Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Build Something That Matters: 8 Things that Drive Our Business

When you listen to venture capitalists, investors and budding investment hopefuls they use the term Lifestyle Business as though it was a 17th century plague to be avoided at all costs.

Well – maybe it is, (from the investor’s point of view) but that discussion feels like bell-bottom pants and a tie-dye shirt at a Republican Convention: Out of place and dated.

People run businesses for all kinds of reasons these days. In my experience most are motivated to do something that matters and to do it in a way that creates value for employees, customers and investors. It is not a lifestyle business just because you don’t put investors first! Some of the greatest success stories of the last decade prove this point.

With the start of our business, Innotrieve, the first thing we did was develop a simple statement about why we were starting a business. Here is what we said we wanted to accomplish:
  1. Put our technology to work in an area that is interesting and solves an important problem
  2. Respect and support the freedom for individual employees to work the way they work best
  3. Build products that allow us to work in areas we are interested in
  4. Do interesting work that can have an impact on the way people work
  5. Leverage artificial intelligence to make work more more interesting, and more empowering
  6. Extend our ideas and intellectual property through valuable products
  7. Build something a lot of people can gain value from
  8. Be an important member of “The next Industrial Revolution:” The digital/data revolution
I don’t know if these principles make us a lifestyle business in the eyes of some investors, but I do know that my partner and I are motivated by a range of interests, and that won’t change. To build a better business, you build something that matters to you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Launching a New HR Product: 7 Items to Consider

I sometimes think there are as many new products being developed for the HR market place as there are number of HR people in the world. Let me guess…. that would be about 243 Million.

Some days it feels like that. 

So how do you make sure your product stands out in this crowded world of new HR products?  Here are 7 items on my checklist that don’t get enough attention:

  1. Your Tech is Cool, But Nobody Cares: Don’t get so enamored with the cool new technology you are using that you fool yourself into thinking that’s all it takes to succeed.
  2. Messaging is Harder than You've Planned For: In a busy, noisy world, people don’t have time to listen to a long winded story about your product. You think you need an elevator speech? Think again, you need a Tweet!
  3. Fresh Air In a Stale Environment: Fads grow stale quickly. HR Trends can be like last year’s Boy Band. You have to be fundamentally sound, and compellingly relevant.
  4. End Results Marketing: Most people set the end result of good marketing at the wrong finish line. It is not the sale that you aim for; it’s the success of the solution. With a new recruiting solution, for example, success is a new hire. Sounds simple, but very few companies actually (sincerely) think that way.
  5. Don’t Underestimate the Cost of Getting Service Right: HR is a people business and people want help from other people. Don’t assume that an automated FAQ and 3 guys offshore are going to cut it.
  6. The Learning Never Stops: Your product has several problems, you just don’t know it yet. Make sure you set up your new product launch as a learning experience.
  7. Impact on Culture: All HR products impact people. Really revolutionary products impact them in a big way. You can’t just have the best idea if that idea doesn't fit the culture. You are doomed if you don’t take the time to address culture as part of the product process.

The next decade is going to see an explosion of new products in HR. For you to have an idea with lasting value, you might want to consider these 7 suggestions for making sure your HR product succeeds.

Let me know if you have other ideas to add to the list.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

4 Reason’s You Don’t Mess With Kahleesi’s (HR) Dragons

You could say that great HR succeeds with vision and an overriding conviction to mission, mixed with a level of legitimacy backed up by the ability to inflict pain when necessary!

Kahleesi would have been a great VP of HR!

OK – you’ll have to forgive me here on this one. I am a die-hard Game of Thrones fan. Kahleesi is the character who is sometimes known as the “Dragon Queen” (I seem to remember an HR Director we nicknamed something like that) and she is growing her army and her influence through power, legitimacy and an overarching philosophy that people should not be slaves. But if you mess with Kahleesi, the wrath of the Dragons comes upon you.

Just think how much easier your job would be if you had a few dragons to reinforce your rule now and again!

I like this idea. And here are 4 (only somewhat) tongue-in-check reasons why:

  1. HR has the moral high ground: Think about it, while everyone in the company should be focused on making money (or in Kahleesi’s case, overthrowing all the other kingdoms) HR seems to be the only one that really understands that people – more than any other single resource – are the key to this. Kahleesi would agree. Free the oppressed and they will be loyal to you forever!
  2. HR could use a little magic: Most people in HR recognize the fact that they are generally being asked to achieve the impossible.  They might commiserate with each other about this, but they don’t let it faze them. If need be, HR will walk through fire to show you they are endowed with certain magical powers. Be awed mere mortals!
  3. HR could do so much better if they had some real power: You have to get 95% participation in the employee satisfaction survey by the end of the month (and it’s December). Does anybody ever really open up those emails from HR? Ah….but if you had a few dragons to enforce your commands!
  4. HR has legitimacy – but is anyone acknowledging it: Poor Kahleesi (or did I mean HR manager), she knows she should be Queen of the 7 Kingdoms, and most people know she has a legitimate claim, but by gosh, if she is going to get anyone to pay attention, she is going to have to kick a few butts!
So march on HR leaders….one day you will conquer the world.

In the meantime, I am hoping my new company is building you a dragon! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quick Study (2): Employee Feedback on Referrals

Why would I refer those guys?
A couple weeks ago in a blog post entitled Quick Study Finds 3 Reasons Employees Don’t Refer, I highlighted the reasons employees gave for why they were reluctant to provide referrals. I mentioned in that post that I would share some of the other results as well. So here you go:

First some quick data points:
  • 170 employees were asked to participate in a new referral program
  • 24% agreed to participate (41 employees)
  • 6 jobs were posted – ranging from a help desk position to marketing to very technical
  • 44 names were referred during the 5 week test
  • Number of referrals per job ranged from a low of 4 to a high of 13
  • The most referrals was for a marketing position, the least was for an HR position (go figure!)

When employees from the tests were interviewed, here was some of the key feedback:
  • It’s Personal: Referrals are so personal. I had a hard time referring people unless I knew both the company and the person I was referring really fit perfectly, even though I knew that some people I rejected might have been OK.
  • It’s a Noisy World: Even though this new tool was very easy to use and minimized my time, I am still just too distracted with so many other things during the day.
  • What’s It All About: Our Company seems to hype referrals a couple times a year. A quick email and a mention at the company meeting just isn't enough to get my attention.
  • Incentives Get Attention: The odds that I will ever see that $1,000 referral bonus seem remote (I don’t play Lotto) can there be other incentives for me to spend time on this?
  • It’s My Network: I am reluctant to send too many referrals onto HR. What are they doing with the names? Will they spam my friends? This is my network of friends – leave them alone!
  • Is Anybody There: I hate sending on a name and never hearing anything back. It’s just rude and turns me off!
And the last main bit of feedback:
  • I Wouldn't Wish This on My Best Friend: It is all about the strength of the culture. I like working here, but I am not sure I would recommend this place to someone else. It’s a job, but nothing to brag about.

What are your thoughts about these results? Do you experience some of this in your referral programs?