Wednesday 21 March 2012

Personnel Today: Social Media at Work


   Just back from delivering a workshop on social media in HR in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been speaking at a webcast on the same subject broadcast earlier this afternoon.  (If I didn’t look jet lagged on the video it’s because it was recorded a bit earlier.)

The archive is available here.

As well as me, the discussion included Matthew Hanwell at Nokia, Ofer Guetta at IBM and Rob Moss, Editor of Personnel Today (chair).


I thought the session went quite well, and we certainly covered a lot of ground – from social media policies to social media in recruiting and other areas of HR to HR’s role in supporting the use of social media in the rest of the business (the social business).

Of course, if the session had been live we’d have been able to talk about some more recent news articles too.  For example, these two separate, but linked, stories which appear at the top of Personnel Today’s news update today:



Firstly, Lack of skilled candidates is biggest recruitment challenge, say employers:

The biggest recruitment barrier that employers faced during the last 12 months was the poor quality of candidates, a new survey reveals.

According to theXpertHR recruitment trends survey, 95% of employers that faced problems in their recruitment processes over the last year cited the low quality of candidates applying for posts as a barrier to recruitment.

Rachel Suff, author of the XpertHR report, commented: "Just because unemployment is at its highest point for many years does not mean that employers can always recruit appropriately skilled individuals.

"The increase in unemployment often means an increase in the number of applications for vacancies, which can make it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff."


Secondly, HR directors believe social media is ineffective for recruitment, survey finds:

More than half (55%) of HR directors believe that social media platforms are an ineffective recruitment tool and a further 15% are unsure of their effectiveness, according to a survey by recruitment firm Robert Half.

HR directors were also found to be pessimistic about social media's potential to change recruitment processes in the future, with 63% saying that they believed profiles on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, will not replace the traditional CV in the future.

Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half, commented: "Social media's popularity has grown dramatically in recent years and, while many organisations have leveraged it as a successful commercial or employer branding tool, its effectiveness in recruitment has not been realised amongst the majority of organisations.

"While professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, will continue to connect business professionals, our research shows that hiring managers still prefer more traditional recruitment methods, such as using online job boards, employee referrals and recruitment consultancies. It seems most employers still believe this to be the most effective approach for screening candidates and assessing competencies."


See the link between these? – I do.  Organisations are finding poor quality candidates because they’re using poor quality approaches.

Social media doesn’t need to result in lots of poor candidates, it can involve things like hosted external talent communities which produce a low number of very high quality candidates.  I suspect most HRDs in Robert Half’s survey don’t understand, and certainly don’t use, these more targeted social approaches.

I like Gareth Jones’ comments on this:

He said: "My experience tells me that there are a lot of in-house recruitment teams using LinkedIn for sourcing. The organisations that were surveyed probably nearly all still rely on traditional methods like just advertising jobs and letting either the consultancy select the shortlist or simply manage the response themselves. I suspect that because of the audience, and because the survey lumped LinkedIn with other social media platforms, the results are not representative."

He added that employers that see social media sites as simply "another place to advertise jobs" will fail in their social media strategy and need to realise that it is actually a way of engaging potential candidates and building brand awareness.


Also see my last blog post providing some of Bersin’s research on the same issue.



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Thursday 15 March 2012

Bersin Impact 2012


   I’ve got a couple of great conferences coming up over the next few months.  First up will be Bersin’s Impact 2012 in St Petersburg, from 10 to 12 April.

I love Bersin’s research, having been introduced to this about five years ago whilst working for an elearning group in the UK when their research was mainly focused on learning too.  Since then, they’ve expanded into other areas of talent management, and into Europe and the UK too.

So for example, I recently met up with Josh at the Lumesse conference, and since them have attended one of their webinars (organised by Linkedin) on UK Recruiting (on their 2011 Talent Acquisition Factbook) too.

There were some great insights in this, including that UK companies spend over £5300 per new hire – over twice as much as US companies.  The cost differential is due, in part, to a difference in sourcing strategies – and that in the UK, companies spend two-thirds rather than one-third of their recruiting budgets on agencies!  And that’s despite the fact that it’s not even particularly effective (see the percentage of jobs filled) and it’s certainly not cost effective!!!.



Sometimes I despair!


Josh is one of the very few people I’ve had guest post on here, and have posted on them and their research quite often too:


However, it seems that I forgot to post on last year’s Impact conference, which I did attend virtually, and was well impressed by.  In fact I remember there being so much great research being presented that I was pretty much tied to my computer screen (and the print screen button too).

So this year, I decided that I needed to be there irl.  If you’ve got a few spare days in mid-April, you might want to try to get along there (I’m told it’s a great time to go to Disneyland as well, and I may even see you there too?).

If you can’t get to the conference, I will be blogging on key insights from the research (learning, recruitment, and other areas from within the talent management agenda too) – meaning lots of posts, I expect.  So follow the action here!



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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Trust and Social Responsibility


   I’ve been reading the recent research on trust completed by CASS on behalf of the CIPD and am posting a half-way review in the hope that Changeboard will include it in their HR carnival focusing on social responsibility coming out tomorrow.

The research focuses on the need for trust with a variety of different constituents including the mission of the organisations, its customers, leaders, line managers and each other (se my recent post on people like us).

The research strikes what is to me a rather naive and apologistic tone, suggesting that employees need to cut senior leaders some slack:

“The crisis in trust many organisations are facing can be repaired, but not if we continue to blame the economy and focus solely on senior leadership. In reality, we all need to recognise that we each have a stake in the future success of the organisations in which we work. That’s according to new research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which found that the crisis in trust predates the economic downturn and is a function of a breakdown of five types of trust relationship within an organisation*. The report’s authors are warning that relying on any single one of these relationships will not suffice to build the climates needed to enable the economy to grow and innovate.”


So for example, we find out that when leaders started to make decisions which revealed lack of ability, integrity, predictability or benevolence it was down to the pressures of the recession (cop-out!) and that employees should avoid having unrealistic expectations and show benevolence towards senior leaders who are trying to do the right thing in the face of adversity (Chairman Mao couldn’t have said it better!!!).

The report therefore suggests that HR needs to ensure that approaches to management and leadership within an organisation do not undermine genuinely good intentions, eg by balancing its stewardship and business partner roles.

I have to admit, I’m not convinced…


Personally, I don’t think the issue is that the right intentions are being diluted by misaligned policies and practices, I think it’s our intentions which are out of kilter with what they need to be.  In particular, I think we need to start treating employees as the prime stakeholders in their organisations.  Until we do this, until we start seeing employees as people and not as chattels I don’t think trust is going to improve.

I also argued this point last week in my post on HR’s need to focus on employees, not just the business.  Or see a variety of my other posts, for example on HCL’s employees first approach.


The reason I think this is important for social responsibility is that the same argument applies to customers and other stakeholders etc.  Businesses aren’t going to restore levels of trust until they truly put customers and society, as well as their employees, at the heart of what they do.  Not just shareholders.  And particularly not just the fat cats at the top.

But it all starts with the employee.  And I liked the way that John Ainley at Aviva described this in the last edition of People Management in an article linked to one on the ICP’s trust research:

“One of the ways in which we want to distinguish Aviva is by being the company that you can trust,” he says. “We’ve all seen examples of banks putting posters up saying ‘You can trust us’ – well, that doesn’t count for much; people need to feel it. And, in order to do that, we have to have the same feeling among the people who work in the business.”


Those feelings are then supported by people focused action:

The “culture of recognition” that Ainley is attempting to instil is based on the idea that we all need to feel significant. “It’s a human need – like food or air,” he says. “If you don’t feel significant, you look to other ways of becoming so; when you see riots, or crime, it’s often people seeking to be significant. So recognition is about recognising the ‘you in you’, getting to know you as a person. If we do that for all our employees, then our belief is that we’ll have a better engaged workforce, and a better engaged workforce means better engaged customers.”

Practical examples of this approach include… Aviva’s talent management process. “In contrast to a number of other organisations who have ‘star’ talent programmes, we have a very clear statement that says ‘If you work for Aviva then you’re talented.’ Everybody in Aviva will have the same conversation about their development, so all our colleagues, wherever they are in the world, are now covered by the same process.” According to Ainley, this has resulted in annual employee engagement scores rising from 64 per cent in 2009 to 68 per cent in 2011, while recognition scores (in response to the statement, ‘At Aviva I am recognised for who I am; what I contribute matters’) have gone from 67 per cent in 2009 to 74 per cent in 2011. “Every company has a process, but the difference is the level of conversation that you have with people,” says Ainley. “We spend a lot of time encouraging our people to have authentic, honest conversations about their development.”


For me, it’s creating this sort of attitude that will lead to increased trust, and more effective social responsibility, not naively hoping employees will start cut their leaders more slack whilst their existing attitudes remain in place.

I’d be interested in your thoughts…


By the way, I’ll be hosting the HR Carnival here on Wednesday 11th April.  Potential theme, given that it’s Easter: change and renewal?  If you’ve got a blog, please send in a recent post by Monday 9th.  If you’ve not got a blog, what better time to start one?



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Friday 9 March 2012

#EQSummit Paul Ekman on emotional intelligence


   I'm at the Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Summit today. The highlight is a session from Dr Paul Ekman (anthropologist, father of the field of emotional research and friend of the Dalai Lama and 'Danny’ Goleman) which I'm live blogging....

First, the knowledge base...

Our emotions are important - and can even override our basic drives - eg disgust of sex can override our sex drive.

Each one is a discreet categorical module with a separate circuitry. So how many are there? Between 6 and 7. Everyone agrees on the top 5: anger fear sadness disgust happiness.

But where is surprise? Surprise is neutral - not positive or negative and can't stay surprised very long - you move onto another emotion.

Ekman also adds Contempt which he has found  around the world and in other primates. And possibly excitement - eg extreme sports participants seem to be after the state of excitement itself. A still unresolved problem.

Another debate is whether facial expressions based on these emotions are a cultural specific body language or universal? Mead suggests they're culturally learned. But this would mean you can't work inane other culture unless you've learnt their facial expressions too...

Where do people learn to translate facial expressions - from the media?, other people or is it genetic. Ekman needed a culturally isolated group of people. He took lots of film but never saw an expression he hadn't seen before. And his interpretation seemed to fit what people were doing.

He then went to New Guinea in 67 to find the last few visually isolated people.

He did two experiments - firstly asking people to stand in front of a camera to see their facial expression in response to a story eg about a smelly dead pig (disgust).

Each emotions has:

- A signal. In anger, the blood goes to your muscles in your hand preparing you to hit somebody. When you're afraid the blood goes to your legs preparing you to run. Anger fear sadness disgust surprise contempt happiness have universal signals. What about envy? It's an emotion but doesn't have a signal. Love isn't an emotion however, it's a state of commitment.

- A trigger theme - a variation on a theme - most of these are learned. Eg things you are afraid of are learnt whilst growing up. They relate to who can show what emotion to whom eg the only beauty contestant is the one who wins.

- Physiology
- Likely actions

There are also display rules and attitudes about each emotion. Eg in some societies any display of anger is taboo.

But what is an emotion? - an automatic appraisal attuned to universal antecedent events (triggers), and a learned trigger eg when you brake whilst driving to avoid an accident. But can be dangerous too eg if you mistake a coiled snake for a rope. So we have a bias to see danger, even when it's not there, as that is safer than the reverse.

Each of these emotions can be found in other species (primates) too. They capable of quick onset and can be brief in duration. They are involuntary and inescapable once they begin.

Other characteristics include:

- Distinctive thoughts memories images

- Distinctive subjective experience

- Refractory period filters information - you'll only be able to remember things which support the emotion.

- Target of emotion unconstrained - you can be angry at anything

- Can be constructive or destructive. We're social animals. If emotions lead to us not talking to each other again that's a destructive emotional episode.

Emotions are different to moods (can last all day vs fleeting, can't always be linked to a trigger even after an event) / traits (eg someone who has anger high in their response hierarchy will after be angry, lasting for years) / disorders

Happiness - there are 5 sensory pleasures - amusement, relief, contentment, wonder, bliss. Ekman suggests the terms happiness should be banished from the English language. Are you amused or relieved? - totally different (as different as fear and ager).

And rejoicing, altruistic joy, fiery (when you express yourself to the maximum), nachos (pride in your offspring), schadenfreude (just because we don't have an English name for these doesn't mean we don't feel them).

Next, onto the skills... (this is what I'm really looking forward to as I use some of Ekman's tests in my sessions on emotional intelligence).

- Aware of other peoples emotions (online training tools include Micro Expression Training Tool - METT)
- Using information constructively (online tools available - RETT)
- Impulse awareness through meditation or exercises
- Behavioural awareness (through the capacity to observe yourself so you never learn your head).

METT came about when working with patients liable to commit suicide and with this guy, Kato Kaelin who was angry with Marcia Clarke:

Micro expressions can be either deliberately concealed or unconscious.

A final point: I liked Ekman's confidence in talking about what he believes but doesn't have any evidence for (take note, HR).

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Monday 5 March 2012

HCI Summit: employees and the business


   I’m back at the HCI Summit in Arizona, virtually again – engaged by the content though not quite so much by the experience as when I last managed to attend there irl.

The best sessions for me from the first day were the early ones – and (see the tweet stream) for me, these were the most thought provoking too.

Because we started with Doug Conant, former CEO at Campbell Soup talking about touchpoints – those back-to-back meetings, endless emails and chance encounters in the hallway which most people feel keep them from doing their ‘real work’.  But Doug suggests these are often overlooked opportunities to expand our influence and deliver measurable better results.

At Campbell’s he made the best use of these touchpoint opportunities through various activities, including sending 10-20 personal thankyou cards per day (30,000 of them during his tenure):


Very nice, very human.

Which is why I disagreed with Michael Gregoire, CEO at Taleo, in his observation that HR is about managing business, not employees.  Not at Campbell Soup it’s not (wasn’t).  There, talent management is about inspiring each individual in each opportunity a leader has.  And it works…


It’s not not about the business.  But it’s not not about employees either.  I’ll say again: ignoring employees is the problem – it’s not the solution.



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Friday 2 March 2012

HR Analytics – HCI Talent Strategy and Workforce Planning conference


   As well as the books, I’ve been re-reviewing the Human Capital Institute’s recent Talent Strategy and Workforce Planning conference (which I’ve also already posted on here).  Although this was mainly focused on, as the name suggests, talent strategy and workforce planning, it included a lot of broader stuff on analytics too.

I particularly liked SuccessFactors’ description of their analytics process, eg this phrase: “Unless an indicator is aligned with either HR or
corporate strategy, it is unlikely to be valued by management.”

The need is therefore to start with an understanding of strategy (what matters), and measurement (how are we doing), before undertaking analytics about the issue.


Ie, for me at least, it’s the development of the people management strategy and its measures which triggers questions about organisational working which provides a context for analytics.

That’s why my HR metrics workshop focus mainly on HR strategy mapping and scorecarding as a means to describe people strategy before going on to focus on the use of analytics tools.

It’s this that gives you the focus on what you need to be doing analytics on, enabling you to produce compelling analytics which truly support more effective decision making – eg I particularly liked the presentation by Conagra on their analytics and reporting approach:


The danger if you don’t do this, as SF point out is that you just end up drowning in data:


Another great HCI conference – and hopefully I’ll be able to do some posting from the HCI’s Annual Summit next week…


Also see:




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Thursday 1 March 2012

HR Analytics – Transformative HR


You may have thought from my last post that I’ve got quite worked up about ‘Calculating Success’.  Well I haven’t really, but I am feeling quite irate at John Boudreau’s latest, ‘Transformative HR’.

First of all: “Talent management is not an imprecise art form.  Rather, it is a rigorous science based on solid numbers.”

It’s complete nonsense of course, and I don’t understand how Boudreau gets away with it.

He makes the comment in particular relation to a case study of Deutsche Telekom introducing job families to support succession management.  Let’s check the details shall we:

  • Job families – a common taxonomy of 60 job families with a number of subfamilies.  For example HR was a job family with subfamilies such as HR Development and HR Business Partner.  OK, so if I’m an HRBP this means I’m going to be doing exactly the same job as every other business partner in an organisation with 260,000 people working in 50 countries.  I doubt it.
  • Competency models – were tailored to local business units through the use of additional competencies – so not quite an apples to apples comparison is it then?
  • Performance ratings and readiness categories – based upon perfect assessments in every case no doubt?  What rot.  Unless DT managers are different to just about every organisation I’ve ever been involved in the readiness assessments in particular will be little better than finger in the air estimates.  Not the sort of stuff that informs rigorous science I’m afraid.


I’m not saying it’s not a good example of an analytics based approach, I sort of think it is – better than most of the examples in Calculating Success anyway.  But a rigorous science???!!!  I think not.

Actually, what makes it an interesting and useful case study is the creativity of the approach (and there’s no evidence that the creativity has been generated through learnings from using analytics either) eg the way that readiness is judged for vertical or horizontal movement.


Secondly: the focus on pivotal talent.  This is a complete red herring.  It’s all value for money stuff.  OK, if nothing is changing it makes sense to invest more in sweepers than it does the Mickey Mouse(s – you’ve heard the joke lots of times by now, right – there’s only ever one Mickey Mouse) because the sweepers are more pivotal – ie a certain investment can produce a bigger shift in performance than it can with the MM(s).  But what organisation isn’t changing these days?  A much better focus is on the organisational strategy.  If this requires change in the role of either the MM(s) or the sweepers, then these are the most important group/s.  Importance just doesn’t make sense on its own, it all depends upon what the organisation is trying to do.

Pivotness is bad logic and it leads to bad decisions eg “An organisation might do well to acquire a 90th percentile performer in the R&D scientist role and be satisfied with a 50th percentile performer in the controller role.”   It’s the sort of logic that Beatty uses too and it’s just wrong.  You don’t necessarily want to pay over the odds in all these positions but that’s only a bother if pay is the only element in your employee offer (in which case you’re definitely not doing transformative HR).  You still want the best person you can get in all your different roles.  Deliberately seeking out or even just being satisfied with anything less than this is just nuts.


Boudreau’s favourite question, “Where would improving something make the biggest difference to success?” results in then same, value for money results.  You can get benefits out of this, and particularly out of making the improvements.  But you’ll find greater benefits in asking “What do we need to improve to support our strategy?” (adding value) or even “How could we develop new capabilities which would enable us to set new strategic objectives?”.


Other than these things, the book is actually very similar to Calculating Success, including some of the same case studies (particularly IBM and RBS) which you could take to indicate this isn’t yet that popular an area, or that most organisations have a more nuanced approach to the use of analytics.

There are a couple of bright points – I love the example of Shanda Games and its 100 point, gamified grading system which I first came across in Boudreau’s presentation at HR Technology North America last year, and still rave about.

In the book, Boudreau also writes about Shanda providing each employee with a virtual city.  Employees are awarded virtual objects for completing tasks or projects and these can be used to decorate their cities.  Each city owner is also able to decide on what their city’s weather for the day is going to be, and Shanda intends to measure the mood of the organisation by scanning how nice the weather is each day – nothing to do with analytics though (although presumably Shanda could do an analysis on the number of virtual clouds?).

And there’s a good chapter on risk management too.  I do quite a bit of work in this area myself but I’ve never used anything like Boudreau’s inverse heat map which I think is a really good idea.

So do read the book, but keep that pinch of salt close by as you do.


Also see my criticism of Beyond HR.  (I never got around to reviewing Retoooling HR but I didn’t like this much either.)


And: The Five Most Important HR Analytics



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