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Tag: HRM

Learning to recruit better (3/3)

The project cycle in recruitment is amazingly long.  A job opens up, documents are drawn up and approved, advertisements go out.  We rarely have a chance to change the process while it is in mid-flow; and in any case, that may be illegal.

But what can we learn by thinking like a marketer?  Are we just learning to tweak our advertisements?  Are we learning more about our people, i.e., our market?

The key ideas in this phase revolve around a concept that is really difficult to grasp.  Markets are organic and we need to think about them as it they are ‘alive’ and ‘talking back to us’.  We not only learn about them but we grow through our conversations with them as they do in turn.  But they are influenced not only by us but by other people too.  Herein lies the catch and three goals.

  1. We listen to what the market is saying back. Do we get phone calls asking for more information?  And what are applicants interested in?
  2. What did applicants already know about us and who around them prompted them to call? Are we learning more about the market and personas?
  3. Do we see “welcome” in this group and what is the market pulling us to do?

How can we think about this procedurally?

Anticipate the patterns of calls and questions.  At the start of a recruitment cycle, we should write down whom we expect to call and the questions we expect them to ask.  Is our sense of who will take an interest and when they enter and leave the application process getting updated?

Anticipate the community around the job.  At the start, write down whom we think is interested in this job.  Which mentors and patrons will notice the job and pass it on?  Who is actively watching the recruitment channels and who was alerted by a colleague?  What are we learning about the community around the job?  If you asked callers a question such as do you have colleagues who are applying, what would they say?  Above all, ask if they knew the job was coming up before you advertised it?  Is the job part of wider community or are you trying to forge a relationship with the community?

Anticipate your role in this living thing called the market.  As you listen to the question people ask, then you develop a sense of whether you are part of their world or whether they are applying because you offered a job. We often look for this information, arrogantly, in selection.  But what you are trying to establish in recruitment is whether your recruitment is talking to an established need or if you are having to stimulate that need.  Are we already part of a community?  Did applicants know this job was coming up and did they know because someone told them but because “of course” the job was coming up because there is an internal logic to their community of which we are a part?  Importantly, it also follows that this community, being ‘alive’ is always changing.  We should be getting a sense of this ‘living creature’ and understanding that our relationship with it will change.   Recruitment is not just doing some set piece tasks; it is an expression of this relationship and the next time we recruit, we be going through the entire process again because the market has changed, as have we.

Will a marketing mindset be helpful to you?

Recruiters exist to bridge an organisation with the outside world but most are simply on the periphery without a good sense of what the organisation does and so focused on their commissions that they don’t think very much at all about the community behind the labour supply.  But if you want to write better advertisements and achieve good placements more quickly, that paying some attention to the essential marketing character of recruiting might help you.


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How to manage the recruitment process (2/3)

In the academic world, it is the norm to give a contact number of the future line manager who is expected to take calls and talk around the job.  It is amazing how often, though, said contact person is away.   What should applicants read into that?

In the non-academic world, I remember inviting candidates around to look over the job themselves.  Technically, this is called a realistic preview, but it made an enormous impression that they were being taken seriously.  Indeed, I also worked for a university who invited shortlisted candidates in for a week. They were put up in a hotel. Anyone and everyone who wanted to interview them could in addition to the formal interviews.  And candidates were run around the town to see everything that interested them. Sometimes it was schools; sometimes it was the beach.  Their questions were answered.

Are there formal ways to think through our interaction with applicants?

Core value proposition.  What is the core value of the job and how does it relate to the applicants’ core problem that we defined earlier?   Immediately, we see that skipping steps in our homework will cause a problem!  We do need to understand our people as well as the job!

Hook.  Having identified the core value proposition, how can we express it in the simplest terms?

Time to Value.  How quickly will the applicant experience value? What is value to the applicant in the application process?  Now here is a tough one, though probably because we spend so little time thinking about this, we can quickly identify points that would annoy them!  Where is value for them in the recruitment process?  Perhaps helping them find the information they need to make an informed decision?

Stickiness. Who begins this process and who wanders off?  And most importantly, on a 2×2 who arrives whom we sincerely believe might benefit from an employment relationship with us?  And who are we losing?  But specifically, what is that we are doing that helps applicants sift themselves?

Will a marketing mindset help you?

If I am utterly honest, I see so few people manage their entire application process that I would be hesitant to call it.  And if the previous exercises to think through the job and advertisement had not been done, it would be difficult to think clearly about the process.

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How to write a good job advert (1/3)

Recently, some academics complained to the big academic job board,, that an advertisement for a lectureship contained exactly one sentence that was useful to the job applicants.   We know that our job advertisements are often bad.  But in truth, most of us have no idea how to fix them.

I think the trick, which I put here for you to consider, is to remember that selection is about prediction but recruitment is about securing supply.  It is marketing.  We want to catch people’s attention but we also want them to pre-select and arrive as marketers put it, pre-qualified.  There is no merit in attracting lot of applications when you only have one job.  It wastes your time and it makes a lot of enemies.  But how do we achieve the twin goals of being noticeable and being useful?

Some marketing terms

Were we to be marketing the latest £1bn FMCG product, we might think in terms of {Category, Personas, Problems, Motivations}.

Category.  In recruiting, we probably assume that Category is just “a job” but we will probably return here to answer the question – what category of product does the customer put you in?  In other words, what would be their alternative if they weren’t using your product?  Gather your competition and you will have some idea of the category, or set, in which you fall.  Sometimes you are surprised by what people would be doing if they weren’t working for you/

Persona.  Who is likely to be interested in this job?  Where have they come from?  Where are they going to?  Who are they taking with them?  Simply imagine candidates that you would very much like to apply and write down who they are – though keep this private because to do it well you must draw out of your imagination details that will be illegal if they remain part of the system. So, if you imagine yourself recruiting a young male, write it down. Then later you can challenge yourself to imagine recruiting a young woman, an older woman or an older male.  Your task here is not to finalise the system but to begin to walk in the shoes of your applicants and to learn too what assumptions you make about them.

Problems.  Now imagine the issues that your applicants have with your category – that is you and your competition (and your competition might be a gap year!).  What questions are candiates likely to ask, not just you, but other people privately?  What are they googling?  What issues have come up with previous incumbents?  I remember being asked by a very senior person where the printer was.  It really irked him that he had to waste time running around to find his stuff.  This was not central to his competence but it pointed me to factors that he was taking into consideration.

Motivations.  What is the motivation behind these problems?  Why are these problems important to the audience?  In the case of the printer, the person wanted to be efficient, didn’t want to do administration and wanted to be respected?  Maybe these are traits I don’t want and I can signal that in the advertisement.  Or maybe, these are traits that I do want and I can indicate the ‘state of the plant’ in the advertisement.  In recruitment, money and location is important.  And so too is not lying about these.  It is amazing how often recruiters do.

Will taking a marketing mindset help you?

I know a lot of recruiters who just can’t be bothered. They don’t really understand the jobs they are filling. And forgetting that they have two audiences, concentrate mainly on what hirer wants.  That is of course, their judgement.

My experience of using marketing in recruitment is that both we successfully fill jobs, and on the first pass.  Moreover, the number of applications plummets by an order of magnitude. We get better replies and we get fewer replies.   We satisfy both our audiences: the hirer and the applicants.

With this little bit of homework, which is quite enjoyable to do, particularly in a group, we write better job advertisements.


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Cribsheet for HR Planning & Design

Global Warming Ice Cream Van queue at Studland by Watt_Dabney via FlickrBasics of HR Planning & Design

I am tidying up (again) and I thought I would post a revision crib sheet that I made for students of HRM.

HR Planning & Design of HR System

What is HR planning? (mention supply, demand and matching actions)


How do we understand and project demand for HR? (pattern of sales, technology)

Is demand for HR a fixed number (such as 3 engineers)?


How can we understand and project supply of HR? (internally and externally)

Is supply of HR a fixed number?

Match demand & supply

How do we match demand for HR that we are pretty certain about?

How can we match demand for HR that is volatile/that we are uncertain about?

How else can we improve the match of supply and demand of HR?

Metrics: How well do we match supply & demand?

What metrics doe we use to monitor our success in matching supply and demand in HR? (think HR Costs and Sales Revenue)

UPDATE: If you need an example, here is a link to planning for surgeons in the NHS.

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A salary structure for a turbulent world

LizO of HRPractice in Harare asks

Dear Jo, how can I get role clarity and understanding , compensation internally equitable and consistent and worthwhile performance without the old tried and true job descriptions, Paterson etc ????

In a sentence Liz sum up the goal of job evaluation and salary structuring and the main change in work of the past and work today.

Our Goal remains

Role clarity and understanding , compensation internally equitable and consistent and worthwhile performance

Our Procedures change

Job descriptions take time to produce and are outdated so quickly that managers add  ‘and anything else I think of” at the end.  When we define something as anything, then there is little point in having it.

What of the past can we confidently take into the future?

First and foremost, we should be happy to be in a place seeking role clarity and understanding, internally equitable compensation, and consistent, worthwhile performance. Whatever the hassles of pursuing those goals, they indicate that people believe in their collective venture and each other.  That’s great.

What constraints should we consider?

Express and implied terms of employment

Whether we have job descriptions or not, good descriptions or bad, we must remember that there are express and implied conditions of employment.  Over and above the requirement that the employee is paid on time and does not act in conflict of interest with his or her employing organization, there are usually cultural and legal limitations on what an employer may ask the employee to do.  We should list what we know, add to the lst as we go along, and keep the list as simple as possible.  In an ideal world, we will have a short list that in one page lays out our obligations in a way that we are unlikely to breach either the law or deeply held cultural beliefs.

Jobs that are jobs

Within those broad boundaries, people want ‘proper’ jobs and work better when they have proper jobs:  the need a goal that can be laid out in public next to the goals of everyone else, they need training, they need resources, they need authority, they need clear guidelines on when to refer to others.  I think putting energy here is a better use of HR time than writing job descriptions.  A training manual is better than a job description, in other words.

Career ladders

I would add one goal to your list.  People want to see their futures too.  Of course, our futures are affected by firm profitability more than anything else.   The Labour Relations Act allows employee representatives to inspect the accounts.  Few people understand them though and it makes sense to help everyone see where the company is. Some firms, for example,  ingeniously printing current goal on canteen napkins and play a special tune every day when overheads are met and people start working for profit.   What we communicate depends upon the business and the key factors and requires some creativity and good understanding of the business.

Once a firm is profitable, people want to see how they can climb the ladder.  In some firms this is a nightmare because the next level up requires special training outside the firm (e.g. nurse to doctor).  In so far there is a ladder, the equitable structure should reflect the ladder. After all, as someone said about UK, if someone is motivated for 9 pounds a day, why does someone else needs thousands of pounds a day to be motivated?  Money doesn’t buy performance.  It signals to young people the availability of certain life styles provided certain paths are followed.  In short, we don’t pay a boss thousands of pounds for his time. He puts in the same time as everyone else. We pay him thousands to encourage youngsters to go to school and learn his skills.  In a sentence, the pay structure makes the ladder visible.

Paterson job evaluation

With these considerations in the back of our mind, yes, I’d use Paterson.  It is very reliable and the discussion of bands helps clarify roles.

Before I begin

Before I began, I’d take the precaution of listing all the jobs, their pay and their benefits on a spreadsheet and classifying jobs roughly myself.  You want to look ahead to how many jobs are seriously out of position.  When you draw a graph of pay against jobs, it should conform to a neat exponential curve with pay bands that overlap a little but not too much.

To manage the maths, the Paterson grades will be recorded as numbers (1-12) and the pay will be turned into a log.  10=1 100=2 1000=3.   (There is a formula Excel).  In that way, we flatten the exponential curve and we can check that the slope of the line (regression) is between 1.33 and 1.50. That means the grade-0n-grade increase in pay is between 33% and 50%.

Going to Paterson, the grades make good generic job descriptions.

A: Entry level job where you are shown what to do.  You are still a bit of a liability.

BL:  You have a skill that took some organized training, much like a light vehicle driving license.  Within the boundary of this training, you know what you are doing and you are “in charge” as a driver is in charge of a vehicle.

BU:  You have a skill that was acquired in a similar way to a driver’s license (heaps of practice) but it is far more responsible.  Examples are long distance drivers and bus drivers.  A BU might also supervise BL making judgments about very difficult situations.  Once the BU has interpreted the situation, the BL is able to take over and carry on.

CL:  This is a skilled level taking 3-5 years training where we have to think out what to do.  The typical examples are nurse, junior doctor, trial balance bookkeeper, degreed accountant, sergeant, lieutenant. CL is also used as a bottom end of management and might included people who have worked up from A .  They will be supervising several BU and the difference is seen in their time horizon.  BU are finishing a shift of or a journey.  CL are focused on weekly or monthly goals so there is a lot more juggling to do.

CU:  This is rarely an entry level position.  Usually a CU is an experienced CU and works alone or mentors CL.  They have the same ability to understand how the time periods of months and weeks vary and to tell other people what to look for.  In the army they would be Captains and Majors.  In hospitals, they would be Senior Medical Officers.  In schools they would be subject heads.

DL:  The entry level to middle management requires people to lay out systems.  Should they buy in the wrong tools or not have cash available, then the CU cannot do their jobs.  Sadly lots of people in these roles have drifted up but are unable to plan ahead for a whole year adequately.  In a factory, they not only plan and watch progress towards an annual goal, they usually are on 24 hour call when the system crashes.  They are responsible for the overall system though CL keep it running on a shift-by-shift basis.   Some mines appoint entry level engineers here.  Recently qualified medical consultants enter here.  Often newly qualified CA’s enter here.  This is a Lt Colonel in the Army responsible for keeping an entire battalion battle-ready.  They would be a Chief Superintendent in charge of a District in the police.  General Managers of factories begin here.

DU:  Is the skilled level of  DU.  They’ve put in several systems, or done so much surgery that they can mentor other DL’s.  They would be Brigadiers in the Army responsible for 4-5 Battalions.  If they don’t “see ahead”, then the DL’s won’t have the budgets and systems in place to function.  In the police, they are the provincial commanders.  They get involved with big events but they are largely pattern watchers.  They understand patterns across time spans of 1-2 years and get things in place on time for others to roll things out.  A DU in business is likely to manage a set of factories each of which is self contained but linked to the others.  A Captain of a long distance aircraft is here.  Though their planning horizon is only journey, the complexity of the system they are managing requires them to anticipate lots of if-thens.

EL:  Is the beginning of senior management.  Their time horizon should be five years – anticipate the obstacles we will face in the next five years.  Can’t see it in UK some how. Events always seem to take managers by surprise. Contrast the sitting-on-hands with TESCO who rerouted produce to Spain and trucked it in.  That couldn’t have been rolled out quickly with advance anticipation of adverse events and general preparation.  Junior managers are effective with senior managers have done the ground work.  Typically senior managers do a juggling act of planning out a whole function and managing another plan of change simultaneously.  Or they are managing the links between functions.  It’s not just rolling out a plan.  There has to be a element of saying we are following Plan A but if this happens, we will have to be ready to go Plan B, and if this then Plan C.  They are balancing the present with the unknown.  Spend to much time on the what-if and the company will fail now.

EU: Experienced version of EL.  Should have 3-4 EL reporting to them requiring coordination and overview.

F:  Designing a whole organization

Alpha:  Monitoring world events (Chairman of Board)

Beta: Changing conditions in the world

Thinking ahead to a structure

When applied to structuring work, you don’t want to split the grades into quarter grades (B1 and B2, B3 and B4) unless you are like the army or a mine where everyone is doubled up to allow for continuity during an emergency.  Have A’s report to BL who report to BU etc.

Sometimes when the minimum wage is very low, the entry level is pegged there and there is a big dog’s leg into A band when the person joins up permanently.

You can see why you should do a rough check yourself before you start talking.   Thereafter you have a simple system where people get paid and they know what they need to do to move up.  The training must be available of course otherwise it is not possible and they will devote their energies to side ventures.

You can also leave spare money in a pot to be divided up at the year end (or November) and tailor benefits.  One well know firm used to have the very good benefits kick in after 5 years because there was high turnover before then.

How to sort out a mess

Before I talked to anyone, I would do my own preparatory work and sort out a skeleton for the key jobs.

Then (depending on how the problem was presented)I would discuss role (not pay) and guide the discussion to talk about career structures.

If pay had already become an issue, I would simply say that I was there to sort out a pay structure, but before I could, I must understand the levels and how some one got to be really good.  That I would go round and talk to every one to see what I could learn but it would also be useful to sit down in groups and talk through how one gets to learn the business.  Then I will on my consultant’s hat and lay out some proposals for them to look at.

The odds are that they will find the solution themselves and we only have the administrative task of tidying up the payroll over a period of a few years.

To give an example of how this might pan out,  once I proposed a simple structure: Learning the job, Knows what they are doing, Could run the business for a day, Could run the business for a week, Could run the business for a month.  When we know Paterson, then we see immediately that I have proposed levels that are A, BL, BU, CL, CU.  There is still the level of DL above these. Using a slope of 1.40 that would be fairly typical in the private sector, if the guy in A band is earning 10 dollars, the fellow in BL will get 14, in BU will get 20, in CL, in CU 38 and in DL, 54.

Depending how long it takes to move through those levels and other pragmatic considerations (including how much fiddly bookkeeping I am prepared to do), I might put in some notches.  Or I might not. I always go for the admin-lite solution that delivers more control and more cash to the employees (presuming I begin with sound business sense and everything I propose is linked to making more money faster within the company). It simplymight be better to hand out decent cash bonuses from time-to-time and some businesses are so volatile the best the owners can do is pass on windfall gains.

Once I have a clear structure like I proposed, phrased in clear business terms, then I am clear about the training people need to go up the ladder, the opportunities they need to learn and even the systems I need to put in.  People can’t run the business and make sensible business decisions if the accounts are in shambles, for example.

I’m also able to communicate clearly what matters and people will take charge of their own training. They will be looking around for tasks they don’t know how to do and making sure they’ve learned from people who do know.

HR is a a creative business (TG) and people respond to simple, comfortable systems leaving us with a lot less work to do.

The question of whether you need to write jobs descriptions.

My answer would that in places that change a lot, why write them?

Concentrate on

  • a clear simple contract
  • transparent orderly pay that doesn’t put the company at risk
  • managers’ skills in delegating whole tasks and coordinating teams rather than micro-managing
  • good emergency welfare budgets to help people keep their lives stable
  • sensible career structures (with planned exit strategies – like articled clerks- that benefit the employees).

We need simplicity in HR and a spotlight on trust.  We don’t need more paperwork and complication.

What do you think?

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3 reasons why non-Americans care about American healthcare

#1 Is the political system broken?

America is big.  America is a fiercely democratic as any place bar India.  So decision making takes time and is hard-work.

Too many people had given up on their ability to get along with others.  Too many people had given up in a two party process that thrashes things out until a decision is made.

America did not give up this time.  That is why we care.  America did not give up on itself.

And if America, large and committed to hearing everyone out, did not give up; then we don’t have to give up either.

That’s why we care.   America you have done it again.  Democracy may be hard work but it works when we work.

#2 We do business with America and your policies affect us

I’m in the HR world and I work with Americans.  You may be my clients.  You may be my competitors.

You angst about pensions and health care.

Employers elsewhere take more responsibility, contribute more to their employees health care, yet interfere with individual decisions less.  You do “get your knickers in a knot”.  You also seem to arrange your affairs so that you have wicked levels of liability that could bankrupt you.

You could learn from us.  But I am not trying to sell you anything.

Rather I know that your policies at home affect the policies of your subsidiaries and your subsidiaries affect our business environment and the competitive landscape.

So we watch you carefully.  We know you angst about insurance.  Carry on!  You spend time & money worrying about what the rest of us get straightened out at the outset.  We like that!  It gives us competitive advantage.

Here is a good link to the health care to what was voted through last night.

#3  A happy America is a stable America

But we care.  Really we do.

We care because we care.  And of course a happy healthy America is an America that will be a good citizen of the world.  We don’t want a country as big and as rich as you descending into civil strife.  And believe me, large disparities in wealth and well-being go in that direction.

Now you have done health care, live with it!  Make it work.  And get back to what you are good at.  Over paid, oversexed and over here!

There’s a life to be lived and more people should be able to live it with vigor.  That should benefit everyone. Even those for find the new schemes unfamiliar.

Anyway.  That’s why we care.  Beyond the human emotion of caring about our friends.

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


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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This is not a recession. Stop dithering and step up to the plate . . .

HR and the recession

People are out hunting again for information on HR and the recession.  I’ll briefly recap my thoughts her.

1 Keep positive

The over-riding goal of HR during a recession is to remain positive.  I don’t mean vacuous gushy “everything will be alright” talk.  We look foolish when we deny the reality of the precariousness of our financial situation and our the hardships being encountered by people around us.

In practice, being positive means this. Get yourself home. Get your staff home. Have plenty of R&R.  Begin the survival course of the recession by keeping the HR team in blooming psychological health.

Then work on the managers. Make sure they are in rude psychological health. Get them home.  Make sure they are keeping things in perspective.

And lastly work on the employees. Make sure they have plenty of time off and if they are on short-time, try to arrange training and meaningful activities that speak to their innermost dreams and sense of who they will become in the future – good economy or bad.

In short, our job is to “do our blooming in the crack and whip of the whirlwind”.  We can’t stop living just because the economy has gone bottoms-up.

2 Get business minded

Cut out the BS, the bullying and the waste of trees.  Get the business facts onto the table.  Ask what evidence there is that something works or doesn’t work.

Ask what needs to be done now. Right now. When someone is throwing their weight around, ask them for one hour when they can stand up in front of the company and explain their vision of the future with facts and figures.

Keep the discussion focused on what our current customers are buying, what we do well, and what we could do more of quite easily.  If someone has a wish-list, ask them to sketch out a project and take charge of it – including persuading people to cooperate.

3 Get negotiation minded

No one is in business to please us. Not our customers. Not our suppliers.  Not our employees.

What are they willing to do right now?  This minute.  What of those choices is good for the business?  Get that done right now.

When someone sulks, ask them what they are willing to do right now.

Of course, negotiation is a two way street. What are you willing to do right now. And do it when called for.

Is this HR?

Sure it is. HR isn’t a set of tree-wasting morale-hoovering procedures.  It is keeping the team together in a constructive mood.

We can only achieve our mission when we are feeling fresh and rested.  We can only do that when we are talking about mutual goals (business).  We can only do that when stress belonging – what we are doing together rather than what we are not.

And it begins with us.  If our mental health is ragged, we can’t support the managers.  They will become ragged and they can’t support their employees. If necessary, retain a positive psychologist to telephone you weekly or even daily.  Otherwise just look after yourself.  Go home. Eat fresh food. Take exercise. Keep a gratitude diary.   You will notice the difference.

Then cut out the time-wasting and focus on business.

Then focus on belonging.  Why does this person want to be here?  Why do we want them here? Have we made that clear?  Are we setting th tone for a positive inclusive enviroment?

HR is a leadership role

A stern tone – yes, I think I am becoming impatient.  That won’t do.  I must take my own advice.  But this why I am so certain of my advice.

This is not a recession folks.  Stop dithering, and step up to the plate to deliver the positive, business minded, inclusive leadership that we joined HR to do.

And that applies to me too.

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2 occasions to use a person specification; 3 ways to select with job descriptions

Job descriptions ~ good and bad

I picked up a reference to a job description for a Social Network Manager in the White House.  I don’t know if it is a spoof.  I repeat it here because my first reaction was, “Hey, this is a good job description.  I’ll file it away.”

Job descriptions vs person specifications

Then I looked at it more closely.  It is not really a job description.  It is a person specification.

Job specifications that are neither excellent nor strong

And it is not a good person specification.  Each line refers to an expectation that observers may have of the job holder and to a standard that is unanchored.  “Excellent”, “Strong”, and so on are intuitive standards that are believed to be commonly held but are obviously not as the writer was unable to articulate them.

Happy working relations begin with good job descriptions

If you want to be happy with you staff, then it is up to you to describe the job.  Let them see what they have to do. They will have a fairly accurate idea of whether they can do it or not.

When to use person specifications

Person specifications are useful under one of two conditions.

Scenario 1.   The mammoth unchanging organization. You have hired and filled the job over the decades and have objective records of the measurable qualities of the applicants and their subsequent job performance.  The measurable qualities are likely to be in the form of psychological tests.  After all, how else would we keep bureaucratic records spanning thousands of people and dozens of HR managers?

Scenario 2.  A rich leading organization.  In this scenario, it  is extremely unlikely that the applicant has any idea how to the job.  You are recruiting ‘noobes’ and you have the time and resources to train and give a grace time of several job cycles to learn and perfect the job.  Under these conditions, we extrapolate (preferably with the help of objective records or otherwise with commonsense) to qualities that allow a person to learn to do the job that we will show them how to do.  This technique is especially useful when we want to diversify the people in our organization and recruit people who would not normally consider working for us.

When to use job descriptions for selection

When you are in neither scenario, just write out an accurate account of what you want done.  Let people see it. They will self-select.

#1 If you are left with no takers, maybe rethink what you want done.

#2 If you are left with a handful of takers, interview each one and confine the discussion to what you want done.  You will soon find out who has the strongest knowhow.  Leave other discussions for your security check and get a third party to do that (with your preferred candidate’s knowledge and cooperation, of course).

#3 If you are overwhelmed by competent people wanting your job, then use social media!  Start a forum and let the applicant discuss the job with each other.  You may learn a lot.  To be sure, when they think more deeply about the position, many will recuse themselves. Add some voting too like they use on Stackoverflow.  The candidates will quickly tell you who is competent.  So will their pattern of voting.   You will spot gaming in an instance.

Here is the job description

Maybe it is spoof.  I didn’t check.  Follow

* Excellent writing and editing skills with strong attention to detail; your writing is strong, sharp, and personable

* Strong organizing and campaigning instincts; you can craft messages that move people to act, and you know what actions will achieve the right impact at the right time

* Strong familiarity with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

* Ready to work hard; this isn’t a 9-5 sort of job

* Ability to work under deadline pressure

* Ability to manage multiple complex projects

* Passionate about engaging millions of Americans in advancing President Obama’s agenda and changing the country

* Candidates must be willing to relocate to Washington, DC

Preference given for experience with:

* Online organizing experience with an electoral campaign, advocacy organization or non-profit

* Complex project management

* Experience using social media for organizing

UPDATE:  Here is the link to the original on  It follows the format we might expect beginning with the wider picture and then a two sentence description of why the job exists.  Again it leaves the exact parameters of the job in the shadows. HRM for organizations with ‘strong internal labour markets’ [when everyone is promoted from within] is quite different from HRM for organizations who have ‘weak internal labour markets’ and appoint from without.

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The tsunami follows the financial crisis. Leave the beach. Walk. Don’t look back

A tsunami is on its way but we are sleeping through it

I’ve done that actually, slept through a tsunami warning, but I am not talking about waves here. I am talking about the massive changes taking place in the world.  The financial crisis is just the beginning.  The financial crisis is the tremor under deep water that sets off a tsunami of social change.

Intuitive people “get it” first

I have a good intuitive brain.  Many times in my life, I’ve realized that something is all wrong.  But I have stopped to persuade others rather than just “get out”.  I am happy that I am a team player and I am happy that I am loyal and generous.  Sometimes in this life though, patient explanations are not going to “do it”.

There are two important reasons why people don’t listen to warnings from *N**

  • When we stop to explain, we signal to people that we don’t mean what wesay.  People read body language more than they listen to words.  When we stay, they stay.  Sadly, they don’t read our actions as solidarity.  They hear our words as hot air.
  • People who are *S**, rather than *N** [Myers-Briggs], attend to “what is” not “what may be”.  They look around and they don’t see that their comfortable life is about to disappear.  They see a comfortable life.   Our sense of the future is contradicted by tangible facts and frankly we look like fools.  To communicate with *S**, who usually outnumber *N**, we must show concrete proof.  We must find a way of turning out intuitions into something they can smell, feel, touch, taste.

What to do when a tsunami is approaching

When we sense a tsunami is approaching, I’m afraid there is no point in hanging about the beach telling people to get dressed and head for the hills.  What we have to do is

  • Get up
  • Pack up very visibly
  • Head to the hills

We mustn’t slink off.  We must be visible.  But we mustn’t stop to debate or explain.  We must simply walk the talk.  Say briefly and clearly, “A tsunami is coming.  I am going to high ground.”  If they look interested, say “Carry this!”  Whatever you do, don’t give them something essential.  Give them something useful that you could leave behind if they dither and don’t start walking.   Don’t stop.  Don’t look back!   If your best friends stay to continue the party, that’s a shame, but ultimately their choice.  Walk, and keep walking.  Now!

Why I am talking? The tsunami is coming!

Head for higher ground!

As a rule of thumb, if the place you are in is all too easy, all too lazy, all “too right”,  and most importantly “all too exclusive”, you are on the beach!  Head for higher ground!

Imagine the place where the tsunami will not reach.  Imagine who and what is not going to move.  That will be beach.  Leave that beach, now!

Imagine the higher ground, pack up visibly and walk.  Don’t look back.

Hat-tip:  This post was inspired by this very long post by Graeme Codrington.  It is dedicated to all the *N** of the world and particularly those who work as strategic planners for large corporations.