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September 1, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Who’s Up For a Debate at #TruLondon?



Earlier this year I chaired a debate between Bill Boorman and Felix Wetzel about the future model of recruitment. You can read my summary here.

I ran it along fairly traditional debating lines. Bill proposed the motion and had 5 minutes to put his case. All statistics, quotes and case studies had to be referenced. At the end of the 5 minutes I put three questions to him to help clarify points for those listening. Felix then had 5 minutes to oppose the motion, with same same constraints.

We had 30 minute of questions from attendees – my job to ensure that the debaters stayed on point, answered the question and didn’t make pitches -
and then each had 3 minutes to sum up their case, following which we took a vote. Bill won, but it was a close run thing, and we got excellent feedback from everyone attending.

And I’m very pleased to be reprising the format at this Friday’s TruLondon10!

We’ll have a series of debates throughout the day run along similar lines – but we need debaters! Each session will have a proposer and an opposer, so I”m looking for recruiting, HR and tech types with opinions to get involved. I doubt there will be any shortage.

Bill’s already thrown his famous hat into the ring with the topic – ‘Mobile apply will damage recruiting‘ – which we want someone to oppose. After that it’s down to everyone attending to have their say.

Use the comments below – or message Bill and/or myself – with the topics you want to propose or oppose. Anything from future models for recruitment agencies, alternative sourcing approaches, the death of social recruiting to the myth of employee engagement and employer branding, will all be fair game. Or maybe there’s something else about the evolving world of talent acquisition and selection that really gets your passion roused.

I’ll be looking to chair some strong conversations – hope to see many of you there!

June 26, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Want the Best Talent? Give Them Great Coffee!

Regular readers and followers of my social media accounts will know that I like a coffee.

It isn’t just the taste and revitalising powers of caffeine that do it for me, but the whole culture that has grown around coffee and coffee shops in recent years particularly in reference to business. When I started as a recruiter, if you wanted to interview someone offsite then you had to head to a smoky pub, or greasy spoon cafe, hardly the ideal location to discuss someone’s aspirations and career plans.

The role of coffee in the workplace has grown too. Moving from the jar of instant and a kettle, to the ‘proper coffee’ machine, there’s an expectation that people do their best work with a decent coffee, have great ideas in a break out area over a few cappuccinos, or just connect and share thoughts and experiences with a latte. It can help people switch off, get creative and engage.

So I was interested to see some research from Nespresso and Comres about coffee in the workplace. I’ve seen other studies that show the importance of valuing people in the workplace, and decent coffee would seem to be a small perk that people like.

I’ll write more about the research another time, but for now I’ll share this infographic.  I wasn’t surprised to see coffee rank as a higher perk than fresh fruit, but free drinks on a Friday?? Times have changed!

And neither was the recruiter in me surprised by the fact that 11% would reject an offer based on the coffee served. I’ve taken feedback from many candidates over the years who have been turned off a company by their first interview experience – and hospitality is often one of the key indicators of attention to detail.

And 44% of HR people have a creative idea on a coffee break…almost as many as the creative and comms industries!


(Disclaimer : Eagle eyed readers will be aware that I joined a number of other bloggers, journalists and marketing people at a recent Nespresso event to launch a new coffee in their range. The research that I’m referencing here wasn’t connected with that evening. It’s something that I’ve been talking to them about over a few months, alongside some other work that I’ve been doing on workplace happiness)

June 20, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

It’s the Sunshine Summer Solstice #HRCarnival!

It’s midsummer. Whether you’re celebrating, ignoring or just happy that we’ve got as much daylight as we’re going to get in a day this year, the HR Carnival has rolled into Town and it’s my pleasure to be your host.

For us in the UK this part of the calendar usually means RRRAAAWWWKKK at Glastonbury or strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, whilst across the pond a fair few readers will be jetting off to the Sunshine State and SHRM National in Orlando.

For those heading that way make sure you check out the first carnival post from Dwane Lay on The Big Lebowski tribute that will be helping to raise money for the very worthy No Kid Hungry campaign. Hope to see many of you taking part.

No doubt a lot there (and here for that matter) will be thinking about the HR profession and why they go into it. In which case this post from Will Thomson, writing on the Blogging4Jobs site, is a must read.

If you want to chat this over with a few others then you’d better make sure you learn your ‘Mench‘! Don’t know what I mean? Then let Dorothy Dalton’s blog enlighten you on the pitfalls of over-communication.

And talking of communication, will you be using your mobile? Anita Lettink’s post makes some observations about HR delivery and the emerging workforce.

There are many times when we need to be thankful for what we’ve got. In this very personal blog Jeff Harmon reflects on something that happened to him last year, and what he’s learned from it in 2014 so far.

Well that kind of rounds up the Carnival entries – not a lot to share this time round – so I thought I would add in 3 posts that have really got me thinking over the last couple of days. Hope they resonate with you.

Firstly Perry Timms writes it as he thinks it in a look at the ‘Soundbite City’ we inhabit. Who needs Pharrell when you’ve got some early Joe Tex.

Then top blogger FlipChart Rick looks at big vs small and concludes that small may not be that powerful after all, unless…well, I’ll let you read it.

And finally my old boss Felix Wetzel asks if the folks in Silicon Valley are spreading socialism and anarchy around the world in ‘Anarchy in the USA’.

Hope you enjoy the Carnival, and remember that sun protection cream if you decide to read it on your deckchair :)

(image via English Heritage)


June 4, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

From HRD to Head of Integrity at #HRVision14

One feature I’ve enjoyed at HRVision has been the spicing up of keynote sessions with challenging talks of a more TEDx nature, questioning some of the ethics and priorities of business. On the first morning we had Tim Macartney challenging legacy and on the second morning it was the turn of Unilever’s Geoff Macdonald to throw down the gauntlet on purpose and integrity.

It was a powerful, passionately delivered session in which he set out some thoughts for a kind of Capitalism 2.0. Some of the things he said:

  • Let profit follow purpose
  • There are too many strategies and not enough culture
  • Don’t talk about consumers, talk about human beings
  • Stop marketing to consumers and start mattering to people
  • Put purpose at the heart of everything you do

There were two specific things he said that seemed to have a big impact on delegates. The first was about the Unilever Corporate Social Responsibility team, and how they had effectively closed it as a separate function to enable them to live CSR through their people and their brand, and everything they do – ‘It can’t be a department but must live through our products

The second was a call to HR professionals to stop obsessing on being business focused and to assume the role of Chief Integrity Officer for the business – ensuring they pursue purpose ahead of profit and don’t carry on doing business in the same way. “Create the culture that shifts behaviours” he said and channelled Drucker with “in a battle between culture and strategy there’s only one winner every time“.

Before Geoff we had the energetic and engaging Hollie Delaney from Zappos introducing the conference to their core values and culture. The three most popular takeaways were:

  • Culture is everyone’s job
  • If you trust your people to do the right thing then they will
  • Organise the work not the people

Having culture as the cornerstone to recruitment, performance and hence hiring and firing may seem harsh, and might also raise questions over diversity, but it seemed to resonate well around the room.

The morning had opened with Gary Kildare, Global VP/CHRO from IBM. He told us that

  • Engagement isn’t just about people inside your organisation but everyone you do business with
  • There’s no ‘war’ between generations
  • Hierarchy is dead

…and that senior leaders need to be open to change, good listeners, accept that there are other ways of doing things and to create opportunities for everyone in the organisation to achieve and develop their potential.

To some following from afar his observations may not come as news, but at events such as this it is usually the delivery, the energy and chemistry amongst attendees in the room, and the conversations and interactions that follow, that strengthens the message. To have the global CEO of a major business open the first day and a global VP the second, also strengthened the impact.

Overall the talk of integrity, purpose and belief in a better way of doing business, the strength of culture over strategy, and of building trust was an intoxicating brew for many. Taken together with yesterday’s session on legacy and sustainability, and linking it all with the power of social networks, we’ve been offered an interesting challenge and vision to take back to our businesses.


June 4, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

What We’ve Been Talking About at #HRVision14

During the afternoon sessions on Day 1 at HRVision I mainly went to presentations on talent management and engagement. There were some case studies and one or two supplier tracks. I don’t mind those as long as they share some insight rather than pitch – the ones I attended thankfully did the former.

Here are some of the things I heard:


‘If you think someone’s worth talking to then they must be worth listening to

This came from Emmajane Varley of HSBC during a presentation on their employee comms, the team that she runs.. It was an interesting session as she co-presented with her sister Jenny who runs the video channel HSBC Now TV (here’s a review from Rachel Miller a few months ago). She opened with “our leaders had done 148 years and we had had enough. There were too many people with their fingers on the talk button of the walkie talkie“. We had examples of employee involvement and talk of how leaders had embraced the shift from talking to openness and listening. Employee feedback showed an increase in being valued and many felt they had a say in management decisions – probably more the ear of leadership than a seat at the table.


‘Leaders need to be enablers’

During Ralf Larsson’s run through of the Electrolux employee engagement overhaul we heard of how managers had embraced blogging as a way of communication through the social intranet and also how having a mobile interface had driven more use. He talked of the positive impact of moving leadership away from being directive to being inclusive and from taking the role of enablers:

  • explains what employees need to do to support each other
  • encourage exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees
  • explain reasonoing behind decisions
  • trust employees to make decisions



‘You can also find out where to get a coffee’

One of the most impressive tech applications was from Accenture and their Candidate Interview Preparation App. There’s also one for the interviewer to help make sure that they are prepared too. Watch this video explaining more about the candidate app…they even let you know where the nearest coffee shops are…


‘Don’t just focus on your perm workers, understand your contingent workforce too, their passion and value for the organisation’

One of the supplier presentations was from Sally Hunter of Kelly OCG. She looked at various aspects of strategic workforce planning and also talked of the candidate experience, raising the difference between the way we treat consumers and job applicants even though the latter may also be the former. It’s a message we often discuss, but with different audiences at each event it’s one that needs to be repeated.

The main part for me though was about the expectations and needs of contingent workers. In my event preview I raised the point about engaging people who work for you, and represent you, but may not be employed by you. Many presentations around talent and recruitment feature examples from businesses that outsourcer some of their workforce – maybe we need to hear more about the worker/collaborator experience as well as the employee experience.


‘Diversity means nothing without inclusion’

The topic of diversity has been raised a few times. The point being strongly made is that without Inclusion it means nothing.

During the HSBC session we saw videos from employes talking about issues that they behave had with weight and mental health and support that they received. They also shared this video from Antonio Simoes, Head of HSBC UK, on diversity and inclusion…



June 3, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Leadership and Legacy Under The Spotlight at #HRVision14

Three hours in to HRVison14 and we’ve been hearing a lot about leadership. In amongst the presentations on culture change and learning, and during the almost complete silence as people listened, spellbound to Tim Macartney, the underlying theme is leadership.

Tim said:

Leadership is a choice.
An invitation to become truly courageous.
Explore what would make a beautiful life.

He captivated the 200+ delegates with a passionate plea to create a greater purpose, to challenge the notions of wealth accumulation, competition and streamlining by having business purpose & values centred around being proud of what have achieved in this lifetime.

He channeled the native American Indians “no product or service, no manner in the way we do business, should be allowed to impact the children for seven generations to come“. In their eyes he believed that today’s core leadership focuses of competition, market share and being top in their field may ultimately seem like hollow victories.

Before Tim we had heard from Frans van Houten, Global CEO of Phillips, on their global culture transformation. Bringing about change within a traditional, established global business, with embedded organisational structures and inevitable silo mentalities, takes time and a fresh approach – “it’s easy for established businesses to work in silos that create a survivor mentality, inevitably leading to people ducking decision rather than taking risk

A few of his messages that I noted were:

  • Focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing value to customers that makes them smile and makes them happy
  • Always act with integrity
  • It’s not about working harder but about working differently
  • Equip people with new tools, it will help them solve different problems
  • You need to make sure that change doesn’t just happen on the surface
  • Courageous conversations break the cycle of victim mentality and complaining mindset
  • Make the purpose your ‘north star’, the guiding principle that everyone wants to follow

Clearly all this requires a huge shift of mindset from leadership, particularly those used to meeting challenges by shuffling the org structures. Frans was particularly scathing of those who change structures expecting an uplift in performance; his preference was for agile teams created around a problem or project operating across functions.

The session after Phillips was from GE who spoke of strong leaders having a confident humility and learning agility. Their philosophy – Together, we all rise.

Starwood Hotels later spoke of leaders needing to embrace individualism, identity and inclusion within their teams (diversity is nothing without inclusion) whilst at the same time supporting them in making emotional intelligence, continuous feedback and management by objectives core leadership skills to meet developing workforce expectations.

Leaders usually take the plaudits when business performance is strong, when share price and profits are unceasing, so it’s probably right that they are under the spotlight when things need to change.

The words vision, value and opportunity have been heard quite a lot this morning but it was the concepts of legacy and sustainability – most notably from Tim Macartney’s session – that have probably really got most of the HR professionals here talking and thinking.


May 30, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Cultural Influences and Youth Employment

I’ll start this post with a few observations…

When a TV programme or news outlet wants to discuss climate change do they call on a scientist or meteorologist? Someone who has done extensive research?

No. They usually call on a journalist who has an opinion but little evidence to support it save for a few coincidences.

And when a TV programme or news outlet tries to discuss HS2 or a similar large scale engineering project do they call on an engineer or project manager who can bring such a topic to life?

No. They usually call on someone representing a countryside preservation or NIMBY pressure group.

Barely a day passes without warnings of a lack of STEM skills or concerns over how to get school leavers and graduates interested in studying STEM subjects.

Yet there is interest in automotive engineering – hardly surprising given how glamorous, sexy, iconic and financially rewarding Formula 1 appears from our print, broadcast and online media.

What is the first adult TV drama to which children are usually exposed?

Soap operas. Almost everyone in Wetherfield or Albert Square is either self employed or works in a micro business. They are very adaptable too – comfortably switching from market trader to estate agent or managing a kebab shop, seamstress to secretary or hairdresser. Anyone having full time employment with a large employer will almost certainly be public sector – teacher, fireman, doctor, council official, market inspector.

I have recently taken part in a range of conversations and events that relate to either self employment, youth enterprise or the shortage of skills. At each one we hear statistics of how our 18-24 year olds want to start their own businesses, or how they favour career advancement over pay and benefits, or even how they would rather be actors than engineers.

Thing is, its almost always been that way. My peers, many years ago now, all wanted to start their own businesses rather than work for large corporates. Even at a large private school (yes, I’ll admit to going to one of those) most of us wanted to work for ourselves not someone else. No-one surveyed us though.

Some of this comes from our influences during adolescence, the crucial socio-economic, cultural and family influences between 13 and 18 that help to shape values and aspirations. Certainly today’s 18-24 year olds have had 6 years of global recession, banking crash, bonus scandals, shareholder revolts, Fred the Shred, MPs expenses and the like, not to mention watching the parental generation lose their jobs, work harder for less for fear of redundancy, possibly embrace self employment, or suffer a humiliating job hunt. Little wonder that they seem to turn their back on big business.

They have also had a few years of being told that there aren’t enough graduate jobs available, that they may have to be baristas or stack shelves to prove that they can get up in the morning, that the job for life is now a life of jobs – little surprise that being your own boss may sound attractive. More a case of self sufficiency than entrepreneurial zeal.

And as I mentioned earlier, the first role models that most have of working arrangements (aside from parents) will be from the TV and popular culture, and those tend to be self employed, adaptable and resilient. It starts early too…I’m sure Bob the Builder’s flexibility, creativity and resourcefulness beats Postman Pat’s comfortable, though repetitive, job.

Most youngsters are motivated by positive role models, their cultural influences often pointing the way to how they see their opportunities. For many this will be determined by what they observe and experience, and the influences they see the rest of society embrace, hence my point about the way we present the areas that we want them to be inspired by. The lack of interest in studying certain subjects, and the interest in doing things for yourself, is a much wider, cultural issue – not one just for schools but for all of us.

Having said that, we don’t just want engineers, scientists and carers who are there for lack of anything else…we really need engineers, scientists and carers who want to do that. Who are passionate about it. Who see the value of it and the importance to society as a whole. Who feel inspired to do it.

There is no perfect fungibility of labour, hence a raft of people going to university to study engineering or medicine when they have no passion or real interest in the topic, but see it as a way to get a job, is unlikely to be the complete answer either.

As the current TV ad for #toyotahybrid urges…don’t start a career you feel no love for

Can we change that…


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