When it Comes to Recruiting Innovation, Candidate Experience is Top of Mind

I was asked to chair this week’s Recruiting Innovation Summit, put on by my former employer ERE Media. At it, we explored some of the leading edge ideas from people who are as passionate about making recruiting better as I am.

It was also the first time I ever emceed an event. That experience is probably another post altogether.

As part of my new position as part of The Candidate Experience Award council, I paid special attention to recruiting trends and technologies that will improve the candidate experience. The event did not disappoint on that front. There are some really cool ideas that are bubbling up from early adopters, entrepreneurs, and people that build products at some of the big boys. Here’s how it shook out from my perspective.

Making the application process better

A couple of the newer solutions we saw at the Recruiting Innovation Summit really tackled some ways companies could improve the application process for candidates.

iMomentous talked about their mobile apply. Talent Board Member Ed Newman really dove deep into the idea that a mobile apply approach isn’t going to be just a nice thing to have, it is going to be a must have. There are a lot of companies out there trying to crack this nut and it is going to become a reality (though it isn’t going to happen overnight).

Resunate had something really interesting: a way for candidates to optimize their resumes depending on the job description. Imagine if this was on the front-end of your application process? Helping candidates putting their best foot forward could be the ultimate candidate experience play.

Making the candidate experience fun?

Two different types games impressed people at the summit this year.

ConnectCubed created a couple dozen games that actually help employers determine if someone will be a good fit for a job. What they found is that people played the games and enjoyed them, even if they weren’t necessarily going for a job. It was one of the more fascinating ideas presented and I wished that they would’ve shared more of the games.

RMS embedded their employer brand into an actual game. They got a lot of eyeballs from a lot of people who might have not otherwise seen them. Best of all, it came to you in a fun environment of trying to prevent a world disaster (right up their alley, if you know what RMS does).

Monitoring the candidate experience

Last year’s startup competition winner Mystery Applicant came back to talk about what they have been working on since they won the award last year. It was fun to understand just how much data they are pulling in now about the candidate experience. The deeper we dive into the data, the more we know we need The Candidate Experience Awards.

There are many more companies (new and old alike) out there taking on the candidate experience either directly or indirectly. Whether that means a smoother apply process, better communication, or understanding and relieving the pain points in your process, the level of importance is only going to continue to grow.

Do Work That You’re Good At And You’ll Be Happier

Don't_worry,_be_happyThere’s a lot of people out there who don’t have a passion for their chosen career. Maybe there is limited emotional fulfillment from it or maybe it is just completely soul crushing. There’s a lot of in between.

I’ve learned from Laurie Ruettimann that the answer to your career crisis is not to change jobs and follow your dream of becoming whatever it is you think you want to do. The answer to your career crisis is to do something with your life that is fulfilling and find something in your career that you can live with and pay the bills.

That’s basically what I told people in this podcast for ReadItFor.Me but I’ll take it one step further and tell you that if you’re good at your job, you’ll be happier overall.

Take this from someone who has done career changes thinking that following my passion was going to be an awesome experience, fulfilling in its own right. It can be but if you’re not good at it or you’re constantly struggling, you can actually start to hate your passion. That’s not good.

Now I used to work in Human Resources as a practitioner and manager. I really believe that good HR is the difference maker in all organizations. That without good, foundational HR, your potential reach as an organization is limited. It is so foundational that when it is done correctly, it doesn’t even seem like HR, it just feels like it is the secret sauce that keeps everything moving. People are on the right page, they enjoy working together, and there is a culture that supports and enables a higher level of function.

Oh, and everybody is good at what they do.

I don’t think I was good to bringing the nuts and bolts to this overarching philosophy to fruition in the workplace. I was impatient and when things slowed down, I eschewed collaboration, and dropped buy in. I was discouraged and I actually started to doubt everything.

By the end of my HR career, I was done. I wasn’t sure that I’d be done with HR completely but I knew it wasn’t going to be me going back into the same position I was in before. I’m sure there were improvements I could have made but I also knew what I wasn’t going to be good at in the long term.

When you’re good at work, you have more opportunities to get paid fairly for what you do and you have more control of where you live and where you work. Those are important things. If you’re really good at work, you aren’t devoting all of your mind share to fighting through work issues and you can devote it more to something you are really passionate about. If you want to play in a band that has weekend gigs or you want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, these aren’t things you’re going to be getting paid for but they are things you can pay for with a job that you’re awesome at.

If you have a job you’re passionate about, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal. Maybe you’re not crazy about sales but you are crazy about taking three week trips to Italy in the summer. Getting very good at sales makes that happen. Then you’ll see your job for what it really is: a vehicle for making your passions happen, whether it is in or outside of your chosen career.

Man, HR Exists in the Future?

I have a startling confession to make: I like Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know. You’re shocked. While I was a big fan of the Star Trek movies, I wasn’t a big fan of the original series. But The Next Generation? Yeah, that got me going.

3u77klSo they have the entire series up on Netflix and I’ve been going through it a few episodes at a time. All of the campy goodness is just great. I watched an episode last night that made it clear that HR obviously exists well into the 24th century.

First of all, some context for all of you who aren’t Trekkies. In the 24th century, within the Star Trek universe, Earth is part of a utopian alliance of alien worlds called the United Federation of Planets. The series takes part during a relatively peaceful period where everyone’s needs are taken care of. Nobody is hungry, there aren’t supply shortages, and nobody worries about getting paid. Basically, the people who work on these faster-than-light starships are there because they just want to be there and they are enriched by their work.

In an episode in the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge disobeys an order from Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Captain Picard takes La Forge into his office and reprimands him, telling him (and I’m not joking), “This incident will have to be filed in your permanent record.”

Here was my response to my wife while we’re watching this:

Me: @#$%&!# HR?

Her: What?

Me: HR! There’s HR in a utopian 24th century!

Her: (laughs)

Look, I love HR, but if Earth does turn into a utopian, peaceful society, I hope nobody has to be working in the HR office at the United Federation of Planets.

The Changing Face of Content Authorship on the Web

samsung chromebookLast fall, I bought myself a Samsung Chromebook for my birthday. Coincidentally, I also got one of the first units because I ordered it directly from Google when they initially released it and they shipped them from California so I got mine quickly. When I received it, I pulled it out and wanted to type something out on it (because I use my computers primarily for writing, that part is pretty important to me). I busted out a long review and posted it on Amazon as one of the first reviews and that was it.

Or so I thought.

The Chromebook has been one of the top selling laptops on Amazon for nearly six months (#1 as of this writing). My review has been reviewed as helpful by 4,842 of 5,048 raters (just shy of a 96%) and has been read by many more thousands of people. It has over 300 comments on it. I get web traffic and e-mails about the Chromebook several times a week.

I submit to you, quite humbly, that it is probably my most viewed writing on the web. It doesn’t exist on my site and I don’t get anything from it (other than the random visitor or e-mail).

I will tell you, I thought of writing the review here but it didn’t make sense. For one, it doesn’t really fit in with what I typically write about. So I was fine posting it to Amazon because I knew it would get read heavily by those in the midst of a buying decision. I was writing impartially, so I was trying to cover the device—warts and all—even though I was generally a fan of it from first boot.

As the comments started rolling in, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that my own site wasn’t receiving much of any benefit. Even for those who found me, most wouldn’t be interested in being long term subscribers. The more I thought about it though, the more I was pleased. I don’t make a lot of money on this site but I really don’t believe most blogs generate significant income from advertisements (or any other creative, content-oriented approaches). Instead, I think most people who blog earn opportunities and an audience that would be tough to land otherwise. They may get an opportunity to write but more frequently, they get other opportunities to provide value.

I think if I was so focused on just building stuff on my own blog, I wouldn’t be able to do fun things like write a huge review on Amazon.com and wonder if there is anything to it. I would’ve wrote it here and it would’ve received three comments. I wouldn’t have wrote my article about purple squirrels for the Harvard Business Review blog.

With so many off blog alternatives for writing, it is easy to see why a lot of people abandon the blog concept altogether. One thing I am convinced of is that if you are serious about content creation, you need a hub. This is my hub. I may give out Twitter or LinkedIn sites on my bio as well but all roads eventually point back here. I may have spokes of content out there but if someone wants to get back to me, there is only one place that happens.

It’s not a new or unique idea but it is one that I have come to fully embrace. While I may not write as often as I’d like to here, I know I will always have something to write about and that keeping a strong hub is important. And while I’d like to see this site continue to grow, I know the bigger opportunities will come from outside of me writing a blog post here. That’s why posting externally and trying new things is still important.

You Kinda Have to be a Loner to Work at Home Every Day

I spent a week in an office for the first time since July 2009. I have spent days in coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other people’s offices but never a full week of that in one place and at one desk.

1024px-Crowd_04379I thought it was going to be mostly annoying but to my delight, it was mostly not that at all. I don’t know if that’s because of my great new co-workers or nearly four years of office sensory deprivation talking. Let’s just call it both.

Somebody asked me if I liked working from home and I responded enthusiastically that I do. When asked why, I said something along the lines of, “I’m kinda a loner.” It felt like a loser, cop-out answer. The more I thought about it though, the more it felt right and not at all like a weird response that a guy who doesn’t interact much with people in person would say.

Okay, maybe it is a little like that.

I’m not going to get into the introvert/extrovert thing because it is out of my pay grade, but I will tell you that some people are fueled by having activity that surrounds them and some people are fueled by having calm around them. Some people like a mixture of both environments.

I’ve worked with all of them. I worked with a lady who would jam her earphones in and blast some Enya or whatever New Age music she had on her playlist so loud, I could hear it from where I sat. Interrupting her meant certain death. Similarly, some people pulled themselves into meetings and conversations and then would rush back to their desks and pound keys or make phone calls.

I could deal with both. I liked a certain amount of social time but if you put a gun to my head and ask me what I preferred, it was probably that time to myself that keep things moving along for me.

So when I say you kinda have to be a loner to work from home every day, I really mean the kinda part. You don’t have to be anti-social to make it work. But without thinking about it, you have to fall on the side of being powered by internal forces rather than feeding off the energy of people close by. Otherwise, those coffee shops are going to make a killing off of you and fellow customers won’t always be appreciative of your desire to chat.

I’m Not Going to Sign Your Social Media Policy

John_Hancock_Signature_DOIFor a little context, a few years ago, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t have a social media policy for your organization. In it, I said:

My point is that however you’d treat the employee in a similar real life situation is how you should treat them when it comes to social media. There are very few truly unique situations when it comes to social media and then it goes back to my point about not making policies for a handful of employees or possibilities.

And about a year ago, I wrote a post about how these social media disclaimers (i.e. “My views do not represent that of my employer”). In it, I said:

I’ll tell you what that disclaimer means in the real world: jack squat. Only, at least on Twitter, I never can tell people how ridiculous the whole disclaimer actually is in 140 characters without sounding like a jerk. And also because this statement is ridiculous for a wide variety of reasons, all of which need to be further explained.

Trish McFarlane asked me if my views have changed on social media policies in the last few years. Succinctly, the answer is no. I’m not going to go all, “let’s fight the man” on this one but I, for one, will not be signing any social media policy. I would recommend most people do the same.

Now that’s a bit tougher if it is embedded into a handbook, obviously. As a former HR head, I also wouldn’t necessarily advocate just breaking those rules because social media policies are dumb.

Then again, you should probably break those rules anyway.

I don’t know if anyone has ever been fired for a pure social media policy violation. I have to believe it is pretty rare. What policies like this help with is:

  • Getting people with hard-to-pin-down performance issues onto a performance improvement plan with greater ease
  • Firing people who probably needed to be fired anyway for a variety of reasons
  • Getting people on the boss’ shit list closer to the firing line
  • Firing people who were egregiously awful on social media (who – policy or not – would have been fired anyway)
  • Firing people who violated other guidelines already covered (NDAs and confidentiality agreements)

If that’s how you want to operate, you can do all of that without a social media policy. In fact, many organizations pull it off with great frequency. But can we be real?  If you’re having issues with people using social media in your organization, a policy is a super ineffective prescription. As I said in my social media post, education should always be the top priority for those who want to be a visible presence online. And you should stop hiring people that you would be worried about getting online and actually saying the words that come into their minds.

 

The Short Goodbye

You remember that, right? (RSS/e-mail subscribers may have to click through) If you had AOL back when dial-up internet was still the hottest thing on the block, this cheery but brief “goodbye” meant that you were signing off. You couldn’t chat with your friends, receive e-mails or access the storehouses of data that existed on the internet without dialing back in. That sounds great, other than the whole speed issue. We’ll get to that in a bit.

The big news is that today is my last day at ERE Media. I start a new job with The Starr Conspiracy next week (I didn’t even take a long weekend!). It has been a weird few weeks. I know new routines will settle in with time and new co-workers will become more familiar but I’ve been with ERE for over three years.

I’m a huge fan of what ERE does for the industry. The team is great and they’ll continue to move forward. There have been no sour feelings from me during any part of the process. I stayed on longer and worked harder than any other exit I’ve done. I still care about their mission and I cared enough to know when it was time to pass the reigns to other capable hands.

I don’t want to single out anyone but I can’t say enough about ERE founder David Manaster. In an industry that can seem full of egos and outright bastards, he’s a great change of pace. I trust, respect, and, most of all, thank him for allowing me to come on, break things, and make a mess. If he starts working on something new, you better be paying attention.

I’ll be writing a bit more here and for The Starr Conspiracy. And I’ll still be obsessed with HR, recruiting and sports. I get to still work on cool things. I feel completely dumb when I tell people how I got where I am right now. I’m a lucky dude.

It will be weird logging out of my ERE accounts today, though. I’ll imagine that short but cheery AOL “goodbye” as I click logout. I won’t be completely disconnected this time but I will feel a certain end to all I’ve done here. That’s both the best and worst part about that short goodbye.

Reducing Turnover is Not the Goal

Athletics_tracks_finish_line“Our goal is to reduce turnover by 25%.”

No it isn’t. I hope not, at least.

Having reduced turnover as a goal leads to all kinds of strange, short-term thinking that lead to deranged organizations. A counter-offer when your 325th best salesperson decides to take another job? Lengthening the corrective action review process? Pushing beyond the budget on labor costs because your team is too expensive? Ploys and programs designed to cater to middle and low performers who may be a flight risk? Yep, yep, yep and yep.

You may even have an executive who is looking at some dashboard in a system and she is instructing you that you have to get control of turnover. She may want to build some goals around reducing that number. Nod your head and then walk out of her office and ignore that.

Reducing turnover may be an okay outcome but it is never a goal. And even if it is an outcome, it is a lousy, broad measuring stick. 2% turnover sounds great until you realize that your organization is bleeding only high performers and high potentials.

So can we agree that reducing turnover is a stupid measuring stick and that it shouldn’t be used as a goal or outcome?

Maybe? I’ll take it. If you are using it for an outcome, make sure what you’re measuring is meaningful.

If someone in your organization is complaining about high turnover and reducing it isn’t a goal or outcome, what’s the proper response? The proper response is finding out what the real issue actually is:

  1. Our labor costs are too high. How are we investing labor dollars? Why can’t we do a better job of doing that?
  2. Our recruiters are spending too much time on replacements. Is there a resource allocation issue or are we short on recruiters?
  3. We’re losing people after 6/12/18 mos. What are we doing in our hiring process that sucks so bad?
  4. A top performer left. Yeah, his boss was an asshole. Maybe we should get rid of him?
  5. Our culture needs to be changed. Guess what? Culture change will cause massive turnover too.
  6. We aren’t performing well as a company. And you found a metric that may or may not have to do with that? Really?
  7. The company isn’t well managed. Trying to blame general management issues on turnover is like blaming In-N-Out for your gut.

Turnover is a symptom like body aches. Body aches can be really bad when you’re sick because it can indicate the flu but body aches can be fine if you’re getting back in shape. Should you keep track of turnover? Sure, and if you can, get as granular as you can (who is leaving and why?). Does reducing turnover take precedent over increasing profit, value, and company performance or reducing costs, administrative burden and culture issues? No, never. And don’t forget that.

When it Comes to Media Consumption, Bloggers are Weird

Weird_Comics_01Back at the first HR Technology Conference I attended in 2009, Kris Dunn took a picture of my badge and made fun of me. It said, “Lance Haun – Blogger”. And I have to admit, walking the floor at that conference (my third as a blogger) was a little weird, too. I would tell speakers, vendors and attendees, “I’m writing about some of the interesting things happening in HR technology.” They would tell me they never heard of me. Huh? Are you on Twitter? Do you read blogs? Are you part of any LinkedIn groups? Have you heard of Kris Dunn? Or Laurie Ruettimann? How about Steve Effing Boese?

No? Okay.

It was a good lesson. I was different from most of these folks. If you look at my desktop setup, you see two monitors. I barely even look at the second monitor because that has five Twitter streams going simultaneously. Sometimes it feels like the matrix. I’ll magically see when someone who doesn’t tweet that much cut through the static because I haven’t noticed their avatar stream by for a long time.

My brain is full of really stupid crap.

So bloggers are different. And a piece from Andrew Sullivan which links to this outstanding piece by Jonathan Bernstein lays it out:

[T]he more important lesson that really can’t be repeated often enough is that reporters, columnists, bloggers: we’re not normal. Even worse: of the not normal — the people who pay a lot of attention to politics — we’re not even normal in that group.

Which, if you replace politics with HR and recruiting, you pretty much have me nailed.

My dependence on Google Reader and Google Alerts used in concert with it is astounding. I’m not going to PR sites to search for news that somehow hadn’t made it to my inbox. I cut through, on average, 200+ unread items before I get out of my PJs. And that’s after clearing it out at 6pm the following night.

So when I talk with people about how I get my news and how I follow what’s going on in our industry, their eyes glaze over in 2.3 seconds. Honestly, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s a habit, like getting my caffeine intake for the day. There’s nothing exciting about it but it has taken dozens of hours to perfect and spotting interesting stuff is easier because of that.

So when some blogger tells you how to use Twitter (like I have, over and over), be just a tiny bit skeptical. It’s not that they are necessarily a superuser. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of blogger Twitter usage and it, at times, is fairly primitive. But it is very focused on one thing typically: dissecting and discerning interesting stuff going on in the space. Between who we choose to follow and how we list people, these feeds are amazingly useful.

If, you know, you spread information for a living.

Bernstein’s bigger point is that bloggers have to remember the bubble we operate in. What is old news within our circles might not hit mainstream people in our industry in a year. That’s a common issue and, outside of the most critical, need-to-know issues, I don’t really have a problem with that.

For bloggers, it is probably safe to do two things: never assume knowledge and never forget that you’re weird.