Sunday, 27 January 2013

Recruitment: Time to introduce some standards

A couple of days ago I participated in an online debate addressing some of the issues faced by the recruitment profession. Most of those taking part in the debate were either independent consultants, or involved in recruitment agencies, so some of the comments which follow may not apply equally to in-house recruiters.

To say that the debate raised some worrying questions is something of an understatement.

Here's why:

Much of the discussion was centred around "the myth of candidate experience" and in particular whether it was necessary to treat all job applicants with the same degree of respect, including the simple courtesy of acknowledging every job application.

At least one participant in the debate was happy to divide applicants into "good" and "bad" candidates: a "good" candidate being (and I quote) "a credible applicant who will make you money."

Put simply, good candidates were deemed worthy of attention, bad candidates could be ignored.

The same participant was (one hopes) frivolous enough to suggest that (and again I quote) "Dear John, I've checked out your LinkedIn waffle and Facebook pics and, sorry to say, you're not right for the position" would be a suitable response to one of those unfortunate enough to meet his "good candidate" selection criteria.

My view (along with a number of other participants in this debate) is that all candidates for a job (whether for an assignment managed by a recruitment consultant, or an in-house campaign) deserve to be treated with a similar degree of courtesy and respect, especially that of keeping them updated as to their status within the recruitment process. The evolution of applicant tracking systems means that there is no excuse for failing to maintain contact with every candidate for every position.

Fast forward to summer of 2013

Black ties and evening dresses will once more be donned by those attending the CIPD Recruitment Marketing Awards. Prizes will be awarded for Best Art Direction, Campaign of the Year, Best Employer Brand, Recruitment Effectiveness, and a number of other categories.

I have a suggestion. Actually it's a challenge, because this is surely one area where the CIPD (celebrating its centenary this year) could be seen to influence the direction in which the recruitment profession is moving.

How about introducing an entrance requirement for those campaigns being nominated for awards of the ability to demonstrate adherence to a number of minimum standards of candidate care throughout those campaigns?

There is, after all, no cause for celebrating innovation in recruitment advertising, if the candidates who were drawn to it were not treated with the same respect regardless of whether they were appointed or rejected.

Friday, 25 January 2013

A (profile) picture speaks a thousand words, so choose yours carefully!

A recent post on this blog pointed an accusing and suspicious finger at female recruitment consultants whose profile images on LinkedIn revealed far more flesh than was considered to be appropriate.

It's interesting that since reading the initial blog, one of my fellow bloggers in the USA has undertaken some parallel research and seems to have discovered that the tendency to display expanses of flesh appears to be a UK phenomenon that is not mirrored across the Atlantic.

But debate with a couple of fellow bloggers and commentators has caused the editorial team of HR Case Studies to reflect that there is a worrying  parallel to this phenomenon among the members of the recruitment profession: where females display their cleavage, males display their cars!

OK, perhaps we're only talking about one specific individual (and again, the names and details have been changed to avoid further embarrassment) but what does the use of a shiny blue Lamborghini as a profile picture say to the watching world?

What it says to me is that the person is motivated by material gain, by the acquisition of expensive luxury items that are beyond the reach of the majority of the population, that I, as either a client or a candidate of that particular recruitment consultant are nothing more than a means to him acquiring (or perhaps funding) his lifestyle.

The use of such an image tells me that that particular individual is concerned with things rather than people, cares little for the environment, and (most importantly) considers himself to be a member of a group that will never include me.

The use of such an image also makes me wonder whether, were I to engage this particular individual in my capacity of purchaser of recruitment services, I would be screwed financially in order to assist him to maintain his expensive luxury lifestyle.

Significantly, it makes me reflect on whether this individual is an isolated case, or whether it's the entire recruitment  profession that thinks and feels like that.

So, before you upload your profile picture onto any social media site, question the effect it will have on your audience.

Incidentally, someone asked your humble editor what car he would use as a LinkedIn profile picture, and why. You'll see my choice above.  A Morris Traveller: solid, dependable, built to last, easy to maintain, a turner of heads for all the right reasons, a reminder of a bygone age when quality mattered. And, probably above all: delightfully quirky!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Team: Treat Them Like Children

Long ago, in a far and distant land, I trained as worked as a teacher, and had the (Warning: Sarcasm Alert!) joy and privilege of teaching for a time in what was branded as The School From Hell.

Back in those days of yore, with respect to the management of classroom behaviour, the advice and guidance to would-be teachers was essentially limited to the old adage of, "Don't smile until Christmas."

But the resources and guidance now available to those in the teaching profession are now far superior to those from a couple of decades ago.

A rather excellent text book on the teaching of children in the 14 - 19 age range (currently being passed around the HR Case Studies office) contains a wealth of very practical advice on the successful management of the classroom environment and, more importantly, those within it.

The thing that is striking is how the guidance given is easily transferable to the work or office environment. For example, have a look what is outlined below, and consider how much would not be out of place on a development program for new line managers:

  • Get to know the members of your team (by name) as quickly as possible.
  • If certain team members cause problems when working together, move them.
  • Keep your instructions short and simple, and never more than one instruction at a time.
  • Issue instructions with a specific target completion time.
  • Give instructions positively, for example, "I want you to ...", rather than "Don't...".
  • Use questioning strategies to make sure that your team members understand what is expected of them.
  • Make sure that you are aware of the codes of conduct for your organisation and also the sanctions that you can take against those who do not abide by the accepted rules.
  • Praise those who are trying to perform, but don't over-praise as this will ultimately devalue its usage.
  • Be consistent.
  • Sell the importance of any activity with urgency and enthusiasm, and link it to the benefits that will follow once it is achieved.
  • Don't tick off your entire team: identify any poor performers and address their issues separately.
  • Start each new day as a fresh page: don't carry over grudges or give the impression that what individuals did before colours how you see them now.

So the advice seems to be pretty straightforward: If you want to be a successful manager, just treat your team like children!

Unless, of course you are a teacher. In which case treat your students like responsible members of your work team!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The (almost) Naked Truth About the Recruitment Profession

Warning: this article contains numerous references to female breasts, so, if easily offended, look away now!

Let me describe a couple of images that I have got opened up on my laptop as I'm writing this. They are ones which I don't feel very comfortable in having on public display, so if anyone looks over my shoulder as I'm writing, I'll be mouse-clicking onto the BBC Home Page.

(Incidentally the names and some of the details have been changed to avoid further embarrassment.)

The first is a picture of Lisa. There's no doubt about it, she's an attractive girl, and she knows it too. In her (I guess) mid 20's, her hair cascades over her shoulders displaying her matching earrings and necklace. She's also got an amazing pair of breasts. I know this, because most of her picture has been cropped to show them off to good effect. Her plunging neckline means that a large proportion of her breasts are uncovered, and the area that is beyond view is very tightly constrained in her party dress. Yes, Lisa is a stunning young lady.

The second is of Jade. She's a mother of three and motherhood appears to be treating her well. She clearly knows how to apply make up, and how to respond to a camera. Her head is leaning to one side, her hair falling down over her shoulders and upper arm. Her simple necklace is resting at the top of her cleavage, a great deal of which is there to be seen. The thin straps and plunging neckline of her simple blue t-shirt mean that probably less that 25% of her lightly-tanned upper body is covered. Like Lisa, Jade is a beauty.

The images described above are the sort of photographs of either a wife or a girlfriend that I'd expect a man to have in his wallet rather than on display in the office, so I hope that by now  you're wondering exactly how these pictures have found their way onto my laptop.

The answer is surprisingly simple, and somewhat concerning: they are both public profile pictures of professional recruitment consultants on LinkedIn.

Those readers who know me will be aware that I may be many things, but a prude is not one of them, but I'm genuinely concerned on a professional level at the way that some individuals appear content to display themselves on social media sites such as LinkedIn. I'm not alone in this either: colleagues (both male and female) who have seen the profile pictures referenced above have responded with comments such as "Speechless" and "Blimey, looks like an escapee from a Barbie-Doll convention."

If I was being generous, perhaps I should assume that Lisa and Jade have simply mixed up their LinkedIn and Hot or Not accounts. But I doubt that this is the case.

Let's put this in context: as a senior HR professional, I regularly have responsibility for selecting recruitment providers, and I would not contemplate for one moment engaging either an individual who regarded it as acceptable to display such a profile picture, or indeed a recruitment consultancy whose control over its employees was so lax as to allow them to post such inappropriate pictures in a public and professional forum.

Such public profiles show off the recruitment sector in an extremely poor light, and portray its members as shallow, unprofessional, concerned with surface image and (I am sorry to have to put it like this) somewhat smutty.

Recruiters: if you wish people to take you seriously, you need to smarten up and cover up a bit too.

And, just to make sure that the finger is not pointed just at those at one end of the recruitment spectrum, if you are a candidate "seeking a new position" don't post a picture of yourself in what looks like a baby-doll nightie. Yes. Honestly.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Top Tips on Starting a Blog from HR Case Studies

It seems that Start Writing a Blog features as a New Years Resolution for quite a few people this year, so the editorial team of HR Case Studies offer the following tips and hints for getting your blog off the ground and noticed. Some of the content below is adapted (that's code for "stolen") from the rather excellent "Killer Web Content" by Gerry McGovern.

Keep it concise:
By 100 words you will have lost 25% of your readers
By 300 words you will have lost 40% of your readers
By 500 words you will have lost 60% of your readers
By 1000 words you will have lost 80% of your readers

Follow other blogs, and make it easy for others to follow you.

Give your blog a title that reflects what the blog is about! Pig Farming in Patagonia as a title for your blog on Strategic HR may appeal to your sense of the absurd, but it won't attract the readership you are seeking!

Before you make the plunge, decide on which blogging platform to use. Find out what those blogs that you read are based on, and choose one which you think reflects your aims.

Get what McGovern calls "Care Words" into your blog titles (i.e Top Tips on Starting a Blog from HR Case Studies)

Don't use more than 60 characters in your blog titles. That's about eight to ten words with spaces.

Avoid placing links (especially to other sources) inside the body of your blog: if you do that, people will click on them, leave your blog and fail to return. And you don't want that, do you! Better to put any links to external sources after your content, not within.

Use the various tracking mechanisms to work out what people were looking for when they found your blog. For example, early in the life of this blog, a lot of individuals stumbled across HR Case Studies when looking for an HR case study on Performance Management. There wasn't one, so I wrote one! And yes, I've just ignored the rule I mentioned above, although that link is to a page within this blog!

Invite feedback from other followers, both as to how they rate your content and if there's anything that they would like you to write about.

Invite traffic to your blog from twitter and other social media sites. But don't overdo it! If all your twitter stream contains is an endless series of links to your blog, you'll eventually lose followers on twitter!

Make it visually attractive, so use pictures and images within the blog. But be careful with copyright!

Fellow bloggers: feel free to add any suggestions to those above!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

An HR Case Studies Manifesto for 2013

After a few months of sitting in the wings of the HR blogosphere, and throwing in the occasional heckle-grenade (like Waldorf and Statler of The Muppets), the entire editorial team of HR Case Studies has decided to transform itself into a force of unstoppable social medial positivity in 2013, and has therefore drawn up this New Year Resolution Manifesto, and is pleased to release it to you, dear and adoring public.
  • We will not leave the house each day until we have all read every one of the "Must Read" articles brought to our attention in our social media feeds. And that included all 10 of those in The Economist. Every Day. Honestly.
  • We will no longer cast ridicule on those on Twitter whose entire output consists of mindless, inane, pseudo-psychological motivational and inspirational utterances. (But who exactly was Zig Ziglar? And did he actually say anything that was non-inspirational?)
  • We will genuinely believe that a tweet sent at 03.30 a.m. linking to an article on Presentation Skills/Outsourcing Best Practice/The War for Talent in Kazakhstan was posted at that particular time, and not by someone with an autotweet addiction.
  • We will no longer regard a person who describes themselves as being "Passionate about HR Systems" as being a bit of a basket case. (Editor's note: Passion is fine, HR Systems are fine. But not together. That's kinky)
  • We will cease regarding it as plain bonkers that on LinkedIn there are 22074 Keynote Speakers, 23959 Thought Leaders, 44757 Evangelists (of whom only 4024 are in Religious Insititutions), 152752 Gurus.
  • Connected to the item above, but deserving a resolution all of its own: we will no longer roll on the floor laughing that on LinkedIn 14,406 people describe themselves as a Ninja. (The number has increased by 42 since yesterday)
  • We will stop regarding it as a source of mirth and merriment that the "People Also Viewed" sidebar to certain members of LinkedIn appears to consist entirely of females auditioning for the next Wonderbra catalogue.
  • We will no longer dread the arrival (or dare we say advent?) of December with it's glut of "The Best of the Blogs" and "Predictions for Next Year".
  • We will try to stop crying when the editorial team of HR Case Studies doesn't feature in the plethora of "Ten Most Influential" Tweeters or Bloggers. Even when the list includes the person who compiled the list.
  • Above all, we will no longer be sarcastic.
Happy New Year!