Forced Marriages and Other Out There HR Ideas

I hate the fact that I turned 40 a couple weeks ago and now find myself thinking I sound like a curmudgeon on occasion. After all, 40 is hardly the prime age for the nay-sayer, right?

I love “out there” ideas and random experiments, especially when it comes to recruiting/developing people to maximize performance. But, this one just strikes me as … well … creepy.

Monday’s Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled “Computer programmers learn through tough lesson in sharing.” If you didn’t see it, have a look. Here is the gist: In an effort to reduce programming errors, companies are “pairing” developers together to conduct a constant, real-time code review. Sounds logical until you realize they are literally sharing a desk and a monitor. Yes, one developer sits behind the other and watches over their shoulder as code is written. As errors are found they are immediately spotted (so goes the theory) and remedied.

Technology companies always lead on the innovation front, in products and also business practices so I really love this attempt to accelerate the release cycle. But, there are some questions that failed to be asked like …

What if having a forced workplace “marriage” doesn’t fit their work style?

While this may help “procedural performance” (enhance the process) what will happen to individual performance?

Knowing how to manage effectively to get the best possible performance means knowing your people and what makes them succeed. For certain developers (or any staff for that matter) this may be perfect. But for those more solitary types (imagine that, a developer being an introvert) turnover and decreased performance will be the outcome.

Keep the experiments going. There is nothing like trying a new approach and seeing if you can move faster/better/whatever, but keep the people in mind. Performance increases through a happier, more productive and engaged team. You get that by understanding your people and managing to their strengths.

 

 

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Klout Scores and Other Social Stuff in Hiring

Flying home from SFO with the wonders of Delta Wifi in the Sky (that’s not what they call it but should) with plenty of time to read. Found a post called “Should You Hire Staff Based on Their Klout Score?” Well worth a read.

It deals primarily with hiring for ad agencies and creative firms like that but it raises a great point as we start to look at how social influence and presence will impact talent selection.

What does a Klout score or any social profile say about somebody? It probably starts to answer a few questions that may be relevant…

How engaged in their company/industry/profession, etc. are they?

How creative/logical/well written are they?

Are these things important to know? Depends on the job. It all goes back to understanding what will drive success. What is the target against which you are hiring? If these are traits that are key to performance on the job, then yah you should be all over taking a look at that Klout score and other publically available social information. It can form a more complete picture of what the candidate may deliver and could present some value add in a difficult decision between equally strong candidates.

But, if you can’t form a real argument for job relevancy around Klout (or other social profiles) then skip it. The rules don’t change for using social media in hiring, you just need to understand what you are looking for in the successful candidate.

 

 

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Response to “Reference Checks: Neutral is the New Negative and Getting Negative Info is Gold”

Just read HR Capitalist’s blog post entitled “Reference Checks: Neutral is the New Negative, and Getting Negative Info is Gold…”. In it @Kris_Dunn discusses simply receiving “name, rank and serial number” on a candidate is the new standard of a negative reference. But is it? I’m going to go with sort of. I know, it’s a really weak answer but let me explain.

I am CEO of a company that provides automated reference checking technology called Chequed.com. Our cloud-based solution checks thousands and thousands of references per month. Typically, automated reference-checking technologies like ours (there are a couple other companies provided similar, albeit differentiated products) see reference completion rates of over 80%. When I say completion, I am referring to a complete reference check with answers to all requested information. That is a pretty startling difference from the phone-based reference checking average of around 20% that our research indicates (as well as personal experience hiring a lot of people … I started my career as a technology recruiter).

So, back to my answer of simply getting name, rank and serial number as an indicator of a negative reference. Truth is that is depends a great deal on the position. Higher level professionals are more able to arrange calls with their references and get them to provide detailed information. Lower to mid level candidates may not have this luxury as the impact of a reference breaking corporate policy is just not worth it.

Beside the issue of career level, the much larger reason is that the phone-based reference checking model is flawed and will continue to yield fewer and fewer successful reference checks. They will also yield far fewer truly negative references where specific information is gathered from the call that will prevent a bad hire.

I say it’s a flawed model because it rests on premise that a reference provided by a candidate, who has a relationship with that candidate, is going to throw
their buddy under the bus to benefit someone whom they don’t know and have no interest in. Why would they do this? Got me. Corporate policy has just provided a convenient excuse for an already dumb request.

Automated reference checking technologies have started to disrupt this process finally and see far higher completion rates. Most importantly, the results can use assessment-based logic (at least in the case of Chequed.com who is the only one I can speak about first-hand) to make it predictive of on-the-job performance. We usually see negative reference rates between 15-20% versus under 5% which is average for phone based.

Back to HR Capitalists notion that no information is the new negative, under a flawed model there is probably some truth to that but we can do far better to make reference checking relevant again.

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(Wo)Man Up and Force the Change

Every once in a while you got a reminder of just how weak some managers can be. I guess we all have those moments but when you see them in someone else, it just looks pitiful, doesn’t it? I had one of those reminders yesterday.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about creating change. Here is what I have come to … change really isn’t that hard, it just takes one second of decision but sticking with the change is where the pain lies. You make a decision, whether a new process or piece of technology for your organization or anything else in life I guess, and you just have to stick in there and force it through.

Changing how we go about things like talent selection can be easy to decide but hard to stick with as well. Introducing a new technology is one of those areas in a company that can just turn into a giant clusterf*#$k if not managed right. And by “managing right” I mean lacing up the boots and digging in.

So often I speak with HR leaders who bring in a new technology only to have the inevitable revolt ensure. “It’s too difficult to use”, “we will lose candidates” and all of the other excuses take hold. What does the weak leader do? Listen. That’s right … they listen.

How is listening a form of weakness? Because sometimes you just need to force the change, throw out the excuses as what they are … excuses and stick with the decision. If you are confident that the decision you made to create change was the right one (or even if you’re a bit uncertain) own it and don’t back away. The first time you don’t stick with that decision to change and listen to the excuses under the guise of having “user adoption problems” (the worst excuse of all) will be the last time you have the ability to show your strength to do the right thing for your organization.

If all of things sounds a little macho or domineering, you’re right. But don’t we all just have to (wo)man up sometimes to get anything significant done?

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How Do You Predict?

Dictionary.com says to make a Prediction is to “define the future.” Sounds about right to me. Every prediction you make when hiring is the definition of what your business or organization will become in the future, isn’t it?

So I guess the question is how do you make better predictions in something as subjective and tricky as hiring? To me it really comes down to a few simple actions that are fundamentally the same in any area of your business or life for that matter:

1.)  Know the Target: This step gets missed … or misunderstood … A LOT. The target has to be about performance. Isn’t your goal to hire someone who can drive your business forward, maybe in ways you didn’t even consider? Or, is your goal to “avoid a bad hire”? I’m sure you said the former but we usually end up designing a recruiting process around the later and just try to avoid risk. Knowing what good (or maybe we can stretch to great?) performance looks like is the key. This means really understanding the metrics that are fundamental to the position and the competencies that will help this person achieve those metrics for the long run (we can all fake it for a while).

2.)  Collect the Data: This means real, quantifiable data and not the random thoughts that often go into making a hiring decision (we will get to those in step 3).  Set up your process to collect as many data points as reasonably possible. I say “reasonably” because you will need to make a decision quickly as well. Technology is going to be key here. Assessments on the front end that drive interview questions based on the test results, structured, job relevant (and pre-planned) interview questions targeted at the competencies required for success and structured, competency based reference checking to validate what you have discovered are a bare minimum. Then score each step. It honestly doesn’t matter how you score them as any method will be better than none. Again, look at technologies to drive these screening steps for you.

3.)  Use Your Gut: Once you have narrowed down to a small group, use your gut. Yes, that much-maligned intuition can serve you well in hiring so long as you have narrowed the field to a small group based on the objective, quantitative steps in #2. Only you know your company and culture so don’t be afraid to maybe pick the long shot from the finalists that you just have “the feeling about” instead of the front runner. There is nothing wrong with gut feel so long as it’s used in the context of a solid process.

These steps are used in just about every area of decision-making but we just go careening off the rails in hiring for some reason. Give yourself the best chance of success and make sure that your process is aligned with these simple steps.

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The Seven Habits of Bad Talent Selection

I get it … this is just an appallingly negative title/topic but sometimes it just fun to take a look at the dysfunction around us.

There are so many ways to really amp your ability to hire more effectively. Then there are those all to common things that will sabotage it just about every time. So, here is my list, which is not at all exhaustive. Comment below if I’ve missed one (which I certainly have) …

1.)  The Resume Scan. Resumes are flooding your inbox, ATS, mail or anywhere else they show up. You or another hiring manager take a 20 second look to judge the candidate fit and decide what to do next. Totally arbitrary and ripe with error. Consider automating this step by putting your assessment up front and letting it first determine the competency fit to the job and culture. THEN take a look at the resume for the skills match.

2.)  The “Job Description” Recruitment Ad. Repeat after me … a job description is not an ad, a job description is not an ad. Go to any job board and they are everywhere. That completely lame document only read by HR and lawyers becomes the centerpiece of your company’s value prop to a candidate. Don’t be lazy and take some time to think through the reasons someone would want to work in this job at your company. It is not, I guarantee you, because they do or don’t have to lift “greater than 50 pounds.”

3.)  The Unprepared Interview. Here’s a tip … skip it and you will have better odds of success. Even a 5 minute block to review the resume, the assessment results and the job description and prep a few structured questions will make all the difference.

4.)  The Reference Check. I don’t know how else to say this. Phone based reference checking is a joke … it’s an old-fashioned cultural relic that just won’t go away. Here is the paradox however … collecting information from past colleagues, if it’s honest and candid, can be the best predictor of success on the job. Look for other ways to get this information. If you have explored automated reference checking technology (BIAS ALERT: I am CEO and Founder of Chequed.com, one of the companies that does exactly this) you need to do start. Quality automated reference checking technology can streamline the process while making it competency-based with far greater candor and accuracy in the results.

5.)  Poor/Slow/Inconsistent Follow Up. Consider the mindset of a candidate. Stress is high, expectations are raised and patience is thin. Dragging out the process is just brutal. Stop with the vacation schedule, can’t get a meeting set, etc. excuses and get them an answer. Make sure that your follow up meeting with any others involved in the screening process is set prior to the interviews and stick to it. Dragging it out hurts your recruitment brand and honestly is just plain inconsiderate. Think karma on this one.

6.)  The (Info) Hoarders Run the Show. I wrote another blog post on the silos that emerge in screening that gets more into this topic. If you are not sharing the data collected (assessment results, interview notes, etc.) between all the parties in the screening process you are compromising your accuracy. Connect the dots on the process by making sure you are leveraging each step. For example, use the assessment results to help you prep the interview so you can focus on specific areas that may be problematic or use the interview notes to prep questions for the references.

7.)  No Analysis of Results. Spend some time taking a look at the results of your hires but get beyond simple turnover data and look at how the person actually performed. Consider surveying the manager to see if they would actually rehire this person even if they are still working there. This rehire type survey can be telling about a candidate who was hired but is a mediocre performer who you are now stuck with. Review the data and look for patterns of successful hires … sources, screening process, competencies, interests, skills, etc. What makes them different from bottom performers.

There is no doubt most of this is obvious to anyone around HR for a while. But, it’s amazing how often we fall into one or more of these categories without even realizing it. Here is the challenge: Take a look at your process and see what bad talent selection habits your organization has developed and put together a plan to change just one of them today.

 

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Break the Silos in Talent Selection

“No, we keep those assessment reports in HR. Otherwise our managers will use it as a crutch when they make a hire.” “Oh,” was how I responded. “What the #*@& are you thinking” was what almost came flying from my usually very harsh mouth.

This was just a part of the conversation that I recently had with a recruiting manager for a fairly large company. The rest of the chat was no more enlightening so I will spare you the details.

This HR person was honest but this same practice (or maybe mindset) is in place throughout too many companies. Each person collects information on a hire from the assessment, interview, reference check, etc. and hoards it. Maybe hoarding is a bit too strong but certainly data isn’t shared and selection turns into a set of silos. Bad hires and missed opportunity are the inevitable results.

Any statistician understands the concept of “incremental predictability”. It basically means layering complementary data to gain an exponential increase in accuracy. (I am not a statistician so, for those of you who are, please stop cringing at my simplistic explanation.) By leveraging the candidate info collected in each step, you gain this incremental advantage in decision making.

I know it all sounds academic, but it’s not that hard. Here is an example …

A large chain of dental offices moved their assessment earlier in the process and made sure that everyone involved in interviewing had a copy to review in advance of the interview. They also taught them how to use the interview questions created by the assessment (this was a feature offered by the vendor) to get to the heart of the competencies being assessed for the specific position. After the interviews were conducted, topics that needed a bit of a deeper dive were given back to HR to use in the reference checks. Again, these questions tended to be (but were not exclusively) around the competencies from the assessment. The result of this process … a fifty percent reduction in turnover and significantly higher same store year over year comps. There were really two main changes that occurred here … (1.) Getting the right tools/processes aligned around the competencies, and (2.) Sharing the information collected at each step to drive the next step. They broke the silos.

Here is your challenge … look at your selection process and answer two questions: (1.) Are we sharing data collected at each step with others involved in the selection process, and (2.) Are we really leveraging that information to drive greater predictability in the next step(s)?

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HR Tech Sales Rethunk

Yes, I meant rethunk instead of … you get it.

Riding the train to Manhattan (father/daughter weekend) reading an article in HRB about the secret to smarter sales and the new art of the “Big Idea”. Showing the buyer how it can be done better in a fundamentally new way based on a need that they may not be able to articulate yet. Basically, it says that the days of “Solution Sales” … asking a million questions to identify a “hook” (need), developing an internal champion and presenting a solution specifically focused on that need … is over.

Had this exact conversation with my VP of Sales the other day.  I am the CEO of a software company and buy a ton of stuff from a ton of sales reps, most of whom suck royally at selling but I’m sure are fine people. Who in the hell wants to be on the receiving end of a technology sales rep go through this mundane process of asking questions of no value to the buyer only to have the answers used as hammer once the vulnerability is found???? Or even worse, having them offer to “come visit me” to smack me with said “solution” hammer.

HR technology vendors (present company included) are stuck in an old-fashioned selling pattern. The pace of HR tech demands that vendors step up and show the buyer the light. Show the “Big Idea” on how [NAME THE CATEGORY … RECRUITMENT, PERFORMANCE MGT, ETC.) can be done so much better and stop focusing so much time on how a solution is the perfect fit for some narrowly defined problem articulated by the buyer  (or worse, RFP) who likely understands neither the full scope of the problem or the possibilities that exist today.

Here is the challenge .. HR Tech sales reps (our reps at the top of this list) start delivering the Big Idea more and the “solution” hammer less … challenge the buyer to think bigger.

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