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August 10, 2018 / Mervyn Dinnen

Under New Management

This weekend sees the start of the new Premier League football season and I, for one, can’t wait. Regular readers will know that I’m an Arsenal fan, who’s been following them home and away since my early teens. But this weekend is a little more unique. For only the 4th time in all my years of watching Arsenal they will be starting the season with a brand new manager. A couple of times they have changed manager during a season, but I have to say that during my years of support they haven’t had that many managers.

I’m not usually one for waxing lyrical about what business/HR/recruitment can learn from sport, but having done some writing and research around leadership and management recently I’m interested in the rituals and actions by which new managers establish their style and vision, and differentiate themselves from their predecessors.

Most people want to work for leaders who are accountable and honest. In the UK we also like them to be decisive. Football managers will always be accountable – to the fans and the Board who hired them. Our new manager seems like an honest guy, and has a decent record of winning at other clubs, so what’s he done so far to make an impression?

He has a plan and strategy.

He knew what had been going wrong. The new managers that I’ve seen have all come in at a time of stagnation. The team hadn’t evolved or developed over the previous few seasons. Earlier glories had not been matched. Outgoing managers hadn’t refreshed the squad, or been coaching existing players to improve performance. Individuals have been allowed to make mistakes, and abandon their responsibilities to others in their team. This summer was no exception.

For the new guy though, it seems he had already done his homework. At his interview he showed a deep knowledge of not just the more senior and experienced players, but also the younger up and coming ones. He had a plan to help experienced players improve their performance and a strategy for developing the less experienced ones. He’s let the group know what he expects from them and how he wants them to achieve it.

Previous new managers haven’t always done this. Maybe this time was a more rigorous approach to interviewing – previous newcomers had their own ideas and style, and maybe there was little focus on how they were going to improve what was already there.

He believes he can coach them and make training fun. Lots of pictures have been shared by the club of training sessions. Players are laughing. The other coaches are joining in. Everyone looks like they’re enjoying themselves. Can’t say that’s been seen in pictures from training sessions over the last few years.

Expectations are raised but not heightened to something that’s unachievable. There haven’t been any ‘statement signings’. A couple of previous new managers have gone out and broken the club’s transfer record before they’ve even managed their first game. If you take over a team, and immediately make a high profile hire – a bigger name than anyone else in the team – then you are setting expectations very high.

And it might not be you that reaps the benefit. Over a ten year period one of those statement hires (Denis Bergkamp) went on to be come one of club’s greatest ever players – but the manager who signed him only lasted a year and barely gets a mention when previous managers are discussed.

In the case of this new manager, expectations are sensible and no supporters are expecting immediate miracles. They know it may well take a couple of years or more to begin to properly move forward. They would be very mistrustful if he had came in and promised immediate results and success. Few managers are able to achieve that.

He acts like he knows what he’s doing. Actions speak louder than words. As I wrote earlier, he looks like he has a plan, and he seems confident. Often with a new manager you hear a lot about what they are going to do – this time around he seems to be just getting on with it. Individuals in the team are making the right noises about how positive they feel.

Of course in the world of football, unlike business, these things can also be short lived, and fans can be fickle. A few poor results – not uncommon with a new manager who wants his team to play differently to how they have before – coupled with some underwhelming individual performances, and I might by holding up my own #EmeryOut banner!

August 9, 2018 / Mervyn Dinnen

Thoughts From Jobseekers on How Work is Changing

It seems that barely an hour passes on digital communication channels without predictions, opinions and discussions appearing about the future of work. Those last three words alone now appear on bios and as individual specialisms. The battle is often between a dystopian view of the future where AI-powered robots have made all jobs obsolete and a more optimistic view where technology creates huge opportunities to bring more meaning, fulfilment and improved well-being to working lives. And amongst the unknown there are many commentators, bloggers and analysts who see certainty.

But how is work changing now, and what issues do employees face? We need to look more closely at the world of work as it is now and understand the trends, attitudes, and, behaviours that are currently driving change and that will continue to drive change.

To find out more about this reality, and rely less on the myth, Matt Alder and I partnered with Kelly Services to research more than 14,000 jobseekers across 10 European countries, capturing their experiences, hopes and opinions. The findings from this extensive quantitive research will be captured in a series of reports.

The first one has just been published. There were three key topics that jobseekers seem focused on – the quality of their work experience, the capabilities of their leaders, and the opportunity for some flexibility within their work.

A few of our findings:

  • How a company treats their employees is the main factor influencing someone on whether to apply for a job.
  • How they are treated during the application process will impact the decision on whether to join for 86%.
  • The number one thing people are looking for from their employers is the opportunity to learn new skills, which is ranked more important than salary increases.
  • There are no clear cut preferences on flexibility. For some it is location and for others hours. Whilst 58% felt working from home would improve their work/life balance, 48% believe that working from an office helps to keep work and home life separate.
  • The option to work from home wasn’t available to 61% in our survey, although 70% believed they had the technology to enable it.
  • The most important leadership qualities are accountability and honesty (except the UK where its awareness and decisiveness)
  • 53% of respondents had considered self-employment, but only 18% have any plans to become self-employed

One of our main conclusions was that for employees and jobseekers the reality is more about how they do their day to day job, and the ways technology may make their daily routines easier and more engaging whilst offering greater choice over how and where they work. Certainly the way they are treated and supported is much more important to them than working for businesses who embrace the latest fads and trends.

You can download a copy of the report here – hope you find it interesting.

I’ll write about some more findings when the next report is available.

June 4, 2018 / Mervyn Dinnen

Technology, People, Recruitment and The Tipping Point

The recruitment ecosystem is constantly shifting shapes and dynamics, and ameliorating in new and different ways. Technology is driving much of this. The simple days of agencies, internal and advertising platforms (be they print or digital) have changed. Consolidation and collaboration is now happening on an almost weekly basis. Recruit Holdings can buy Indeed and Glassdoor, and have a significant foothold in the way people search for jobs. Although the search more often than not starts on Google.

How are we responding to jobseeker behaviour? Research I have recently been involved with from 14,000 European jobseekers showed 63% saying that online reviews are influential when deciding to apply for a job, 55% that the main thing they want to know about a company when applying is how it treats its staff, and 24% dropping out of an interview process after the first interview because they saw negative online reviews.

External reviews are now an integral part of the job hunt. So is automation. And after years of debate about whether recruiters should think and act like marketers, or be a part of marketing, how do we now connect and engage with potential candidates? How do we find, develop  and retain the people we need? Will technology replace people in the recruitment process?  And is it conceivable that data will replace people as an organisation’s ‘greatest asset’?

I’m looking forward to finding out more on June 20th when I’ll be co-chairing the first Talent Tipping Point Conference.

Across 8 hours internal talent teams, recruitment agencies, HR, tech suppliers and RPOs will come together from all corners of the Talent Acquisition and Recruitment community, to talk and debate about the impact of technology on talent acquisition. How are we responding, how are we collaborating and how can technology help us to create better talent outcomes for businesses, workers and jobseekers. Opening keynote is from Lord Chris Holmes and during the day we’ll have views and insight from many industry leaders including Robert Walters, Fleur Bothwick, Kelly Griffith, Kevin Blair, Adrian Thomas and Janine Chidlow.

As part of the event preparation, research was conducted across a large range of employers, recruitment agencies, RPOs and hr/recruitment tech companies to gain an overall feel for how they felt about technology, employment models, diversity and whether the future was in collaboration. There were some interesting findings:

  • 44% of in-house recruiters think that technology will become more important than people in recruitment within the next 5 years; for agency recruiters and RPO the figure is 27%
  • Half of all recruiters do not see permanent employment as the default option for workers in future
  • 53% believe technology to be more effective than humans in the unbiased assessment of candidate’s, although only 7% think it more effective for determining culture fit
  • Almost 40% don’t believe that their current recruitment (whether direct, though agency or RPO) is as effective as it should be, with over two thirds believing that recruitment suppliers (tech vendors, agency, RPO) need to be better at collaborating

The pace of digitisation in recruitment is quite varied, governed by size, needs, budget and management capability. Yet cognitive solutions and AI are now being used all the way through the hiring process. With technology becoming increasingly integral to how we live, and the way we consume and do business, its impact on the way we attract, hire, develop and retain our people can’t be denied.

Want to join me at Talent Tipping Point? Recruitment International UK has a limited number of half-price tickets remaining for the event. Simply enter the code RITP when you register to save £250 on the regular price. Order yours today –

April 10, 2018 / Mervyn Dinnen

Be Courageous, Be Human, #WorkHuman

Do the internal systems and structures within your company work against people reporting harassment or bullying, or are there ‘safe spaces’ or non-judgmental support for those who need to tell their story? Can HR create these? And if not, then is the hard truth that HR are complicit in the pain of people who are subjected to this in the workplace?

I’ve just come back from Globoforce’s 2018 WorkHuman conference, and these  were some of the many questions raised during the #MeToo panel, chaired by Adam Grant, in which Ashley Judd, Tarana Burke and Ronan Farrow were very moving as they shared stories and talked about their various experiences, calling for courage, respect, equality, and dignity in the workplace.

If there is someone in the organisation who is found to be harassing or bullying, then do we ever ask how we came to hire (and probably promote) someone who felt this behaviour was OK? Would an incident such as this trigger a review and overhaul of selection processes?

Some tough questions, but as Ronan Farrow put it “HR professionals are in an incredibly powerful position. You are a formal part of the chain of command. If you say something, it creates an opportunity for others to speak up. Don’t forget how powerful and important your role is

You can’t change policies after the fact. You have to create a culture where that behaviour is not ok” said Tarana Burke

You may have gathered that WorkHuman isn’t your average HR conference, in fact I’m not sure I would call it an HR conference. Its about humanity. Feelings and perceptions, and many personal qualities that aren’t often discussed at business conferences. Sure the attendees, and many speakers, were from the wider HR sector, but the many themes including courage, vulnerability, diversity, unacceptable behaviour, recognition, performance, humanising, happiness and creativity, were of more personal, and human concerns, even if they clearly they fall under the remit of most HR professionals.

Your ego is not your amigo

Leadership was to the fore and opening keynote Cy Wakeman was in no doubt that ego wasn’t part of it. “A leaders role isn’t to change the reality for employees – it is to change the negative energy focused on why we can’t on to how we can”. And as for ego? “Your ego is a filter on reality and corrupts your data. You’re making decisions based on corruptive data. Your ego is like wearing a pair of prescriptive glasses that are the wrong prescription

Ego leads to drama, and drama can be draining and demotivating, taking up too much time in the workplace.

Brene Brown spoke of vulnerability and the need for leaders to embrace it “There is zero evidence that vulnerability is a weakness. It is the courage to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome”. She also warned that “If you set up a culture within your organisation where there’s no tolerance for vulnerability, no tolerance for failure, then there’s no room for innovation, productivity, or creativity

She spoke of the importance of leaders showing accountability, which resonated with me – I’ve recently been involved with research conducted amongst 14,000 European jobseekers (published soon) and accountability came out as the top quality they look for in leaders. Maybe Brene knew why when she said “The opposite of accountability is blame. Accountability is a vulnerable process that takes courage and time. Blame is faster

Stop giving feedback, start encouraging people to ask for feedback

David Rock ran two sessions on feedback, particularly in relation to performance management. “Performance management becomes feedback management” he told us. We don’t like receiving feedback when its unsolicited, which too much is. Its also often negative. We need to start getting our people to ask for feedback, when it will be less threatening and more welcome. Ensure people have conversations and make them future focused. Manager capability is key here. They need to minimise the feeling of threat around candid and honest conversations, and help facilitate insights to help people positively embrace change.

In another session, author Shawn Achor said “most praise is just comparison”. And he had a point. When we praise people by comparison to their peers and colleagues, or competitors, we are linking their potential, and their happiness, to others. This can create competition, rather than support and enable personal growth and development. Which I know from my research mentioned earlier, is the main thing people look for when searching for a new role. Maybe there’s a link back here to David Rock’s sessions on feedback – with managers using comparisons (even if unwittingly) rather than focus on each individual’s potential and contribution.

Shawn Achor also talked about his research amongst Harvard students that found social connections were the best predictors of happiness, success, future job roles. The relationship people have to the ecosystem around them. We are often the product of formal and informal networks of relationships and connections. The original Star Wars manuscript showed the famous line as ‘May The Force of Others Be With You’ although this was changed. This flags up a big concern to me though, as it underlines the problems we face with social mobility and finding ways to understand and develop the potential in everyone, irrespective of background, trajectory and networks.

You can’t incentivise performance. You can only incentivise/reward/encourage behaviour

Simon Sinek has spoken before of how the way to influence human behaviour is to inspire it rather than trying to manipulate it. In his keynote session at Workhuman he was looking at business being an ‘infinite game’. He drew the parallel between sport – which is a finite game with a beginning, an end, and rules – and business which is infinite.

Winning and losing is the wrong language in business. It works in sports because you are playing a finite game, but business is an infinite one. Companies that last aren’t the ones that play to win, they’re the ones that play to keep playing”.

Great organisations have a have a fixed just cause and flexible strategy. But he told us that “too many don’t focus enough on the cause, and have an inflexible strategy. So many organisations have a new Just Cause after every offsite meeting.”  Worse yet, they have a fixed strategy.

Leaders ask ‘How do we get the best out of our people’. It sounds like they’re wringing out a towel. The question should beHow do we help our people to do their natural best

Courageous leadership is what business needs. But too often we promote leaders because they deliver on results, even if they are untrustworthy or lack respect from their teams. This can destroy the fabric of a company. As Simon put it “Promoting high performance-low trust team members will destroy your organisational culture. But its easy to identify these people. Ask team who the asshole is and everyone will point to the same person, so this is avoidable

The final takeaway from Simon’s session was that HR should be advancers of people, and not the last line of defence between the people and the executives. He suggested they stop being ‘executors of the executives’.

Ultimately it all comes down to culture. Being human, working human, and helping people to be their natural best requires a culture where ego, drama and blame have no place, and honesty, courage, vulnerability and openness can thrive. Where people feel able to speak up, and to be themselves. And can get the support they need to do the best they can.

And the next time you attend an HR conference and hear a series of sporting metaphors…remember…

Some more blogs on WorkHuman that I recommend you read:

What I Learned at WorkHuman 2018Jane Watson

Work Human 2018: A RecapVictorio Milian

Embracing the Ying and Yang of Human Experience at WorkJason Lauritsen

October 23, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

3 Things about Digital Transformation

October is traditionally HR technology month.  2 major conferences with accompanying expos, and chances to see what new functionalities the major companies have lined up, as well as some of the newer, start-up tech businesses.

For all the bright shiny new things, there are 3 things about digital and back office transformation that I think often get lost in the chatter.

  1. Technology needs to replicate the experiences people have in personal lives. Often mentioned but operationally the intuitive, responsive, convenient and app-like functionality seems harder to find
  2. The need for HR leaders to understand that technology is a change. For workers all new, or remastered technology and processes are an organisational change. They way they do their jobs, and often their responsibilities, change and they need need to be supported.
  3. New technology and working practices might be seen as necessary, and cost effective, but new processes need to be efficient and streamlined, should work seamlessly, produce actionable data, and not be done for the sake of it. There needs to be a purpose.

Here’s me telling the guys at Oracle what I mean…


(Exceptional Talent – the book I co-wrote with Matt Alder – is available now, published by Kogan Page. In it we look at the New Talent Journey and offer examples and case studies of how, and why, businesses are evolving the way they attract, hire, retain and develop the people they need. You can hear me talking about it on this podcast)

October 12, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

Confession Time. I Used to be a Millennial.

I have a confession to make. I was once a millennial. Although when I was, we weren’t called millennials. We were called long-haired layabouts. And nobody could care less what we thought about anything or what we wanted from the workplace. In common with other friends of mine I wanted to be treated with respect and given the chance to learn and develop, and I didn’t want to hang around in a business I didn’t like. But we were told to just put up and shut up.

Which we did. We did because we needed the job. A secure job, and employers reference, was instrumental to getting a decent bank account and a credit card. Plus access to finance – for a car loan (driving around in your mother’s car wasn’t a great look) and to begin saving towards a mortgage deposit.

Today’s millennials/long-haired layabouts do not have such concerns – they get bank accounts when they’re born, credit cards on turning 16, most have little interest in (or need for) buying a car and as for saving for a mortgage….

I sat on a conference panel talking about employee engagement earlier last year. The organisers had arranged for two senior HR professionals, an industry spokesperson, and one of their millennial employees to join me. We had been treated to a keynote session full of millennial myths and future of work warnings. We started the panel by introducing ourselves. The millennial employee said “If I join your company and I don’t like the way you treat me then I’ll leave. I won’t be leaving because I’m a millennial employee who’s hardwired to change jobs every 6 months – I’ll be leaving because you’re a shit company to work for”. Cue much laughter and applause from the audience.

There are two immediate things to draw from this. Firstly one of self-awareness, that whilst shit isn’t the most offensive word in the English language, its not one that I would use from the conference stage. And secondly that the way younger employees are treated in the workplace drives whether they stay with a business, not the need for longer term financial stability and a stable career.

Whilst the conversations around generations aren’t new, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently of  events featuring sessions where they are discussed. With the usual lame observations leading to weak analysis and faulty conclusions. At a time when every business conference is embracing Diversity and Inclusion as a key driver of commercial success, the juxtaposition of this message with sessions on generational stereotyping are particularly jarring and unwelcome.

Let us not forget that times are uncertain for under 35s. Geopolitical trends are going against them – the majority of them did not vote for Brexit, nor the current Government in the UK or president in the US.

Meanwhile they are constantly reminded that they’ll be the first generation to be poorer than their parents. And regularly told that they’ll be fighting an army of robots, chatbots and algorithms all hellbent on taking their jobs. They need to be in a constant mode of learning and skill development, whilst this transience and lack of job security becomes glamourised by the language of artistry and aspiration – gigs, portfolios, flexibility and freedom.

If that’s not enough today’s millennials have to cope with an army of consultants, bloggers, analysts and armchair psychologists analysing them, telling them what they are supposed to think and do, and then earning a living telling everyone in HR and business leadership roles how special millennials are and why all business practices have to be redesigned to keep them happy.

Of course, times were uncertain when I was a millennial too – its just there was no army of consultants, bloggers, analysts and armchair psychologists trying to earn money from analysing us…just bosses to tell us to put up, shut up and be thankful we had a job…

On second thoughts…

(Exceptional Talent – the book I co-wrote with Matt Alder – is available now, published by Kogan Page. In it we look at the New Talent Journey and offer examples and case studies of how, and why, businesses are evolving the way they attract, hire, retain and develop the people they need. You can hear me talking about it on this podcast)

October 11, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

3 Ways to Begin Better Hiring

The way we recruit and onboard has to change. A run through of some recent research* tells us that:

  • 85% of HR decision makers admitting that their business had hired someone who proved to be a bad fit for the job
  • 1 in 5 of HR decision makers say that they don’t know how much a bad hire has cost them
  • Up to 25% of new starters leave within their first six months
  • 90% use their first 6 months experience to determine longer term commitment
  • Only 19% see a strong alignment between what their employer says about itself and their actual experience working there
  • 55% would consider changing jobs this year – 74% of them would stay for interesting work, 69% for recognition
  • 70% of unsuccessful senior hires give a poor grasp of how an organisation works as the main reason for their failure
  • Nearly half of experienced hires admit they failed to fully grasp the business model they were joining

Meanwhile qualitative research tells us that new hires are more likely to leave early if they don’t like the job or find that it wasn’t what they expected from the recruitment process. One senior manager from a large hospitality and leisure sector employer recently told me that almost half of their new trainee intake for this year had already left because the job wasn’t what they expected – not in terms of the actual duties but in the hours, dedication and working structures.

We need to get better at how we attract, hire and develop people. This all points towards the need for different approaches to the way that work is organised, employees are managed or directed, how retention is viewed and how we go about hiring. I can think of three ways we can immediately start changing. There are plenty more but these will do for a start…

Firstly, how we market jobs. I use the word market because I think we can accept that recruiters need to think like marketers. Rather than advertise for a perfect fit, or list a series of notional achievements and duties that we want someone to have already achieved, lets start talking to people who might be interested in our company and the type of role we are looking to fill. This requires an understanding of what the role is, the skills and knowledge that would help the role to be performed effectively, and the way that a new hire can grow and develop with us. And some proper market knowledge of how and where to connect potential candidates and of the kind of conversations we should be having with them and the content we should share.

Secondly, how we select the best person. Find out about the real person, what their strengths are, their character, durability and agility. Approaches to learning and development and how they tackle challenges and situations that might be new. This won’t be found by series of Q&A interviews, peppered with set-piece situational questions, trick questions or asking them to run through their CV for the umpteenth time. They all point to a lack of preparation from the hiring manager which can indicate a real lack of commitment to finding the best fit person or understanding of the role and how it can develop.

Thirdly, how we bring someone in to the business. Start the induction early, make them feel part of the organisation with clear objectives and timelines around roles and responsibilities. Make it a social experience, new hires who establish early social connections with their colleagues are more likely to settle quickly and feel part of a team. No one should start doing a new role and be unclear about what the job is, what it will take to be successful, who has input to the role and the formal and informal internal networks that will help support them in getting their work done.

There’s plenty more we can do to make hiring better but these will make a good start.

(* Findings taken from recent research published by REC, Korn Ferry, Egon Zehnder, IBM, Achievers, Weber Shandwick)

Exceptional Talent – the book I co-wrote with Matt Alder – is available now, published by Kogan Page. In it we look at the New Talent Journey and offer examples and case studies of how, and why, businesses are evolving the way they attract, hire, retain and develop the people they need. You can hear me talking about it on this podcast 

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