Do You Really Need to Interview a Slate of Candidates? Or Just One?

03/11/2014

When hiring, it’s tempting to rush into interviewing, rather than waiting to develop a full slate of candidates. Hiring managers are often eager to interview as soon as they approve a job description. It’s a request most HR folks try to oblige. And it’s often a mistake.

So what’s the downside to interviewing the first few qualified people who responded to your recruiting efforts? If it only takes one great person to fill the job, why wait around for more candidates to emerge? What if the good people get other jobs while you are waiting? 

Occasionally, it does make sense to interview the first few people who apply. But most of the time, you actually slow down your search by interviewing too soon. Unless you are incredibly familiar with the job you are filling, waiting until you have developed a full slate of five to eight candidates almost always results in a  better hiring decision. (To be clear, I’m talking about waiting 3 or 4 weeks, not 3 or 4 months.)

So how do you know when to jump, and when to wait? We’ve put a lot of thought into this question, and here is our decision process (click to see the larger view):

SA Candidate Slate Flowchart

For example: If you routinely hire for Network Engineers, and currently have several on staff, then you have an excellent basis for comparison when you interview another Network Engineer. Because you have recently interviewed dozens of these candidates, you can instantly recognize a good one when you meet them. And you know what to pay them. No need to wait for a slate here.

But if you have not recently interviewed any Network Engineers, you don’t really have a basis for comparison. You need to educate yourself before you can make a fully informed hiring decision. You are unfamiliar with the job market, no matter how deeply familiar you are with the job and skills required. You need to see firsthand how people from various backgrounds would bring different capabilities to the job. You need to see how compensation for the role varies by skill level. In short, the early candidates might be fine – but without a full slate of candidates to choose from, you are not ready to properly evaluate them, or to understand how your job compares to their other options.


When Hiring, Should You Ask for Salary Requirements? It Depends on the Market.

11/04/2013

resume2I’ve talked a lot recently about how employers need to adapt to the rise of mobile job seekers – especially by making the application process less painful. Let’s tackle a related job-seeker frustration – asking that salary history be included with an applicant’s resume. A recent job seeker – who is underpaid in their current position – asked me “Is it possible to fulfill this request without revealing this information? Or do I have no choice but to disclose it?” With the job market recovering, job seekers are concerned that your compensation strategy just involves tacking on an additional 10% to their undervalued recession salary, keeping them behind the curve.

If you’re looking for a candidate with highly competitive skills, remove the salary history requirement. Asking for a salary history is instantly off-putting. High-quality, in-demand candidates will tune out and not complete the application process. And why should they? They’re being heavily recruited by other organizations that didn’t put up as many hurdles in the initial application. And they’ll likely take it as an attempt to lowball a salary offer, and steer clear.

Is the market for the position particularly scarce, where every application you get counts? Then don’t be such a stickler for the rules that you will instantly disqualify a top performer because they chose not to include the required salary history. You may have overlooked someone perfect for your organization. And odds are they didn’t include it because they want to ensure that your compensation philosophy is market-based – not based on their salary history.

Now, I’m aware that not all positions and budgets require a top performer, and not all positions are lacking in highly qualified candidates. If you’re looking to fill a dime-a-dozen position in a market with a plethora of talent, you can probably get away with including salary history in your application process. You get market data for free – so you can easily narrow applicants down to those that meet your budget. Candidates will still find the question off-putting, but the resulting few that drop out of the application process likely won’t damage your chances of finding someone to fill the position. It’s much more destructive to your chances when there’s market scarcity for the needed position.

Recently I spoke with an HR executive who had just filled out a frustrating application.  She said, “I implemented all these labor-saving components into my Applicant Tracking System, but I didn’t realize what a terrible experience the candidates were having as a result.”

Go test this – apply for a job in your own company and see if you give up before completing the application process. If you’ve instituted multiple requirements or labor saving measures, I’m betting you’ll walk away with a headache – especially if salary history is only one of many hurdles. Now imagine how many top performers did the same thing for all your past open positions.  Your search for talent might be easier (and maybe more successful) if you lower your organization’s initial barriers to entry.


Is Recruiting About Being Exciting … or Being Safe?

09/22/2011

People often think of recruiting in terms of old-school sales. You know the drill… pitch the candidate on an exciting opportunity, talk the client into interviewing them, negotiate the salary, and close the deal. But the Recruiting-Is-Selling philosophy is increasingly out of step with the times we’re in right now.

Sales excitement just sounds like more noise. To have an intelligent conversation about considering a new career opportunity, candidates first need to feel safe–which means talking to someone without a sales agenda. To make an intelligent hiring decision, managers also need to feel safe–which means talking to an experienced tour guide who can help them better understand the job market, think through their options and weigh the pros and cons of different choices.

Amping up the excitement, or introducing a sales agenda (which always makes people defensive) is just the wrong solution for our disturbing and turbulent times. Economist Arnold Kling explains the current employment uncertainty in five short sentences (courtesy of The Atlantic):

The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced . . . The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing.

Top performers have always delivered more results (marginal product) than average performers, but that gap is widening fast in the current economy. Meanwhile, uncertainty is increasing for everyone.

Now I’m not arguing that being dull is the solution–excitement does have its place. Top performers want exciting jobs where they can make an impact … but to even begin to consider taking a new job, people first need a safe place to have a conversation about it.

The latest recruiting technology will always gather the headlines, but the reality is that your recruiting results will increasingly depend on your ability to create an environment where both hiring managers and candidates can have a safe, intelligent conversation, free from any sales agenda.


What’s the Salary Range for that Position?

07/29/2011

When we’re recruiting someone, we’re often asked the salary range for the position, but we never disclose it.  Candidates think that knowing the salary range will help them decide if an opportunity is worth pursuing.  In fact the opposite is true.   Whether you are above, below or in the middle of the salary range, talking about it just gets in the way.

Talking about salary up front is like specifying the requirements for your engagement ring on a first date – it gets in the way of the real priority – deciding if you should be in a relationship.

Our clients are small to midsize organizations, and our searches are often for one-of-a-kind, mission-critical positions.   So in that world, salary ranges are rarely set in stone, they are simply a budget guideline, a best guess.  Even formal salary surveys are only an approximation – you never really know the true market rate until you have interviewed at least 3 or 4 people who meet all the qualifications for the job.

As a search firm, finding perfect candidates is our priority, and perfect candidates are not always within the target salary range.  To rule out great people before talking with them – based on salary alone – would be a disservice to our clients.  We’ve often seen clients pay above their target salary range to attract someone with unique skills.  In the long run, hiring and retaining high performers is the only thing that matters.  And talking about salary too early in the hiring process prizes budget conformity over job performance.  (Full disclosure, we operate on a pre-arranged flat fee basis, so this is not a self-serving argument to raise our search fees – we’re paid the same regardless of final salary).

OK, so we’ve discussed the problem with people who are ABOVE  the stated salary range, but what about people who have a salary BELOW the target range.  That’s just as big a problem.

What happens when I tell a relatively junior candidate who is currently earning $90k that this position has a target salary range of $100k – $125k?     They proceed to ignore all the other variables that go into deciding if this is the right job, they ignore all the factors the employer uses to set a salary and they lock in on the size of the engagment ring salary range, like it’s the only thing that matters.  Big mistake.  The candidate thinks “If they really like me, they will pay me at the top of the range …  at least $120k.”   Without ever discussing whether $120k is realistic, given their actual skills, they begin to fantasize about how to spend the extra thirty grand.

But salaries are not determined by the target range, they are determined by market rate – what other people with similar skills are earning.   The candidate never knows who they are competing with for the job.  Our $90k junior candidate does not know about:

  • The industry guru who currently earns $130k but would happily accept $125K for a better commute.
  • The strong senior person who could hit the ground running (with no training and little supervision) and would happily accept the job at $115k
  • The even more junior person who is earning $85k but is hungry to prove themselves and would be thrilled with a salary of $90k.

If I share a salary range up front, and then later offer my $90k candidate the job – at a very reasonable $105K, with tons of room for future salary growth – they feel like they just took a $15k pay CUT (from their fantasy $120k) instead of receiving a $15K pay RAISE from their actual $90k salary.  Instead of being happy, they are disappointed, and the employment relationship is poisoned before it even started.

Yeah, you can ask all you want, but we’re not sharing that salary range with anyone.


People Skills Test for Would-Be Doctors

07/20/2011

My wife took a friend to a doctors appointment yesterday.  Although the medical care seemed competent, the office staff was impersonal, and the doctor stared at the chart the whole time, never making eye contact with the patient.  Obviously time to change doctors right?

But it’s more significant than just bad service.

Studies show that a significant number of preventable deaths are caused by poor communication between doctors, patients and nurses.   As a result, medical schools are learning what the business world already knows: social skills matter as much, if not more, than technical skills.  An increasing number of med schools are now using social skills as a factor in student selection.   And as a recruiter, I think the process they are using is fascinating.

The New York Times, in an article by Gardiner Harris, reports that at Virginia Tech Carilion, the nation’s newest medical school, administrators decided against relying solely on grades, test scores and hour-long interviews to determine who got admitted. “Instead, the school invited candidates to the admissions equivalent of speed-dating: nine brief interviews that forced candidates to show they had excellent communication and social skills.

The new process is called the multiple mini interview, or M.M.I., and its use is spreading. At least eight medical schools in the United States — including those at Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Cincinnati — and 13 in Canada are using it. Here’s how the process works:

At Virginia Tech Carilion, 26 candidates showed up on a Saturday in March and stood with their backs to the doors of 26 small rooms. When a bell sounded, the applicants spun around and read a sheet of paper taped to the door that described an ethical conundrum. Two minutes later, the bell sounded again and the applicants charged into the small rooms and found an interviewer waiting.  The candidates had eight minutes to discuss that room’s situation. Then they moved to the next room, the next surprise conundrum and the next interviewer, who scored each applicant with a number and sometimes a brief note.

Virginia Tech Carilion administrators said they created questions that assessed how well candidates think on their feet and their willingness to work in teams.

The most important part of the interviews are often not candidates’ initial responses — there are no right or wrong answers — but how well they respond when someone disagrees with them, something that happens when working in teams.

A pleasant bedside manner and an attentive ear have always been desirable traits in doctors, of course, but two trends have led school administrators to make social skills a priority, writes Harris:

1)    A growing number of studies pin the blame for an appalling share of preventable deaths on poor communication among doctors, patients and nurses that often results because some doctors, while technically competent, are socially inept.

2)    Medicine is evolving from an individual to a team sport. Solo medical practices are disappearing. In their place, large health systems are creating teams to provide care coordinated across disciplines. The strength of such teams often has more to do with communication than the technical competence of any one member.

The M.M.I. system grew out of research that found that situational interviews were more revealing of character flaws than personal interviews, and that 5 minutes was enough time to make the assessment.   In fact, candidate scores on the mini interviews are highly predictive of scores on medical licensing exams three to five years later that test doctors’ decision-making, patient interactions and cultural competency.

Not bad for 5 minutes.


Authenticity

06/13/2011

Matt Duren did a great presentation for a small group I facilitate – The Staffing Alliance of Maryland Employers (Project SAME).   The topic was “How to Build a Social Recruiting Strategy on a Budget.”    Matt understands how to work with a budget.  He works for a big, well-known, well-run, cost-conscious company (see his LinkedIn profile if you want to know which one).  Matt and his colleagues have done some great things.

What really impressed me about their social recruiting strategy was how authentic they were.  They started the entire initiative by looking at their employment brand – asking “who are we to our employees?”   They did not take the bland “we care about people” pablum that is locked securely inside picture frames on every office wall.  They did not even use their well known consumer brand.  Instead they really looked at what makes them attractive to their current and future employees.   They pulled together a cross-disciplinary team of people and distilled down dozens of factors into a handful that really mattered – they looked hard at what promise they could keep to their candidates.  Then they worked really dligently to convey that information as accurately as possible using social media.  Yes, they used some very interesting tools, yes they are way ahead of other employers, and of course after Matt finished his (excellent) presentation everyone was asking questions like:

  • “How many people did you end up hiring as a result of the initiative?”
  • “What was your return on the investment in social recruiting?”
  • “What did your CEO have to say about it?”

But what was most interesting was not the metrics or the ROI.  What was really interesting was what he said the senior executives cared about:

  • Did we attract and hire the very best people we could?
  • Did people join the company for the right reasons?
  • Did the new employees get what they expected when they arrived?

Authenticity.   Telling the right story – keeping promises – that’s the heart and soul of social media recruiting.  If you don’t get that part right, nothing else you do matters.


Your Top Performer Just Quit – How to Handle a Resignation

04/25/2011

It’s Monday morning, and one of your best people just resigned.  What do you do next?  The choices you make in the next few days will either make things a whole lot better for you, or much, much worse.

At the “moment of impact” you must dig deep, and summon up every bit of graciousness you can muster.   You simply must take the high road.   Congratulate them on their new opportunity, work hard at being happy for them.  You can even take a little bit of credit for helping them advance their career.   But whatever you do, don’t be a jerk.

Remember, every other employee in your organization will be watching you very carefully for the next month.  Stay classy.   Don’t bad-mouth either the person leaving or their new employer.   If you sink into pettiness or act devastated, all your other employees will lose confidence in you.

Every time a top performer resigns, all your other employees will reflexively wonder if they should leave also.  Your job is to be sure they don’t find a reason to leave.

Kris Dunn started a lively debate about the pros and cons of  walking them out the door, or letting them work out their notice.  If they were one of your top people, trust them to work out their notice.  Don’t change your behavior towards them while they work out their notice.

What about making a counter-offer?   Don’t.   I advise candidates to never accept a counter-offer.  Once someone has resigned, they have poisoned the well – the bond of trust is broken and it’s time for them to move on.   They are not “sending a message” or “trying to get your attention” when they resign, they are quitting.   Let them go – nobody is indispensable – learn to get on without them.   Resigning is not a negotiating tactic – trust me on this one – you will regret the day you ever let it become one in your organization.

Michael Bloomberg famously banned going away parties for departing employees.  (OK, I agree with him on that point, those things are awful).   He would not even shake your hand when you left.    He would not re-hire you.  I think this is a missed opportunity.  Few things are as powerful as re-hiring someone who left for greener pastures and came back – they are a cautionary tale for everyone else who ever contemplated leaving.  I recommend that you stay in touch, check in with them.  If the new job was a mistake, they might be open to coming back if you keep the door open.  Of course, by that point, you may have upgraded to an even better employee and have no interest in re-hiring them … but hey, it’s good to have options.


What Neuroscience Tells us About Employee Retention

04/04/2011

Some people dismiss employee engagement research as “too fuzzy.”   Not me.   We have successfully integrated key principles of employee engagement research into our recruiting process.   I know it works.    And naturally, as a headhunter, I’m also fascinated with how people make decisions, so I devour research on the neuroscience of decision-making.

So when Scott Campbell used neuroscience research to validate the key findings from one of my favorite books on employee engagement, it was chocolate and peanut butter for me.  Do yourself a favor and read Scott’s post on Leader’s Beacon.  Here is a quick snapshot of his argument:

“Different (employee engagement) research organizations classify their findings in different ways. David Sirota’s formulation is a simple and useful model. His research suggests that there are three factors that, together, create strong engagement: the employee’s sense of (1) fair treatment, (2) achievement, and (3) camaraderie.[i]

Neuroscience has been making remarkable progress in helping us understand the workings of our mind and illuminating central truths about human nature. In some cases, the findings confirm the validity of existing leadership and organizational practices; in other cases it is turning them upside down. In this case, it confirms that Sirota’s three factors are real, universal, and fundamental in fostering a strong level of engagement in employees.”

David Sirota’s book,  “The Enthusiastic Employee”  – is probably the most important book on HR that nobody has ever read.   That’s unfortunate because the authors really did their homework.  Over a decade, Sirota Consulting surveyed 2.5 million employees who worked for 237 organizations in 89 different countries.  If you want to know why your new hires just aren’t that into you anymore, read the book (or at least read my blog post about it).

And now, coming from a completely different perspective, neuroscience is backing up Sirota’s findings.   Delicious.


Internal Equity vs. Market Rate

02/15/2011

Does this sound familiar?   “I can’t pay our new manager $110k because the other manager in that department only earns $95k.”    Hiring managers often hamstring themselves over this kind of “internal equity” consideration.  I’ve written previously about the dangers of hiring to fit the budget, instead of hiring someone with the skills to actually do the job.  This “internal equity” consideration is exactly the same kind of problem.

To hire great people, only “market rate” matters.  Market rate is what other employers consider to be a fair salary for the same candidate.  Your budget and “internal equity” issues are irrelevant.  In hiring you are competing with other employers to hire the most highly qualified person, and if you are weighed down with any considerations unrelated to “market rate” you are giving an artificial and unfair advantage to every other employer you are competing with.

Admittedly, “internal equity” only shows up as an issue when you are hiring, but it is really not a hiring issue.  It is a compensation issue. 

Internal equity problems do not occur in organizations that pay market rate.  They only occur when someone has been underpaid for several years relative to their market value.  And you cannot solve it by trying to hire new people at below-market salaries.  To let an unresolved compensation issue affect your hiring will only compound the problem, constrain your hiring, and kick the can down the street to show up every time you hire in the future.   (And you will have to hire a lot because paying below market causes turnover).

OK, so internal equity within a department is one thing, but sometimes I hear organizations debate equity between different departments.  That just defies logic.  You simply cannot try to pay all of your executives the same pay rates.

It isn’t “more fair” to pay your Director of Sales the same pay as your Director of IT–it’s idiotic.  

Internal equity within a department (or skill set) is fine, but there is no such thing as internal equity between different skills.

In hiring, market rate is the only true benchmark (you can read more about it here).   The minute you forget that, you start overpaying your less valuable people, and your more valuable people start quitting to go where their skills are properly valued.


Sweet Talking Goes a Long Way with the CEO

12/04/2010

Merit is not all that matters when you are climbing the corporate ladder, or when you want something from the CEO.

A new study shows that maybe it’s not about what you know, or who you know, (or what you know about who you know).

Maybe it’s all about how you talk to folks.

Subtle flattery and ingratiating behavior may be far more useful in gaining favor from the CEO.   In analyzing how CEOs selected managers for appointments to outside boards, the study found that ingratiating behavior was the strongest single predictive factor.  Yeah.  Not merit, not credentials, not experience, and not skills, but sweet talking.  Their stunning findings are summarized in a recent press release.

But before you launch your full on charm offensive, remember, you can’t be obvious about it.  The researchers helpfully recommended the seven most effective methods of ingratiation.  They are:

1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”

2) Argue before accepting a manager’s opinion.

3) Compliment the manager to friends in his or her social network.

4) Act as if you realize that flattery will make the manager uncomfortable. For example, you can say, “I don’t want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch.”

5)  Agree with the manager’s values before agreeing with his or her opinions.

6)  Tell the manager’s friends how much you agree with his or her values.

7)  Bring up affiliations you think you may have in common with the manager, such as a religious group or political party.

So go forth and be charming.  And don’t forget the little people once you get appointed to all those prestigious boards … but if you do, no worries, we’ll just flatter our way back into your good graces.


Who Else is Heading for the Door?

01/04/2010

When a top executive leaves an organization, everyone scrambles to fill that key vacancy.  But in the hurry to do that, a far bigger turnover problem is often overlooked.

When a key executive leaves, everyone who reported to that executive should be considered a “flight risk” – because the second tier of managers are at a significantly increased risk of leaving the organization for at least a year after a key executive leaves.

So what causes that?

  • Sometimes the second level executives were hoping to get the top job and feel snubbed when they were not selected.
  • Uncertainty rises when a key position is vacant.  Many executives put feelers out in the job market during that interim time because of a (legitimate) fear that the new boss will bring in their own new team.
  • Sometimes people had a personal loyalty to the old boss, or simply prefer the old way of doing things and they are not eager to make the changes to adapt to a new boss.
  • No matter what the reason, most people stop and reassess their own career when a key person leaves – they ask themselves “I wonder if it’s also time for me to make a change.”  They may ultimately stay, but they invariably ask the question.

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote an intriguing post about the psychology behind hiring an outsider for a top position, and why so many fail.

“Filling senior-level positions from outside sends a clear message to the current executive team-sorry, you’re just not good enough.  And since outside CEO succession almost invariably results in turnover in top management as the new person brings in his or her own team, the current senior-level managers get disheartened.  They naturally begin thinking about how to find a new job instead of concentrating on improving results at their current company.”

So when it comes to executive turnover, just remember the adage “When it rains it pours” … then go bolt the exit doors.


Never Doubt Your Ability to Change the World

04/23/2009

I am inspired by people who take on the impossible. It’s why we love to serve entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders.   I’d like to tell you about one of our clients today.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

In 1983, a report called “A Nation at Risk” warned about the “rising tide of mediocrity” in American education.  Yet there remains a huge achievement gap between the US and other countries.   It’s not only a moral outrage, it’s economically disastrous.  A recent McKinsey study just calculated the cost of that failure.  The lost productivity costs the American economy trillions of dollars every year.  Trillions of dollars in GDP is an incomprehensibly large amount of wasted human potential.. and a bigger moral outrage.

In 1998 a group of thoughtful, committed citizens decided to do something about public education.  And they weren’t going to tinker around the edges, or start with something easy.  They were going to solve the toughest, hardest, most unfair part of it – they wanted public education to work for everyone. Everyone.

So they opened the nation’s first urban, public, college preparatory boarding school.  Their innovative model combined a rigorous academic program with a nurturing boarding program that teaches life skills while providing a safe and secure environment for the students.  The SEED schools provide disadvantaged, at-risk students a pathway to success in college and beyond.  They do not select their students – it’s open to everyone.

So how did that audacious experiment in public education work out?

This week President Obama came to the SEED School of Washington to sign the National Service Act.    You can read more on the White House blog, but in his remarks, the President said:  “This school is a true success story, a place where for four of the last five years, every graduate from the SEED School was admitted to college. Every graduate.”

So, like I said, never doubt your ability to change the world.


HR Pros: Don’t be a Twidiot

04/22/2009

the twidiotMost HR professionals are swamped right now. The new COBRA rules are a mess. Lawyers say you better plan your union avoidance strategy now before the EFCA bogeyman gets you … and of course you heard that from your lawyer recently because you had to call them after one of your managers botched a termination. Yeah, business is great lately … for employment attorneys.

Oh, and don’t forget, benefit plans should be cut or kept the same or changed or something depending on your finances or your strategy or something.

And oh yeah, your employee morale is tanking as your employees trade rumors and worry about losing their jobs instead of working full throttle to keep them.

So in the echo chamber of the social media crowd, everyone asks why you don’t waste spend more time on social media. Heck, even Oprah is now on Twitter … but wait, didn’t some clever soul poke fun at TV news people, calling Twitter a  “gateway drug to full-blown media  narcissism?   Yup.

But so far, I found a couple of hundred people around the world who inspire me, who challenge my thinking, who share smart strategies to thrive in the recession, and answer questions.  I’ve followed hundreds of links to great articles and resources – more than I can keep up with – an astonishing flow of information.   In fact, I started a job seeker blog just to share all the good ideas I’ve seen. . . on Twitter.

Twitter has grown explosively to about 4 million users in the US – but, as Steve Boese astutely points out, that’s only about 3% of of the people employed in the US, so you are not too far behind the curve … yet.    Hey, I sometimes feel twidiotic even mentioning tweets, and the lingo some tweeps use to talk about Twitter can be twidiculous -really twagic.  And Facebook also has it’s own language, as does LinkedIn and bloggers.  It’s like you need to be a rookie many times over, but you’ll soon learn the rules and norms and etiquette for each.

And yet, and yet, and yet, busy overworked HR pros … engage you must – and begin to learn the social conventions of social media or you will surely become just like the last person posting ads in print newspapers 5 years after the job boards came out.  You’ll be the last person to type your resume on a typewriter instead of a word processor.  And you’ll be using that resume when you are the last person in line for your next job, but of course you won’t even be in the line because you submitted your resume by mail instead of online, and you heard about it too late because you never set up a news feed for jobs.  And you never used an insider connection to get an interview, because you never built your LinkedIn connections.  And if your future employer did happen to check you out, a quick Google search would reveal no online references or profile, so it was assumed that you were not a leader in your field anyway.  And that’s a twagedy you can avoid.

HR pros, on top of all your other work – your employees and your future employees will all expect you to understand social media.   I don’t know if Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn will even exist in 5 years, but something like them surely will.  The rules are new, you cannot learn it all in a weekend, it takes time to build, and the people who are engaging right now will have a HUGE advantage over you if you wait to get started.  And if you don’t learn the game soon, you really will look like a twidiot – an unemployable twidiot.

At the Staffing Alliance of Maryland Employers – Project SAME - I’ve been running meetings all year long on how HR can use Social Media. We’ve already drawn standing room only crowds for Kelly Dingee and Jessica Lee.  In May and June we’ll have  Mark Stelzner and Ben Gotkin coming to speak.  I’m on a mission to raise awareness of how much more effectively you can do your job if you learn these tools.

Not to worry, if you try, you’ll catch on,  just like you learned how to use Careerbuilder, Google, Outlook and MS-Word.  Soon this will be just another tool in your toolkit.  By the way, Jennifer McClure did a fine job providing a social media starter kit in a recent presentation/blog post “Social Media for HR Professionals Beyond LinkedIn.”    Be sure to check it out.


HR, Don’t Let The Crisis Go to Waste

04/07/2009

meeting breakI was meeting with a senior HR leader recently, asking how she was navigating the economic storm.  She mentioned that in a recent senior staff meeting, her CEO wondered aloud if they needed to consider across-the-board pay cuts.    When she took her job, the CEO used to just make those kinds of decisions, perhaps in consultation with the CFO.  Now, the CEO asks her.

And so in the meeting, she said “Let’s assume we go with your approach, you know that star player we just recruited from our biggest competitor?  Do YOU want to tell him about the changes you just made to his compensation plan?”

That put a new spin on things.   Naturally she did not come unarmed to the meeting, she had a long list of other places to cut back before the tired old chestnut of across the board pay cuts.  In the end, she found the savings they needed, communicated it clearly to hundreds of employees and avoided creating a new problem beyond their need to reduce expenses.

Score one for using HR strategically.

I’m not suggesting that across the board pay cuts are a bad idea, indeed, they might be brilliant for your situation – your employees can be amazing.  22,000 Montgomery County School employees recently agreed to forego their contractual pay raises to balance the school budget, rather than cut classroom jobs.

But before you make big HR decisions, you need to look at all your options and choose wisely.  Few CFOs have the tools to do that.  But HR does.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that this is HR’s Golden Moment – a time to shine, to earn that “seat at the table” and really make a difference.  And now I read, in the Huffington Post, an article about a national conference of HR professionals held in Australia.  The writer, Juliet Bourke seems to agree with my viewpoint, observing that now is the time HR leaders need to pull back business from “knee jerk retrenchments.”  So she went looking for how HR pros were helping their companies to avoid layoffs and other damaging across-the-board actions.

“Our bottom line proposition was that the global financial crisis provides HR with a unique opportunity to demonstrate its value to business — namely, how to survive, if not thrive, under extremely challenging conditions. One hundred percent of the HR attendees agreed that talking about flexibility was relevant to their business’ needs . . .”

But sadly, she found that more than three quarters of the attendees were nowhere near ready to lead this effort.    “It’s as if they are looking for someone else to lead the way.”  So sad.

If you are a CEO and don’t feel like you are getting sound HR advice for your big decisions, grab your phone and call me.  Right now.  That’s easy to fix.  And if you are an HR professional please know that I, for one, hope you don’t let this financial crisis go to waste.   Send me a private note, or post a public comment, tell me how you are using your golden moment to step up and make a difference in the future of your organization.


Think Twitter is a Waste of Time?

02/20/2009

Business Shiva

A lot of HR professionals tell me they have no idea where they can find the time for learning social media.  And I get it.  Really. We’re all running full throttle these days.  But I’m finding Twitter has an amazing capacity to make small slices of time really productive.

So yesterday I had an amazing, productive day.  Connected with dozens of HR professionals who were asking for more information after one of my two presentations this week.  We talked about real issues facing their companies, and looked at ways they could do more with less – faster, better, cheaper…on their way to perfect, free and now – the mantra of our age.

I picked up some new search work (I LOVE working in DC, always something new going on).   I talked to my Project Managers who are bringing home some other searches in record time.   And I read alot of news, analysis and research – because that’s what I love to do.

But at 11:00 pm when I took out my recycling bin, I realized my morning newspapers were still in the driveway.  Yesterday, I got all my news from on Twitter, from reading blogs on my google reader, and from Google news.

If you are new to it (as I am) you may find Twitter is not all “my cappucino did not have enough foam” and “my dog did the funniest thing.”  Bloggers are all not all polarizing jerks (although other search professionals get plenty irritated with me from time to time).

So if you are not on Twitter, here’s a thin slice of what you missed:

From John Sumser – this intelligent and worthwhile video on the origins of the credit crisis.  Astonishingly well done.

From  SmartBriefJobs - The Secrets of Super-Productive CEOs - getting more done in less time.  And Obama’s Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators.

And from somewhere on Twitter I came across this BusinessWeek gem Debunking Six Social Media Myths.

Waste of time?  Not so much.


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