By our metrics we shall be known: selection for the knowledge industries of the global information age

Metrics

Metrics are good.  They make us do something that psychologists call “operationalize”.  Operationalize isn’t some complicated Freudian notion.  It just means that we take a rather vague slippery idea and say exactly what we mean.  We don’t use “operationalize” to sort out clients who are in an emotional mess. We use it to sort out us ~ to make sure we are clear about what we want to do.

Applying the wrong metrics . . . ouch!

It’s alarming then when we look out into the world and we see people using the wrong metrics.  Often people take a technology and use it in the wrong circumstances, terribly impressed that they are generating a number but apparently unaware that the numbers they are looking  at does not match what they say they are doing, or need to be doing.  It’s doubly scaring because it is clear they haven’t simply made an error.  They have no idea about what they need to do or how to do it.  Nor, it is clear, do they understand the very ‘technology’ they are applying.

New organizations

The world is changing and we are going to need new ‘technologies’ for new situations and new metrics to define exactly what it is we are doing and how well we do it.

Choosing people to join an organization

Big organizations will still have a familiar task: choosing people to join them.

The old idea that we would match people as pegs to holes like the game we give to 1 year old’s just doesn’t wash anymore. What was designed to quickly allocate hundreds of thousands of conscripts to roles in WWI and WWII is not well suited to today’s business.

We have a ‘talent war’ now.  This means that our success depends upon know-how brought into the organization by our people. What we do and how we do it depends more on their ingenuity,creativity and judgment than our preconceived notion of what to do and not do.  After all, if we knew what to do, we  wouldn’t be hiring them as talent.  If we knew what to do, we could probably use a computer or a robot.

There are some roles still where “Mac” jobs rule.  Goody.  Just knowing that the organization runs on “mac” jobs is enough to make look for something better.  Decide the level of your product.  If it is . .  well least said.

Metrics for new selection

What is, then, the essence of selection for new organizations?  And what would be the metric.

I like the idea of assessments that are genuinely two way: in which the candidates find out about us.  Even if they choose not to join us, through that exploration they become clearer and optimistic about their opportunities.  And we become clearer about what we are doing, and the value of what we are doing because of the questions they asked and the conversation they stimulated.

My metric for new selection

Could the measure of an assessment system be the percentage of people who believe that the conversation we invited, initiated, and managed was worthwhile?

Thinking like an academic,

  • Would the opinions of the applicants be uni-dimensional, or would we have to break it up?
  • Would the applicants’ opinions of our conversations tally with our own?
  • Do good quality conversations predict good quality conversations in the future?
  • What are the features of good quality conversations and do they fit known models (such as Losada’s model of team performance)?
  • Would good quality conversations lead to increases in productivity in the units hiring?
  • Do good quality conversations lead to insights about how to negotiate the improvement of the entire supply chain?
  • Are good conversations associated with JIT labour supply?
  • Are good conversations associated with lower total costs of HR administration?

Hmm, I’ve seen this rolled out without the metrics. And I’ve seen plenty of utterly misplaced metrics.

When are we going to step up and serve the knowledge industries of the global information age?

When, o When?

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7 ways professionals help you recruit better

4 new jobs created!

Just before Christmas, I helped out a charity who needed an extra pair of HR hands to get the specs for 4 new jobs onto their website before the Christmas shutdown.

I spent a day poring over their project plans and notes and generated ONE four-and-a-half page document that

  • Summarized the project
  • Listed the project team
  • Described FIVE and only five responsibilities for the Project Manager and the Project Officers showing the links between the two levels
  • Named FIVE competencies which had the same headings for both positions
  • Distinguished the positions with sub-bullet points listing the competences without prejudging where candidates may have gained their experience
  • Pinpointed the minimal experience that someone would need to be promoted into the position
  • Made sure experience gained at one level was a clear promotion track to the next
  • Highlighted unusual contractual provisions
  • Outlined the selection process.

Hmm, everything for 4 jobs was on 4.5 pages except for the the pay levels and a template of the employment contract.

Today, the charity rang to give me some feedback..  These are the 7 benefits they spontaneously described.

7 benefits of a successful recruitment campaign

1.  The response to the advertisement was quick and good.

2. Candidates said they understood immediately what the job was about.

3. An interviewer co-opted from a sister charity said that if she had seen the job in time she would have applied for it!

4. Appointments were made to all 4 jobs on the first pass, yet another team recruiting at the same time, in the same organization, in the same town have not been able to appoint and are starting again.

5. Staff within the charity felt comfortable with the list.

6. Candidates felt they were able to talk about what they COULD do.

7. A broad range of candidates applied and the charity is pleased to appoint an ‘expert team’ of people who compliment each other.

Next steps in evaluating the recruitment drive

Of course, the final evaluation is whether the team clicks together and whether all four new members of staff are happy and productive.  I’m sure I’ll hear from them one way or another!

What other gains do we deliver for our clients when we assist them recruit staff?

HR doubles your money?

Supermarket in São Paulo

Image via Wikipedia

State of Retail 2008

On Monday, The Times published a summary of OC&C’s report State of Retail 2008.  As a typical Gen Xer, I love numbers and numbers abound in this article.

Rates of return are slim

They report the EBIT (earnings before interest and taxation) as a profit margin. None of the figures surprised me.  They are quite constant with figures achieved in other countries.  After all, the nature of an industry does define what we do and how we do it.

Grocery stores achieve 2.5-3.5%.  Books & stationery, Electricals and Music, video & gaming achieve similar margins.

Opticians, pharmacies and health & beauty achieve twice that rate at 7%, and clothing, footwear and accessories achieve slightly better at 9%.

What this tells us about work is this:  if we own a business, even a successful one, we have to sell a lot of stuff to make 1 pound profit!  The local convenience store or bookshop must sell 40 pounds to leave 1 pound profit in the hands of the owner.   The local clothes shop must sell about 12 pounds to keep 1 pound in the pocket of the owner.

Some do so much better than others

The article also gave a good comparison of the margins achieved by the top two retailers and the rest.  In almost every case, the top two retailers achieved TWICE the margins of the field.

What the report didn’t tell us were the “HR Costs/Revenue” ratios: how much of the sales dollar do large companies like TESCOs spend on HR?

It is clearly obvious that industries like consultancy where 20-35% of each sales dollar is paid in salaries, more money is spent on training, etc.  When the return on 1 pound on HR is 3 pounds in sales, we pay more attention to HR than when we spend 1 pound on salaries to make 30 pounds such as might happen in a supermarket.  Simply, in a supermarket other factors have a bigger impact on sales.

But when the margins are DOUBLE in one firm than another, then the question arises, WHY?

  • Does the firm have an advantage of size?
  • Does the firm operate in a more lucrative niche?
  • Are the management somehow superior to management in the other firm?
  • Are the management practices better?
  • And how does HR contribute to a better HR costs/Revenue ratio?  (Profit=Sales-Costs-HR Costs)

I do wish OC&C had give us the HR figures too!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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HRM: Can we meet the pace set by the Obama team?

The bar has raised

Here is how times have changed.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning (British time), Barack Obama got the ‘verbal offer’ for the job as CEO of USA plc.

Friday lunchtime, and I picked up the link to Obama’s presidential-elect website, complete with easy to understand jobs page.

The challenge

How many of us could support a CEO in this way?  Have a CEO website page up and running withing 48 hours giving the vision, the opportunties, the press links, the opportunities and the discussion page for people to reply?

How many employees would dare to reply (a sign of their confidence in us)?

Anyone want to get together to have this skillbase ready for our CEO’s?

I would like to say that by Jan 1, any company who wants a similar service

  • to articulate the vision
  • to embed it on a readwrite website
  • to be able to launch within 48 hours of an appointment
  • to manage the website
  • to be trusted by their employees who are happy to add their visions

could get it from say, three, suppliers.

Who would those suppliers be?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

PS Update October 31 2009 (11 months later).  I’ve had no takers.  I still believe that being able to launch a website in 48 hours to show employees what they can trust is a measure of an HR department.

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