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December 18, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

The Uberfication of Knowledge

Johnny refilled the kettle for his second instant coffee of the morning. Still in his pyjamas, he took a glance at his proper coffee machine. It had been about 6 weeks since he and Susan had drawn up their emergency household budget plan, with overpriced coffee pods being one of the first victims of the new regime.

He’d had a bad night’s sleep…in fact he barely slept at all. Weeks ago Johnny had agreed with Susan that he would no longer look at emails after 9pm, that whatever came through could wait until the morning, that his creative flow needed rest. But last night he couldn’t help it.

It was from the Scrybz platform and Johnny had assumed that it was a good news message, telling him that his rating was back to 4.6, or even 4.7. As he tapped to open it he was planning a (now rationed) beer to celebrate. But it wasn’t. The message was to let him know that his rating had slipped to 4.4. He knew what that meant – he had about 4 days to get it back to 4.6 or else he’d be de-activated. He and Susan had discussed his options when he first got notified of the drop to 4.5, and agreed that should the worst happen he would sign up to Bloggz. The pay was even worse through that platform, but he would be one of only a few trained writers there so assumed he would get more gigs and better ratings. They hadn’t considered it too deeply though as Johnny was convinced he would get his rating back to 4.6 with Scrybz and then to 4.8 so he could again be a Scrybz Gold writer – better pay and better quality gigs.

He wasn’t sure which gig had dragged him down – he’d only had two all week as most content procurers wouldn’t risk briefing a writer below 4.6. He guessed it must have been the 1,200 words on the impact of Putin’s latest personal scandal on the Russian economy for a clickbait centric general business news site – so outside his comfort zone, a weak spot in his knowledge level with precious little time available for any research, but with the volume of briefs triggering surge pricing for an hour he couldn’t turn down a piece that length, . At the rate per word he now got for his new rating he had to gamble on the longer pieces and hope for the best – with only 10 seconds to accept, or reject and slip back in the queue, he had to rely on gut instincts.

He walked through to the tiny room he called his creative space. – he loathed the thought of referring to it as an office – and looked around. Something inside drove him to start each day like this, a reminder of how things had been before. The memories gave him comfort, somehow encouraging him, making him believe he was still in control.

The certificate for his 1st class English degree sat framed beside the one for his young business journalist of the year award. There was a picture of him on the BBC Breakfast sofa being interviewed about his move from a top selling daily broadsheet to the digital news site Shruggington Mail – one of the first of the ‘new breed’ of digital savvy, serious journalists to do this. Another photo, this time of him reviewing the papers one evening on Sky News a few weeks after his move. He couldn’t help but smile at this – he was never invited back after losing his temper with a seasoned radio phone-in jock who baited him about his youth, salary and ‘hipster’ views on business. On the side were various pictures and remnants of his career and speaking engagements, privilege passes to numerous red carpet events, and a few favourite pictures of him at the House of Commons.

The one thing that wasn’t there was the framed copy of his first article for Shruggington. He joined the week Scrybz launched in the UK and Johnny had championed it. He had heralded this ‘Uber for content and opinion‘ as a major turning point in the evolution of news. His piece got a huge reaction becoming the most clicked, commented and shared piece of content Shruggington had ever published. Ted, his editor, had turned it into a traditional newspaper article and had it framed. But Johnny kept it in a cupboard.

He had thought that Scrybz was necessary to disrupt his industry. The news sites were becoming full of freelance bloggers, history students turned political commentators, comedians, businessmen, think tanks and ex-MPs. Many items were being produced by interns and moonlighting college kids. He knew from his friends in the US that Scrybz had helped transform the main digital news sites, with the freelancers producing much sharper content for fear of falling foul of the rating system.

Ah, the rating system. It now controlled his life. They kept changing the format but as far as he could ascertain the client had a series of fields to score – usual stuff like quality, adherence to brief, originality, evidence of research, relevance, political slant – but then there was the big unquantifiable…the engagement algorithm. Scrybz clients installed a special analytics tool (it was a condition of signing up) and this fed back to the app a score based on a complex measure of engagement during the first 24 hours after posting. No-one ever really knew what the score was nor how it was calculated.


At first he had welcomed the rumours that one of the VC groups behind Scrybz was looking to buy Shruggington Mail. The print media was threadbare after a bitter circulation war drove most of them to effectively become clickbait digital sites with varying levels of subscription, whilst sites like Shruggington had built a legacy of producing quality digital only news, comment and insight. The takeover happened quickly, but it was what followed that remains a blur to Johnny. He heard whispers around the coffee station that all journalists, researchers and support staff would be taken out. That Scrybz would be the way all content would be sourced. That editors would now be content procurement officers and any caught showing allegiance to ex-colleagues and giving them work would be gone.

He had laughed it off but within days he found himself crammed into the staff canteen with all his colleagues, for a Town Hall meeting at which all those rumours, and more, became fact.

He was shocked. Many colleagues started messaging contacts at other news sites looking for work immediately, but the feedback was clear – no other organisation was hiring, they were all going to wait to see how the changes at Shrugginton worked out and then may investigate similar structures of their own.

The Bonfire of the Hacks they called it. The lead story everywhere – broadcast news, independent sites, social media. Twitter was in meltdown as everyone with any interest in digital media and news speculated and guessed. Guesses were taken as fact, and speculating tweets as statements of intent.

Johnny meanwhile tried to work his way through his Scrybz joining instructions and complete an incredibly long sign up and validation process. He was angry. They were missing the point. Taxis, rental rooms, recruiting were one thing, but this was different. It wasn’t a bonfire, and it wasn’t disruption, it was degradation of skill and knowledge. His skill and knowledge.


He snapped out of his daydream and sat down at his workspace. It was only 18 months ago but seems more distant after the roller coaster ride he’d been on since. Susan’s freelance research work was quite erratic and Johnny’s biggest saviour had been Ted – now the Chief Content Procurement Officer, Politics & Business Section at Shruggington. Even though he wasn’t really allowed to, Ted still tried to help out when he could, sometimes messaging Johnny when there was a strong brief about to go live on Scrybz, encouraging him to log in at the right time, and sometimes it worked, but in reality it was a difficult system to game for any length of time.

He opened up his computer and got ready to log in to Scrybz for the day. It was 1st December – maybe he could get his rating back and earn some better money in the run up to Christmas.


He came back early from pre Christmas drinks with ex-colleagues from Shrugginton. The evening was pleasant enough but as no-one signed up to Scrybz or Bloggz could really say much to each other about work or current news, things were fairly subdued.

Anyway it was 23rd December and he was feeling more relaxed. His rating was back to 4.7, largely thanks to two opinion pieces on morality in the digital business start up space following a couple of funding scandals. Both meant he got out to Shoreditch to do interviews and get quotes too. One of his strongest areas was the digital economy and even now his name on an article could generate traffic, plus the nature of the scandal had triggered surge pricing which made them a bit more profitable. Susan had been paid a good retainer on a new project and they had been able to plan for a happy, though still budget, Christmas. Although they did agree that the proper coffee machine would be back in use for Christmas week.


Johnny’s parents had never really understood his new working arrangement so he tried not to talk about it. They liked it when they could buy papers and see his name in print but after his move to Shruggington they stopped buying them, preferring to call every few days and ask what he was writing about.

You’re not going to answer that, are you? What’s so important that it needs to interrupt Christmas lunch?” His mother hated it if either Johnny or Susan’s mobiles rang when they were all together, particularly for a family occasion. But the ring tone meant it was Ted, who wouldn’t be calling halfway through the turkey unless he had a reason, and Johnny knew that the reason might be some interesting work.

Making excuses he went in to his creative space to return the call. Ted sounded excited

Something big has come up. I can’t say what it is as it’s got a top security embargo until the 27th but I need 2,000 words on how the economy has changed over the last five years. It’s a personal piece, I need it from your perspective. I know you’ll want it and I’ve got clearance to go outside of Scrybz and brief directly. We can only pay the Scrybz rate for this afternoon, but I thought it was right up your street. I have had to brief a longer critical analysis through Scrybz Gold, but I’m sure you’ll understand.

Johnny did understand but wished his could have come through Scrybz too. Direct was good but carried no rating and he knew this would be a successful piece. He asked Ted to give him a moment to log in to Scrybz and then to brief the piece there, but Ted tried to talk him out of it, there was a strong risk he might lose it. He asked Ted to give him a minute to think.

He wanted the ratings – it could put him on to Gold rating – but could he risk losing the chance to write it?

He went to the cupboard and got his framed article, the first time he’d looked at it, or even touched it, for the best part of a year. He blew some dust off and stood it up on his workspace, walked a few paces back and stared at it. The headline still gave him a shiver, and then he smirked. What hubris…


He closed his eyes for a few moments then picked up his phone and called Ted.

Don’t brief Scrybz, I’ll do it direct. I’ll finish the Christmas pud first though

Ted laughed. “It’s OK, you can wait ’til after the presents

Presents? This is the new world of work Ted. Presents can wait

December 8, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Talking About Employer Brand

Whenever I attend an in-house recruitment conference, and attendees break out to discuss their big challenges, the two issues most consistently raised are pipelining and brand. Cost of hire and quality also feature along with volume of irrelevant applications and the need for better internal mobility.

Inevitably it’s the employer brand that links all of these, yet the very concept still seems diverse and difficult to nail down. Many have an opinion on what it includes and how to showcase it, but the whole area of marketing to engage, attract and retain still remains a challenge for many recruiters

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen presentations on, and judged HR and recruitment awards for, employer branding and it would be easy to conclude that it’s a fairly amorphous topic that means anything from a new logo or learning programme for some to reputation and rewards for others.

Of course its all of those things and much more, but the challenge of defining and illustrating the experience of working for a business, the compelling reason why someone would want to join, nailing what someone says about you when they’re not with you, to promote what is effectively your reputation as an employer, is elusive to many. Yet the benefits of getting it right – reduced recruitment costs, fewer hiring mismatches, greater awareness, stronger pipeline, communities, better quality and retention, differentiation, alignment with consumer brand to name a few – are great.

And the window on your employment experience is already wide open. This graphic (from research on employee activism earlier in the year) illustrates that employees are already shining a light on their day to day work experience through social channels, even before they decide to log in to Glassdoor.

And it isn’t just your people. The second most popular job search activity on social media is researching potential employers, with 47% also checking out what other people say about the company.

I’m always interested in finding out how businesses from different sectors manage to achieve this successfully and overcome barriers, whether its buy in from the C-suite, measurement or creating long term growth, so I’m looking forward to this Friday’s Employer Brand Management Conference at which a range of businesses – including Sky, Deloitte, RAF, First, Shell, TfL, ebay, Carphone Warehouse – will share insights, learnings and benefits. I’ll be aiming to tweet the best ones.

The conference is run by Transform Magazine and there are still a few places left – readers of TRecs can get a 15% discount by using the code EBM_15 when booking here.

Should be an interesting event. With job seekers searching out what people say about working at a company, and existing employees/alumni offering their help, possibly inadvertently, its not surprising that employer brand remains a priority for recruiters.

November 28, 2014 / Mervyn Dinnen

Are You Really Recruiting Socially?

My first tools in recruitment were a phone and a rolodex. I used them a lot but never said that I was telephone recruiting. My first MD had previously invested in a fax machine but regarded it as the devils own work come to wreck the recruitment industry so always discouraged us from using it. If anyone did they never said they were fax recruiting. Some candidates would put their CVs in an envelope with a handwritten covering letter and post it to us, clients would similarly send job description through the post, and some recruiters would also mailshot their clients with a selection of CVs. If placements occurred no-one called it postal recruiting.

But then the internet came and changed everything. We had emails, websites and job boards and were now internet recruiters or e-recruiters – because this was different but also a distraction. Funnily enough this approach is now just called recruitment, in fact it’s what most people would now refer to as ‘traditional recruitment’.

And then we got social.

Now the digital platforms would have us believe everyone is doing it. The latest Jobvite survey (an online survey completed by 1,855 recruiters and HR professionals) found 93% of recruiters using or planning to use social to support their efforts. But is this right? The recent employer perspectives survey from UKCES (drawn from 18,000 interviews with employers) found only 7% citing social as a recruitment channel. Whilst recruiters may not be well represented in this report, SMEs and smaller businesses – employers of around half UK employees, and unlikely to have specialist recruiters to complete online surveys – are.

So are we really doing that much social recruiting?

Well it depends on what you call social. Looking at the Jobvite results then their 93% only stands up if you regard LinkedIn as a social network…


Some might see it this way, but I don’t. It’s not a social channel but a content publishing platform. A database. And look at how these recruiters use LinkedIn…

Makes it about as social a a CV database – which I’m sure no-one would ever really call a social platform. Searching, tracking and vetting aren’t social. More talking less stalking required.

If we take away LinkedIn then recruiters don’t look quite as social as the 93% figure would have us believe. But how successful are the networks for hiring?

So LinkedIn gets results, as any database of more than 300 million people should. Not so good for Facebook and Twitter though…maybe it’s because of the way recruiters use them?

Showcasing and posting, instead of engaging and relationship building. At least there are mentions of referrals – as there should be given they still provide a large number of hires, particularly in the US – but then with enterprise social networks like Hollaroo there are possibly more effective ways to manage them.

Social recruiting is recruiting. Social networks can enable you to recruit well and more effectively. The bedrock of effective recruitment will always be understanding why you need someone new, what they will be doing, why you need to look externally, what exactly you have to offer the right person, whether the person you want will be happy with what you have to offer them, and lots more.

And once you know that then it will be about having the right conversations with the right people at the right time about the right things. Social should be enabling these to happen.

Everything else is just broadcast and advertising. Not very social.

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.



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