Sunday, 8 November 2009

I've Moved!!

Just to let you know I have moved house - well virtually anyway.  After much soul-searching I have moved my Blog to Wordpress.  Not an easy decision but the wider range of templates and feature management were a big draw.  The decision maker though was the way Wordpress handles and renders blogs on mobile devices - my new blog looks fab on my iPod.  And there is also a rather handy Wordpress app for my iPod so I can write and post on the fly, something which was always a pain with Blogger.

Click here to go to the new site:

And don't forget to change your bookmarks if you want to continue to read my ramblings!

See you over there!


Thursday, 5 November 2009

No hip grinding please...

Continuing my recent Linked-In stream of consciousness, someone asked me recently what advice I would give a recruiter who is looking to use Linked-In as a tool to help them do their job.

Having reflected on this somewhat, I think the answer has to be that if you see it as simply a tool to help you find candidates and potential clients then it probably won't work for you.

And that's the whole point about Linked-In - it's an enabler of networking and conversation. First and foremost that's it's purpose and value. To get the best out of it you have to be in it as an authentic participant, building networks and relationships. Building trust. This must be your primary goal. If it's not, then your network, and all the benefits it can bring, are unlikely to flourish. 

Think of it this way. If you are a single guy looking for love, going to Salsa classes, for example,with the sole intention of finding a suitable mate amongst your fellow dancers is probably a bad idea. If you are not doing it for the love of dance, then not only will you fail to become accomplished you will also run the risk of alienating yourself amongst the rest of the group.

My experience is that many recruiters behaviour in Linked-In is no better than the hip grinding efforts of the salsa guy hoping to get his leg over at the end of class.  Flagrant self promotion, woefully hollow conversation and inappropriate approaches set them apart from the other genuine and trusted networkers.

Recruiters would do well to think about this before embarking on a crusade across the Linked-In network.  Otherwise you might just find that you are on the receiving end of a rather hefty slap!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Job Board Performance Stats

I have noticed that more and more people are asking for performance statistics for Job Boards these days and since I have been active on Twitter the requests have increases significantly so, to save me repeating myself I am sharing my experience and stats here so you can refer to them.

Below is a response to a question on Linked-In by an individual who was asking about the efficiency of Job Boards and wondered if anyone had any real statistics.  Interestingly, several representatives from Job Boards responded but, rather worryingly none produced any stats!  Our findings and results are below, hope you find them useful.  If you would like any further information, please don't hesitate to make contact by email.

One thing that is interesting is that our own website outperforms all the jobsites.  I know that this is not the case for all companies and, as recently evidenced by Aquent decision to remove jobs totally from their website, chosing instead to push the recruiters to the fore and step up the amount of face to face/verbal interaction.  I personally applaud this move and although our site delivers for us, I'm watching very closely how it will work for them as despite how well it may work for us - relying on jobsites, even your own does encourage a very lazy way to do recruitment.  Anyway, to the stats!


All the job boards were putting pressure on us for price rises yet they would only state their success based on 'applicants' to our jobs. None were providing anything more relevant.

So we worked with out tech guys and after 3 monts of tinkering were able to measure each job board on the following criteria:

  • Total applicants per vacancy
  • Number of relevant applicants (Determined by the number of those applicants that were actually considered relevant for the role or other roles by the consultants and attached to the job brief)
  • Number of those applicants that made it through to first, second and subsequent interviews
  • Number of applicants that were placed – the ultimate measure

This process allowed us to create a separate P&L for each job board. We applied this criteria to all the job boards we had relationships with and as a direct result we were able to reduce the number in the Marketing arena from 7 to 3. Four of the boards that we were paying significant sums to were just not delivering. Applicants aplenty, yes. But interviews and placements, no.

The stats over the period we measured for this initial review (8 months) were as follows (Marketing Only):

  • Total Applications generated = 15,118
  • Total applications considered relevant = 3,308
  • Total applicants interviewed by client = 75
  • Total applicants placed = 16

Its not great is it?!  Especially when you look at in percentage terms.  Some performed better than others but in the main, it was very poor hence we stopped working with some of them. Of the three we kept, one is on probation and we continue to monitor their performance. The good news is that the stats for our own site were so much better and despite taking our own job board for granted it does actually perform - it produces the most placements.

Longer term i think that job boards will have to re invent themselves and suspect the standard model will not prevail, unless of course they can prove they drive placements.

I noted Richard Freeman's response that the job boards are '14 times more effective than social networking sites like linked-In, twitter or Facebook'! Whilst I accept that Facebook might be questionable I think its dangerous to say that about Linked-In and even Twitter. Where did that stat come from Richard?

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Optimism is bad for business...

I know this has little to do with recruitment, HR, or Marketing directly but I just have to comment on the current 'shock' at the latest GDP figures and the confirmation that we are in the longest recession since 'records began'.

How can anyone be shocked? I certainly wasn't.  It was never going to be good news but the so called experts, along with the witless optimists - and there are plenty of those in recruitment I have to say - kept saying 'growth next Qtr!'

How the hell anyone can think you could go from -5.5% to a positive number after the unprecedented year we have just had god only knows and only goes to show that those who thought and said that have extremely poor judgement. That will be pretty much every government and shadow commentator then!

If I had a pound for every time I have seen someone 'talking up' the economy, on Twitter alone, I'd be one of the UK's secret millionaires by now. And while we are on the subject, why is it that the recruiters in particular are guilty of this ridiculous spin?  I guess it's a feature of being such a sales focussed community - they cant resist talking it up.

This kind of misguided optimism is not only stupid, its really bad for business.  Leaders who adopt this approach create false hope, unrealistic expectations and set unrealistic goals, none of which creates a winning organisation.  All it does is create a lack of credibility amongst the workforce and a lowering of morale and commitment.

It reminds me of a study carried out by the Economist some years ago who asked different groups groups of people for their five year predictions for the future of the economy.  These groups were made up of people from a wide spectrum of professions, from doctors to dustmen.  Oh, and for good measure they included a group of economists.

And guess who were the most accurate?

Yep, the dustmen!

Time for a real clean out methinks!

Ill leave you with this little pearl of wisdom:

The pessimist complains about the wind; The optimist expects it to change; The realist adjusts the sails. — William Arthur Ward

Friday, 23 October 2009

A Right Royal Mess...

Lace me with a few beers and get me started on the subject of HR and it won't be ling before I'm boring you senseless with my lament at the demise of the HR Generalist. Or more accurately the demise of the classic TU infested environments that maggie almost single handedly killed off back in the 80's that were the breeding ground for many of the senior generalists plying their trade today.

If there was one thing that those environments taught you it was humility and an apreciation of your fellow man, no matter what their status. And let me tell you nothing knocks the arrogance out of a rookie HR professional than going three rounds with a Trade Union Convenor.

These are the thoughts that spring to mind when I consider the current predicament of the Royal Mail and their troublesome internal relations. You could be forgiven for thinking we were back in the early 80's given the current stand off.  It certainly feels like a long time since 'the management' and 'the workers' were so polarised in their positions.

Now, speaking as someone who spent their formative years sparring with the unions this is quite interesting. But it is also quite sad.  After all, it's the year 2009. And Its not as if the Royal Mail is still being run by a bunch of dinosaurs. No.  At its helm are what some would say are a crop of the finest leaders money can buy including Alan Leighton (recently departed) and Adam Crozier. Yet, despite all this expertise and a book or two between them on what constitutes excellence in leadership it appears that no one in the leadership team is capable of leading this organisation!

Instead there is lot of chest pounding going on and to be frank I expect better. It's basic stuff, as anyone with an ounce of industrial relations experience and common sense will tell you. It's going nowhere and I lay the blame firmly at  managements door.  Oddly enough, since Tony McCarthy's departure the top HR seat has been vacant with no sign of a credible replacement.  Surely Adam and his team are missing a trick here?  Although a source tells me the top team, for reasons better known to themselves, don't actually want a replacement.

I say be careful. I think there would be a lot of value right now in spending some of that remuneration pot on an HR with a few grey hairs.  I thought I could win a war of attrition once but after many months and some significant collateral damage I realsed that the way forward no matter what you may think is collaboration. Not confrontation.

Unless of course you are Maggie, whom Adam certainly is not!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Talent Management: the Emperors (not so) new clothes?

Now that the economy threatens to change the employment landscape for what looks like a long time to come, and Talent Management has shifted from the top of every CEO’s priority list to number 7, strategically placed behind paperclips, isn’t it time we challenged the whole notion of selecting and managing talent?

I personally believe that there is no shortage of talent out there.  Indeed, there never was, we just did a lousy job of locating and nurturing it.

It would be easy to kick our friends at McKinsey for starting the talent shortage scare but whilst they were a little guilty of fanning the ‘good people are scarce’ misnomer with their original War for Talent paper, they also made a number of other significant comments and observations which unfortunately were largely ignored.  More importantly perhaps than a shortage, they proposed that in order to get hold of, and keep, ‘good’ people – or talent – organisations were going to have to try harder.  It would no longer be enough just to say what a great company you were, or knock up a glossy employer brand to hide behind.

Instead, they wagered, you would have to really get your offer right, which included creating great opportunities for employees, committing to their longer term development and also creating compelling reward strategies. This was actually quite an astute observation given its time, 1998.

Up until 2001, the notion of a company’s greatness was rarely challenged overtly by employees or potential employees. It was also the early days of the internet and the power of ‘connectedness’ driven by web 2.0 and social media tools had yet also to give employees the voice they have today to challenge organisations and their ‘employment proposition’. Indeed it wasn’t acceptable to do so.

But then along came the meltdown of some of the corporate giants including WorldCom, Arthur Andersen and of course Enron. Such a blatant abuse of power and position, the shocking tales of corporate greed/fraud and the astonishingly poor people practices (mass redundancy announcements by text for example) left a very bitter taste in the mouths of employees and crucially, those that make up generation Y. The balance had shifted.

For me this whole sorry tale really challenged what the definition of ‘talent’ was, where we looked for it and how we developed it. Here we had organisations that had streamlined and finely tuned their talent pools along the industry standard accepted norms. And yet it was the very same talent pool that went on to bring them to their knees.

Attending a conference on Talent Management we heard BT (an organisation of 140,000+ people) outlining their strategy for managing their ‘talent pool’ which amounted to only 1500 people (or 1% of the workforce) across the ‘top layers’ of the business.

Many companies take this approach but is it not perhaps a little arrogant, at the very least short sighted, to narrow down your ‘talent pool’ to the very top slice of the organisation? As someone who spent their early HR career in a unionised shop floor environment, I saw firsthand how talent resided in many places, not just at the top or in the professional ranks.  Indeed, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss once opened a CIPD leadership discussion with this gem: 

“I do a lot of cooking and in my experience, it’s the scum that rises to the top”!

Perhaps it’s time to challenge our notion of what constitutes talent, where we look for it and how we subsequently nurture and develop it. Perhaps it’s time to be more flexible and open minded to find the winners of the future and stop following convention in selecting talent. Perhaps it’s time we stopped for a moment and considered how crazy it is to think that of our working population of some 28m only 1% of these individuals are classified as people with high potential.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Who is the Parasite?

One thing I really like about LinkedIn and other social networking sites is the wide variety of conversations they enable and allow you to get involved in, all from the comfort of your desk.  Call me lazy if you like but I have a young family so it's nice to be able to converse with my peers in this way rather than give up a couple of evenings a week to do it.

One such discussion, on a group for 'Executive Recruiters' has recently been hot with activity.  the question posed was:

"How do we stop in-house recruiters taking the names we provided and either immediately going direct via Linked-In, or, linking now and keeping in touch for future use 12 months down the line?"

I won't bore you with the details but the question included the following statement which had me practically choking on my lunch.  I have highlighted the last bit for effect!:

"This is particularly relevant in niche or specialist industries and within a few years the agency will have "given" its database to the client! A clear case of the parasite (client) feeding on the host (agency) and slowly killing it"
We have really lost it havn't we?!  I mean, as an industry there is really no hope when our peers are thinking in these terms.  Protectionism and defensiveness are both traits of an industry that is losing relevance and finding it hard to justify any value to its customers.  (Sorry, parasites.)

History is peppered with industries that faced the requirement for change in the light of new technology/competition/new markets/economic changes/customer demands (delete as appropriate) but who failed to grasp the fact that the answer was not to protect your current business model.  The US car industry, the Swiss watch industry to name just two – their ignorance and the spectacular consequences of it, are well documented.

The recruitment industry – and I would most definitely, and especially, include the Executive Search element – is no different.  It’s an aged and inappropriate business model that needs to change.  Very sad then to see that most of the contributions to this discussion were attempting to trot out all the hackneyed and irrelevant reasons why it should not change and why clients (Sorry, parasites...) should continue to keep using us.

We are in an industry that requires a radical rethink, some ‘blue ocean’ thinking, and we should seek to challenge all the conventions, all the givens that we currently see as our unique points of difference.  It is an absolute imperative that these discussion contributors get out a blank piece of paper and work out what the future may look like rather than sitting around thinking that once the market picks up and the myth of the talent shortage kicks in again it will be back to the good old days.  Because it won’t.

If we spent less time trying to defend our current methodologies, approaches and position in the mix and more time really trying to understand what the market needs both now and perhaps more importantly in the future we might, just might, find a value added place for us to be.