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October 23, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

3 Things about Digital Transformation

October is traditionally my 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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)

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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 care 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.

If that’s not enough today’s millennials have to cope with an army of consultants, bloggers, analysts and armchair psychologists analysing them, and then earning money by 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
  • 20% HR decision makers say that they don’t know how much a bad hire has cost them
  • 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)

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 

June 20, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

Time to Redefine What we Mean by Talent

The way we attract, hire, retain and develop the people our businesses need is changing. And so are the roles we want them to do and the way we operate. Yet too many organisations continue recruit as they always have, reporting skills shortages and costly unfilled vacancies. This needs to change.

Firstly we need to start redefining exactly what we mean by the word ‘talent’ – for too long the most overused and misleading word in the modern labour market. Many HR and recruitment professionals use it to describe a high skilled, high potential candidate who is in some way special. This narrow definition leads to poor recruitment practice, with recruiters chasing mythical candidates who tick all their boxes and seem ready made for their vacancy.

These people rarely exist, nor are they likely to be successful. When they are hired and identified as high potential they can fall into a ‘talent curse trap’, feeling trapped by others’ expectations and feeling a need to prove themselves worthy, attempting to live up to a perception of what a high performer should be like. This is rarely successful.

In an evolving commercial world where new jobs will often require skills that have not been hired before, these narrow definitions also fail to take into account the many ways that employees can develop and use their initiative and capabilities to help companies meet business challenges.

Most successful specialist hires step in to a role that will stretch them and help them grow and realise potential. Everyone has talent. It is finding the people right for the business and the role, irrespective of background and work trajectory, that organisations need to focus on.

Redefining what we mean by ‘talent’ also means we should select people for what they can achieve in the future rather than what they have done in the past. Previous performance is often an unreliable predictor of future potential and nowhere is this more prevalent than when looking at emerging roles and digital skills, which evolve and change at a rapid pace.

Selection processes have to change from a gladiatorial approach that resembles the Labours of Hercules, and seem designed to trip people up and exclude them from selection. These should only be used if they reflect what your culture is really like. Instead we should create opportunities for people to show what they can do and how they can contribute to the organisation’s future success.

Rip up job descriptions based around a previous incumbent’s profile, and stop drawing up wish-lists of ready made capabilities and achievements. Break vacancies down into tasks and rebuild them around what actually needs to be done. Some of these actions can probably be covered by people already in the organisation by either having their own roles re-imagined, or through secondments or stretch assignments.

Internal mobility – often the last resort for recruiters and HR practitioners – should to be the first strategy before trying to fill externally. The opportunities for development and skill enhancement is an important differentiator for talent looking to join, or remain, with a business, so lets start showing what we can offer.

Whilst retaining and retraining existing employees is valuable in helping to diversify the talent pool available, it is a focus on diversity itself when recruiting new people to the organisation that will help businesses really succeed in redefining talent.

Increasing the number of women in the workplace, attracting and supporting people with disabilities, finding a way to capitalise on the talents of neurodiverse people, and giving greater opportunities to graduates, apprentices and ex-offenders, will all help diversify and enrich the talent pool. And overcome those supposed skills gaps.

 

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.

April 24, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

The Talent Challenges for HR

Attracting, hiring, developing and retaining the right people has always been a crucial part of any organisation’s success. The methods of doing so successfully, however, are evolving fast.

With growing skills gaps, uncertain trading conditions and rapid changes in technology driving new preferences and expectations in consumer behaviour, businesses need agile, curious and committed workforces. Our current and future employees have expectations of a more seamless and immersive experience when they apply for a role or join a new business. They also now have more choices over where they work and how they work, and look for companies that will offer them the opportunity to grow, develop and reach their potential.

For the HR profession the technological developments, behavioural changes and shifts in expectations and preferences that are impacting how businesses operate and grow, present unique challenges. The workplace analysts who believe that all processes should be redesigned to accommodate and attract Millennials have a powerful voice in both the digital business media and at industry conferences, yet the HR team that looks around their companies will see a more varied mix of people and interests to be catered for.

Workforces are embracing similar influences, but at a different pace and in a variety of ways. Not all employees want company-issued technology that requires them to check e-mails 24/7, or to have a constant digital presence. The modern HR team has to cater for all expectations and preferences, in a way that is both diverse and inclusive, and enables all employees to deliver their best work.

92% of workers say that technology affects their satisfaction at work, yet HR are not always part of the conversations around the digitisation process. That has to change fast. The ubiquity and speed of digitisation does however drive a need for approaches that are more relevant to how employees live, and this means recognising the importance of experience and regular communication; creating work experiences that reflect their aspirations.

The Employee Experience is now a competitive advantage, so HR teams need to balance the needs of the business today with potential changes in the future, helping to create an environment and culture in which people want to work and feel empowered and supported to give their best.

To meet the challenges posed, and make the most of opportunities created, every business needs to find and hire the talent that is right for them. That is, people with a spirit of curiosity and flexibility, who possess the skills, attitude, capabilities and potential to help organisations grow and evolve.

The word ‘talent’ is a much overused and misused word in the modern labour market normally implying a high skilled, high potential candidate who is in some way special. That definition needs to change. It drives poor recruitment practice, with hiring businesses trying to chase a candidate who ticks many boxes and appears ready made for their vacancy. These matches rarely exist, nor are the likely to be successful.

In a world where new jobs often require skills that have not been hired before, that definition also fails to take into account the many ways that employees can develop and use their initiative and capabilities to help companies meet business challenges. Most successful specialist hires step in to a role that will stretch them and help them grow and realise potential. Everyone has talent. It is finding the people right for the business and the role, irrespective of background and work trajectory, that organisations need to focus on.

Recruitment is not a one-way street and the dynamic has shifted. Candidates can tell a lot about a business from the way they go about recruiting, so a gladiatorial process full of challenges and hurdles, is unlikely to engage them, unless it accurately reflects the type of business you are and the culture they can expect when they join.

Historically there was little that job applicants could find out about what life was actually like inside the business they were applying to work for. It wasn’t until the first few days in the job that they really got a feel for culture and structure. This has changed. The company is now selling itself to the candidate they want to hire as much as the candidate is to them.

The way in which we attract, hire, develop and retain people, the HR processes and interventions along the way, will be a defining factor in how businesses succeed. The outcome is as important to individuals as the process that delivers it, while social and digital channels, powered by the constant presence of mobile, provide a real-time commentary on both the process and perception of the outcome. They want to be encouraged and treated fairly. And they want to be themselves at work.

It is the journey by which they are found, selected, oriented and developed, which needs to be reimagined for the workforce of today and tomorrow. There is now also a transparency around current thinking and best practices, and reporting of the various attempts that businesses make to introduce new working arrangements and structures that can help shed light on how others are facing similar challenges. HR professionals can embrace clear and fresh thinking, and learn from industry peers and colleagues.

Ultimately, this transparency means that workers in every company have access to what other businesses are doing. If they like what they see elsewhere, the chances are they’ll expect it where they are; or else may go out and find it for themselves. Effectiveness of the employee experience is both a business’ competitive advantage, and also the yardstick by which HR teams will be judged.

My co-authored book Exceptional Talent has been published by Kogan Page. In the book myself and Matt Alder explore how changes in technology, communication, and employee preferences are impacting the talent journey, offering practical advice on how to build •effective recruitment and talent management strategies to meet the needs of today, while also helping businesses plan and prepare for the challenges of the future.

March 27, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

Are You Listening to Your Employees?

If there’s one thing that should be high on the agenda of HR teams, then its the employee experience. Yet only 30% of businesses try and measure it, which is poor when compared to the 72% who measure customer experience, and baffling when so much of customer brand perception (around 70%) actually comes from interactions with your employees. The experience should start early, from as soon as someone thinks about joining you.

Businesses are short of the skills they need. Leaders are concerned about agility – both the business and the workforce – and the ability of their organisations to respond to change and create solutions. Technology is both friend and foe. Evolving at a rapid rate, and giving employees and customers heightened expectations, it can also overwhelm. Do we have the digital capabilities we need? Are we able to harness the efficiency, data and insights to help create better and more profitable businesses?

Overarching all of this is the way we treat our people. Are we somewhere they want to work? They have choices – are we giving them every opportunity to grow and develop? The opportunity for personal development is increasingly important to them. And what about the technology we use? 92% of employees say that technology affects their satisfaction at work.

I’ve spent last week at Ultimate Software’s Connections conference as part of a team of analysts, influencers and bloggers. Ultimate are certainly a company that from the inside knows how to create a great place to work, and they worked hard to make sure this was an event that offered all attendees – and there were around 3,000 of them – insights, case studies, ideas, new tools and a peek at the road ahead in terms of their new offerings. They announced an impressive range of tools and products to be rolled out over the next year or so. This is important –  over 60% of HR technology buyers rate customer service as a major factor in the purchasing decision. The way you look after them – both from the perspectives of innovation and support – is vital.

We started with a run thorough of trends and crowd sourced client concerns. Some familiar bases were touched, such as gig economy, generational concerns, and limitations of the traditional job description – once created they become obsolete. However there was also recognition that how organisations treat their employees today is more important to employee satisfaction and retention than ever before, with a US workforce study showing that it matter two to three times more than mission, goals & values.

Whilst most of the workplace trends get talked and written about regularly, the fact that they remain a concern for so many HR leaders indicates to me that there isn’t enough clarity around the debate. These events are a useful way for people to get together and share. Whilst something like the gig economy might not itself have a large impact, the fluidity it enables in the workforce matters. HR needs to plan ahead, and if their workers are balancing careers that mix both permanent and contingent arrangements then this needs to be factored in.

Hearing the voice of the employee, getting a feel for their real thoughts and sentiments, is probably most vital. In the US nearly half the workforce don’t feel they are treated fairly, and around 75% want to be listened to. This was a key focus for the conference and, not surprisingly, an area in which Ultimate try to help. Their Retention Predictor was a big feature at  sessions during the conference with customers vouching for its effectiveness. Fellow blogger Tim Sackett wrote:

“Ultimate has done a really good job at going out and buying some great data analytics companies and implementing that tech and talent into their organisation.

The concept is that if you analyse enough of your employee’s data points you’ll see trends that show if someone is highly likely to leave your organisation as a voluntary term. As an organisation, we really want and need to know data this to help retain our best performers.

UltiPro Perception delivers a ‘score’ of each of your employees showing if someone is a flight risk based on their level of performance, so that you can filter, if you want, by high performers to low performers. The notion being, you definitely want to ‘save’ your high performers”

There were two customer case studies I heard. In one attrition had been reduced from 30% to 15% amongst high performers and in the other from 25% to 6%, with the HR client saying “everyone has a retention score but then there’s a person attached to that score”.

A feature that is key to this improved retention is that managers who see team members with a high score indicating a probability of leaving are prompted with a series of customised leadership actions to help them retain their employee – there are 50 actions built into the system, and companies additionally build in their own bespoke actions. Both case studies spoke positively about how this was helping managers become better leaders and much more aware of their key performers and what it takes to keep them.

Relationships with managers and leaders are key to the employee experience. Whilst we might talk about managers being promoted based on their ability to lead and inspire teams, I know from personal (and anecdotal) experience that much of this is learned on the job. What I like about the retention predictor is that it helps managers understand the link between experience and retention, and the help it gives them to develop. Improving retention of the people you want to keep is one clear way for HR to show strategic and commercial contributions to the business. Understanding who is at risk of leaving and why, and being able to do something about it.

The product is currently being evolved as the big product announcement last week – Xander – shows. It uses machine learning, NLP and sentiment analysis to provide better predictions and recommendations. Collecting data is easy, the real trick is to understand and act on it. The best opportunity to really understand our people will come from the ability to understand open text and comments, incorporating more unstructured data to help make the predictions faster and more accurate.

Listen, understand and act – as Ultimate’s CTO Adam Rogers said “Great employee experiences don’t happen by accident”.

March 2, 2017 / Mervyn Dinnen

5 Ways to Deal With Skill Mismatches

72% of Directors and business leaders are worried about their skills pipeline. Permanent candidate availability is at an all time low. Skills gaps are reaching crisis proportions. 740,000 more people with digital skills will be needed in the workforce this year alone. Half of recent graduates are working in non-graduate jobs. 66% of engineering graduates don’t work in engineering. 1 in 4 vacancies are going unfilled.

Barely a week goes by without statistics like these being used to demonstrate an acute skill shortage. And for recruiters, there’s more. Time to hire is rising. Cost per hire increasing. Interview processes getting longer. Recruiters have more open requisitions than ever. Quality of hire is going unmeasured but, anecdotally, could be better. Productivity is affected.

What can be done? To rely on bringing in developed skills and finding the ready made, perfect fit candidate from outside isn’t the answer. Waiting for a magical piece of sourcing code to help identify candidates with perfect skill sets from across different platforms isn’t the answer either. Even if you could find them, how do you they would join you? What have you got to offer them?

Your vacancy isn’t always the holy grail for a job seeker. Sure, some of the positions you are trying to fill might present interesting challenges for them, but then so might other vacancies in other companies. Even if you had a steady stream of candidates, how many would come and work for you?

In times of heightened hiring challenges, you need to be a place where people want to work. If you’re not, then no amount of sourcing, searching, advertising and referring is going to produce successful results in the long term. Here’s what you need to be doing first…

Consult with hiring managers

You are the recruitment professional, and the labour market – where the skills are – is your specialist area. When you take a briefing from a hiring manager be armed with all the data and manage their expectations. Know what the market is like for candidates with the skills you need. Educate the hiring manager in where the candidates are, what the pool looks like. Use data from REC, FIRM, ONS, job boards and sites like Indeed and Broadbean to make your case and let them understand where there are candidate shortages and what roles create the most competition.

Don’t just accept a job description, particularly one that replicates what the last incumbent did, but rip it up and find out what the role really needs – skills, competencies, capabilities. Begin to build a profile of what you will be looking for and how to assess it. Re-design the role if needs be around the kind of skills and experience available and help the hiring manager to understand the candidates they will be getting.

And test the hiring manager. Can they sell the company or vacancy? Are they a credible interviewer? Candidates always say that the key interview is the one with the manager they’ll be working for, so what impression will they get?

Understand the internal market

Know the talent pool inside your organisation – what skills people have and who is ready for a new challenge and an internal move, or stretch assignment, to help with their development. Make sure your managers are talent producers, not talent hoarders, and encourage them to support employees with internal moves. Identify the people who could develop with some training or input, and convert those you have into the candidates you need. Remember, people want to work for an organisation that helps them grow, develop and realise their potential, so play your part in making the company a place where that happens.

Research the external market

Do you know what candidates look for when they change jobs? How to make your company and open roles attractive? Well find out! There’s plenty of content out there about what job seekers really want, or why not do your own research amongst candidates and people who have applied previously.

What three things are most important to them? Do you market your roles to show that your organisation can provide them with what they want? People with the skills you need might be out there but not responding to your messaging or not perceiving you as a place where they would want to work.

Leverage all the networks you can. Previous candidates, alumni, clients, customers, suppliers and collaborators all have a relationship with your organisation, and all of them have connections. Somewhere in those extended networks might be the person you need. Find a way to reach them and get your message across.

EVP & Employer Brand

What are you like to work for? How does the employee experience shape up? The way you hire, orientate, develop, engage and retain people counts. The way you treat people and support them in reaching their own goals and fulfilling their potential will mark you out as a great place to work. What is your external brand? Does it align with internal values? The early period of employment is when someone reaffirms their decision to join you. If you don’t have an experience that underlines they have made the right choice in joining you – they’ll leave.

Candidate Experience and Recruitment Process

Have you applied for your own jobs? Do you know what the experience is like? Take feedback from candidates going through your hiring process and act upon what you hear. And don’t just take feedback at the end as it will be affected by the outcome.

You can’t expect there to be a pool of skilled and work ready candidates waiting to jump through hoops, endure long absences of communication and non-existent feedback, and work their may through a selection and interview process resembling the labours of Hercules, just to join you. So ditch the gladiatorial approach to hiring.

Make it easy to apply. Give information and let people show you what they can do. The technology is there so why not let people take video interviews at a time to suit them. Find out how they can perform when they are relaxed, rather than trying to find the perfect fit by seeing how they react under pressure.

You can tell a lot about a company by the way they go about recruiting and enabling their people. Stop waiting for the perfect match to come along and start sending out the right messages about the kind of place you are for people who want to learn, grow, develop and reach their potential.

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