Category Archives: recruitment
I talk / preach about ‘behaviour-based core values’. I’m not generally a fan of leadership guru-speak but two terms I think that deserve keeping are that and ’employer brand’. I once got headhunted for a job and subsequently discovered the organisation would never use their name, logo or any identifiers in their job ads as “it would put people off”.
That’s probably a sign of a problematic employer brand and disconnection from desirable core values. So, yeah, I think they’re valid and timeless concepts. Even if an employer doesn’t know the meaning of the terms and has never done anything about them, they’ve got them…
I got booked to present to a conference of hirers. Blue collar, grass roots business people. I gave the booker three options for topics. He ran the options past a selection of his people and the chosen topic was unanimous – building a positive and productive team culture. It seems they had a shared problem and that problem was people. Except, of course, the problem wasn’t people. It was their lack of a plan. And THAT was my key message to them.
Part of what attracts and retains talent is behaviour-based core values and employer branding. Both are components of the team culture whether it’s positive and productive or not. With a plan, you have a chance of getting to where you want or at least moving in the right direction. I do not particularly care if they remember or use the terms behaviour-based core values and employer branding, as long as they draft a plan to deliberately develop their behaviour-based core values and employer branding.
You can keep your leveraging, go-forward and so forth, but I’m sticking with the these two concepts. They’re magnetic and like magnets, they can both attract and repel.
I have a number of fears. I suffer from Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces. (Not to be confused with Angoraphobia – irrational fear of expensive goats-wool sweaters.) I suffer from axiquixotyltlatamsgpixzaphobia – the fear of mispronouncing words. Most recently, I have been gripped by the debate on cloning and genetic engineering and the fears raised by that debate.
I have recently conducted an extensive and elaborate exercise with an awful lot of job descriptions (as opposed to a lot of awful job descriptions.) I sat with my colleagues and wistfully compared our practice of pulling bits of roles from here and there to build a composite role to the practice of Doctor Frankenstein. How often when looking at an almost equal group of candidates have you said something akin to “If only we had a candidate with the experience of person A and the communication skills of person B?” Hmmmm.
Is genetic engineering a good metaphor for the recruitment profession? If scientists can grow a human ear on the back of a rat, then the technology can’t be far off. A call centre operator with extra ears can only be positive for service levels. Parking wardens with thicker skin. Used (sorry pre-loved) car salesmen with a conscience.
Genetic engineering is a big worry for me. Peanut plants are very sturdy and resistant to bugs and diseases so it is very tempting to use peanut genes in other crops. I’m very allergic to nuts. If I eat them I could die. If I go out to eat, the subject of my nut allergy always comes up. If I mention it to the waiter they always look at you funny (well, funnier than waiters normally look at customers.) If I don’t mention it, I might eat nuts then die all over the table. Either way, it gets drawn to the attention of people and becomes part of the conversation. “Excuse me, I like the look of the Thai style prawn. Does it have nuts in it?” The waiter or waitress generally gives me a look at this point that says “Fussy.” Anticipating this from experience, I then respond “The reason I ask is not that I’m being fussy. It’s just that I’m allergic and I could die or at least make a scene which could make the restaurant look bad in the eyes of the other diners and will adversely affect your tip.”
The point of that story started out being about genetic engineers messing with nature and the potential for unexpected and unpleasant consequences. By the time I finished the paragraph, I got side-tracked onto waiting staff. That’s an occupation with which we are all familiar and probably one where we’ve experienced the complete spectrum of service. Why is that? It is supposed to be an entry-level role isn’t it, with basic easily learnt skills? Yet service varies wildly. Exceptionally skilled people with wonderful attitudes can be recruited until the cows come home but if they are not working in an environment that supports them, they are constrained and likely to move on. In my experience, organisations of whatever size or nature have a “way of doing things round here.” Bring in a star-clone by whatever magical recruitment methods and they encounter that “way of doing things round here.” In a restaurant they way things are done round there is the way the boss done things round there. I recently worked in a large organisation with five divisions. It was almost as if it was five different organisations who just happened to share the same corporate wardrobe. You know how sometimes owners start to look like their pets? It was like that with these divisions and their general managers. This organisation was investing time, money and commitment in a corporate-wide approach to recruitment with no parallel effort in ensuring a corporately consistent “way things are done around here.” Maybe I’m stretching the cloning metaphor but I went to a website containing the most frequently asked cloning questions. One question was about how feasible it would be to clone Russell Crowe. The scientist’s answer avoided the ethics but apparently even if they could get close enough to grab some DNA, the development of the clone is just as affected by its developmental environment as it is be the genetic factors. So the metaphor holds true, even for our recruitment clone it is the environmental factors that can mess with our star-clone recruit. Might be an idea not to look at recruitment in isolation, but as part of an ongoing process including job design, orientation, performance management etc. (Actually, I can’t imagine it being a problem getting Russell’s DNA. More of a problem avoiding it.)
Even if it were possible, ethical and desirable, I’m still not keen on being cloned personally. German mythology has the doppelganger. They reckon everyone has someone who is their exact duplicate and when you meet them, you die. How could you avoid your doppelganger? If you weren’t of Chinese descent and went to live in China, you could safely socialise with a billion and a half people. Of course there was that Seven Years In Tibet movie where Brad Pitt played a German living in Tibet which is now under Chinese rule, so I suppose there is a small risk, if you are the exact likeness of Brad Pitt. In this case, my advice is to take your chances and place a call to Jennifer Aniston this very minute.
Genetic engineering seems like a great idea at first. Like my idea for a combination coffee thermos and cellphone. It seems like a great idea until the first solicitor’s letter arrives…
More ideas at http://gettingbetterbuyin.com/
There’s a lot to be said for working for an organisation where your personal values overlap significantly with the organisation’s. In the employee recruitment process, along with interviews, CVs, referees and behavioural profiling, I’d really appreciate a single, simple graphic: a venn diagram showing how much of a ‘values overlap’ the applicant has with the potential employer. The temptation would be to print it out in full colour. Out of respect for the planet and its future, please do not do this.
How do we know what a person’s values are or those of an organisation? Quite a lot of people and organisations might publically declare them to us and the world. Individuals can pop memes and inspirational posts up on social media in a hope that we will view them and extrapolate them to be lovers of sunrises, geese in migration, or, on Mondays, flocks of geese migrating across sunrises. Companies have professionals facilitate out of their leadership team a printed list of values that gets framed and hung pride of place in reception and the lunch room. I’m sure all these people and organisations are well-intentioned but reality is often incongruous with those stated intentions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, which still makes it infinitely superior to the intersection of Albany Highway and Oteha Valley Extention which seems to have been paved with 3 different sized ox carcasses, then a very thin and crumbly layer of off-brand asphalt.
Regardless, or irregardless, of what we say our values are, our behaviour betrays us. This is true of us and of organisations. There’s plenty of white collar fraudsters in prison who had accountability, excellence and integrity on the values statements of their business or professional association. Although, in fairness, the fact that they’re in prison does at least tick the ‘accountability’ box.
Venn diagrams and values posters aside, if you’re into observing reality, a good indicator of shared values are the growing range of corporate social responsibility projects going on. Some are well established and more about support and sponsorship. Funding a native parrot is great. Few employees or customers are going to tweet, “I hate Kakapos!!!” Nor should they, as three exclamation points are excessive and the plural of Kakapo is Kakapo not Kakapos. These types of corporate social responsibility efforts are passive for the vast majority of employees. The ones that may be a measure of some degree of values overlap and engagement are the ones that require overt activity from people on the ground. Some are well established and most worthy but do not require a lot of effort or cognitive contribution. Collecting coins in a bucket outside your work’s front door in exchange for colour-coded flowers or stickers for a good cause is admirable. Hoofing it into a steep muddy forest to plant carbon-offsetting treelings to save the world for our grandchildren is up the rankings a bit in my opinion.
If corporate social responsibility can be defined as a corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the effects on environmental and social wellbeing, then we need to look at funding or support via inertia for the production and distribution of nukes, landmines and cigarettes. I’m not a fan of smoking but it is kind of shocking to see cigarettes third in a list that started with nukes and landmines. I guess if you added up the death, injury and misery, then cigarettes belong on the list. Someone recently sent me the findings of a study into the world’s deadliest animals. First was mosquitoes, then mankind itself, then snakes. Sixth was freshwater snails. That’s way more out of place than a list with smoking, nukes and landmines.
Collectively, we as consumers have more power than we realise. If we can leverage the power of the group to stop buying the products or services of a company that doesn’t agree with your views on marriage equality, then why can’t the talent in the employee marketplace exhibit that same influence by choosing to work with someone who does agree. A company cannot and should not ask an applicant their views on marriage equality or many other belief-based topics. Most applicants are not going to directly ask a recruiter or potential employer their official or personal views on such topics either. But, they might watch the news or so some internet searching and the organisation’s behaviour will betray its true values.
For an activity to learn more about your team’s values and internal ‘operating systems’, check out my one-page personal user-manual project at http://www.myusermanual.net
The term ‘silent majority’ is likely equally applicable to employers as it is to the voting public. Most people do not attend marches or sign online petitions. Most employers do not declare themselves to be pro or anti most things. But if you’re an employer who wants to attract the truly talented and those within that group with whom you share values, you’ve got to stand for something. Those potential employees are talented; they’re not psychic.
More ideas at http://gettingbetterbuyin.com/
If you’re an actual reader of LinkedIn posts, you may have noticed a recent trend. Clearly some social media guru made a pronouncement and folks are following suit. Have you noticed the deliberate extra line spacing and single sentence paragraphs? The hope must be that their first sentence is so intriguing and so compelling that readers simply must click the ‘see more’ and scroll and scroll. Here’s my opinion – the only time I’m into multiple scrolls is at Bakers Delight and it involves cinnamon icing. (Confession – I needed three attempts to spell ‘cinnamon’ correctly. I’m not better than you.)
I was intrigued by two recent posts in my LinkedIn timeline. Both were effectively on the same topic. One was an unsuccessful job applicant slamming the employer for not getting back to them with feedback on why they didn’t get the job. The other was a tech company director slamming a potential client they’d spent 10 hours preparing and pitching to, only to again never hear back after not getting the gig.
I’m not going to slam the two posters with a ‘Harden up and move on’ retort. I did actually comment on their post (in a non NZ Herald commentor kind of way, you know, positive and constructive) and they ‘liked’ my comments.
To both I said something like, look you’re right, that feedback would have been useful to you and they would have been great employers / people if they had given it you. And, sometimes, it’s a lazy and shortsighted move on their part if they don’t. The world’s an increasingly small place and ’employer brand’ is important to attract talent. If you got an interview and you came 2nd, then you clearly are talented and probably would’ve been great at the job but someone else was better or fit better or had something extra of value or it was political. In all those scenarios, you can’t do anything about it and while it may be interesting to you and you might get closure, it really isn’t performance-enhancing feedback. But it does give you closure and does leave you with a less bitter taste in your mouth and you’re more inclined to speak positively about that employer and not slam them on social media posts. That stuff adds up and sticks.
And, if it was an internal application then definitely they should have given specific feedback and had a conversation around the whys and the what nexts. If that was the case, and they didn’t do that, well that too is a kind of feedback – one that suggests maybe they’re not the best outfit you could be working for, so start researching where else might be.
The above situations are the top part of the pyramid. Sales pitches and job applications are a numbers game and most are instantly rejected. If you came 2nd, you deserve feedback and it’s in their interest to give it to you and become known as someone who does. If you came 214th, harden up and move on. Recruiting is a cost that is measured. Time is a big factor in that calculation. You either are or are not worth it. If you’re not sure, then the onus is on you to convince the employer / client that even if you’re not successful, you are worth the feedback on why you weren’t.
For the sales pitch people, they could have qualified the opportunity better to make sure they weren’t being used by tyre-kickers to squeeze an incumbent or just get free ideas. They could have stipulated early and formally in the process an expectation of feedback and a definitive mechanism for how it should occur. If you’re not confident enough to do that or they’re not willing to accept it, then you’re not worth it.
For the job applicants, they could play the sentiment card. Or, they could as a parting remark, make a specific request to the interviewer. making eye contact and acknowledging they know their time is valuable etc and they might (might) convince one person at a personal level to commit to calling them afterwards and sticking to that commitment. The key part is acknowledging their time is valuable. The upside benefit of the feedback is entirely to the applicant. The downside cost is entirely to the interviewer. There has to be something in it for them. What’s their WIIFM. (brainbasedboss.com) The applicant can’t offer much if anything tangible. The very least is acknowledging their time is valuable and you’d appreciate it and the difference it would make to you. My experience as an interviewer, employer and reader of Linkedin post comments indicates the vast majority of applicants don’t do this small, simple thing. They just expect it, don’t ask for it, and act surprised when it doesn’t arrive. I get it but it’s a self-centricity that will probably hold them back in their careers generally.
I want to finish by getting back to the headline of this article – people holding themselves back because they’re all about themselves. I do a little interactivity with my audiences at my presentations. It’s short, fun, safe and makes a great point on this topic. It’s from a piece of research by Northwestern University / Columbia Business School led by Adam Galinsky. People stand and are paired. They click their fingers on their dominant hand 5 times. I ask them to imagine their index finger is a marker and to write on their own forehead the capital letter E 3 times. Whilst they do this, they observe their partner doing it on their forehead. Everyone sits and we debrief the activity. As you can see in the header picture of this article, there are two ways of doing it. Crudely oversimplified, and by itself it means nothing, but the general idea is that there are two types of people in this world and neither is right or wrong. It’s just useful to know which your natural default is – self-oriented or other-oriented. Many of those LinkedIn commentors certainly made theirs obvious.
More ideas at http://gettingbetterbuyin.com/