was almost always done from the perspective of increasing efficiency not improving customer service.

The problem with this approach is that it only looks at one stakeholder - usually the finance director. This is great in the short term but to have something really sustainable you need to consider all stakeholders. I used to frustrate some of my colleagues because I used to want to build in organisational learning into the processes. "How will Sue in level 1 support learn from passing all her difficult calls to level 2?" Great processes are ones that deliver to all stakeholders.

For a better look at this have a look at the Strategy Dynamics approach. (Wikipedia has a good summary, I am a big fan of Kim Warren's work in this area, much of it which can be found from his strategydynamics website) This stuff is probably for experienced business strategy readers.

Designing your process from a candidate perspective ensures that you are focussing on what I believe is the most critical stakeholder. If you do this you are likely to come up with a list of deliverables that look like those Dr. Sullivan notes. So what is the problem with the article? Well my belief derives from one paragraph:
However, if you are really bold, the best approach — which I recommend — is to promise them a high level of courtesy, respect, and treatment in what is known as an Applicant's "Bill of Rights."

It is all about whether you want to make the promise explicit. He says 'do' I say 'don't' (We both agree on what is to be delivered).

I spent last year coaching a manager of a very big bank about many of these issues. He thought a 'candidate charter' was a good idea. We discussed this on several occasions and he eventually decided not to do this. Why?

Every candidate starts their relationship with your firm with a set of expectations. For some those expectations are high, for others they are low. The distribution is probably normal. You can't do anything about these expectations.

A candidates charter enables you to articulate where you want to deliver. You're putting your flag in the ground. You have to be very confident that is where you are going to deliver (though exceeding your promises won't do you any harm). Let's consider the possibilities:

Your promise exceeds their expectations
. For some you will raise their expectations. For some they will reject it with a 'we'll see this when it happens' sort of thought. Few will approach you because of a promise with no evidence.

Your promise equals their expectations.
No effect

Your promise is lower than their expectations
. I doubt that this really happens. Candidates have such poor expectations because as an industry we've treated them so badly for so long. Anyway, if this is the case you'll probably put some people off.

So let's consider you're in the tiny group of firms who are confident that they can constantly exceed expectations. Is a charter good for these? Well I'm not sure it is. Will people read your charter as 'fact' or 'marketing blurb'. Will they actually believe what you say? How can you prove it to them? Today's consumer is increasingly good at rejecting marketing messages.

What can you do if you are in this tiny group? Well you could be more transparent. Instead of publishing a charter or bill of rights how about publishing performance data? How about explaining why you do things? Candidates, given how they behave as consumers, might see this as more authentic.

You could get people to blog about their experiences. Probably the easiest group would be new hires. Blogs are wonderfully search engine friendly so use the words 'recruitment' and 'yourcompanyname' in a blog title and it will find it's way to the upper parts of a search pretty quickly. Independent blogs are likely to be seen as more authentic. Other bloggers might pick up the story.

Work with your external recruitment firms to ensure that the 'we provide a great candidate experience' is part of their message. They will be far more effective at communicating the message, especially if you can provide performance data. You will probably encourage any contingency recruiter to work harder for you.

The aim of the exercise is to get a reputation for providing great a candidate experience. Where I disagree with Dr. Sullivan is that I believe that a bill of rights is not a effective way of doing this. Explicit promises will give you a great opportunity to build up expectations only for one small hiccup to ruin it. A strong 'independent' reputation will probably get them thinking 'I was a bit unlucky' if something goes wrong.

Final word: measure who is being treated below your reputation and delight them. All processes under-deliver to some people. The trick is to turn these occurrences into an opportunity to delight. A bank might send a bunch of flowers to a customer it lets down. Could you do this? How many people would that person then tell?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Recruiting firms and the value chain

Construct a value chain for recruiting and recruitment firms (whatever you call them) have a role.  The aim for the corporate recruiter is not to try and eliminate them from the chain, it's how to ensure that they add as much value as possible, by focussing their role to one you can't provide, or can't provide efficiently.

Why do I write this?  Two reasons:  first I am currently meeting our existing suppliers and some firms that I know.  Some are local specialists, some are the 'big names'.  I'm asking them about how we could do it better, what our positioning in the market is etc.  What can we do to make their life easier?  I want to know the anecdotes and rumours about what is happening in our market.

Secondly I'm aware that many corporate recruiters seem to want to reduce or eliminate their involvement.  I think that is often a mistake.  For any company going direct to market is an option, but just like any other sector, it's often not the only option or even the right one.  Sometimes it is better developing a strong sales channel.  That involves time and energy, effectively training the channel how to sell more effectively.  The only thing that is clear is that an approach without any channel development is wrong for such a complex 'product'. 

The question for most recruiters should not be 'how do I eliminate recruitment firms' but 'how do I increase the value they add'.  We may think that they are horrendously expensive but focus them correctly and they're worth it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Competing on pay is a weak strategy

Conversations today with a supplier about what's happening in the market. One of our competitors 'is throwing money at it'. Let them.

Being the top payer in a market is a weak strategy. To develop a long term competitive advantage in any market you have to offer something which is hard to replicate. Pay leadership is really simple to copy. Furthermore it reduces margins. Maybe it works if you really believe that your operation is better than anyone else can achieve (and you can therefore generate abnormal returns.)

It would also help if people choose employment purely on pay, but they don't. Key factors are complex, differentiated and shift with life stages.

What is harder to copy is having the greatest employee development, an exciting organisational culture, ingrained values. These things take time, commitment and constant effort to develop.

Pay needs to be competitive but you only need to pay above market rates if you can't generate advantage any other way. And all it takes is one quick conversation with the FD and we can destroy your competitive advantage in seconds.

Developing an Employee Value Proposition

I'm constantly surprised at companies who can't articulate a clear, concise and differentiated message to why anyone would work for them.

On one side there seems to be those companies who really don't seem to be able to articulate anything. Ask any member of staff 'what makes working here better than all your other options' and you'll get a blank.

On the other side there are those 'employer brand' messages which derive from HR. They tend to be bland, aspirational and quickly rejected by the folks in the business. 'Another one of those HR things'.

So what do you need to do?

Well it's clear that to have something that everyone in the organisation can relate to it has to resemble reality. I describe the aim here as 'reality with a stretch' - i.e., what the individual can see with where they can see it's going. This is why clear executive communications are so important. You need everything to align.

Secondly the message is going to differ depending on where you sit in the organisation. Jane the head of legal will have a very different belief than Paul in payments. You need to go through and develop a EVP for each area. Ideally they need to match up - i.e. the top level message will be shared by everyone, then you might add something for the whole of HR (for example) and then more for the payroll folk.

Finally, the EVP develops over time. What was the stretch in year 1 is ideally not a stretch in year 2. Develop a 3 year plan to start based on the business strategy.

If you can't articulate your EVP why should anyone join you?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Not writing too much...

As regular readers, and especially those of you who have subscriptions to the RSS feed are aware, my writing here has slipped as I have been transitioning into the new role. I have taken the view that I am not going to write directly about the role at this stage. As this is taking up 13 hours of my day at the moment, and my wife has a genuine reason for my time, writing is a bit harder.

Why? Well it is a combination of the culture of private banking, our low profile at the moment. Blogging about work has a relevancy but it's never going to be the first strand of an online resourcing positioning.

What do I have planned? I will continue to contribute some more articles about thoughts, trends and conversations that I see. As I now have a much more active role in the whole 'talent piece' they may broaden in scope slightly. I would encourage you all to use the RSS option which will enable you to cope with a slightly more irregular level of posting.

What's currently on my mind? Building succession planning throughout an organisation, performance management and building a recruitment approach which will hopefully scare some of our talent competitors. Oh, and lots and lots of listening.