Did you see me sneaking out ?

wehavemovedYou’ve been a follower of this fine, sacred place for maybe a short time or maybe a long time. Whatever the duration I’ve been very grateful for the effort that you made to follow or subscribe, or maybe both. Well, the obvious point to make is that I’ve left this sacred place and I’d love to take you with me to my new home if you feel it still adds something to your precious time.

You see, I have moved on in other ways. When I took the plunge all those years ago, I indulged in ‘thinking out loud‘ with a narrative that was all about changing HR for the better through satirical commentary, storytelling and a track record for pulling no punches. I went after CEOs, Recruiters, HR Business Partners, Marketers, L&Ders and other assorted workplace villains with a vengeance. My common theme was that in recognising the absurdity and futility of our long held HR and workplace customs and practices could we start the process of reforming ourselves for the better. I’ve never been subtle.

I’m now at a point where my little humble portfolio career is in the corrective action game and therefore with a new website (barryflack.co.uk) up and running, that’s where you’ll find me blogging. A little bit more grown up but with the all the editorial licence to keeping it real and guff-free. And finally, as an advocate of engaging, conversing and trying to add as much value as possible to the progressive people who stop by, read and ponder then I’m making use of the wonderful world of automation to help with that process. So if you want to keep engaged, see the blogs as they roll out, receive valuable 3rd party content, event invites then subscribe to my newsletter by clicking on the subscribe link below :


If it’s goodbye then I want to thank you for the times you gave me the confidence to carry on writing even when the postbox was full of expletives from scorned agency recruiters.

Until next time. I’m not dead !

p.s If you feel you have a challenge relating to New Ways of Working then I’m confident I’ll have the tools, technology partners and network to help. So just hit reply to drop me an email and let’s chat.



An irreverent look at the 10 things to rock our world of HR, Tech and the workplace in 2017 !

future-workIn reading the room or gauging the mood music of those worrying about ‘first world’ problems at work, this week is likely to be the one week where any serious commentary will have to make way for middle-aged men in awkward Christmas jumpers consuming their bodyweight in alcohol and mince pies to hide said awkwardness. With that in mind, I gathered together a small posse of pish-stained HR & Talent ‘experts’ who offered up the following 2017 predictions at pub chucking out time whilst simultaneously bending over precariously to pick up their fallen loose change from the pavement :

  1. In the area of HR Tech, our man predicted that the first Live shortlist of candidates will be streamed on facebook live, allowing the candidate market to finally see that it is in fact the paper CV with the most aerodynamic ability that makes the shortlist. Plans for a first candidate experience live video stream will be finally canned after all applications to take part were left unanswered after the 2 week deadline.
  2. The last laggard HR department in the country will throw a lavish launch party for its highly acclaimed biannual Employee Opinion Survey with the strapline – “we’d like to get your last positive view before announcing our forthcoming site closure programme ”.
  3.  As user-generated content finally makes a breakthrough in recruitment marketing in 2017, the fastest growing channel to highlight company culture is one focussed on annual performance review management bloopers, hosted by Harry Hill.
  4. The in-house recruitment function will win a landslide election and vote overwhelmingly to leave HR for Marketing. A kind of Rexit if you please. In a surprise move to some, Marketing however will reject the idea as farcical and thus leave recruitment to live out its self-loathing existence in a bedsit above a chip shop as a result.
  5. David Bowie’s estate will categorically refuse permission for any thought leader to use the copyrighted ‘ch-ch-ch-ch-changes’ in presentation decks. Expect the Lighthouse Family to make a nauseating return as a result.
  6. Virtual Reality enters the workplace with a bang as a core employee benefit. Three weeks later Employee Relations professionals quote Virtual Reality as being the primary source of unproductive work in UK offices for males between 20-55. VR HR becomes a growth area.
  7. Disruptive goes mainstream. Books are written, movies are made and children are named after it. In response the tech start-up hipsters will shift the goalposts, ban company fussball and ping pong and instead adopt Adam Ant’s old wardrobe to symbolize their anti-establishment identity. Shares in face paint start-ups go through the roof.
  8. Robotics will make a dramatic entrance at the CIPD 2017 conference when a malfunctioning Peter Cheese will reveal itself as an early Accenture prototype as he wrongly recites the 2015 keynote speech from his programme by mistake. Predictive analytics suggest that 93% of the audience will not notice.
  9. Generational stereotypes will be discredited by the discovery of a 53 year old woman in Arkansas with desires to ‘be inspired at work’, found using smartphone technology and showing signs of nomadic behaviour. Self-styled experts will be baffled.
  10. And finally, this year will be the last known record of a Christmas work event being staged as everyone moves to the gig economy in 2017, meaning that all festivities will be cancelled in future given HR legal’s fear of the risk of co-employment rights.

So there you have it. Straight from the ‘steaming’ horses mouths. Some might be made up but if it’s predictive accuracy you want then head over to the magnificent David Green’s 2017 hitlist if you want to sound really clever whilst pulling the xmas cracker this year.

Just leaves me to say a huge thank you to everyone who voluntarily gave up minutes of their lives to read my varied ramblings this year on whatever medium I appeared. It’s a labour of love for me but I’m always appreciative for anyone who stops so no matter what God you believe in, I hope you have a cracker and look forward to joining up in 2017 for what promises to be an epic year of HR change once again.

Until next time. I could have been someone, well so could anyone HR.



The CRM series : How to make the business fall in love with recruitment.

beamery logoWhilst I am not a big believer in the much fabled, McKinsey-inspired War for Talent, I am familiar with the lifelong battle for the love of the hiring manager in an altogether different phony war that has troubled many an internal recruitment function for as long as I can remember. A subset of the wider HR team’s pursuit of the ‘seat at the table’, the recruitment function has been constantly on the lookout for ways and means to establish a working relationship that often resembles a grubby late night transaction leaving both parties feeling awkward and increasingly distant afterwards.

You see, like the tooth fairy, the Yeti and a successful England football team, there is no such thing as a hiring manager community. One day they’re blissfully happy in their job-related flow then with a sudden cold blast of disruption they are thrust headlong into reaction mode as a “temporary” hiring manager. And by and large, they bloody hate it. It represents nothing more than a misalignment between a resigned, checked-out, soon to be departed team member, a frazzled wider team taking up their respective slack and a recruiter forced to recite a standard narrative that represents everything wrong with the priorities of the business at the time. It is quite literally a menu of disastrous proportions :

Starter – 2 weeks to advertise internally before going external. Never said or done with anything looking like conviction.

Main course – Then, as nothing of any quality begins to materialise, fear and panic sets in and it’s over to the standard job board of theirs (and everyone else’s) choosing, with the recruiter hanging on bravely to the coat tails of direct sourcing dogma.

Dessert – A rather cheeky piece of deviance kicks in where, despite the PSL ordered by procurement to rule over the God of cost containment, the hiring manager begins to sneakily engage with external headhunters. The more naive and desperate ones don’t truly understand the issue of contingent engagement and in a space where the incredibly small terms and conditions section at the bottom of the agency CV, means that £1,000s are being added to the potential bill to get a body. Any. Body !

Now for a moment imagine losing all this nonsense as a result of a CRM technology intervention that helps bring both parties together in perfect harmony. One where :

  1. The recruiter’s efforts in maintaining talent pools and puddles cuts completely through the traditional game of deviance and deceit above where PSLs are flung about like yellow cards and contingent agencies hide under the duvet.
  1. Candidates reaching the business quicker and keener, have been brilliantly engaged, with relevant content and messaging and are in danger of entering the application process without bitching about a poor candidate experience to date.  This new-found time and space should produce the foundation for avoiding the issue of poaching brought about by traditionally clunky, drawn-out, recruitment processes.
  1. The dialogue between recruiter and business focuses on targeted candidate engagement, with a CRM that allows both a single source of truth (helpful when engaging with a busy recruiter) and a reporting tool that’s not indulgently focused on the vanity of the recruitment teams statistics but informing the immediate hiring needs of the manager.

Whilst a beautiful CRM cannot necessarily guarantee you love, it does give meaning and authentic purpose to a mutually beneficial relationship between recruiter and hiring manager.  The recruiter gets to focus more on nurturing, candidate relationship and insight and less on the grunt work of data input and the stresses of distressed hiring. The manager closes the historic gap in time to hire with a pre-qualified candidate pool, focussing on selling the proposition and making best use of their time. And for that we should all be very grateful.

Until next time. What are you waiting for ?


Tactics to source, attract and engage world class candidates

Tune in as I host a panel of world class recruiting experts to unleash wit, wisdom and hiring tips galore in a Beamery sponsored webinar on the 1st September. I’m excited to chair a discussion on tactics to source, attract and engage the candidates that aren’t applying.

Pleased to be joined by:

  • Sam Ramsey, Head of Resourcing & Employer Brand at House of Fraser.
  • Charu Malhotra, Global Employer Brand & Digital Channels Manager at Ferrero.
  • Jon Hull, Head of Resourcing at Carillion.

You can save your spot here.

P.S. Interested in learning more about how a Recruitment CRM can save time, reduce cost and improve quality of hire. Take a quick peek at Beamery

Nurture your recruiters and they’ll nurture your candidates.

beamery logoThe historic perception of recruitment needs changing. Scan LinkedIn publisher on any given day and you’ll see some of the most active posts get there by landing a haymaker on recruiters’ chins. Everyone’s pantomime villain with no barrier to entry, the story of course is much more complex. I’m of the firm belief that nobody is born an evil recruiter but I can say that without nurturing that person through their development to remain relevant, you’ll limit massively their ability to successfully nurture the candidate in return. Get the best out of your people, culture and don’t waste the value proposition opportunity that I stand firmly behind – namely recruitment, when done right, is a craft and remains the number one driver of any people initiative a business can focus on. Given the Generalist heritage of your average HRD, Heads of Recruitment will have to just continue dripfeeding this brilliant piece of research at every part of the annual budget process.

craft is a pastime or a profession that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work.”

One of the best ways to signal the obvious intent to those hard-working people of recruitment that we are investing in their craft is the deployment of the right relevant technology. A positive step change in behaviour can be perfectly aligned on the back of a Technology upgrade so use it. I pulled no punches in my first article of the series “Why a CRM is probably the best investment you’ll make this year” and in this context it supports the team’s evolving and more interesting role, widening skillset and erodes the manual grunt work that no recruiter enjoys doing. What’s not to like.

In fact, did you know humans are naturally hardwired to predictability and this barrier to change is a big reason why so many fail. Having a dominant culture of ‘ hardens over time so creating a new aligned flow that produces more valuable and productive levels of predictability takes time, skill, leadership and a lot of effort. Holding your nerve becomes a new core competence for the way of working. Partner with a really good technology provider who not only possess a great product but care about the ecosystem their technology will thrive in to ensure the behavioural change is both sustainable (beyond the new shiny toy period of 3 months) and profitable (where the return on the new way of working erodes poor use of time and historic spend by the business).

By way of directing bad time investment to good, the technology of a CRM effectively buys recruitment teams some of the following personal benefits :

  • From sourcing inefficiently in silos or using expensive contingent agencies to creating the space to engage effectively with candidates through targeted messaging and connecting only with those most interested, prioritised by the system’s machine learning capability.
  • From branding being a further investment line for another agency in another part of the already stretched recruitment budget to a self-service capability creating attractive landing pages for engaging campaigns and recruitment events with technology that records talent promoter scores and candidate experience sentiment in dashboard form.
  • From the time it takes to craft and track each individual candidate message to having the technology, complete with triggers, templates and timings to effectively engage at scale but still in a highly targeted manner.
  • Finally, from spending too much time on countless data entry admin without the ability to share across the team to a CRM that does this for you as a single source of truth and allows the recruiter to use their craft and artistry to convert their nurtured candidate to applicant at the point of business need, quicker than historically.

Everything you need to nurture your candidates is within your grasp with the evolving CRM technology on offer. Everything you need to nurture the recruiters in your team starts with a narrative on how best to utilise the time and productivity offered which in turn allows them to do what they want to do, better – nurturing the candidate relationship.

Until next time. What are you waiting for? Technology helps nurture your recruiters. Their craft depends on it.


Tactics to source, attract and engage world class candidates

Tune in as I host a panel of world class recruiting experts to unleash wit, wisdom and hiring tips galore in a Beamery sponsored webinar on the 1st September. I’m excited to chair a discussion on tactics to source, attract and engage the candidates that aren’t applying.

Pleased to be joined by:

  • Sam Ramsey, Head of Resourcing & Employer Brand at House of Fraser.
  • Charu Malhotra, Global Employer Brand & Digital Channels Manager at Ferrero.
  • Jon Hull, Head of Resourcing at Carillion.

You can save your spot here.

P.S. Interested in learning more about how a Recruitment CRM can save time, reduce cost and improve quality of hire. Take a quick peek at Beamery

Why a Recruitment CRM is Probably the Best Investment You’ll Make This Year

beamery logoWhen asked by a highly stressed Recruitment leader, with a finite investment budget, what will give them the ‘biggest bang for the buck’, without hesitation the answer is simple – invest in a Recruitment Candidate Relationship Marketing (CRM) system.

With a talent space that has so fundamentally shifted in emphasis away from a one size-fits-all, one company career sell to a complex candidate landscape and a multi-company lifespan, then being armed with only a clunky first generation ATS and a bunch of siloed, recruiter-owned spreadsheets to go into battle with is the worst idea since someone yelled “‘yeah let’s take this suspiciously large wooden horse into Troy, statues are all the rage this season”.

For the small number of professionals who’ve still not heard, a CRM helps you manage your company’s impressions and interactions with potential and future hires in one place.

The technology, taken primarily from our marketing cousins, helps organise, automate and synchronize the attraction, communication and nurturing of talent. It drives a direct sourcing strategy, fosters team collaboration and provides a platform for drawing the wider business into the recruitment process.

Today, affordably within our grasp, is a game-changing recruitment technology enabler that creates enormous value. A single source of truth has been a silver bullet for our teams operating unproductively off siloed spreadsheets of unshareable data.

What changed is that the previously celebrated automation of recruitment records was never really good enough. Coupled with the fact that the user experience was relatively poor, there was little in the technology ecosystem that could tackle the evolving three issues that resonates with me in recent years:


1. Stop-start recruiting demand

Since the 2008 financial crisis, maybe earlier, recruitment has been used as a blunt instrument to signal business sentiment to a variety of key stakeholders. We’ve seen this tactic feature recently post-Brexit.

The reality at the coalface is there is no such thing as a total ‘freeze’ – employee churn needs catered for, a bureaucracy of weekly exceptions by board members who hold a rather simple view of how quickly it takes to ramp up when making a hire.

Without a CRM focused on the pre-applicant candidate, nurturing and engaging in a structured manner at the right pace along the funnel, then historically the by-product was posting to numerous job boards or using the painfully dumbed-down PSL for quick answers in small windows.

Quite often this distressed, applicant-led approach led to a poor quality hire. And round we went again.

 2. From fulfilling jobs to nurturing candidates

We know the common beliefs in our system now – the candidate is king and success requires an approach based on sourcing the best fit, nurturing relationships with those interested candidates in places where they reside and with content that they can relate to.

Arguably the hardest part of the recruitment funnel we face today is keeping the interest of busy, talented people who you believe might add enormous value to your organization and treating them respectfully.

Only an effective CRM can help us develop engaging strategies to make these things a reality.


3. Value creation

Any investment needs to pass this litmus test but too often the first generation technology suite allowed us to only tick the compliant box.

As recruitment leaders a CRM places technology where it best helps and that is in freeing up the valuable commodity of time for sourcers and recruiters to actively engage with candidates and sell.

No more busy fools focused on manual data entry or agency negotiation but seamless sourcing, prospecting for future and repeatable roles, automation at scale without manual intervention, accessible talent pools and a better way of working that provides the basis for more reinvestment on the journey to excellence enlightened recruitment leaders want to pursue.

Whilst installing a cloud-based CRM solution is relatively straightforward, I’m determined to help my peers maximize the benefits of such a change given the enormous value our profession, people and the business can achieve as a result. Stay tuned over the coming weeks.

Until next time. What are you waiting for?


Tactics to source, attract and engage world class candidates

Tune in as I host a panel of world class recruiting experts to unleash wit, wisdom and hiring tips galore in a Beamery sponsored webinar on the 1st September. I’m excited to chair a discussion on tactics to source, attract and engage the candidates that aren’t applying.

Pleased to be joined by:

  • Sam Ramsey, Head of Resourcing & Employer Brand at House of Fraser
  • Charu Malhotra, Global Employer Brand & Digital Channels Manager at Ferrero
  • Jon Hull, Head of Resourcing at Carillion

You can save your spot here.

P.S. Interested in learning more about how a Recruitment CRM can save time, reduce cost and improve quality of hire. Take a quick peek at Beamery

People Analytics -Are you ready for ‘creepy’ HR ?

creepy HRAs we all know, ever since Taylorism was a wee boy in short trousers and traditional organisations grew bigger and bigger, we’ve been collecting mountains of employee data as a consequence of our place in the workplace food chain. Rooms of carefully indexed grey filing cabinets, obsessively overseen by the women of HR (because that’s typically how it was), gave way recently to a first generation of clumsy, ill-fitting, un-user-friendly HR Information Systems that allowed records to be stored in a small whirring data centre in a small industrial estate residing in a small regional town of little importance. The User Interface, according to my learned little friend Cee Lo Green, was less xbox and more Atari but, like him, recent incarnations have been so glammed up you could easily explain it to your mother as enterprise and personal technology begin to converge.

Applicants (but never candidates), employees, non-employees, ex-employees, training attendees, grievance raisers, disciplinary trailblazers, accident proners, whistleblowers, maternity leavers, career breakers, Arabs, Sheikhs, Hindu, Sikhs, …it was heaven, it was hell, who wanted it, who could tell ? Anyone for an annual data cleanse? Ooooohhh…You get the point. It’s all in there, stored posthumously forever and gathering dust.

Record-keeping HR’ shouting ‘brilliant basics’ like it was always the end game kept organisations ticking along, compliant and frankly brought some order to the world of work. And for the HR Operations folk responsible for that down the years I doff my cap and thank you enormously.

If this was the avalanche of hard data, then its more complicated twin sister, soft data became increasingly important as we dialled up HRM and began to take seriously what our people were thinking. That journey had taken us from post-war equilibrium of trade unions representing the voice of the employee brought to an abrupt end in the 1980s with a structural change in the country’s economy. A wave of employer-friendly legislation and the replacement of one elite for a new one in the boardroom and the City. Gauging the sentiment of the workforce was now the equivalent of a HR department with a large clipboard and a series of pertinent questions that sought opinion as a process / activity / showpiece every couple of years. ‘Nosey HR’ soon found that the process was often gamed and bastardised as an inclusive part of another ill-fitting HR intervention elsewhere such as annual objectives or reward outcomes. Those breakthrough organisations in the engagement space have now at least understood that the answer to ambiguity lies in continuous, authentic conversations in the workplace. Sentiment analysis, social listening, pulse surveys, focus groups and a genuine use of mobile-first technology to drive meaningful engaging dialogue are all part of the armoury. Extra brownie points for those who have attached this qualitative input with a range of other data points (turnover, hiring, even weather, local talent market, etc,) inside and outside the organisation, to drive more informed understanding of the causes of people problems and support decisions with more science than offered by a HR Manager’s ever growing gut.

As the opportunities afforded to us by the relentless drive of Technology and Science in the world of work, we have a bit of a curate’s egg in front of us. On the plus side, the cognitive era we are entering will allow machines to more intuitively support our decisions at work by churning out a greater analysis of the problem faster and more accurately than us Human Resourcers could dream of. The risk we run is that cleverness of data gathering will become increasingly frictionless. A messy, emotional humans are we going to be comfortable with our employers (even if that is a thing in the future) knowing we’re becoming a churn risk, are in danger of being deviant at work, gaming our skills tests or tapping into our private space by knowing about our mental and physical wellbeing before we do? What exactly is the name of the interview being called by the HR function of the future with the following invite letter saying :

“Our analysis suggests that you are 98.56% likely to be joining a direct competitor in the next 6 months and therefore must take the following remedial action”.

Whatever the answer, ‘Creepy HR’ is a warning that our ongoing pursuit of technology and science at work should continue to be governed by a desire to create more Human workplaces and not less.

Until the next time. Remember we’ve all seen that movie – Embrace the power of analytics but beware of the darkside.

4 ways to conquer HR’s fear of the living data

thinkMuch as ‘it’s Friday, it’s 5 to 5 would bring a certain joyous warmth to the HR soul, the words ‘it’s Monday and it’s an all day board meeting’ would have the complete opposite effect. For too long the poor HRD has been forcing herself to smear the rancid guts of the incomplete reporting innards of the enterprise HRIS on offer as a weekly facepaint ritual. That system, implemented without anything nearing the self-service savings it offered, the artisans and shysters across the ‘business’ continued to disregard the ‘change’ as the voice of the customer component remained badly executed during implementation. So at best, slide decks of incomplete ‘dead data’, the whole insight thing was at best an endurance and at worst a weekly embarrassment played at the end of each corporate meeting. It set the unspoken tone for how HR continued to look irrelevant at the board table, stormtroopers of transactional delivery or purveyors of bust and boom consequences from a CEO reacting to the vagaries of the VUCA world.

As we look forward to the ‘what could come to pass’ opportunity in HR data analytics – all whizzing technology, new skillsets and inquisitive mindsets, for many we stand paralyzed by years of the picture above cementing the HR department’s place in the modern organization.

“We (HR) are heavily conflicted through a combination of our legacy DNA, unconscious bias within the business and our own siloed insularity. Breaking out of this pre-determined organisational existence is our biggest single professional challenge”

I recently saw IBM articulate the 4 barriers to entry for HR as a lack of Capability (soft skills legacy versus a need for hard analytical and technical ones), Clarity (a lack of real impactful questions and relevance to the business), Complexity (various sources of truth, dirty data and poor legancy HRIS systems) and Culture (Heritage as the last gut-based function, Ulrich’s organisational design isolating data analytics).

Unhelpfully or otherwise, amongst this existential funk we do very well, the man who replaced Dave Ulrich as the profession’s new poster boy predicted last year that :

“2016 is the year that HR becomes digital” – Josh Bersin

But according to the pointy heads at the CIPD :

“whilst 78% of organisations see analytics as essential technology, only 4% believe they currently have the capability”.

For every uninspiring HR leader who fears change as it threatens their prevailing concierge service there is a pathway for the more enlightened that could be summarised as follows :

  1. It is well to remember that the data analytics story is a continuum and is best tackled methodically in this manner understanding that as pointed out earlier the reporting of ins and outs is not the endgame.

bersin maturity

  1. Beware the fallacy of creating fancy endless reporting dashboards. It’s a HR indulgence that doesn’t reflect progress and is often a means of drowning the business in irrelevant graphics in the hope that it ‘looks’ cool. There are plenty of HR Analytics graves peppered with that choke point between reporting and analytics.
  1. Beyond a purge on dirty data, a true starting point for your redeeming HR rebirth lies in crafting the right business-centric questions. No longer is ‘how many people are on maternity leave’ sufficient but as a function we must move from boring the business to death and instead go after those questions that make the CEO purr like a wolverine as a consequence.

The accuracy of the data, the quality of the analytics, the figures you come up with — everything is irrelevant if you’re not asking the right questions” Cornerstone, 2016

4. With the endorsement of a question that is going to tickle the CEO’s underbelly, then the growth mindset within the Data Analytics journey is tantamount to that of building an internal consultancy and scaling accordingly :

  • Start modestly and pick some low-hanging business questions to go after.
  • Insource some much needed new HR capability (plugging the gap on data management, excellence with numbers and statistics, creating visualisations and understanding the business). In the first instance this tends to be about hustling for resources within Finance or if you are a big Financial Services outfit, then within the bowels of the introverted Reward team lies a great place to go.
  • Look at the technology market for investing in self-service data analytics tools (usually after proof of concept has been established within the business and investment might be available) as a SAAS cloud solution without having to break the bank.
  • Storytelling and data visualisation make or breaks that touch point with the business as everything the new and improved HR department goes after is perfectly narrated and actionable. Repeat, market successes and scale resources accordingly perhaps reaching a stage where the HR Analytics team is either joined at the hip with the customer, marketing and other analytics teams but at the very least defines the ongoing service that historic functions could only dream of.

There is a real opportunity and that 4% figure for adoption is pretty pitiful despite the upside of more bums on seats at the People Analytics conferences in 2016. If HR doesn’t grasp the nettle then another part of our organisation – such as Finance or Marketing – will.

Until next time. Get your ass in gear HR.

Candidate Assessment – You’re too good to be true

interviewThe recruitment industry has historically got such a low barrier to entry even the recently discovered Kawahiva tribe in the Amazon basin has already opened its first agency there without much trouble.

Unregulated yet unchecked, the best recruiters have continued to reinvent themselves along the way in a manner that would make Madonna blush. The better ones can tell you Boolean Strings isn’t a folk music instrument and branding isn’t what American Cowboys use to locate their cattle. Today, every recruiter who wishes to remain relevant in a fractured world of work should be rightfully applauded for their own specific 10,000 hours of mastery.

With one exception. The assessment process itself. Greatness here resides with the business psychologist and the recruiter is still tied to an unstructured interview that has slightly more validity than checking your star sign.

Let’s remember that this corner of the recruitment world remains the coup de grace at the end of the 3cs of recruitment :

  1. chasing the elusive, passive prospect (typically through a previous experience word search on the CV);
  2. catching them (through an increasingly devilish play on words in an Inmail that seduces the prospect into believing you had a movement down below when seeing their work on Github);
  3. capturing them on a talent list, community or pipeline (with the hook of a corporate video on the careers site showing how whacky the office is or a company purpose that overstates the reality of what is a simple exchange of labour for pay and benefits).

When it comes to converting the candidate (frankly the reason the CEO provided lots of money for Tech and people in the first place) to employee (whatever that increasingly means) we remain beholden to what our grandparents experienced with the only difference being we’ve stuck it on-line.

You see, for all the developments we’ve made along the way elsewhere, assessment has remained untouched in the last couple of generations. Those protective psychologists have been historically responsible for creating a valid but ultimately poorly deployed user experience complete with expensive training sessions as a pre-requisite. The entry into the digital era has been largely resisted and at times resented by the psychologists. My favourite anecdote remains when one of the established assessment players told me that they resist any mobile-enabled delivery as it demonstrates that unless a candidate is sitting in a quiet room on something called a personal computer then they aren’t taking the thing seriously !

So, if that’s the establishment then no great surprise that we’ve seen smaller, more nimble players emerge seizing the user experience agenda (candidate and recruiter) and disrupting the marketplace.

Our search for job and culture fit remains the promised land at the end of the recruitment journey. For enlightened Talent Leaders there’s recognition this area fuels toxic candidate experiences – at one end unstructured interviews drive biased decisions lacking validity, which we find hard to explain adequately. At the other end we too often produce expensive on-line assessments to post-rationalise selection decisions especially for senior roles. Check many boutique search firms and this is exactly what they do on the final 2 or 3 it seems, usually to justify their large retained fee.

Vendors that now begin to recognise the power of our social footprint online will seize the next phase of development by using this data. The impact is huge and beyond recruitment into engagement, culture and productivity where a constant, frictionless assessment of all of us at work can be driven without us even knowing. Too many barriers for widespread adoption has hampered its growth so far but as the digital world becomes increasingly omnipotent it’s hard to think this won’t be the next phase. The 30 minute on-line culture assessment and Situational Job Test (SJT) will go the way of the ugly annual employee survey and performance review.

The talented HRD and the open-minded recruiter will continue to adapt accordingly as products emerge into the ecosystem with a need to sew it together with APIs until an enterprise-wide solution hits the jackpot. However, perhaps one consequence may be the end of the occupational psychologist as the data scientist overtakes them as kingpin of the assessment world.

Until next time. Are you ready ?

Don’t pay the middleman

agencyvsclientPICDon’t even fix a price” said the lesser known Talent scholar and Irish landed gentry dwarf Dr Chris De Burgh, who summed up the sentiment of HR people at the time who thought that the rise of the internal recruitment function was the key to destroying the dastardly agency recruitment industry. The typical persona of Essex wide boy ‘Luke’ from Pucker Mucker recruitment agency in Basildon,  was perceived, unscientifically but not without some due cause, to be a boil on our recruitment arse cheek that needed lanced.

So as the HR tribe splintered into the inevitable breakaway factions in a manner that would make the People’s Front of Judea blush, the internal resourcing function was born and tasked immediately with replacing the agency middleman with their own in-house version and ‘cost per hire’ was the battleground.

As time went by the HR function found that the promised land of agency eradication was not reached with this big idea. New fronts were opened, with the help of internal finance and procurement troops, introducing a series of three letter weapons such as the PSL, RPO and MSP to ensure that the interface between talent supply and demand was carefully governed by ‘market forces’. In other words, screwing the margin down as much as possible to demonstrate that the power relationship with any potential agency middleman was being governed by the organization. Short-term economics seemed to trump any commonsense as HR searched for collateral to be ‘at the table’ and internal Heads of Recruitment spent too much wasted effort managing the internal dynamics of this race to the bottom.

Rise of the Resourcing function, impact of HR outsourcing and the over reliance on cost containment as a business strategy. I haven’t even touched upon the non-stop rise of technology as part of the armoury for sorting out the agency middleman in the last generation. I’ve written before about the dangers of over-reliance of Technology in the current recruitment strategy mix but TAT has developed from automating clunky manual recruitment processes to positive developments in the art of sourcing (as recruitment splintered again), exploiting social platforms for employer marketing purposes and driving speedier matching but let’s be mindful about what it can’t do currently.

The belief system are that these technological developments provide further assaults on the agency middleman with full cycle recruitment ownership going in-house. But let’s step back. This narrative has failed to see the world of recruitment agency become obsolete and in fact the problems faced with the great white hope of internal recruitment LinkedIn and the sheer resilience of the agency industry has proved what a waste of our collective efforts this phony war has been, distracting us instead from key talent problems surfacing today.

Indeed, the new technology front in the past few years has seen some HR Tech disrupters, with little legacy in life and sometimes nothing in the world of recruitment, seem to think that they can now further simplify the recruitment process by copying a matching process they think correlates with the purchase of a pizza or the hailing of a cab. At a time when we need the best minds of our generation to truly help us humanize the recruitment process this requires:

  1. Greater collaboration between technologists and enlightened talent folk who both understand the sentiment for dialling up the right kind of technology investment that answers real talent questions.
  1. A recognition that nobody holds the moral high ground in the crap experiences front between the agency and in-house and maybe it’s time to put off this phony war that has distracted for too long. Across the piece will be winners and losers ahead but the best of the agency piece will adapt and prosper if they read the memo that dialing up human interaction wins the war for business.
  1. Finally, more bravery in the HR function and the board table that strikes a balance between short term cost containment measures on bad spend (that we do so well) to justify the seat and the longer-term pursuit of quality talent solutions (that we don’t do so well and that will truly help differentiate our workplaces).

Until next time. Interestingly Chris de Burgh is approximately 1.6847262820m high and is the most common fake profile name used on Linkedin.

In celebration of mediocrity

mediocreAt the end of the 20th century there was a subtle realignment of the English language in the workplace. We could no longer, ‘have a gay day’, discuss a ‘walkout’, hire ‘minions’ (long before those adorable little yellow creatures this was a derogatory word) or for the purposes of this blog accept mediocrity as ever a good thing again.

But hold your horses there. Let’s have a look at that definition and compare with everything we know today about productivity, job satisfaction and engagement in the workplace:

Mediocrity : (noun) – ordinariness, as a consequence of being average and not outstanding. Passable. 

HR anthropologists suggest Mediocrity was a lesser-known victim of McKinsey’s ‘War for Talent’. The authors, offering us absolutely no scientific proof to underpin their findings left the definition of the elusive ‘talent’ initially undefined. The HR function over the proceeding years left us in no doubt – Talent was tall, played rugby and flew fighter jets, had a handlebar moustache, was effortlessly charming, high cheekbones and never, ever got fat. They were out of reach, pursued by others and smelt permanently of desire. This highly male-centric definition dominated the landscape as an entire generation of female talent was squeezed out by narrow-minded protectionist white, stale males.

Soon Jack Welch stuck another nail in the mediocrity coffin by putting it in the middle of the finest feedback sandwich ever created by the Gods of Free Market Capitalism. Only 10% at the top could be Talent and 10% at the bottom were in the column marked ‘to be binned’ on an annual basis. This Darwinian approach spread from GE to every copycat large employer in the Western World. In the middle of the bell curve, the huddled masses, never referred to as mediocre were instead average performers, solid or dependable and were the rock the organisation needed to tick over. In short, some of the most patronising guff ever communicated by boardrooms populated, of course, by the self-appointed ‘most talented’ at the top of the pyramid.

Everyone in the people ecosystem colluded in the stitch-up – Recruiters of all types would source only for elusive A players and use traditional processes that would focus on universities, degrees, incestuous industry backgrounds and evidence of doing the same role currently as pre-requisites. In short, all the criteria that fails to predict future success or in other words full blown mediocrity.

Recruitment wasn’t alone – L&D developed HiPo programmes focusing on elitism, Reward delivered compensation packages that meant that only Talents could afford to buy a house in central London whilst ‘average Joe’ in a hospital doing a critical public service could only be housed at the back of a rented shoe box in the middle of zone 5.

Recently whilst we’ve shifted to allegedly more people-centric organisations, mediocrity has remained banned from the corporate lexicon despite all the evidence of its prevailing place in the current transitional world of work. Recruitment marketers, having succumbed to the colonization of the global workplace by the USA, remain hooked on finding rock stars for awesome organisations or turning the corporate IT geek into a ninja.

Which brings me back round to my growing belief that if we are being honest then mediocrity is a fair summary of where the vast majority of our organisations stand and maybe that’s alright in opposition to the prevailing narrative. In a world where external environmental factors have accelerated the pace of change, we are just immature organisations trying to push upwards to survive. Our HR ecosystem is just a byproduct of that.

So this Friday 1st April, people will celebrate ‘passable’ cultures, where good folk are just trying their best to do what’s right against the odds. They’ll celebrate how mediocrity continues to acquire and retain paying customers, grow revenue and sustain way beyond what it should through hard endeavour. Mediocre people will continue to be hired via passable recruitment processes, elite leadership programmes will continue to flatter to deceive and in the near term many organisations will remain vastly disengaged, unproductive with mediocre people trying to frequently look talented to external recruiters searching for it in oh-so mediocre ways.

Until next time. Enjoy mediocrity day and embrace passable as the new black.