A Ten-minute Tour: Ideas and Info on Timely Topics

November 3, 2009

Stopwatch2 300x225 A Ten minute Tour:  Ideas and Info on Timely Topics

Here’s the itinerary:

1.Start at Inflexion Point and read The Future of HR—Why “Do Nothing” Is an Option to see why Mark Stelzner thinks the “transformation” of HR is highly desirable, but probably unlikely.  (My paraphrase, in a nutshell:  Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

2. Click on Comments and scan the interesting discussion that follows.  Susan Burns wonders “whether or not HR is evolving in sync with the broader transformation taking place in business? With the societal and cultural shifts taking place locally, regionally, nationally and globally?”

3. Skim through Deloitte’s HR Transformation Survey, mentioned in the Inflexion Point post. One highlight:  Of the C-level executives surveyed, more than 90% think Compensations/Benefits is the HR task most likely to be outsourced, less than 40% point to Recruiting/Staffing.  Another highlight . . . more than 80% see cost savings as the key driver for HR transformation, while a mere 30% want to free up HR for a more strategic role.

4. Side trip:  Rosabeth Moss Kanter offers a list of Top Ten Ways to Find Joy at Work–and the advice is not actually what you might expect.  Favorite quote:  “exerting leadership is the surest route to joy (other than going fishing). The key is setting the agenda and starting the pieces moving towards a purpose-driven goal. If 90% of success in life is just showing up, Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor advises that when you show up, you might as well run the meeting.”

5. Wind up at Learning Putty for 7 Creative Ways to Introduce Social Media to Your Team.  I like them all, but “Give the Gift of Social Media” is my favorite.

Okay—that’s two minutes for each stop.  Read fast!

(Thanks to wwarby for the timely timepiece.)

Scare Tactics? Debating the “Perils” of Social Media Recruitment

September 30, 2009

Workforce 300x245 Scare Tactics?  Debating the Perils of Social Media Recruitment

Workforce Management has come up with another surprising article.  (The first one was discussed here recently in Cut on the Bias.)  And this time, the fur is flying.

The article is Discriminatory Twist in Networking Sites Puts Recruiters in Peril.  If the title seems a bit melodramatic—it really doesn’t hold a candle to the contents.  Highlights:

  • “Sourcing from professional network sites such as LinkedIn carries a risk that the method could be challenged on discrimination grounds,” says Pamela Devata, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. “It represents a hiring pool that is not open to the general population.”
  • “Networking sites, including Twitter, exclude whole populations,” says Jessica Roe, managing partner at Bernick, Lifson, Greenstein, Greene & Liszt in Minneapolis.  “The social networks represent limited social groups and very small labor pools. It’s an enormous issue.”
  • Paul Mollica, partner at Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink in Chicago, has another warning for heavy users of networking sites:  “When the OFCCP [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] or plaintiffs’ attorneys come along with a discovery request and want to see the trail for recruiting, these employers are going to come up short,” he contends, because “the records are in a digital mist.”

And it’s not over when the sourcing is done.  In the selection phase, “using social networks to screen candidates generates additional legal risks,” according to the article.  Explains Mollica,“the risk is that visiting Facebook or MySpace pages or even Googling candidates may reveal information that no employer should have in a properly constructed application or interview.”

There are even more perils to be feared, such as the dangers of changing job descriptions and laying off people who were “hired into bad positions.”  But if you want to be thoroughly warned, read the whole article.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the blowback.  Commenters are mixed in their responses—but one of them (solubrious1) offers this heartfelt response:  “Stop freaking out about pretend legal issues when the real issue is workforce design, the concept of ‘permanent’ work, and the decisions made by political and business leaders (many who also do not use Twitter and Facebook) to de-value Human Resources in the core mission and vision of their organization.”

Meanwhile, one of Workforce Management’s featured blogs (Fistful of Talent) takes aim at the “Discriminatory Twist” article and lets loose with a full-scale rant:  Hey Employment Law “Experts”, You’re Killing My Profession . . .

Worth reading, including the comments.  Choice quote:  “Oh, I forgot.  You only care about promoting your little section of the world, which is risk management from a legal perspective.  In the meantime, you scare, intimidate and generally freeze the average HR person from adopting tools that can help them do their jobs better . . . “

What’s the relevance of all this for the corporate Careers site?  I suspect that similar concerns come up in the context of using social media and blogs as part of employer branding and online recruiting.  The problem is (for all concerned) that Genie has left the bottle, and won’t be going back in.

So the inevitable outcome is “a period of adjustment.”  Those are never fun.

Speaking from Experience! About Applications and . . .

September 21, 2009

Exclamation 300x277 Speaking from Experience!  About Applications and . . .

something called “Transformability.”  Two separate topics, but I’ve had reason to think about both lately—so here are a few comments:

First.  I had to fill out a job application online.  Only sort of a “job” application, really, because I was responding to a project opening advertised on a fairly specialized niche board, and it was not a full-time employee position, but rather a part-time, virtual “opportunity.”  In short, the sort of thing that is usually handled by submitting a CV, samples, cover, etc.  However the entity involved is an educational institution, and they wanted an application, so by golly, I jumped into the process.

NOT a good experience!

There were two problems.  (A) The application was a complete misfit for the opportunity, asking questions that not only didn’t apply, but really couldn’t be answered by most people who would be responding.  But (B) even if I had been seeking the kind of position the application was designed for, the process of filling it out would have been very frustrating.  It went on for MANY pages/screens, with no indication of where I was in the process, or when (if ever) it might end.  When I started the application I had no hint of what would be involved—and once I began, the only connection to the application form was the Continue button.  The path  of no choice just led deeper into the maze, and since the MANY questions in the application had no groupings and no discernible order, it wasn’t even possible to make an educated guess about how far along I might be.

The questions on each page were in a complete vacuum (i.e., no context, no way of referencing previous questions)—and I began to notice that new questions were similar to ones I’d already encountered.  I wondered how question 36 differed from the very similar 23.  No way to compare.  So was the similarity a psychological test of consistency?  Why else ask twice in different ways?  Was it nuanced, or just careless?!

And there’s always a slim chance the whole thing was intended to discourage applicants, or test their tolerance for frustration.  But more likely, I’d guess that different stakeholders wanted to have their questions included on the application in their very own words, so the form became kind of a collage, with similar questions that might be redundant–or might merit completely different answers if the applicant had any context to go by.  Who knows?

Very likely, someone just took the paper application and made it clickable, so all the problems of the original became that much worse.  As for my experience–with no way to stop and save the work I’d already put in, I slogged on to the end, but was pretty cranky by the time I put N/A into the last blank.  One thing I was sure of:  the completed application did not provide very much that would be useful for evaluating me as a candidate.

I see that my rant has used up all of today’s post, so Transformability will have to be covered next time.  Meanwhile, some suggested takeaways:

  • See how upsetting a bad application form can be?
  • Web-based application forms need to be web-user-friendly.  Putting a paper application online is bad.
  • Different types of opportunities require different types of applications—or at least enough flexibility for the form to be used in different ways by different applicants.  One-size-fits-all is bad!

Off the Wall! Three Irresistible Ideas

September 18, 2009

Oogst 1000 300x217 Off the Wall!  Three Irresistible Ideas

Serendipity has led me to several items that are just so interesting I have to share.  One actually has practical application, another is a cautionary tale—and the third is an inspiration.

Let’s start with the inspiration, since that’s connected with today’s eye-catching illustration.  Yes!  It’s a completely serious design for a “self-sufficient farm, restaurant, hotel and amusement park for 1,000 people per day.”  In the Oogst 1000 Wonderland:

  • Everything is linked by technology to create a self-sustainable system.
  • All food for the restaurant comes from the farm.
  • Visitors can learn about sustainable agriculture while they vacation.

The idea comes from Dutch design firm Tjep, and it’s part of a series that includes a house/farm that will provide one person with everything they need to live: greenhouse-grown food, solar and wind energy, and a completely self-contained oxygen atmosphere.

Relevance for the corporate website?  Surprise your visitors, at least occasionally.  Don’t just rely on “Careers page” stereotypes.  Add some imagination.

The second item is more practical, although application in the recruiting sector looks to be still in the future.  Mingle 360 has introduced a really fun and useful concept/product/service that let’s people use a gadget to exchange/capture information.  The “MingleStick” is just a little bigger than a typical memory stick, and as of now, it’s mainly for use at events, such as tradeshows and conventions.  Attendees use the MingleStick to click each other instead of exchanging business cards, and back home, they can see/store/organize their captured information in Mingle Manager.

There’s also social networking integration with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  And exhibitors can use a desktop MingleStation receiver that ties lead retrieval into the total package.

Some of my favorite career experiences have been associated with the tradeshow industry—and as a veteran on both sides of the aisle, I just see Mingle as a great idea. The current business model seems geared toward very large events (1000+), but it appears there would be a natural potential for use in more specialized settings, such as job fairs and career events.  I’ve asked the company for additional information (including some ideas about cost-effectiveness) and will provide more Mingle info in a subsequent post.

The final idea is really only half-irresistible, but that was too long to explain in the post title.  Mine Magazine, a personalized/customized print/online delivery platform from Time, Inc., got decidedly mixed reviews in its early outings.  A few folks liked it much more than they expected to, while others really didn’t—and (as far as I know) there’s no telling yet whether the project will progress, morph, or die.  But there is something important to consider about the attempt itself.  That being:

Everyone recognizes that the whole process of information delivery is changing fast.  Some of the familiar methods taken for granted in the past (print newspapers, for example, and broadcast television) are going to change radically in the future, while  some of the newer formats we rely on today (like the website!) are already losing their effectiveness.  So every smart company is looking for ways to change ahead of the curve, rather than falling behind.

The conventional corporate website is beginning to take on a “vintage” look–and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Careers sector.  What’s the plan at your company for the evolution of web presence?

2010 is just around the corner . . .

Some Really Good Advice That’s Hard to Get (Part 1)

June 16, 2009


advice 1 225x300 Some Really Good Advice Thats Hard to Get (Part 1)

“A ‘wow’ careers site is a lot more than a simple front end to an ATS application,” writes Dr. John Sullivan. “It is a mechanism to communicate and service a population of people that may someday work for your organization. Too many companies take the design of their careers sites too lightly, asking more about what it can do for them versus what it can do for candidates.”

Sullivan is one of the most influential commentators in the HR arena, especially through his articles on ere.net–and in 2007 he wrote an excellent, almost encyclopedic analysis of what goes into a “wow” Career site.

I happened to stumble across a portion of this material by luck, and after tracking down the other parts I assembled the whole into a document that is 22 pages long and contains not only a discussion filled with valuable insights, but also multiple lists that add up to “127 suggested features or capabilities for the corporate careers website of the future.” This is great material, and my goal is to make it more easily accessible.

But first, I have to explain why it wasn’t easy to access in the first place.  As far as I can tell, the material originated in a series of four articles that appeared over three weeks in December of 2007.  All four articles have the same title:  “Your Corporate Website Is Boring Applicants.”  None of them have sub-titles.  Only one of them has a link to the preceding installment.  The articles can be found on ere.net and also at Sullivan’s own website-but neither site compiles the articles or offers links between them.  So, practically speaking, the only way to find them all is to search either site using the word “boring”!  Plus–on ere.net, there are no numbers in the titles to indicate they are part of a series (or which part they are), while on Sullivan’s site, the numbering elements restart with every list instead of running continuously through the whole series.

The previous paragraph is almost a set of instructions for how not to make the most of a good thing.  First of all, December is a month when most people don’t spend a lot of time reading online.  And most won’t go back in January to see what they missed–so it’s arguably not the best time to publish “wow” material.  Second . . . the title doesn’t even hint at the content, either of the series or of the individual articles.

Third, even readers who did tune in to the series when it was appearing in December of 2007 did not have an easy way to go back and review previous parts, or to put the whole thing together for reference.  And that gap is even greater now that they have been archived.  Finally, this ought-to-be-evergreen content is effectively withering away because it’s not even a bit search-engine-friendly.

Not that the articles haven’t been read by some.  The statistics provided on Sullivan’s website show from 3,000 to 4,000 views for each.  But that doesn’t tell how many unique readers there were (I had to access each unit five or six times in the process of doing my own compilation), and of course “view” can mean anything from “spent three seconds on the page accidentally” to “devoured every word with relish.”  Plus, I think the material is much less useful if read in individual articles rather than as a continuous document.

The foregoing may offer an object lesson for best practice in content presentation.  Successful blogs and websites that are designed to draw traffic depend heavily on the type of “pillar content” that lures searchers and is likely to be tweeted, bookmarked, etc.  This material would certainly fit that model if it were properly packaged.  For example:  Lists make especially good pillar content-so just stitch these parts together, title it “127 Ideas for a Wow Careers Site,” and voila!   Or add a serious, search-friendly title and feature it as a report.  Or call it a white paper.

Those are just some approaches for turning random posts into high-value, persistent content.  And worth keeping in mind for any Careers blog or website . . .

Meantime, see my next post for a big-picture view of Sullivan’s material and a set of links for easy navigation.

(Thanks to Laughlin Elkind for the photo of his beach-y advice stand.)

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