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.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Social media ROI... aren't we missing the point?

Boy, social media sure seems to have got people talking!  On the one hand you have Marketers going all a quiver over it, treating it like some divine new marketing tool and claiming it's the new CRM, (even giving it a suitable acronym - SCRM!) whilst at the same time obsessing over the ROI.

And then you have HR departments stuck with an awful dichotomy - is it a needless distraction for employees costing us £ in lost productivity? A shady place where poisoned conversations take place about their employer? Or is it 'the' new source of talent, the latest place to go fishing to find the workforce of the future, to belt out the 'employer of choice' message?

If you work in either function and you are struggling with social media in this way then I would say you are probably not really 'getting' social media in the first place.

Social media just 'is'.

Here's how I can best describe it:

Imagine you are standing outside a building that has blacked out glass windows. You know there are people inside but you have no idea how many or who they are. Inside there are, say, 100 people, each sitting on their own in little offices. Some of these people are your customers. Some of them are your friends. Some of them are your employees and some of them are people you have never met.

Most of these people are aware there are others in the building but have no idea how many.  Some come out from time to time, occasionally meet and talk to others, realise they may actually know someone in one of the other offices but mostly they stay on their offices.

Now, try to imagine that at the flick of a switch the glass becomes clear and the internal walls disappear, allowing all the occupants inside to mix and mingle freely, to chat, to see who's there and who's who.

The clearing of the glass? Social media. The removal of the Walls?; Social media. The resulting conversations? Social media.

Now ask yourself this question - "where am I?"

If you 'get' social media you are inside the building, engaging in conversation, sharing experiences, making notes, exchanging ideas, having a giggle along the way maybe, in both an structured and unstructured way.

If you don't get it, you are probably sitting in the corner or making your way quietly out of the building without engaging anyone.  Or maybe standing on a chair shouting inappropriate messages over the heads of those around you.  Or worse still - standing outside looking in, wondering what "those people" are saying about you.

Social media is a stream of conciousness, a babble of conversations and a sense of 'connectedness' that used to take place between close friends, family members and employees face to face, by phone or email. The Internet and a whole bunch of tools (social networks etc) have just made these conversations visible, actionable, connectible.


And you don't need a social media 'guru' to help you understand this. As they say "beware a consultant wearing a watch!" All you need to do is get involved, being honest, genuine and open in the process.

Your employees using Facebook? Then you need to start communicating with them on it too. Customers talking about your products in Twitter? Then get on there and tweet them back.

Want to get social media? Simple - jump in and join the conversation.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Email is dead... hopefully..

Or at least that's the headline I'm hoping to read within a year of the Google Wave launch in a couple of weeks. I should have seen the challenges of email coming though. Sitting in the company lecture theatre of my old employer back in 1990 (yes that's 19 years ago!) listening to our IT guys talking us through the concept of this new thing we had just introduced called 'electronic mail', it sounded so great.

But the very first reaction from the audience was a telling one:

"Great! Now if I send Bob one of these and he said he didn't get it I will know he's lying!" Cue lots of chuckling in the back row but you see even then it was destined to be a 'cover your ass' tool more than a significant value added communication tool.

Not withstanding it revolutionised our ability to communicate, especially across geographic boundaries, I would argue it came at a price and the benefits have been completely outweighed by the drawbacks. Just one look at my in-box on a daily basis and the effort it takes to respond to the ever growing list wil tell you that.

According to some research, if you receive 50 emails a day it can take up to 4 hours of that day to deal with those emails.  Worse, according to a computer scientist at Microsoft, it can take on average, 25 Minutes to "deal with each email interruption".  25 minutes!  That's 'average' folks and don't we know it.

But apart from the obvious personal grief email creates for me there is a far more damaging consequence of email - it's actually killing business.  More specifically it's killing relationships. 

In any service business and especially in recruitment, building personal relationships, keeping in touch, forming new bonds etc is fundamental to success. But it can't be done effectively through email.  We are allowing email to destroy this precious ability we all have to communicate in person, to understand each other, to pick up on subtle cue's, to read emotion in voice and reaction.

To talk.

BT, our beleaguered national telecoms guys don't get much right but they hit the nail on the head with their marketing strap-line from the 80's:

"It's good to talk"

Damn right there!

(Sent by email from my iPod) ;)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Social Media Sickness...

So I pay a visit to my local GP and this is how it goes:

Me: "Doc, I'm not sleeping well"

Doc: "Why's that?"

Me: "Well, I seem to be having vivid dreams all night and consequently I never fall into deep sleep."

Doc: "What are your dreams about?"

Me: "Work! Mostly about our social media strategy, how we are using it, what benefit we will see from it and how to keep up with it all."

Doc: "I see. And what exactly is social media?"

Me: "Well, you know, things like blogs, communities, social networking sites.  Facebook, myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, stuff like that."

Doc: "LinkedIn?  You are on LinkedIn?!"

Me: "Well, yes."

Doc: "We should connect!  I'll send you an invite!"

And so it goes on....

The end of the road for Search..?

You may have seen the recent post entitled How free social media beat the recruitment consultants to death  It seems to have caused much hysteria in certain circles and whilst it is still a bit premature to hail the death of the recruitment consultant (again!) it does serve as an indication of the power of social media in the recruitment mix.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

One group in particular who should be discussing the development and impact of social media more than most are those involved in Executive Search.  Of all the players in the recruitment industry it is the Search firms in particularly that have considered themselves immune from market forces. And rather arrogantly so at times.  It is clear from the evidence above that if nothing else they really should start thinking more openly about what lies ahead.

However in recent discussions with senior HR folk, the general view was that Search will remain largely immune from the impact of social networking.  After all, like many senior level decisions, sticking with industry standard is the safe option. Nobody got fired for picking IBM right?

Similarly no one got fired for using one of the top 5 Search firms for the CEO search. (although I would argue IBM are a little more reliable as a choice!)  "The Board/CEO will always want to use them" they argue; a point nicely illustrated by the above article when Tom Allason points out that the board of his previous start up chose to use a ‘headhunter’ on insistence of their VC partners.

So what is the attraction?  There are two principle reasons people chose the search firms in my experience:

  • Access to their network – the little black book of contacts inaccessible to those not "in the know."
  • To make themselves visible – They need to be seen. They want to be one of the names in the book to make sure they are on the radar should a juicy job come up in the future.
Many of todays senior executives are baby boomers who, like me, left university with only a limited number of tools available to keep in touch - namely landline and snail mail! Consequently I lost touch with many people and it's only recently through the emergence of sites like Friendsreunited and Facebook that a larger part of that network is now available to me. So, its reasonable to assume that a Search consultant's network will deliver a better crop of potential candidates than I could rustle up myself.

But will that always be the case?  Methinks not.

Consider for a moment what might happen in the future.  Take someone currently aged between 18 and 22 and fast forward 15 years.  That snotty nosed, binge drinking student is now the CEO of a successful company (hard to imagine I know but bear with me). That individual will use IM, Facebook, LinkedIn, and probably another 8 tools already embedded in their DNA as there defacto method of communication.  There is already evidence that they will not use email as a primary communication format, if they use it at all.  (Lucky beggars!)  They won't be looking to trace old classmates or colleagues like we do because they will not have ‘lost touch’ with them in the first place the way we did.  In fact they will probably be trying to reduce the number overall.

They will be ‘super connected’ and, as such, are they likely to appoint a Search firm if they need to hire a senior team?  I suspect not as their own networks will challenge anything a search consultant could offer.  Will they also need to be on the search consultants radar?  I somehow doubt it given that they will be on everyone elses.

I know where my money is.  Tom Allason managed to do what he did with tools that are only really now coming into their own.  In many ways they are still in their infancy, the extent of their power and value yet to be fully appreciated until those that make up Generation Y and the Millenials take centre stage in the workforce.

Ironically, it is actually possible that the search guys might be the first casualties of the change and not, as has been suggested, the last.  After all, there are some compelling reasons to put them at the top of the list:

  • The savings per hire are substantial
    many more senior people are now traceable and contactable online
  • senior level recruitment is low volume and therefore manageagble inhouse
  • The positive effects of exploiting networks in terms of candidate attitude, as demonstrated by Tom's experience
Low to mid level recruitment however requires much more legwork simply because of the higher volumes involved and as such demands an infrastructure that only the largest of organisations seem willing to take on, RPO’s and outsourcers aside.  Perhaps senior level recruitment is more vulnerable to change than many think?

Dont get me wrong, the volume market will be affected too, but what a turn up for the books it would be if social media turned out to be the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs of the search industry.

I’ll leave you with Tom’s own assessment of the implications of what he has achieved:

"I think what the recruitment industry should take away from this is that prospective clients really can beat them at their own game, if they want to make the effort. The recruitment industry needs to recognise this and innovate… find ways of adding value… and justify/rationalise their proposition."

'Nuff said.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Passive is the new Active

When I first dipped a toe into the world of recruitment the term 'Passive' when referring to candidates didn't really exist.  Back then they were known as 'innactive' candidates and only really of interest to Search firms like the one I was with at the time.  Paid to dig around and not rely on advertising, we had no real choice but to target people who were probably quite happy in their current job.  It was all justified, of course, on the basis that the best people never looked for a job and those that were currently active and applying for jobs through press ads were, in some way, 'slightly more shoddy goods'.  Hmmm.  Don't you just love those Search guys?!

Anyway, over the last few years the notion of the 'passive' candidate really gained momentum with social networking tools opening up a number of new channels through which to target those hard to find, 'waiting for the call' kind of people.  And having made many 'ident' calls as we used to call them I know how welcome those other channels are.

But as these tools have matured and gained credibility, particularly in the professional arena, are we not witnessing the demise of the truly 'passive' candidate?  Whether or not you are looking for another role, the fact is that if you don't have a LinkedIn profile for example, you are in danger of rapidly becoming a social outcast.  Like it or not your profile puts you centre stage in what is fast becoming the recruitment equivalent of a Broadway smash.

Similarly, those active folk now don't have to appear so active do they?  Create a profile, bang in some mutually beneficial recommendations, answer a couple of well placed questions and Bob's your uncle - 'passive' status achieved!

Letting it be known that you were on the market used to be frowned on;  at best it was a little 'grubby' and at worst you could get fired for such disloyalty.  Not any more.  Listing 'Career Opportunities' and 'Job Enquiries' in the 'Interested In:' section of your LinkedIn profile would now appear to be totally acceptable.

But that's probably because its also the same in your boss's profile too...!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

If there is only one reason for getting involved in twitter..

I’ve been on Twitter in various guises since Jan 8th 2009 (or so I'm reliably informed by twittercount!)  Admittedly, in the beginning I wasn’t sure exactly what the point was and even when I had that light bulb moment when I realised the power of it and how it can be leveraged, I was still uncertain as to what value I would see from it, especially in the long term.  And of course, in the beginning, being informed by my followee’s that they were currently in Pizza Express picking holes in a Fiorentina or that their 3 year old had just tried to cram the cat in the washing machine wasn’t helping.

9 months down the line however and I'm beginning to wonder how I would ever manage without it.  Twitter manages to do one thing for me I that have struggled to achieve using other sources – it keeps me informed.  It’s become my own personal ‘Super Aggregator’ of interesting, compelling and timely information.  It also has the benefit of connecting me with people who would otherwise be completely off my radar.

Anyone in a client facing service industry (especially recruiters) should be using twitter in my view.  A little exploration of the twittersphere can yield a significant amount of information on a business or even an individual.  Invaluable information when you are managing relationships particularly where your expertise and knowledge are key elements of your personal proposition.

To those that say ‘I don’t have time for twittering’ and ‘I can’t see the point in scrolling through loads of inane comments’, well they have a point, but it’s not a good enough excuse.  I have a busy job too, and I don’t have time to spend all day tweeting and responding, so I find that I'm now managing who I'm following to ensure that what I'm receiving (and hopefully, what I'm saying) is relevant.  I have also separated my personal and professional persona’s.  I realise this is hotly debated subject and as my learned friend Mr Saunders pointed out, it can leave you with multiple personality fatigue but I find it suits me best.

Its early days for sure, but I expect to get more value from the whole twitter experience over time.

If you are new to twitter, id say:
  • Get on it and give it a chance
  • If you can, put aside and evening with a glass of wine/beer/coffee and take an hour or two to explore whats going on and how people are using it.  Its a much better way to see first hand where the value is.
  • Grow the list of people you follow slowly to give you a chance to get used to it
  • Don’t be afraid to unfollow people.  I have no idea if this is good ‘twitiquette’ (apologies if it’s not) but sometimes its better to ‘catch up’ with what people are saying using searches rather than follow all the time as the volume of tweets can be overwhelming and irrelevant
  • Once you are comfortable with the basics, try some of the third party tools which help you manage your twitterings and explore the searching capabilities.  Its amazing what you can come up with.  I’m no expert, but I find tweetdeck a great tool for managing my twitter accounts and I also use twitterrific on my iPod touch.  Both are very good and the best of the small bunch I have tried.
    Go on, take the plunge!

    Good luck!

    Thursday, 3 September 2009

    Face to face is STILL the best option!

    As a job seeker, despite the rapidly shrinking economy, you have never really had it so good.  Gone are the days of creating each cover letter individually, printing off hard copies of your CV and posting the small number of carefully selected applications via snail mail.  No more Lever Arch files containing pristine cut outs of each press ad applied for.  No more logging each application response, stage by brutal stage.  No more waiting for the response letter to hit the mat and clocking it was sent by 2nd class post – the reject ‘giveaway’.

    Ok, so maybe it was only me who kept it all in OCD orderliness, but you get the picture.  Nowadays, the internet has opened up a whole new world to the jobseeker and more new channels are appearing every few months.  Looking for a job, it seems, has never been easier even if actually finding one is getting harder!  Applying for a job is just a click away (Which is not always a good thing but that’s another post altogether!) and with so many open professional and social networks through which you can showcase your skills and experience you can connect with literally thousands of people directly or indirectly who can significantly increase your chances of getting that next job.  Anyone in the professional arena who does not yet have a LinkedIn profile for example needs to think very seriously about getting one.  Pronto.

    However, one of the advantages of the LinkedIn type medium can also be one of its biggest drawbacks – connections are only a click away.  One look at my LinkedIn home page every morning and I can see that some of my connections are waking from months of dormancy and connecting to 12 or 15 people in a row, per day.  A veritable feast of connections!  But before you embark on a connection frenzy, ask yourself how real and useful these connections are.  Sure, sometimes even a loose connection can pave the way for a great opportunity, but nothing beats actually ‘knowing’ someone.  Linked in is, after all, a rolodex.  To make the most of it you still need to work the network and that means getting to know them better.  And what better way to do that than to actually meet them face to face.

    My advice, for what it’s worth:
    • Spend less time making your network wider and invest more time in making it deeper
    • Go through your connections and make a mental note of when you last had any kind of interaction with them.  If it’s been a while and you still want to be connected then make an effort to reach out to them.
    • Look out for your connections on some of the other social media platforms like Twitter.  Twitter, especially, provides a more ‘immediate’ contact environment and is a good way to re open a dialogue that may have been dormant for some time.
    • If you are joining groups on LinkedIn, try and attend the face to face gatherings some of them offer.  Make a list of the people you want to get to know better and suggest you meet up at the event.
    • Stop typing and start talking!

    Tuesday, 1 September 2009

    Social Reputation Management – An acronym waiting to happen

    Back in the early summer of 2005 I penned an article entitled “Smart Consumer...  Smarter Employee” which attempted to capture impact of the internet on the ability of customers to share brand experiences and the effect this may have if this emerging (at the time) trend migrated into the employee/potential employee group.  Here is a snippet:
    "What has been missed is the emergence of the ‘smart employee’. With Enron, Tyco, Worldcom and now Rover in our back pocket, the attitude of the employee is changing. They no longer believe the bullshit. They are becoming more and more cynical. And most important of all, they are sharing this cynicism online, with millions of other like minded people. The emergence of the smart employee has taken longer than that of the consumer, and has yet to have any major impact but the signs are all there that it will.

    Organisations ambitions to be the ‘employer of choice’ and to have that killer ‘employee proposition’ will be tested on a global stage, in a theatre where they have absolutely no control. More worrying perhaps, is that the increasing budgets of £m’s spent on developing the corporate employment image could be rendered worthless over night by the smarter employee.

    Today my wife consults a million people she does not know, but trusts implicitly, to determine her next purchase.  Tomorrow, she will consult the exact same people about her next job."
    Click here to read the original.

    When I wrote that piece, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn were only just emerging and a whole generation of social media tools were not even a twinkle in their founder’s eyes – Twitter included. Indeed ‘social media’ itself was a term that was generally unknown and the social media revolution had not gained any real momentum.   The ‘Power’ and ‘dialogue’ I was referring to at the time took place mainly in forums, specific sites within specialist interest groups or the message boards on stock pages.

    Even without the ability to see the social media stuff coming, I did feel that this kind of dialogue would gain momentum nonetheless.  And of course it did.  Now that the revolution has really kicked in Brands, and increasingly their status as employers, are being assessed real time.  Coupled with the rather poor behaviour of some employers in recent years (layoffs by text, revelations of greed and fraud etc) employees and perhaps more importantly potential employees are becoming way more cynical.  What your peers on Twitter say about that company you are interviewing at is increasingly carrying more weight than the efforts of the employer branding or HR Team.

    I was discussing this recently with someone I know at a PR agency.  They had developed a ‘new’ offering based around the threat of social media to your brand - I guess you could call it social reputation management (Or SRM! - you heard it here first folks!)  As nice as it sounded, I couldn’t help feel they had missed the point somewhat.  More often than not you don't manage your brand through social media; social media manages it for you.  Whether you like it or not. 

    It doesn't mean you can't influence it at all, but the magic word here is authenticity.  Because if you are not authentic you will make thing ten times worse.   Facebook, MySpace and other similar places are littered with embarrassing and humiliating examples of brands trying, but failing miserably, to influence and manage their presence in social media channels.  And if you do mess up, no amount of PR investment will right things for you.  In fact, if you have to ‘manage’ your profile in the social media channel then you probably don’t ‘get it’ any way.  You have to be ‘in it’ to do that. 

    Consumer and increasingly employee ‘connectedness’ is a force to be reckoned with.  As Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics puts it “With social media its best to... listen first and sell second.  It’s the world’s largest focus group out there”

    Friday, 28 August 2009

    Would they cry for you..?

    Flicking through my old notes recently I was reminded of having the good fortune to have Greg Dyke speak at one of our events back in 2005.  At the time he had recently released his book – Inside Story - and we were lucky enough to have him share his inspirational comments on leadership and his time at the BBC.  You may remember that Greg left the BBC controversially and his departure was followed by unprecedented scenes of 'mourning' by the employees.  Thousands turned out in protest with many reduced to tears, prompting the question for other CEO’s “Would they cry for you?”  In most cases, I'm pretty sure the response would be "probably not."

    Listening to Greg speak, was not only inspirational but also emotional and frustrating.  Why?  Well emotional because Greg comes across as a very straight guy and what he says comes straight from the heart.  Despite a quite conservative presentation style compared to many on the speaker circuit, he captivates and you feel right there with him when he shares the experiences of life at the BBC, both good and bad.

    Frustrating because, as he talks through those experiences and what he did about them, and also his key lessons on leadership you can't help but hear the voices in your head screaming “I know, I know!”  Of course, it’s all common sense, and Greg seems genuinely at a loss as to why more organisations/CEO/senior executives seem to miss the point when it comes to people and engagement.

    When asked why he thought “more people don’t get it” his answer, which was preceded by a long silence, concluded that it was a mix of greed and ignorance.  Not a great write up at the time but who could have imagined that the greed and ignorance in question would go on, 4 years later, to have such a damaging effect on the world economy.

    There's a guy who's ahead of his time...