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March 31, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

#HRTechEurope – We’re All Millennials Now!

Last week’s HRTechEurope conference and exhibition spanned 2 full days of interesting content and thought provoking presentations, 1500 delegates and lots of fun. There was a blog squad of 21 leading to a range of views and insights as we digested what we heard, and there is definitely some variety in the follow up blogs.

For me the HR takeaways were about flatter and faster workplaces, with greater personal responsibility and a different kind of leadership, offering seemingly less secure employment. The 20th century definition of employment may not be helpful for addressing the way work is transacted in the 21st Century. And as networks of influence and knowledge shift power from the institution to the individual then reputation will become an important currency. All of this requiring a mindset that we may not be used to finding. And its millennial!

Too much is happening too quickly. Technology is transforming customer and employee expectations and several industries are experiencing challenges to the way they operate. The need for agile and flexible structures was referenced by many speakers, as was the writing of Frederic Laloux on reinventing organisations. And Tom Fishburne’s alternative org chart got an airing in presentation slides…


How can workplaces keep up with the pace of technological change? “The new normal isn’t technology, it’s speed” said Peter Hinssen “if things move fast then hierarchies are dangerous“. His “work is the brief period of the day where I have to use old tech” slide (above) was one of the most shared images from the event and the concept of today’s workers as time travellers illustrated this well, but maybe even the most agile organisations might struggle to keep up. The reliance of adult workers on email and the phone (50% of business comms) is at odds with experiences of the future workforce, for whom they make up around 5% of communication.

Peter’s main message was about networks, for information and knowledge – “We’re still building companies with old fashioned structures…we need networks where information is shared. If a brand doesn’t speak the language of its network it will die” Network vs hierarchy was pitched as fluidity vs rigidity, with HRs role as enabler of the network.

Change requires more than technology though. “Social tools can help but can’t change the organisation alone” said Lee Bryant in an afternoon keynote. They do make new structures possible though, relying less on visionary leaders, whilst organisational change is not a technology project and more about continual improvement – “Change shouldn’t be top down, or something that only happens every 3 years, but it should be agile, gradual and on-going

Continuous improvement was also a theme underpinning a new approach to performance management. “Do you have confidence in the performance data within your organisation?” asked Heidi Spirgi. 1 hand was raised out of an audience of over 300. The new approach is based on leaders having frequent strengths-based conversations over the course of the year “what are you working on and how can I help?“. There is a shift from purely delivering feedback to regular coaching whilst performance ratings are becoming a thing of the past, with research indicating that 61% of a performance rating its a reflection of the rater not the ratee.

In another session on the performance appraisal, Armin Trost asked who was the customer – employee, manager or Board? He berated those who tried to set objectives for 12 months when they didn’t know what would be happening in their business the next month, whilst also observing that what usually starts out as an appraisal about performance usually ends up being about the person.

Rachel Botsman closed the event with a look at the Collaborative Economy. Rich in positives – “using technology to allow trust between strangers“, “untapped value of assets through collaborative models that enable empowerment efficiency and greater access” – she said the next phase for this technology would be about ‘unlocking the value inherent in human potential‘. Work was being ‘consumerfied‘ with new app Wonolo being showcased in a video – a collaborative platform for basic low skill, repetitive work.

Rachel had questions for HR. The 20th century laws for classifying workers is no longer relevant for new working models. Is the future of work not just about flexibility and empowerment, but also precarious, with no benefits and no guaranteed income? She called it the murky side of the sharing economy. The personal ratings element within this technology is interesting though with personal reputation and a kind of ‘peer capital’ becoming the new currency of work – from institutions to individuals.

The showcasing of Wonolo interested me. I’ve long thought that this kind of technology will impact staffing agencies and this was the closest yet. There have always been threats to agencies – job boards, in-house teams, social media – but this is different. The business needing a basic skill is directly in touch with the person offering the skill. The fact they connect, and the worker has a rating, covers validation, certification and availability with the pay rate set. Once these scale then things could get interesting.

So what about millennials?

I took part in a panel discussion, chaired by Andy Campbell from Oracle, about them. We heard research on what they want from the workplace – and the list could have been what the over 50s want from the workplace. or what 30/40 somethings want if they didn’t have childcare costs and associated expenditure. We heard about their aspirational employers of choice – Google, Apple etc – yet these are purely based on brand perception. Most look fun but don’t necessarily offer the flexibility, opportunities and rewards that we heard earlier the millennials want.

Employer branding didn’t start with the internet – there have always been aspirational employers of choice. Step back in time and Virgin, Marks & Spencers, John Lewis, BBC, NHS, British Airways and a plethora of banks, consulting firms and advertising agencies would all have topped those lists for older age groups.

Whilst the socio-economic, cultural and family factors that have influenced the values and aspirations of millennials during adolescence may have been different from previous generations (though not those growing up in fluctuating economic times) their mindset towards technology, change, personalisation, consumerfication, instant gratification, speed and opportunity is something we all need to share in the future world of work.

And if its a mindset, and not a date of birth, then we’re all millennials now.

March 20, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

Looking for Collaboration and Simplification at #HRTechEurope

The conversations around HR, recruitment, technology and the future of work move on to Docklands next Tuesday and Wednesday as HRTech Europe rolls in to Town. Always one of my favourite events, the mix of practitioners, theorists, commentators, suppliers and collaborators usually makes for some lively dialogue, great networking and thought provoking takeaways. And I’ll be part of an awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly) blog squad who will be helping to try and make sense of it all for everyone following online.

For those working in the people space, technology is posing some interesting problems and exciting possibilities. The recent Human Capital Global Trends report, along with other recent workforce overviews, have all flagged up findings such as:

  • People analytics has the second highest HR capability gap
  • Increasing investment in technology is not being matched by investment in the people and processes that would gain maximum benefit
  • 70% employees say that technology has changed their role or career in the last year
  • Using technology/new devices is ranked as the second highest training need by employees
  • Identifying and implementing the right technology is only a priority for around 20% of HRDs
  • Half of HRDs see their work environment as complex, and another 25% as very complex.

Are we being overwhelmed by an inexorable onslaught of automation and robotisation? Or do we just need to step back and take stock of the opportunities on offer?

I think there are a few strands here, most of which will be aired at HRTech next week by speakers as diverse as Peter Hinssen, Rachel Botsman, Lee Bryant, Nick Holley, Costas Markides and Euan Semple.

Some of the questions on my mind looking ahead to the event:

Should we be leveraging networks more? Peter Hinssen will be looking at networks of intelligence. Maybe customers and employees can provide some of the inspiration.

Is collaboration a choice or a necessity? I’ve been hearing about HR collaborations with IT and finance over analytics and data. I’m thinking this needs to become the norm not the exception.

How should we define performance? Most would agree that the yearly, school report style assessment of past performance isn’t fit for purpose, but what’s the replacement? Ongoing dialogue and continuous learning, with flexible goals, may be more relevant, with collective feedback. Do we have the culture, and leadership. to bring this about?

How do we define leadership? A culture? A collective mindset? Agile and flexible, future leaders need to be change agents comfortable with spearheading organisational change.

If responsibility for personal, professional and career development is now with the employee, what’s the future for the L&D function? I’ll be joined on the blog squad by some learning professionals, who will no doubt have a view!

How can we make work simple? Businesses may be facing increasing complexity but passing that on to the employee will reduce effectiveness and increase stress. Only just over half of companies have some kind of programme in place to help simplify work processes and practices – we clearly need to do more.

And then there’s the Millennial Mindset. I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion (along with Jo Dodds and Perry Timms) on ‘Employing the Millennial Mindset‘ chaired by Oracle’s Andy Campbell. It’s Tuesday at 3.30 on the main stage and we’ll be answering questions that you’ve all asked – you can start submitting them now through the hashtag #OracleAndyAsks. Come on, it’s about Millennials…you know I’ll have something to say!

One of the main concerns over technology is how intrusive it’s becoming. The 24/7/365 always-connected working environment, with more responsibility being shifted to the employee, can have a serious impact on wellbeing. I recently took part in a panel discussion for ADP on people and technology. here’s the video for the part of the debate on technology and wellbeing – I’m hoping to hear more about this on Tuesday and Wednesday…

HR Tech is coming to Town…are you ready??


March 9, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

Talking HR Data & Analytics at #HRAnalyticsLDN

Is 2015 the year analytics finally goes mainstream for the HR profession?

A few thoughts:

In most areas of our personal and professional lives we now have endless information on which to base a decision. No longer do we invest time and money without prior research – instead we do as much checking as we can to ensure that the decision we’re making is right.

And yet in business we’re too often stabbing in the dark. We hire the person that our instincts tell us may be right, even though we’ve got years of data to show the type of people who succeed in the organisation. We look to recruit someone who’s done the job before, without seeing how successful that approach has been in the past.

Walmart in the US have recently raised the pay of their lowest paid workers to try and reduce churn, yet as one commentator pointed out “if retailers really want to reduce churn, the next frontier will be promising more predictable schedules, rather than higher wages“. We have the data to produce predictable schedules – do we use it?

So why do so many in HR often see data and something big and insurmountable, rather than the way we can make better informed, more robust decisions? Or as Neil saysan HR person who “doesn’t like numbers” is a bad HR person.  I just think the idea of data being BIG in HR is a bit of a myth‘.

The 2015 Human Capital Global Trends Report found only 8% of respondents believing they have a strong HR analytics team in place., with this specialism registering the second highest capability gap. Suggested areas in which good people analytics can help the business immediately were:

  • Understanding and predicting retention
  • Boosting employee engagement
  • Expanding sources and quality of hire
  • Profiling of high performers in areas such as sales and customer service.

Starting doesn’t have to be painful nor involve massive expenditure – getting the right people in the team (mixing business and technical skills), starting with the tools you already have and focusing on a specific business need rather than a scattergun approach across multiple teams is sometimes all you need.

And learning from those who have already begun the journey.

Which is why I’m really looking forward to the HR & Workforce Analytics Innovation Summit in London next week. Across two days there will be sessions and presentations from HR professionals representing all sizes and sectors, and all at different stages of the journey. There should be some useful takeaways, whether your looking for quick wins of playing the long game. Some of the sessions I’m looking forward to are:

  • Beginning HR Analytics with No Budget (Andrew Gamlyn, SIG plc)
  • HR Analytics for Beginners (1 hour interactive workshop – learning from those who have taken the journey)
  • Driving Business Value from HR Data (Sally Dillon, Aviva – includes case study using data to reduce absenteeism, driving bottom line benefit)
  • Employer Branding Analytics (Alison Hadden. Glassdoor)
  • Analytics and Driving Cultural Change (Nicki Makin, Morrisons – the journey of moving from relying on gut feel to making data driven decisions)
  • Planning with a Blank Canvas (Dan Gordon, England 2015 – planning a large workforce for the Rugby World Cup from scratch)

Readers of this blog can get a £200 discount by using the code RECS200 when registering. If you want to know what to expect then check out this presentation from last year’s event – ‘Using Workforce Analytics to Create a Recipe for Success’ from Vanessa Varney, Senior Manager of HRIS Analytics at Coca-Cola.

Look forward to seeing a few of you there – and to finding out more about data driven workforce decision making.

February 24, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

21st Century Vacancy, 20th Century Recruitment Process

Steve received many email notifications of LinkedIn messages, most of them spam, but this one grabbed his interest immediately. It was from a recruiter who worked for a leading global digital brand in his industry and said that his name had been recommended for a specific role she was recruiting and that his profile looked as if he was someone worth talking to. She attached a brief job spec.

Minutes later they were talking, the recruiter asking questions about his blogging and speaking, project work and experience of social campaigns. She told him that the role she had was a new one, the first time the business had created such a position. It was part storyteller, part brand advocate and evangelist, creating content and being the social face of the brand in the UK and Europe. He would be doing outreach and networking. The background wasn’t important, what was needed was someone who knew their industry and was known in their industry. A credible advocate who would bring the brand to life, make it live and breathe in the social space, stand up at conferences and be a quotable expert for the digital business news sites.

She said that his record in digital marketing spoke for itself. He was highly rated, always appearing on lists of people to follow, his content was creative and from what she could see he knew the industry. If he was interested then she wanted to recommend an interview with the hiring manager.

He told her that he was interested, that it was the kind of role that he was looking for, and she said great! The first stage would be for him to email over a CV.


Yes, we’re going to need a CV so the hiring manager can see what you’ve been doing

But it’s there on my profile. It’s all public. There are links to presentations, videos of me being interviewed and presenting, blogs I’ve written and a couple of downloadable white papers. Testimonials. Happy for the hiring manager to contact anyone on there for a reference. Surely for this kind of role that’s everything you want to see

It’s definitely important but the hiring manager won’t agree to interview you until he’s seen a CV

Steve was concerned. Did they really understand this role? Everything they wanted was there, surely that should be enough. If they liked what he did then why wasn’t the interview about culture and vision, looking at brand alignment and whether he was the right person to personify their story. Still, he wanted the job so a CV it would have to be. Perhaps it was their culture. The recruiter said that it only need be a brief overview.


The first interview was over the phone and lasted half an hour. It started with the hiring manager asking Steve to talk through his CV, going back about 10 years. It was frustrating as most of the period before 4 years ago was irrelevant to this role, but Steve duly obliged and answered numerous questions about things he had done in a totally unrelated marketing role 6 years earlier.

The conversation moved on to Steve’s more recent track record but it soon became apparent that, beyond reading the CV, the hiring manager had done no background checking. She was oblivious to anything Steve had done that wasn’t on the brief CV. Hadn’t the recruiter briefed her?

They talked about the industry in general and Steve gave his take on mobile and social, customer behaviour and expectations. The hiring manager was impressed “There’s a lot about you that’s not on the CV” she said. Steve explained that the CV was meant only as an overview and that his LinkedIn profile and personal website was where the real information was. “I’ll make some time to have a look“.

The call ended positively and Steve gave his feedback to the recruiter first thing the next morning. A couple of days later he heard back that the hiring manager’s boss wanted to Skype interview him. This was great news. He spoke to the recruiter about prep and was told to do more of the same.

The Skype call started with pleasantries, the lady seemed friendly and approachable and, holding up a copy of Steve’s CV she asked him to talk her through it, explaining what he had been doing for the last few years. Steve’s heart sank. There was so much he wanted to talk about, so many possibilities that he could see in this role that he wanted to share, but here he was again talking about a digital marketing role that he did over 6 years ago and which bore no relation to the role that was being recruited. He had checked the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and found it quite bare. She wasn’t a noticeable social media user and a Google search returned no mentions or links of any interest.

Still, he was as passionate as he could be. The questions were fairly similar to the first interview, in fact it didn’t seem that any notes had been passed over so much of it was repetition, but Steve felt that there was some good rapport and the interviewer agreed with a lot of what he said. It ended on a positive note.


Once again Steve fed back positively to the recruiter, but this time there was no response for over a week. He thought this was strange, given profile of the business, the importance they had placed on their reputation, and their keenness to employ someone who would live, eat and breathe the brand. Surely they should be doing more to keep him enthused and engaged, and even if they didn’t think he was the right person, they had acknowledged his reach and influence so he assumed would still want to keep him as an advocate.

Eventually he heard back. The previous interviewer wasn’t sure that Steve had enough experience, he seemed light on relevant content. But Steve had loads of it, there were links on his CV, his blog site was full of information, videos and slide decks were available. Why didn’t she ask him more about it if she wasn’t sure? The recruiter admitted that the interviewer probably hadn’t checked all that out (again maybe its part of their culture he thought…worrying) but was recommending him for the next stage – a Skype interview with a global VP of digital marketing, who was based in the US and had a busy diary, necessitating Steve to have his interview at 10.30pm one evening.

The recruiter recommended that Steve prepare a supplementary schedule to his CV detailing all relevant content, presentations, videos, blogs, lists, white papers and testimonials, with links. This he did, ensuring it was as detailed as possible; he wanted there to be no doubt this time that he was a serious player.


He logged in to Skype at 10.25 and within a minute a connection was established with his interviewer’s PA, who explained that the interview would start a couple of minutes late as the interviewer was wrapping up a previous call. A couple became five, and then ten and Steve felt his eyes beginning to close. It was very late now to start. Eventually after almost fifteen minutes there was lift off. No apology, or reference to Steve having been kept waiting, but there was thanks for agreeing to talk so late. And then it was question 1

Thanks for sending through a copy of your CV. Why don’t you talk me through the last few years and let me know what you’ve been doing

Once again Steve’s heart sank but he didn’t let it show. The first ten minutes were pretty much a repetition of the previous two interviews, same questions and same observations. It was becoming clear to Steve that the best conversation he’d had was his first with the recruiter. There was no CV and all the questions were about relevant work that Steve had done that she had seen online.

So you’ve sent me through some other information. Tell me about it” The interviewer held up a copy of a two page printout and Steve started explaining what it was and why he had produced it. “Ok, I’ll take a look at it after our chat

Steve’s heart couldn’t sink any lower. He had so much he wanted to get across, so much to add, but he never seemed to get the chance. He was asked who he thought was doing good things in the market, what were some of the upcoming trends he felt important, and he certainly felt that he gave as good account of himself as he could on those questions, but it was really one-way conversation. He asked questions about the role, tried to get a feel for what the global VP was thinking, but got the distinct impression that his interviewer’s mind was wandering elsewhere. Either that or he didn’t really understand the role himself and wasn’t sure what they ought to be looking out for.

The call ended at around 11.20pm and Steve promised to feedback.


He spoke to the recruiter first thing next morning and fed back positively and she promised to get back to him with feedback as soon as possible.

But in the end it took 10 days, and it was a no. Actually it was an ‘it’s not you it’s us’ call. They didn’t really know what they were looking for but they were pretty sure that Steve wasn’t it.

He told her of his disappointment with the process, that no-one had really taken the time to check him out or given him the opportunity to explain what he could really do, how even at the fourth interview he was still talking about roles from ten years before as no interviewer had properly read his CV in advance, that the best interview had been the first with her as she was the only one who had any idea on the scope of his experience and what skills he could bring.

She said that she would pass the feedback on.

Its OK” Steve said “they can read it for themselves. I’ve just left my feedback on your Glassdoor profile



January 5, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

Just Another Massive Monday

It started with Blue Monday. Not the New Order song, but some pseudoscience, with a complex mathematical formula, created to try and sell holidays by convincing us that one of the Mondays in January is the most depressing day of the year – due to be the 26th this year. Few take much notice of it now.

Recruiters don’t like to be outdone so we have our own version – Massive Monday. Its the first Monday of the year when everyone and their mother returns to work to start searching for a new job. And the evidence? The UKs biggest job board say that it’s the day that they get most traffic. Interestingly it’s also the same day they usually launch their new TV advertising campaign – this year is no different. Having worked for a job board I can vouch for the fact that a new burst of TV advertising produces a big spike in traffic.

Supposedly its the day we all look for new jobs. Or its the day we all quit our jobs. Or is it the day we switch jobs?

This year the Massive Monday bandwagon was rolling early. Reed themselves have a book to promote. And in a first you can now pay for a Massive Monday report, which will let you know which of your staff are likely to look for another job on the 5th January – and what you can do to keep them.

The first Monday of a new year for most recruiters isn’t traditionally about floods of applications but more than likely involves checking that all new starters have started, interview processes that were ongoing before Christmas are still moving ahead, candidates who had accepted offers before the break haven’t changed their minds, live briefs from late last year are still live…and many more such pressing concerns.

The Massive Monday noise sounds very outdated. Recruitment is no longer about driving volume applications, whilst job hunting is more nuanced than a knee jerk search of job boards to find lots of roles to apply to.

The pressing concerns for recruiters are pipelines, employer brand, hiring manager expectations, dealing with skill shortages, candidate experience, streamlining the application process, developing new routes to market. Reinventing talent acquisition. For agency recruiters it’s also about becoming a strategic business partner, knowing their market, offering insights and perspectives, being part of a tight supply chain, building networks.

New Year New You? New Year New Career? Massive Monday? All sounds like a bygone era.

Recruitment’s evolving. It’s about time the job hunting narrative did too.


(Image via John Rensten)


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.


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