Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween for Human Resources

Some Human Resource professionals I know are pretty scary characters. I wonder if we took a poll would most people compare their HR Director to:

-  Wicked Witch
-  Frankenstein
-  Scary Ghost
-  A beautiful princess (which can be scary in its own right)
-  A super hero

So what do HR people put in your bag at Halloween?

-  A new benefits package
-  A real job description
-  A career path
-  A flexible work schedule
-  Dark Chocolate Kisses!

Happy Halloween to all my scary friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yoga for Stressed Out Recruiters

Recruiting can be stressful. You try so hard to find the perfect candidate and sometimes it seems like all the stars are aligned against you. To help with this problem, I have come up with some yoga poses to be used for some of those more stressful moments.

Down Dog: This pose is used when that candidate you had high hopes for totally pisses-off the President of the company by saying something really stupid. The pose is to be executed at the end of the day when you are debriefing the candidate and he says “So how did I do?”

To perform this pose, you should lay down on the floor with your feet facing toward the candidate. Slowly walk your hands toward your feet until your butt is facing high in the air and say: “Take a guess.”

Angry Cat: In this situation, you have found the perfect candidate for a position and all the interviewers loved the person. At the last minute when you are about to make the offer, the department head says they want to interview them too and asks that you arrange for the candidate to come back next week.

With this pose, you climb up on the manager’s table and with your face about 3 inches from his nose, you arch your back and hiss really loudly while you spit out the words “Why didn't you say you wanted to be involved in the interview when I asked you last week!”

Warrior Pose: This pose is best used when you are trying to round up a group of people to interview a candidate and no one will get back to you. The candidate has called and let you know that she has another offer but would really like to work for your company and has to get back to the other company by the end of the week.

This pose is most effective when you execute it in the lunch room where most of the people you are trying to contact have gathered. You stand up on one of the tables and spread your legs far apart while lifting your arms to be even with your shoulders. You look fiercely over your right arm and shout: “Everyone out the door this minute and do not come back until you have signed up for tomorrow’s interview.” If they don’t move fast enough, start throwing food at them.

Corpse Pose: Ideal for end of the year goal reviews, the time for this pose comes when you have spent your year fighting all the obstacles put in your way that prevent you from finding and hiring the best people. The Director of HR calls you into his office and hands you a piece of paper with a bunch of graphs. He explains politely (he is in HR after all) that the graphs and charts clearly show that you missed your goals for time to hire.

To execute this pose, you calmly lay on the ground with your arms to your side and your feet slightly splayed. You don’t really need to say anything – he will get the point.

Hero Pose: This pose is reserved just for you. After you have busted your “back side” trying to find the best people possible you step back and look at all the good people you were responsible for and allow yourself a minute of self congratulations.

To execute this pose, you turn on some highly inspirational music (like the theme from Chariots of Fire). You lower yourself to the ground with your legs bent to the sides so that you create a firm base. You raise your hands in the air and scream out "I Rock.” Note – this is best done while wearing a superman T-shirt.

Happy recruiting and may you find your inner peace.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Three C’s of Career Arc.

Over the course of several years – be it 10 or 40 – you leave a wake behind you that represents the impact you've made. Recruiters traditionally relied on your resume to tell them about your career arc, but today a lot is being written about how your electronic footprint may be a better, more complete representation of your professional mark.

I have fully embraced social media as a grand, open marketplace of resource communication, coordination and exchange. I saw early on that this was a quick and easy way for me to display my accomplishments. And while we may have (somewhat) valid concerns about privacy, it really is the best medium to showplace your skills and accomplishments. Both common social media platforms like Linked In, Google+, Twitter (and – to some extent Facebook) and specialized professional sites like or provide ideal environments for displaying your talents much more broadly than traditional resumes might do.

There are many defenders of the traditional however.

We can say all we want about how traditional methods of work, of recruitment, of talent management form a solid rock-bed of the human resource process, but these foundations are being shaken to their core in the New Employee Economy. One place where this challenge is heatedly discussed is within the “resume is dead” discussion. For some of these pundits, the new Career Arc, represented in your social media foot print is the way to go.

Why is social media career arc potentially the best way to get a feel for a person? Here are three reasons I believe it is:
  1. Context: A good social media footprint can show you the impact of your career activities. It can show whether the things you did mattered to anyone. It can show what kind of influence you have.
  2. Comprehensiveness: You can’t say much in a two page resume. Even a greatly written resume has to leave off important things that have happened in your life. Your social media footprint can provide a much more rich detail about who you are and what you've done.
  3. Community: We all perform in a broader professional community. How we interact with that community, how we are perceived by that community and how we contribute to that community are important elements of the kind of employee we are.
Obviously not everyone actively participates in social media, but for those who do, using social media to understand your candidate is a great way to help find a better fit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The New Employment Economy

In several blog posts over the last year or so I have referred to “The New Employment Economy.” So what is it? In a nutshell – it is the future.

Anybody over the age of 35 has grown up in a world where they mostly understand work as a commitment to some organization or company that lasts for 8 to 10 years (maybe more) and you move on one or two more times before you retire. The company takes care of your insurance (increasingly less so) provides you with a career path, some on-the-job training and regular raises that maybe gets you a bit ahead of where you started.

In the next decade those days will be gone – replaced by the new employment economy

What are the main elements of this new economy?
  • Technology has enabled people to work wherever, whenever they want. Everything from tools that support remote access, to the rise of self-service HR, has made it easy for employees to work from anywhere in the world. This has also made it easy for people to choose to be contractors – or short term employees.
  • Twenty-somethings don’t see themselves as employees. The generation coming into the workplace today doesn’t feel the need to attach themselves to one corporate entity and stay there for several years. They are more interested in the work. Where the work is interesting, they will go.
  • The rise of entrepreneurship. It is no longer that hard to strike out on your own. More and more people are choosing to start up a business than ever before. These businesses are predicated on a new model where people work together for a common goal, then move on.
  • The lessening role of the corporate support infrastructure. Companies just don’t offer much in the way of incentives to work for them anymore. Benefits are not that good, layoffs are always a possibility, training and investment in your future is more limited, retirement plans are dismal, and raises are usually just cost of living adjustments. What a deal!

The new employment economy is going to be characterized by the free movement of resources from job to job. The prediction that one day the company of the future will involve only 5% “traditional employees” is coming to pass. It has just taken a bit longer than first predicted.

If this seems farfetched to you, just look around and you will see it happening in many industries today. The entertainment industry is perhaps the best example. The actors, the production people, the editors, the support staff all come together to get a job done. They don’t get their benefits from the company – they get it from unions, co-ops and guilds. The resources required to create a play or movie or TV show come together for that project because they can ply the work they love. When the project is over, they move on.

I see this as an exciting challenge for the future of HR. The entire infrastructure that supports HR will have to be adapted to this new employee economy. I am looking forward to being a part of that change.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who Are You Connected To? It Might Get You Hired

In the not too distant future, will people hire you based on the strength of your connections in Linked In and other social and professional networks? Is it happening today? Should it ever happen? Hire me – I know HR Margo! (With all apologies to Margo for admitting that we are connected on Twitter)

There is a constant struggle to find high-performers in any organization. Companies have tried all sorts of things to figure out how to beat “dumb luck” as the best way to find that special person who is able to contribute more than any of his/her peers. Employee referrals, new fangled interview techniques, improved reference checking have all had their go at the problem with varying degrees of success. In the 90’s and early 2000’s job fit assessment tests were all the rage. One company I worked with in the late 90’s spent several hundred thousand dollars building a complex assessment tool to figure out what made top performing store managers so special. Could they use assessment science to improve their odds? It worked, a little bit.

Now I hear talk of a new trend: Who do you know.

It is not as crazy as it seems. The basic premise of the “Who do you know” school is that really good people tend to cluster around each other like an exclusive flock of birds soaring around in a Starling-like murmuration. Good people know other good people, and they often stay in touch.

If you don’t believe me, look at Twitter. People connect randomly to people all over the place, but in any profession or special interest (Like HR) you will notice that there is a core of folks that rule the pack, and hang together closely. These people are real influencers (not to be confused with those weird ego-games that Klout seems to measure). But are they also great contributors in their own companies? They might be. Here are a few things to consider about leveraging good people’s networks:
  • Good people are usually great at recommending other good people (just ask a recruiter)
  • Good people often fit the axiom: “If you want a job well done, give it to the busiest person”
  • Good people like to get things done and like to hang out with other people who think that way too
  • Good people thrive on success and want to be a part of any team that likes new challenges
  • And lots of good people are making a noise on social media

The challenge for the “Who do you know” movement is to show value and consistency. Do social media contacts help you understand a candidate’s potential value? If you are a recruiter – do those contacts really help you discover hidden gems?

While I might feel like the famous remark by Groucho Marx that “Any organization that would accept me as a member, I would not want to be a part of,” the opposite might be true for many of you! (OK - for at least some of you).

If you are out there – we’ll find you. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An HR Entrepreneur’s Cook Book: Who’s Eating?

Being an entrepreneur is like having a book full of recipes - but not being sure what anyone wants to eat.

After years of helping multiple small companies grow and become prosperous, I decided to jump out on my own and start building a company from scratch. The first thing I did was find a really smart partner. (Someone had to be the brains). Then the partner and I started making the list.

We have a passion about data: Big data, small data, data in a box; any data of any type that can help improve the employer/employee marketplace.

It was not hard to come up with a long list of things we could do. But now the question is – and maybe this is the most important question – what is it that we can do that the marketplace really wants to buy?

This challenge is more interesting than it used to be. Traditional new product development answered that question with lots of market research, but we all know market research didn't get us the PC, the iPhone; Google or Twitter. Really interesting products often come from passion alone.

Therein lies the problem: We've got a lot of passion which means there are so many things that we can build.

It feels a lot like a chef at a banquet. The recipe book is full, the pantry is empty (because of course as entrepreneurs, you don’t have much stuff yet) and you have to go shopping now!

The entrepreneur’s bible we were all required to read, The Lean Start Up, might suggest that we make a small meal and send it out there to see if anyone wants to eat it. If they do, make more. The problem with that idea though is that it may take awhile to find the right food – and in the meantime someone else comes in with the perfect Big Mac and we are stuck with day-old ground round.

Entrepreneurs have to act on faith. I think you have to pick a recipe you really believe in and make enough to make sure the market can get a taste. Building a new product has to be fueled by passion and a strong belief that you can introduce the world to something they are really going to like. That doesn't mean you have to commit to a gluttonous feast with the first offering, but you can’t hold back either. If you believe, you go for it.

So now that we know we want to serve up some data, we are ready to go shopping! Man I hope people want what we are planning to cook.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skills Path is the New Career Path

Stop worrying about a candidate’s career path. For certain types of positions (and that number is growing) there really is no need to be overly concerned about where a candidate worked and how long he/she worked there. In the new employee economy it is all about Skill Path, not Career Path.

What is Skill Path? Skill Path is the development of an increasing set of capabilities and/or a deepening level of expertise: regardless of where you worked. How have you advanced as a software developer, a health care provider, a manager or leader? Are those skills relevant to the challenge my company faces? Skill Path, especially for specialized skill areas, is far more relevant to getting the job done than career path. In fact working in a lot of different places probably makes you more prepared to succeed than working your whole career at a single company.  

Why is Skill Path Better than Career Path? Many companies today are struggling to be more inventive, more entrepreneurial, more nimble, but they still use decades-old strategies for evaluating the right people to hire. Is it really important that everyone you hire have a track record of 8 to 10 years with previous employers? Is it really important that they work for one of the other “big names” in the industry? I would argue that if you really want a team that can get the job done, you have to mix it up a bit. By “mix it up” I mean that while you do need to have some key jobs filled with an employee who has a long term commitment to the company, or who adds consistency to the process, you also need some people who bring world-class skills to the game. What’s wrong with hiring someone who is really jazzed to work at your company because you are doing something cutting edge, but doesn't really care about your company? Evaluating (and hiring) based on Skill Path allows you to find the best talent when you need it and helps you focus more narrowly on what to hire for rather than worry about long term fit.

Here are the top three reasons Skill Path is the new career path:
  • Flexibility: Both employees and companies talk about wanting to be more flexible. Focusing on skills development rather than career development avoids the ruts.
  • Interchangeability: Getting something done usually means a standard “position set” but not a standard skill set. In other words you may need software developers, project managers, process analysts, etc. But it is rare these days that any project that the skills you needed for last year’s project are exactly the ones you need for this year’s project. Skill path allows you to focus on structure, while allowing positions to be interchangeable with skill set.
  • Incredibility: Too many companies try and force new, innovative projects onto people who lack the skills to make the project incredible. Focusing on Skill Set helps you achieve incredible results by breaking the boundary of hiring everyone to be a traditional employee, and instead, focusing on finding talent that can really push the envelope.

I don’t know about you – but a decade of working at most any of the traditional Big Names doesn't mean what it used to. Most of those people have deep ruts in their brain that make breaking patterns very hard to do. My dad used to tell me that he hated hiring MBA's because you always had to re-teach them. To me, the same can be said for people who hang out in the same old big company for too long!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Presidential Debate: Does Either President Understand the New Employee?

The first Presidential Debate is in Denver. They will talk back and forth about a myriad of ideas. One idea they are sure to discuss is jobs. They will talk about tax incentives, jobs training, labor unions, and off-shoring. They will argue about trickle-down and trickle-up, (they won’t use those terms but that is what it boils down to: Does a really healthy “rich sector” make for better jobs, or does a really healthy “labor sector” do the trick). But they will be wrong either way.

Neither candidate understands the new employment economy.

The major trends driving the new employment economy today are:

·         Rapid growth of self employed
·         Explosion of social media as a “skills for sale market”
·         Emergence of job titles that didn't exist even 12 months ago
·         Rejection of the idea of traditional “employee”
·         Rapid growth of social entrepreneurs
·         Workers who follow a “skills path” rather than a career path
·         Virtual companies that don’t care where the employee works from (or which country)

These trends aren't supported by diatribes about sending work overseas, or shoring up America’s manufacturing, or supporting America’s unions, or even forcing trade wars with other countries.

If you want to help the people hit hardest by unemployment, don’t try and prop up the infrastructure that supported employment in the last 4 decades, support the creation of a new infrastructure that will enable employment for the next 4 decades.

I’d love to hear the debate talk about breaking the traditional bounds of employment and creating a new FDR like “Public Works” project that will build the infrastructure for the new employment economy. (BTW – a short commercial here: one of the biggest impediments to people taking risk, or working in non-traditional employment is the lack of access to health care – I would think both the GOP and the Dems would understand that point!).

How many of us think our sons and daughters will have a career path just like we did? Not many I would guess. So why do we want to create an artificial support system that is mired in past economies?

I have an idea, let’s Crowd Source the Presidency (and the congress). May the best ideas win!