Thursday 28 February 2013

The Talent Management Summit 2013 - Opportunity to Win!


Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 10.59.42.png  OK, time to share a key event later in the year with you.

You may remember that I've acted as social media partner for the Economist's Talent Management Summit for the last two years.  Well, this year I am, or at least my blog is, going to be supporting it again.

The Summit is in London on May 21st.  Now unfortunately I'm going to be in Asia for most of the Summer and am going to miss this event.  This means I need you!

I need two senior, internal HR practitioners to attend the event - free - and blog for me!  That's at least one post each and preferably two, or more.  It's a great event, so that shouldn't be difficult.  Check out these posts I've made in previous years to get an idea of the level of content!:






Sessions this year include:

  • Leading tomorrow’s global talent business - Gina Qiao, Senior Vice-president, Human Resources, Lenovo
  • The war for talent - Deborah Baker, Director for People, Sky; Dean Royles, Director, NHS Employers
  • Making analytics work for your business
  • The future of work, and how we’ll see it differently - Naomi Stanford, Organisational Design Director, NBBJ
  • Building tomorrow's winning team - Arjen Vermazen, Senior Vice-president, HR and Procurement, Astellas Pharma Europe; James Watts, Vice-president of HR and Chief People Officer, KFC UK and Ireland
  • COMPETING IN THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY - and why agility will matter - Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jorden, Senior Vice-president, Global Learning Strategies, Catalyst Europe


Tickets generally cost £1,314 - so you'll also be getting a great deal.


This year's summit focuses on creating a mobile, agile workforce, and if you want to attend the event, I need some suggestions on doing this from you!

How do you think we should be creating a mobile, agile workforce, or how are you attempting to do this in your own organisation?

Email me a couple of paragraphs (or if you wish, something else, e.g. a video), and I'll publish your inputs at the end of March.  I will then, together with anyone who wants to add their comments to this post, select a winner who will then get to attend the summit, and blog again from there.  Clear?

I'll do the same thing again for a second ticket during April.


For more details, check out


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Tuesday 26 February 2013

Recruitment and the UK Candidate Experience

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 07.53.10.png   I commented yesterday that the key issue occupying peoples' minds in the summary session at CERN on Friday seemed to the candidate experience.

Well today it's the UK Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs).  I can't go unfortunately, though I would have loved to have done so if I could, having attended the first US awards at HR Technology in Las Vegas in 2011, and with my own focus on competitive advantage through the workforce, which easily extends to the potential workforce (i.e. recruitment candidates) too.

Anyway, having talked to Jeremy Tipper (who is behind the UK awards) at CERN on Friday, it's fairly clear that the issues in the UK are similar to those in the US, and still largely revolve around closing the perceived application black hole.

And with CandE applicants receiving an average of 85 applicants for every job opening (US / US centric data)*, and with about 60% of candidates that apply being unqualified, organisations are clearly experiencing a communication challenge.

But it's still not god news that 51% of candidates suggest they don't get an update on their status when they're rejected, and that for the bulk of those who do, they learn this from an anonymous, 'do not reply' email address providing standard template information without any specific, individual feedback.

Now the CandE report does suggest that the 'theoretical' black hole may be closing, at least in award applicants, and there clearly some great examples around, e.g. Colin Minto showed us some very positive Mystery Applicant scores for G4S at CERN on Friday:


Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 11.31.12.png


However, I'd suggest that in general, we've still got a long way to go.

And there are a whole range of rather dubious or at least one-sided practices going on, for example with 73% of employers asking general screening questions to identify non-qualified job seekers but only 22% exiting the job seeker at that point vs allowing them to waste their time completing the rest of the application and rejecting them at the end.

So it's a shame that there were only 18 entries for the awards in the UK.  Jeremy puts this down to the extent of RPO deals in the UK, with recruitment vendors doing a lot of candidate surveying already.  I worry it's more that candidate experience still gets less attention over here.

And whilst recruitment processes could obviously do with some improvement, especially from the candidate perspective, it's providing more clarity about the organisation, it's role and what it's after that' still the most important requirement for me.  We just need to do a much better job at helping potential candidates self-select whether it's worth applying for a job in a particular organisation at all.


* Similarly, GradWeb's findings being presented at the 2013 Graduate Recruitment and Development Forum today suggest a graduate application to hire ratio in the UK of 77:1.  Seriously shocking and another signal that we all need to do something about the recruitment experience we provide.

I also like and agree with this comment from Bill Boorman, one of the judges of the UK CandEs:

"A headline in a newspaper today announced that over 1,700 people applied for 8 jobs at a branch of Costa Coffee in Nottingham. How can those applicants have any kind of experience, except a bad one. These are for jobs just above minimum wage. Surely there was a better way of attracting applicants, (like asking for referrals), than posting ads and getting flooded. Companies need to be doing more than talking about candidate experience. All of these applicants in Nottingham could well be local and customers of Costa. Don’t treat them well and they will be looking for their nearest Starbucks, and that would prove very costly."


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Monday 25 February 2013

CRSS2013 - Recruitment and Sourcing from CERN

photo(2).JPG  Well, as expected, we all had a fantastic day at CERN on Friday.  So well done again to James Purvis and his team.


Here are some of the key themes - for me at least - which I used for my summary:


1.   Strategy and technology


We heard about some great case studies showing the extent of change underway in recruitment.  These aren’t just about technology, even though this is the driver behind them all - despite Robert Cailliau’s concerns!


However although we shouldn’t overlook the possibilities of emergent benefits, the technologies shouldn’t be our focus.  I liked James’ comment that recruitment innovation is more about mindset than technology.  Also Colin Minto from G4S remarked that their finding was despite the vendors’ pitches, technology seldom does everything you want, so there is still often the need to innovate your own approaches and systems.  And in fact it’s interesting that there was much less focus on the systems than there was in the previous conference - perhaps echoing this increasing focus on the strategy which technology is used to support.


Instead, we need to focus on what’s most important, translating this into a clear EVP (‘your Higgs field for attracting talent’) and employer brand.  I particularly liked some of the ways Connie Gibney and Linkedin are doing this, eg the ‘Life@Linkedin’ onboarding programme, the ‘inday’ day out once per month to focus on a particular area eg career development, ‘inexchange’ trying a job in another country, and ‘inlearn’ online learning.


Measurement has a role here too.  There was a lot of support in the room for the ‘In god we trust but everyone else bring data’ approach which Katie McNab from PepsiCo said was part of the culture there.  But there was quite a bit of support in the twitter stream for my suggestion that in some areas of recruiting at least, there is still room for good (calibrated) intuition.




2.   A need for tailoring - niche and bulk


I put this in because I couldn’t find much similarity between the case studies, so I guess what they really showed is that you get the strategy piece right, every example is different - tailored according to the organisation, sector, context, type of role etc.  The big need which came out to me was probably the one to focus on either niche roles or bulk recruiting.  Eg the smart, social approaches used by CERN for their Java systems analysts aren’t going to right for G4S and their 250,000 security guards etc.


The main difference? - for bulk recruitment our focus has to be on attracting large numbers of candidates efficiently.  For the niche roles, we’re much more interested in finding the very best people (I know the difference isn’t always as clear cut as that sounds.)  So although I sort of agree with James that it doesn’t matter if we get lots of candidates as we can always funnel them down (though I also think that if we’re flooded with applications we’re doing something wrong - ie we’ve not effectively communicated or enabled candidates to self select around our EVP - or possibly we’ve just automated a mess and ended up with an automated mess) we really want to shift the balance to attract a fewer, higher quality people to our role.  Particularly as many candidates are becoming more passive in their behaviour ie waiting to be contacted, as Katie described.


Having said that, some of the technologies we discussed span across this divide, eg asynchronous video interviewing.  And G4S can still make room for some great sourcing approaches for some of its most important roles - reducing cost per hire from 20 to just 2%.  So perhaps its niche and bulk (rather than one or the other).




3.   Basics and sexiness


Something referred to in quite a few of the sessions was the need to focus on basics - eg good assessment tools rather than just the things that might be seen as more sexy.  Again, I think it’s actually both.  And it’s about smart sexiness.  There are some great benefits available from being a first mover.  And some real issues with just following the crowd.  So one of the things Adrian Banegerter from IPTO referred to was the social media arms war as both recruiters and candidates get smarter at contacting (and potentially hiding) from each other.  I may have to post separately on this.  But just being sexy isn’t necessarily smart.  Doing the basics well may provide more value.  Again, I thought it was interesting that we hadn’t actually focused on sexy - so although we had looked at Google Glass (!), we’d not really talked about Google +, or Pinterest, or some of the other, newer and potentially event sexier tools.



One of the examples of this we talked about - basic but definitely not easy - is ensuring consistency, through processes, technology and capability, across decentralised organisations.  I liked the way Manuel Monge and Nestle are going about this - developing consistency but ensuring their recruiters are motivated by leaving room for tailoring.




There you go, that was my summary.  Though actually the session wasn’t so much of a summary as simply an opportunity to people to chip in with their own perspectives and questions, particularly as there hadn't been that much time for these.  I thought it was interesting that the key thing people seemed to want to talk about, though I hadn’t thought it had come out that strongly in the presentations, was the candidate experience.  Still I thought it was great that this was what people wanted to talk about, and more on this tomorrow!

Also see: CERN social recruiting - social not just social media

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Thursday 21 February 2013

#LT13UK: Learning in the UK - and my own support

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 14.17.27.png  I've previously posted on my first couple of sessions at Learning Technologies this year but never got as far as the afternoon sessions.

But after lunch we had Bersin, describing some of the findings from their UK Training Factbook, and they've also since ran a webinar describing some of these findings in a bit more detail.

Heavier reliance on instructor led training than in the US, supported by higher trainer staffing levels (10.1 vs 4.2 L&D staff per 1000 learners), leads to a much higher spend per learner - £838 vs £441.

I had hoped this was due to a more progressive vs hire and fire culture in the UK (which is still think is partly true) but no, learners get just 7.4 hours learning in the UK vs 22 hours in the US, and the cost per hour is £63 in the UK vs £34 in the US.  We're doing less learning, but spending more doing it!

No wonder that 65% of large UK businesses cut their L&D spend last year.

The findings are particularly sad given the uptake in learning support elsewhere, i.e. that spend on training in the US grew by 12% last year, showing that companies there are tuned into the growing difficulties finding the required skills, despite growth in unemployment.

Of course, there are some encouraging signs too - for example instructor led training has declined from 77% of hours in 2009 to 53% now.  Online learning has increased from 14 to 21%.  But this still compares with 34% in the US (though geographic scale has something to do with this too).

And we are also using more traditional and social tools:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 14.19.08.png

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 14.19.36.png


But we do still need to do more about this - firstly by ensuring that real learning needs are being met, and secondly, by moving much more rapidly towards newer, online, informal and collaborative forms of supporting learning.

Note that having just written this I probably should acknowledge that my own main contribution to UK's learning is pretty traditional - i.e. I deliver quite a lot of sessions to the UK HR community through Symposium Events.


Some of these sessions are fairly interactive - and I do pout particular effort into making sure that the learning, and organisation development sessions, do have less slides and more discussion.  But they're all delivered in a fairly traditional way - even if their focus and content I describe are often far from traditional!

So I am really pleased that we are at least starting to catch up.  So as well as these face-to-face sessions, we've recently added in a couple of webinars as well:


Also of course, besides all this, I remain heavily involved in ConnectingHR which through its unconferences continues to lead the move towards social learning within UK HR.  If you've not been to one of these events, you really should.  (The next unconference is pencilled in for Friday 21 June - more details here, or at closer to the time.)


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Friday 8 February 2013

Sourcing Hobbiton

hobbit-48fps.jpg  I've been following the updates from Sourcecon - one of the conferences around the world I'd love to get to someday (mainly just because of the people there).

There have been a few interesting tweets - I particularly liked the participants' responses to Glen Cathey's questions about who there were introverts - it seemed that most were (though not so introverted they weren't prepared to raise their hands) and the suggestion that sourcer teams need to be presented with riddles to keep them focused and engaged (which led to my tweet wondering if we could compare them with hobbits).

And there have been a few interesting posts - e.g. Irina Shamaeva's on dream software.

But I've probably learnt less from the tweets than I'd hoped.  However, I am learning - as I'm currently taking Irena's Sourcing course (though I'm a bit behind).  We've been through Boolean (which I really should know quite well by now), social networks (which I do know, although Irina's techniques are a lot more efficient than what I normally do) and tools (which I don't have much experience in).

It's all good stuff, but I still feel somewhat in awe at the sort of riddles sourcers can solve, and from my previous sourcer encounters, e.g. with Glen at Intalent, Jim Stroud, Kathryn Robinson and others at TRU Sourcing, and Craig Fisher at HREvolution, HR Tech Europe and elsewhere.  And I'm still not sure I'd get that far in Irina's sourcing contest.

Never mind - I don't need to do this for real.  But I still feel frustrated about how many recruiters, at least those in the UK, don't know anything about all this.

I brought it up again at HRTalks, where it was quite clear most companies there weren't doing anything like this.  And it is important, I think.

Sourcecon have been looking at this as well.  John Sullivan has been suggesting that sourcing is dead (along with careers sites and a few others and bits and pieces - so there won't be much left of it at all soon).  But I'm with TRU's Bill Boorman - we need more of this, not less (again, at least in the UK).  That's not just because we can't do the same as Glen, albeit that this is certainly true.  It's not just about efficiency, it's very much about effectiveness as well.

So yes, it's about quality of hire again.  I talked about this at HRTalks as well.  Traditional recruiting is a great approach to get good people, but it's rubbish for getting the very best.  They're just not going to be available at the time you're looking, or they're not going to be interested enough in you and your company.  So if you get them at all, it's only going to be buy offering them lots of dosh,.

Instead, you've got to find the people you want, engage them, nurture them, develop your relationship so they're keen to join you as soon as you've got a vacancy that fits.  You can't find these people through advertising.

And it's not just about passive vs active recruitment.  Even the right active candidates aren't necessarily going to be interested in you.  And you're leaving the decision making to them.  You've got to be interested in recruiting the people you want - not just the people who want to work for you.

If you're competing on talent, on human capital - and I'd argue that most organisations are these days, you've got to be out sourcing.

Leave advertising to the orcs!


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Back to CERN (#CRSS2013)

crss_2013.png  It's just a couple of weeks till I'll be back to CERN (on Friday 22nd) to catch up on the latest on social recruiting.

This year, I'll also be doing the closing session too (any ideas for what I should talk about?)

If you weren't lucky enough to receive an invite, you'll be able to watch the day here:



(uurgh! - how do I resize the video?)


You may also be interested in the first event (and the coldest place in the universe).  You can also follow the tweets at #CRSS2013


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Thursday 7 February 2013

Adrian Furnham on Creativity at #HRTalks

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 14.27.34.png  So we're on to Adrian Furnham talking about innovation and creativity.  I've seen Adrian before and he's a great speaker, plus the session's been well trailed in this article suggesting we don't want creative people in our businesses.  Here are some of his - deliberately provocative - points (it was supposed to be a 1-10 but he or I got it all mixed up a bit).

1.  Most participants want more creative people in our businesses.  Adrian suggests we're all mad.  Creativity is a backwater in terms of research because it's so difficult to measure.  It's OK to define - something about creating novel and useful ideas and products.

2.  Creativity attracts charlatans, purveyors of piffle (I quite like that title!)  A creativity workshop is a bit like regressing to kindergarten.  Everyone is creative they say.  Piffle.  Everything, apart from sex, is normally distributed.  And pissing about with balloons isn't going to help.  Putting on de Bono hats is lots of fun but it's not going to make you more creative.

3.   Really creative people aren't nice and are really difficult.  Two camps: artists vs scientists.  Creative artists - the Saatchi types - real arty fartys - often mentally ill, particularly bi-polar.  Eg Paul Merton - shows disinhibition of ideas.  Can easily go off posts as ideas come into his mind which aren't inhibited in normal way.  Associated with mental illness.  Need to deal with very difficult, sometimes dangerous people.  Can never take managerial decisions.  Scientific creatives are rather different - geeky, nerdy people on the aspergers spectrum.  Not fun or inspiring.  Low emotional intelligence, high fetishism - keep them in their garden sheds.  Neither interested in entrepreneurial behaviour / innovation = putting in place creative ideas - seeing ideas and knowing what to put money behind.  Ryanair man - horrible man but hugely successful.


Get rid of them and get a chief espionage officer.  People who think about and are able to innovate.  HR should understand how to find these people - not creatives!


In his response, Benjamin Reid from the Big Innovation Centre at the Work Foundation suggested that whilst he agreed with a lot of Adrian's inputs, organisations still need creative people and organisations need to be able to manage them.  We need these disruptive people and radical ideas.  Particularly as ideas aren't likely to come from other place. 

We can learn from these people - especially their artistic sensibilities - and from organisations that can manage them.  But most of what happens in innovation is about collaboration - bringing people with different perspectives together.  The idea behind open innovation.

Some of the Work Foundation's research looked at how leaders create meaning for people - this is about creating narratives which help people do stuff they've not done before.  Which requires creativity.  NESTA research shows that if you collaborate with creative businesses your own organisation is likely to be more successful.


I liked Adrian's ideas, and particularly his ability to present them, but I'm still on Benjamin's side.  I recognised I'm biased though - I know I'd personally work in a company of creatives, rather than an organisation of drudges.  And if was still an HR Director, I'd want to take on the problem of managing creatives than not to have any to manage.

But I don't think I'm totally alone.  I suspect Adrian would have been on to something ten years ago but today, the journey we're on, in the West at least, is towards creating more inspiring, exciting and necessarily creative organisations.  And as the rate of change increases, the need to have internal creative capability grows as well.

And there's probably room for both models to flourish.  Though yet again, if I was an investor, I'd want to put my money on the creative organisations too.

Ideally of course, I'd want to work in, help manage and invest in an organisation that employs creatives, AND knows how to manage them.  I agree with Adrian about the normal distribution curve - not everyone can be exceptionally creative - but I think most people can be sufficiently so.

Actually the issue isn't so much about creatives, as is it about creating the environment in which they can flourish.  Getting rid of the old, command and control, directive styles, and giving creative people freedom to create, innovate and execute as well.


It'd be great to see your thoughts as well...


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Great event from HR Magazine today - you can also read it in in list format at



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Monday 4 February 2013

#LT13UK - learning in the workflow (and not)

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 14.54.50.png  So - big change!


That doesn’t mean it all changes.  Learning itself is still pretty much the same.


It’s still about experience rather than simply about information.


It’s also still conversational.  We need ‘humarithms’ as well as algorithms.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  And our brain is bigger than big data.


And it’s also contextual - the sort of mobile phone shopping that's popular in Korea (see picture) isn't likely to catch on here.

This was the main theme taken up by Charles Jennings in his session following the keynote.


Learning works best when its contextual.  Unless you have context it’s not going to stick.  So we’re moving from information-centric to context-centric learning.  For example we’re embedding learning into the workflow.  Learning activities that are distinct events from the day-to-day job have less impact.


Given the rate of change, learning needs to be continuous too.  So it’s more important than ever that we understand how we best learn.  Charles’ suggestions included:


  • New and challenging experiences.  This can be about about adding learning to work but it also involves extracting learning from work.
  • Opportunities for repeated practice to avoid the forgetting curve (see this post from Donald Clark).
  • Rich networks and conversations through things like pizza sessions and techniques like the fishbowl technique.
  • Space for reflection.  Including things like After Action Reviews.  Moving at such a pace as we need to now it is difficult to reflect



We then went on to focus on reflection including an input from Hans Dirkzwager at BT about his Mirror tool which BT uses to create a mood map - capturing moods - high or low energy, positive or negative energy - at the start or end of a meeting.  (This was quite clever, although I still think the teams might just be best off talking to each other.)


Just as with adding learning to / extracting learning from work, reflection can be added to work - thinking what you are doing while you are doing it (Donald Schon) or done after you do the work - sit in a room and think back (Boud).


So I did do some tweeting during the conference, but actually I still prefer the blog format at an event last this as it allows a deeper level of reflection and thinking.


I agree with most of what Charles and Hans described.  But I also worry about the impact of embedding learning to deeply into the current context of work.  As Gerd Leonhard very effectively described, things are just changing far too quickly now to focus on the current state.  Too much context helps us learn about the ways things are.  But it gets in the way of learning what might and could be.


So we need to add learning to work, and we need to extract learning to work, but we also need to learn for the new world of work.  We need to reflect on what might be.


To an extent, this is also what I presented on last year - that learning needs to be fully integrated into HR but shouldn’t be too integrated into short-term business.


It’s also what I talked to Bobby Yazdani, CEO at Saba, about when we caught up following Learning Technologies this year.  He’s seeing the rise of ‘anxiety learning’ - learning that isn’t simply about doing a job, or ongoing lifelong learning, but a reaction to the shock of how quickly things are changing.  I think we both agreed that anxiety learning wouldn’t be reduced by simply focusing on the workflow.  It’s learning at the cultural level that needs to change.

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Saturday 2 February 2013

Time to get going on social media

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 13.49.02.png  It's Saturday and I'm blogging - still trying to get back into the swing of this again after a sustained if incomplete break over the last couple of months.

There are a number of reasons for my lack of productivity.  For one thing, I have had some quieter periods before though never quite so lengthy.

But I also think the strategic rationale for blogging is beginning to dim.

Now I do have to be careful with this statement - there's still a huge number of people out there who have never read a blog, and certainly never posted anything.  A lot of them may still come into this technology.  And I remember even when I started blogging five to six years ago that there were people then suggesting blogging had already had its day.

But there are now so many other blogs out there, that it's increasingly difficult to break through the noise - even for an established blog like this.  I certainly wouldn't start a new blog if I was doing what I was doing five years ago today.

And the conversation is increasingly in the flow, rather than on a site.

But then even with these changes, I think there is still currently a role for blogs.  I like the way this article at Harvard Business Review explains it:


"It's become increasingly clear that with the proliferation of new platforms, no person or company can become the master of them all. Nor should they. The harder decision is figuring out which ones you should prioritize — or jettison. Establishing ROI has always been the holy grail of social media. We may still have a ways to go before we can quantify its objective, dollars-and-cents impact (if you read about something on Facebook, and then saw a tweet, and then went to the mall to buy it, does it count?). But even anecdotally, you probably have some good operating theories. For instance, if you target women, Pinterest is a great bet; if it's males, Google+ is currently their stomping ground. And as I've written about here on, blogging is the best way to demonstrate true content mastery and thought leadership." 


So, don't go away - I will be posting here - with lots of new content and hopefully leading thoughts over the next year.

More soon!