Gloom-and-doom is catchy! Ask 3 questions to find a positive spot in the recession

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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Connect people who want to hear with those who want to tell!

In this day of social media and viral campaigns, I’ve discovered that I have a new competence.

I am good at team-tag!

I don’t have the mischievous mind to think up viral campaigns.  But I do recognize good viral material and I am quick to endorse it.

Playing team-tag in social media

The beauty of the Hootsuite interface for Twitter and Google Analytics is that I can measure the effectiveness of my “team tagging”.

Getting better at team-tag

I look at the stats not to brag, you understand. But to learn.

The statistics shape my judgment about what people want to hear and see and when they want to hear and see it.

The person running the campaign still has convert the interest and the quick drop-in into a sale or action. To get better at that, they need to speak to people like Paul Imre in High Wycombe.

Helping connect people who want to know with people who want to tell – that I can do.

Get a strategic stake for HR with social media

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Jon Ingham is on to something good.

How can we leap-frog ahead of our competition by using social media?

How can the easy interaction between staff members, whether on the intranet or on Facebook and Twitter, build a stronger team?

How does our combined strength on Facebook and Twitter build more loyal links between us and our customers?

New IT has always give competitive edge

IT boffins have always been brilliant at looking at how a new technology allows us to put old working practices in the trash, leap-frog over our competitors, leaving them in a mad scramble to catch up.

The social nature of the two-way web gives us the opportunity to jettison old norms about social structure and leap ahead with tighter relations.

Who will win the social media race?

One of the interesting features of these revolutions is that it is usurpers who tend to use new technologies.

Barack Obama used my.barackobama.com to mobilise door-to-door canvassers and to raise money $ by $ because he was coming from behind. The Conservatives have been quicker to jump on the social media band wagon because they are trying to wrest the lead from Labour.

In business, we see Best Buy coming in to challenge big box companies with their ‘pull’ HR – work any time like a university lecturer – just get it done.

We see students playing David and successfully challenging the Goliath HSBC.

HR is taking its place with leading IT

Jon is chairing a session at the Social Media in Business conference on October 23rd. He will be surrounded by geeks who will tell you the ins-and-outs of being found on Google and managing your blogging policy.

HR is taking up the chance to be strategic

Jon is doing what I’ve always liked doing: asking how can we change the rules to give us permanent competitive edge?

How do the people, and the way we arrange them, give us and edge on our competitors? How can we take our competitors by surprise and make them chase us?

Oh what fun business is when we treat it as a race!

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Olney, United Kingdom on the internet

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Flower Shop pikniked
Image by joolney via Flickr

Have you built a community site before?

I’m working on a project at the moment building a community site for the town of Olney, in the UK, where I live. I’m building it on Ning, which is a read-write platform, like Facebook.

This platform, like so many others, is basically free to use and can also be make completely private so you can use it like an intranet.

There are three interdependent parts to this project

  • People
  • Site
  • Internet presence

Olney’s intriguing art gallery, IceTwice, championed the site from the outset and have contributed hugely to its vibrancy.  On the day of our Pancake Race, they illustrated the proper use of a social network beautifully by offering a discount on recipe books should a customer bring in a receipt for a pancake.

The site itself can be time consuming to maintain.  There are members to greet.  Warnings that Olney may be flooded by the River Ouse to put up and take down.  And the rich format of Ning to be explored.

And we need to build up our internet presence.  Yesterday, I was disconcerted to see that chatter about our site, Olney100, had displaced the site from the number one position when we search for Olney100.  Obviously something I don’t quite understand about SEO and prompting an important decision. Stick with the Olney100 or try to capture the keyword Olney?

So in a month, I’ve suddenly become pretty efficient about Flickr where I am joolney and in partner YouTube where I use the account name joolneyuk. I’ve linked up a Delicious account for Olney100 to the site.  I’ve learned a fair bit of CSS and HTML.  I read up Traffic Estimations and Analyse Keywords with aplomb.

And I’ve met a lot of people who’ve rapidly made the site their own integrating it with their blogs, their Twitter accounts, fundraising, and inevitably Facebook.

Will the community site help Olney to flourish?

The ultimate question though, is whether the site helps Olney to flourish and prosper.  We should be able to do more, faster, and more profitably.

Reviews please!

Would love any comments.  You can read the site and if you want to leave a comment, you can login into the guest account using the email olney100 at gmail dot com with password olney100!

Love to see you there.

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5 recession speeds!

The snow brought the people out .  .  . to talk

Today it snowed in the UK – a lot for us.  When I drew the curtains, I thought for a moment my car had been stolen.  It was just buried!

Later on in the morning, I walked down to the shopping centre to see if some of the members of Olney100, a community social network for the town of Olney, England, needed my help.  A suprising number of people had driven.  Others, like me, walked and there was an unusual number of people dallying in the supermarket and in the coffee shop.  Unsurprisingly, given the economic circumstances and my interest in promoting Olney100, we began talking about how we should arrange our affairs in what is a downturn of unknown magnitude and unknown duration.

So what is your view?  What is your recession speed?

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous and I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries and I will see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I am going to wait and see.  I choose to be optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

I suspect, well I know, that there will be very many more people rating themselves 1-4 than 5.

If we differ in our response, are we wrong?  Should we converge?  Or can we benefit from the variation in our opinions?

Can I ask you this?

Who are three people who give you the most support?  And what is their recession speed?

Does their recession speed help you and does your recession speed help them?

I’d be interested to know.

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Should you google a candidate in a selection exercise?

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There is much talk about whether employers google candidates, whether they should google candidates and whether it is legal to google candidates.

As a work psychologist, whose original speciality was personnel psychology, I know heaps about selection. So I ask the question differently. What are we hoping to gain?

Yes, before I meet someone, I look them up on the internet. Before I go to a job interview, I know more about the interviewers than they realize. But if I were the interviewer, would I look up the candidate? I am afraid not, and this is why.

The art of selection is

  • to identify variables on which we vary reliably
  • and to identify which of those, correlate with difference in job performance.

To find anything that varies with job performance, we must be first find out what variations there are in job performance that are themselves reliable and meaningful.

Collecting information on people ad nauseum just clutters the process. If you want to use Google and Facebook in selection, you need to show me that what you are looking at is reliable and relevant.

Otherwise you are gossiping. Harsh words, I know, but go back to the numbers.

We deal with weak effects. Generally we deal with effect sizes of around 0.2 or 0.3 and we account for 4-9% of variance on the job. The grandest claims are 25%. Muddy that prediction and you are left with nothing but randomness. Moreover, you are likely to create adverse impact (select on a like-me basis and open your company up to valid charges of discrimination).

In selection, we stick to variables that we know are relevant to job performance and that we can measure reliably. If it cannot be done, then it cannot be done. That is the professional and ethical position.

So, what are we really worried about?

People aren’t daft. So, what is going on when we try to select minutely?

Organizations take people and make them live in closer proximity than if they were married. Anxiety goes up. Is this going to be heaven, or is it going to be hell? And if I am the manager, will I be held accountable for the outcome?

My answer is not to make the selection process more complicated. There is nothing to gain. If something is not predictable, then it is not predictable.

Rather put we should put our energy into managing the relationship.

  • Improve the working conditions.
  • Improve the job design to set clear boundaries.
  • Set up communication systems
  • Train
  • And coach ‘on demand’ (I mean it – be on call).

Above all, attend to why the manager is so anxious. Why do they believe they will be blamed? Most likely because there is no common ethos on what performance it is reasonable to expect. It would be better to work on the collective understanding of what is reasonable and to lower tensions all round.

  • We need HR people who understand job performance and what variations are manageable.
  • We need HR people who can be close to the work team and help them with the ‘pressure cooker’ existence of living in far too close physical proximity.
  • We need HR people who can grow the understanding of what is manageable and what needs to be worked through.
  • We need HR people who are credible because they focus our attention successfully on what can be done.

Will candidates look us up on the internet? I do hope so. Will they have Facebook profiles? I do hope so. Will they have a life outside work? I really do hope so.

But that is nothing to do with selection. In selection we deal with what is predictable. If it is not predictable, then exclude it from the selection process!

A place for everything and everything in its place.  There is a lot more to HR, management and leadership than selection.

UPDATE:  There are two other considerations to make when we use ambient data to make decisions about people.  First, remember issues of privacy.  If you look, you will record.  What did you record and do you have the person’s permission?  Second, employment is about a relationship.  Build one!  Use professionals to do the cold work of making probabilistic predictions on reliable factors.  You get going on building a warm, normal and trusting relationship.

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