Friday, 28 December 2012

HR Talks

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 22.11.49.png  I don't want you to think that I didn't enjoy the conference by the way - most of my criticisms are down to the limitations of traditional events.
I mean people complain about meetings but what about the wasted time listening to unprepared speakers giving poor presentations on boring case studies with no interactivity and in ignorance of the twitter stream! - it's an absolute disgrace.
It's one reason I'm so keen on the unconferences we run within ConnectingHR.
Another interesting event is being piloted next year by HR Magazine.
Their HR Talks will have speakers presenting for no more than 10 minutes each and then having a discussion with the audience.
At the end of each session the speaker has to give people three essential pieces of advice.  The 50 top pieces of advice will be given out to delegates at the end of the day.
It should be much more engaging and interactive than traditional events, and therefore I'll bet on it being much more valuable too.
Speakers include:
  • Darren Hockaday, HR director, London Overground Rail Operations - employee engagement and customer services
  • Amanda Menahem, HR director, Hastings Direct - talent strategy
  • Jayne Billam, director of HR, University of Lincoln & Andrew Walsh, head of resources, The Pensions Trust - performance management and reward
  • David Smith, group HR and communications director, LV= - Web 3.0 recruitment technology
  • Sarah Perkins, UK healthy living manager, American Express - data for health and wellbeing
  • Janet Burr, HR director, Thames Water & Valerie Hughes D’Aeth, group HR director, Amey - change management
  • Simon Brown, head of learning transformation and group learning, Lloyds Banking Group & Paul McGhee, leadership and development manager, City of Edinburgh Council - innovative, value-added L&D
  • Dr Benjamin Reid, head of the creative industries programme at The Work Foundation and Professor Adrian Furnham of the department of psychology at University College London - innovation and creativity
  • Fiona Deal, executive director corporate services, AmicusHorizon & Sam Owens, HR manager, Merlin Entertainments Group - employee engagement
  • Catherine Griffiths, HR business partner, organisation strategy, Birmingham City Council - technology
  • Wendy Cartwright, director of human resources, London 2012; Gillian Hibberd, strategic director (resources and business transformation) Buckinghamshire County Council & Catherine Devitt, director of people and organisation - HR excellence.
I'm going to be going along, so if you want to feed questions into the event you can add them as comments here.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

How can Academic Research help Practice?


academic research.jpg  One of the sessions at Monday's Engage for Success conference focused on the links between academia and practitioners.  Or rather I thought it was going to do so.  Actually, it provided three different academic inputs on different aspects of engagement (the definition, SMEs and MNCs) but didn't really address the linkage between academics and practitioners, which I do think needs to be addressed.  So...

Actually I guess the issue was addressed to an extent, but - even to that limited extent - only from the perspective of the way academic research needs to be informed by what's of interest to practitioners.  Which yes, it does.

But what about the other way around?  That's the biggest question to me - how does practice get informed by academia?

I worry about how limited HR's knowledge and understanding of academic research and insight often is.  (And how the word 'academic' is used as a criticism of new insight.)

It's why I struggle when its suggested that unknown academics are our most influential.

So one of the things the CIPD's Peter Cheese talked about later on in th was Dan Pink's book Drive.  The CIPD are going to run some masterclasses on this, which is great.  But actually the book was published in 2009, written in 2008, and based on research conducted over the previous couple of decades.  We've got to get both better and quicker at this.

To me, although both academics and practitioners play a part, it's the groups that fit between these two which are probably going to be most important in closing the gap - this includes consultants and suppliers, analysts who help practitioners navigate that market, and bloggers and tweeters and obviously more traditional journalists too.

I think a session with practitioners, academics and these other groups as well would have been a whole lot more entertaining, and more insightful as well.


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Monday, 17 December 2012

#E4S case studies - BT, Capital One...


DSCN4993   As well as hearing from academics, we’ve got a couple of sessions from practitioners today. In fact, we’ve also got a session on ‘how can academic research help practice?’, which I’m really looking forward to, later on today.

But after a couple of these I was beginning to worry whether these case study sessions were going to live up to the challenge that E4S provides and David Guest described earlier - if there’s been such as huge management cock-up as there certainly has, we don’t get out of it by a slight shift in management as usual.


As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry as there were a couple of impressive case studies:

Firstly, BT, which has an interesting approach which was presented well by their head of engagement, Sharon Darwent.

But I still think their approach fits too much within existing management paradigms.  Eg Sharon was talking about how data obsessed their people are and therefore emphasised the need for her to provide data. So she took us through more of the data from the ‘Nailing the Evidence’ report and some of the key data points from within BT too. Both of these are powerful. In BT in particular Sharon is able to show that the company’s 34% disengagement costs them £2 bn in salaries. This really got the accountants’ attention.

Yes, but does approaching engagement from an accountant’s perspective ever work? Or do we need to change the way many accountants think? (see for example this post on Mohan Pai’s move from Finance to HR.) I think it’s this accountancy mentality that often gets in the way of engagement and that providing data can sometimes add to the problem rather than provide the answer. An example is BT’s policy of giving feedback on their team’s engagement levels to every manager of more than 50 people. That certainly shows how important the company believes engagement to be, but I believe it can also put more focus on the transactional vs transformational approach to engagement.

I was also bemused that the presentation didn’t include anything about BT’s journey to organisational health which to me provides the most important context for engagement within that company currently.

Having said all this, it’s an impressive case study, and does show some signs of moving to a more human approach as well – eg in that half of BT’s engagement survey questions are now qualitative so that they don’t lead peoples’ responses.


However, I thought a rather better demonstration of the transformational opportunity for engagement was provided by Karen Bowes at Capital One. That’s partly just because of the improvement in engagement levels they’ve see there – see the graph at the top of this post. (And OK, I realise it must have been relatively easy to improvement engagement from their previous level of 26% particularly as these were exceptionally low as they followed a downsizing of the organisation from 2,500 to 1,000 employees following the failure of their earlier business strategy.  But building this up to 83% is highly impressive regardless of the low start.)

But I also thought Capital One’s approach demonstrated what I was suggesting is important before - ie a sound logical framework, executed with emotional understanding.

The thing which was most important for Capital One was what E4S define as a strategic narrative (one of the four enablers). This is articulated in the company’s new vision, ‘Let’s Make Lives Better’ which come from the heart of their CEO. For employees, the company has committed to ‘dare to be the best’. Making this real has involved admitting they’ve had a problem in the past (a bit like being an alcoholic) which has included assuming that call centre staff, particularly in an outsourced environment, don’t care - they now realise they got that wrong.

The second priority has been engaging leaders and managers first (E4S’ second enabler) and the third has been sorting the basics eg IT and free milk???

Capital One have got data too, but it’s the qualitative kind that Karen spent most time on - the fact that they’re now the UK’s second highest Great Place to Work - and this quote:


“Capital One is part of my life, not just a pace I work. I love it and it’s made me a better person.”


OK, we can’t expect everyone to engage like this but we’d all benefit if we recruit people who can, and then provide the environment in which they can do so.


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#E4S David Guest on Engagement (why would employees want to be engaged?)


   I’m at another Engage for Success conference today (my last conference this year, yay!), this time for one organised by Katie Truss at the University of Kent at Canterbury.  There’s a great speaker list and I'm just here as an attendee / blogger so there should be plenty of posting today.

The first input has been from David Guest at King’s.  I try not to post on the same academic more than once (though I do seem to mention a select few including Dave Ulrich, Peter Cappelli and John Boudreau much more frequently) but I do like David Guest’s work so am going to post on his inputs again.

David’s perspective on engagement is that this is generally the same as his wider focus on high commitment HRM (you can see another one of the slides he showed today at the bottom of my previous post on his insights.)  I’m not sure this worked for everyone here – eg there’s been a bit of tweeting about a lack of humanity in his approach, linked to one of the key E4S beliefs that we’re all people, not a human resource’.

I’m a big believer in the need for a logical framework to underpin the way that we manage our people, so I tend to respond more positively to David’s approach (thought I’d reafirim that this then needs executing in an emotionally rich way.)

I also like David’s key premise that there’s no reason why employees should want to be engaged.  In particular some people only work for instrumental reasons – they get their engagement elsewhere.  We therefore have to earn an engaged response.  Lack of engagement is therefore an enormous management failure (see my post on ‘Engagement or Entwistle’ - I wonder if a high proportion of fat cat CEOs are part of David’s instrumentalists group, which might be one reason for the failure?)

David suggested these 12 actions we can take to earn engagement (so a G12 vs Gallup’s Q12):


That strikes me as a fairly sound list.

Probably the one thing I’d add to it, which I think it particularly important for engagement, rather than just generic HRM, is a sense of purpose – the answer to the question ‘engagement to what?’.

Anything you’d add to it?


We’ve got a presentation from Harry Donaldson from the GMB talking about ‘what’s in it for the workers’ so I may come back to this topic again later on.


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Friday, 14 December 2012

People Sourcing Certification Programme


   I’ve had a long standing interest in the field of sourcing (finding people who might be a good fit in your organisation / role vs recruiting – trying to get these same, but unknown people to send you their CVs), really ever since we developed the idea into an approach we called head farming when I was an HR Director at Ernst & Young.

Though head farming was horribly expensive, social media makes the same sorts of approaches straight forward, eg this case study from Coca Cola, but still requires a good level of skill.

And I’ve sort of thought I know quite a bit of what I need to in this area (or quite a bit of what you need to, since I’m not actually a sourcer or recruiter, but I still want to understand it to show you what you’re missing out on.  And actually I still use the approaches in various other applications – eg finding business prospects.  I’d almost suggest it’s becoming a core skill that everyone should be taught at school in today’s networked world.)

That’s until I tried Irina Shamaeva’s international people sourcing contest a couple of month’s ago.  And…  err…  well, I realised I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did (basically, I didn’t have a clue.)

So, I’m currently setting out doing some initial self-study (I might post more about this in early January) and will be attending Irina’s People Sourcing Certification Program on, and following on from, 29 January.

Again, I’ll give you a taste of what I’m learning around then, but if you really want to understand sourcing, and how to do it, why not take the programme too?


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Monday, 10 December 2012

Guest Post: 7 Essentials for the Virtual Recruiter

800px-STS-131_Training_Space_Vehicle_Mock-up_Facility_3.jpg  Finding, identifying and employing skilled workers is one of the most overwhelming challenges organisations are faced with today.

Competition for eligible individuals is continually growing, and thus resulting in confined pools of talent and more struggles for available applicants. In the meantime, resources of HR departments are drained, and further complicate the task of finding, identifying and recruiting highly qualified candidates.

Here are seven essential tools which can assist virtual recruiters in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.

1. Recruiting Infrastructure

As a virtual recruiting contractor working from home, you need to have office space fully equipped with basic recruiting needs; a computer, high–speed internet connection, a professional email address, and a multifunctional scanner with faxing capabilities.

2. Applicant Tracking System

A virtual recruiting contractor also requires an applicant tracking system, which can actively manage full cycle recruitment. SendOuts ProSmartRecruitersChameleon IMaxhireBrightMove, andZoho are amongst the leading applicant tracking systems online. Many of these systems are free to use, whilst others give members a 30 day free trial.

3. Skype

Skype has become the most used and popular video chat application. It is an easy–to–use tool that is available on computers, TV, and even mobile phones to make voice and video communication possible. In addition it can be a great alternative to spending on a long distance phone plan as you can use it to interview applicants virtually.

4. Social Recruiting Tools

With the advent of cloud applications and social media networks, there are some great tools out there that can address the labour–intensive process involved in identifying and hiring suitable employees.

Some of the new guard of socially driven recruitment tools are; Resumator - a tool designed to help hiring managers keep real–time tabs on their job listings; RemarkableHire - a new cloud–based, talent–sourcing platform; and InternMatch - a recruiting tool exclusively focused on part–time and/or unpaid internships. Other useful social recruiting tools include: LinkedIn Talent ProBranchOut,Social Mention and many others.

5. Industry Research Tool

ZoomInfo – a site that compiles data on companies as well as potential passive candidates is among the top and most recognised industry research tools for virtual hiring contractors. Linkedin and other social networking websites are advantageous for people who use them for both networking and recruiting.

6. Screen Capture Tools for Recruiting

Tools such as Contact CaptureEvernoteGreenshotScreenshot Captor, and Zscreen are great tools that can help virtual recruiters manage full cycle recruitment both on and offline.

7. Recruiting Productivity Tools

Finally, tools like Focus BoosterGistAny MeetingFefoo, and RecruitAlliance are all recruiting productivity tools designed with convenient platforms to help you manage your hiring tasks from the comfort of your own office space.

About the author

This article was written by Joe Linford from Office Genie, the UK based office space search engine.

Photo credit: NASA/James Blair

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

#SympEventsTech – Mobile Learning and ensuring the capability of the learner


   I spent some of yesterday morning at another of Symposium Event’s conferences.  The most interesting session for me, just because of my own interests, was Andy Wooler’s one on mobile learning.

Andy quoted his colleague, John McClements, at Hitachi Data Systems Academy, defining mobile learning as:

  • Chunks of useful information
  • Delivered at time/place of need
  • Supporting performance
  • Easily accessible through many devices
  • Promoting learning at user's convenience
  • Self-paced learning
  • Key messages: alerts, updates, news
  • Rapid development and deployment.


Out of these, Andy spent most time on the importance of performance support, eg in the picture above, in sustaining competency levels post a training event.  This is partly about shifting training from an event to a process.  But it’s also about supporting learning in a way that’s going to lead to better retention of new knowledge or skills.

I thought this was interesting given my previous post on about shifting recruitment to focus on better generation of new capability through emphasising quality of hire.  It’s the same thing here.  Instead of worrying about the quality of training, we need to shift our focus to the competencies we’re creating, and sustaining – in a ever changing work environment.

I’ve often thought that this is one of the key benefits of social learning ie it’s not just that most people learn most things more easily in a social setting, it’s that when people have learned something with others, particularly if these are the people they’re then working with, it’s more likely that learning will be reviewed and revised – either because the people will make reference to it, or just because the people are there it’s going to act as a trigger to recollect the initial social learning activity.

So instead of the Ebbinghaus / Buzan forgetting curve, in which competency slopes off and fairly quickly pretty much disappears, competency is retained and potentially even further enhanced, as in Andy’s picture above.


If you’d like to know more, you may be interested in the session on enabling more effective Learning & Development that I run for Symposium.  Our next sessions are on:

  • 27 February 2013 – London
  • 1 March 2013 – Birmingham
  • 14 Mar 2013 – Manchester


This post is sponsored by Symposium Training, the training and workshops brand of Black and White Trading Ltd and one of the UK’s leading independent training providers for HR and related professions. With over 90 events a year, our conferences and seminars target delegates with interests in:
- HR Strategy & Practice
- Recruitment
- Health & Safety, Employee Well-being
- Pay & Benefits
- Employment Law
- Training & Development
- Diversity & Equality
- Employee Relations.

Symposium conferences typically feature 8-12 expert speakers per day, including professionals with first hand experience, academics, industry observers and other experts. Events generally provide strategic analysis of an issue and explore practical solutions for the workplace.

Also see HRreview - a news and information resource for human resources and related professionals. Updated news items are posted daily and there are regular updates to the features and analysis section, looking in depth at topical HR issues. HRreview’s website is supported by a weekly email newsletter (please register to subscribe).

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

iCIMS - Technology for Induction - and ensuring Quality of Hire


Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 06.42.38.png  There’s been quite a bit of reporting in both traditional and social media recently about improving quality of hire.  That’s great to see - it’s something recruiters should be focusing on much more than they do (rather than just recruitment time and cost).


There are two issues I think recruiters, and other HR professionals, need to understand in order to get to grips with this more important objective / metric.


The first thing is that quality isn’t just about the skills / competencies / capabilities that someone is selected with.  Instead, we need to focus on how well a new joiner will be doing in their jobs someway - eg 100 days or  6 months - into their jobs or even their careers (one of my clients has recently restated its quality of hire metric as the proportion of new hires that get taken on for the company’s high potential programme).  It’s much more important that someone can get to this future level of performance, and do so quickly, smoothly and cost efficiently, than that they had the required capabilities when they came in.


The second thing is that performance is always contextual.  Eventual performance is probably always as much about what we do with the candidate as anything internal to them.  The high first year turnover experienced in many, many organisations isn’t usually down to poor selection, it’s about everything else that’s going on instead.


These areas include effective organisation and job design; alignment of the new hire with the organisation’s EVP; supportive manager and colleagues; and professional management from HR.  But the topmost requirement - the thing which most often makes the difference between great and mediocre performance, as well as complete failure - is effective onboarding / induction.


And as is often the case, the key enabler for effective onboarding is effective technology.  And one very good example of effective onboarding / induction technology is the product provided by this blog’s sponsor, iCIMS.


This system helps ensure employees are productive as quickly as possible - having access to all the information they need, and being able to provide their own data online.  Perhaps less intuitively, iCIMS are also seeing positive impacts on their client’s engagement scores and retention rates as well.


The product also provides a management dashboard which helps HR teams co-ordinate other departments to ensure onboarding is completed effectively, and in the most efficient way.


It’s a great tool in ensuring quality of hire is consistently high - you may want to take a look?



This post is sponsored by iCIMS.


iCIMS is the leading provider of talent acquisition software for growing businesses. Through the implementation of easy-to-use, web-based solutions, the iCIMS Talent Platform helps organisations manage everything from sourcing, to recruitment, to induction all within one streamlined application.


Key features of the Onboard product include:


  • New Hire Onboarding Portal: Immerse new hires in corporate policies and culture with a personalised New Hire Onboarding Portal. This portal is uniquely tailored to your organisation and may include content such as a welcome message from the CEO, social activity information, and insights into current projects.
  • Communication Center: Create messaging that reflects your brand by generating a complete library of onboarding correspondence. Engage employees with consistent communications regarding company goals and how they can help achieve them.
  • iForms Library: Automate induction with more than 20 universal forms and 70+ specific to the US, UK, and Canada. Send new-hire packets electronically and capture electronic signatures.
  • Induction Reports: Measure global metrics on HR productivity and key performance benchmarks. Run reports to gather data on induction by location, workflow, iForm completion, and more.
  • Access Levels: Manage departmental tasks with access levels that streamline process inside the platform.
  • Reporting Center: Create custom searches and reports, while also gaining access to a set of standard reports that help determine induction programme effectiveness, such as turnover.



Check out a free walk-through of the iCIMS system or make contact at +44 (0) 118 9000 706 or


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Monday, 3 December 2012

Speaking at SHRM Annual Conference


   I’ll  also be speaking about social media at SHRM’s annual conference in Chicago next Summer.  Actually, my session won’t just be about social media, but all of the various elements of an organisation that help us develop its social capability.  Social media is the newest of these enablers, and in some situations it’s likely to be the most important, but many of the other tools we have at our disposal have the potential to be even more impactful.

My proposal was actually a response to reading the tweets and blog posts about Malcolm Gladwell’s session in Atlanta last year.  I love Gladwell’s thinking, but I didn’t think he linked his inputs to the activities HR already understands, or the social technologies with which it is becoming increasingly comfortable.  So I wasn’t sure that HR practitioners would be able to maximise the opportunities that social network design provides.

So I wrote:

“Malcolm Gladwell has introduced SHRM attendees to the importance of networks and social organisations as opposed to hierarchies. Many are now conversant with social media. But these are just a couple of the many tools available to HR to redefine its focus.

The point of performance in most organisations has for a long while been the team. And increasingly, this focus is being supplemented by the increasing importance of communities and networks too. So why is it that most of what we do in HR focuses on individual – their engagement and capability etc, and on whole organisations – structure and processes etc. Why don’t we focus more on the white space between these levels – the relationships between our people?

These relationships are important. The value of relationships, or social capital, potentially provides the largest and most untapped source of competitive advantage within a resource based strategy (which is also increasingly being seen as the main opportunity for competitive success as opposed to strategic positioning or the use of core competencies).

Increasingly, organisations are attempting to influence their peoples’ relationships, mostly through the use of social media and networking (enterprise 2.0). These efforts are typically led by IT. However, the success of these tools depends on effective behaviour and cultural change and hence this really falls within HR’s remit. In addition, many more traditional tools from HR’s kitbag can be used to develop social relationships. These include team based HR activities, facilitation, organisation development, community focused leadership development, workplace design etc.

The key need is not simply to use all the potential tools but to shift HR’s focus onto this new agenda – using social networks and technologies to enable social capital – this is the New HR.”


And I’m on:


I hope I’ll get to see you there!


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CIPD Social Media session

Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 12.17.39.png  I wasn't able to get up to the CIPD conference in Manchester his year as I was chairing the T-E-N event in London that I've just posted on and also delivering a keynote and delivering a workshop at HR Norge in Tonsberg, Norway.
This keynote was on HR, social media and the social business, which I've been speaking about in a few other sessions too, e.g. at the Middle East Summit in Dubai, at HR Performance, and last week at a session organised by CIPD Central London.  This attracted about 50 people with another 15 unfortunately turned away.  Then today, the CIPD in Wimbledon have their HR and social media conference.  It looks as if things on this front are picking up finally!
You'll find lots of information on HR and social media on this blog, and social business on my other one, so the only thing I'm going to include for my CIPD session is some of the tweets - these will give you an idea of what I covered...

CIPD Social Media for HR (Storify)

If you do want to know more, I'll be delivering the same session for CIPD Central London again this Spring.
Or come to this training session I'm doing with Symposium.

Also see the CIPD"s report, 'Harnessing social media for organisational effectiveness', and associated comments.

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Innovation vs efficiency

Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 10.17.03.png  I try to post on most of the conference I attend, but sometimes struggle to get as much time as I'd like.  One that I've missed posting on was T-E-N's session on HR Innovation for HR Excellence which I chaired recently.

The conference was run without press attendance to encourage authentic contribution so I can't post on the proceedings, but I would like to comment on the key topics of the agends, which were:


My key question for this last topic was how innovative do we really want to be.  There is a fairly prevalent view around that HR is just about doing basic things well (e.g. this post).  In contrast, my own perspective is that there is a huge need for new thinking.

I thought it was interesting that the CIPD annual conference which was taking place at the same time was also reviewing the same topic, with Gary Hamel suggesting that 'management is a busted flush'.   I'm on his side on this debate.

So whilst it's great to see the CIPD doing new research on HR and innovation...

"Competing in a global economy in difficult times requires new ways of thinking and doing. It’s easy to think of innovation as invention, challenging product development and refinement. However, in reality a great deal of innovation is about rethinking and reorganising systems, processes and structures. It’s about changing the way people work together and how work is performedand organised."


… it be even better to see them focusing more deeply on innovation within HR.


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