Talent Circles

Friday, April 27, 2012

Relationship-based hiring in a highly competitive world

By Kevin W. Grossman

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to retain an employee.

Now maybe you don’t buy the comparison, but you should. With all the touchy-feely talk about talent communities, this is the one context where it truly means the most.

When it comes to tackling talent acquisition, talent management and retention, technology has changed dramatically, but we haven’t changed the way we hire – the way we do business. If recruiting is marketing and sales, then human resources, hiring managers and future colleagues are customer service. But all of marketing and sales should also be customer service, and vice-versa, but it’s not, hence the business problem with retention.

When the “business community” doesn’t work together to retain, then turnover is much higher than the normal churn. Sure that’ll vary from company to company, and industry to industry, but the fact when “it’s not my problem” is the mantra, then there’s a big problem.

Recently I heard about a talent acquisition leader at a Fortune 500 company literally say, “I’ve got hundreds of positions to fill every other week, around the world, and I just don’t have time to worry about retention.”

I don’t have time to worry about retention. Wow. And I don’t have time to worry about bleeding out either.

This week I spoke with recruiting industry veteran, Ed Newman, chief analyst and founder of InsideTMT and one of the founding board members of the Candidate Experience Awards, and we talked about relationship-based hiring, a concept that he evolved out of Dr. John Sullivan’s relation-based recruiting. This is when the recruiters, human resources, hiring managers, executive management and future team members are all involved in recruiting. Time is invested in getting to know potential employees before they’re employees, or even if they never are.

In fact, adding more steps in the recruiting/hire process by meeting more people and getting to know them over time (again, potential applicants and friends of those applicants) will help solidify the business community relationships and workplace culture immersion.

I mean, don't you want to hire the people you know? Not the people you talked to a few times at most.

“I don’t have time to worry about retention.” Again, wow.

Trying to get to know someone in the least amount of time while creating a huge funnel of warm bodies that may or may not give a crap about my company and my positions makes no sense at all anymore. Building a talent network of people I get to know – and getting referrals from – makes all the sense in the highly competitive world.

According to Ed, if we know how many hires we’re making, we should be able to extrapolate how many we need to keep in our talent "circles" in order to source from, creating a circle for each specific manager and a set of positions. Our primary metric should not be how many hires we can make in less than 45 days, but how many hires can we make when we’ve had interactions with people for more than 12 months. If we can touch a group of 25 people 4-6 times per year with relevant, but non-job specific info, and those “touchers” include the hiring managers, HR, team members as well as the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, then again we’re (hopefully) binding community and improving retention.

These “circles” are then an opportunity to create scalable and interactive "Golden Rolodexes" – private talent networks that help facilitate a relationship-based hiring program utilizing modern social networking principles (which are really the best parts of time-tested sourcing and recruiting principles applied to new technology, right?).

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to retain an employee. And it takes talent circles to create relationship-based hiring.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Employment Brand and Breaking Stuff at Business Band Camp

It’s fascinating to watch a company team being built, to watch it rise from emotive steam, sweat and tears, to then take tangible shape into a business model, complete with product and/or service (that hopefully rocks). I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of that process a few times and witnessing it many times over.

In fact, I’ve been out and about in the Bay Area a lot lately and there are startups sprouting up in multiple industries including the HR/recruiting marketplace (think TalentCircles and many, many others), from Santa Cruz to San Francisco (lots of activity in San Francisco – according to a recent San Jose Mercury News article, “In 2011, companies in San Francisco raised $2.87 billion in venture capital, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ MoneyTree report…According to PwC, San Francisco has led the world in venture capital since at least 2009.”).

Many of them won’t make it out of the Bay Area startup “club scene” as a recruiting technology friend recently told me. I like that he’s a straight-shooter, and many in business today, including myself, need no sugar coating when it comes to launching a new endeavor in San Francisco or anywhere, even if there’s a bevy of programmers ready to bang code until 3 a.m. and deploy, deploy, deploy.

If you’re the leader of your business band and are looking for new players, you know that future employees need to be sourced, lured and “hired” — maybe with stock options and sweat equity or some overly competitive salary in a currently hyper-competitive market.

But once you’ve hired your CTO or lead developer or lead team, have you considered creating your own band camp? I’m not talking about the funny American Pie catch phrase – I’m talking about creating an environment where each new programmer is indoctrinated into your workplace culture with a series of fun activities, including free form jams and breaking stuff.

Yep, breaking stuff. Smashing metaphorical guitars on stage, shall we say. In other words, creating live code from day one, even if it crashes and burns. For example, I’ve noticed that in the last few companies I’ve visited, the core development team sits at terminals in configurations that face one another, as if at any point in time of coding, fixing and breaking, they riff off one another, like jamming together on stage (and some with the same twisted rock and roll faces at times as well).

If you ever had the chance to see the Grateful Dead jam together back in the day, you’ll remember how intense every concert was, how the play lists varied from show to show, and how musicianship and the music was the number one priority for the band mates. Just ask the Rokos brothers about that one.

Take Facebook, where every new programmer hire “begins the six-week journey of a new employee class in Facebook’s ‘Bootcamp,’ an experience shared by every engineering hire, whether they are a grizzled Silicon Valley veteran or a fresh-faced computer science grad. Since 2008, hundreds of Facebook’s engineers have passed through Bootcamp, which may lack the physical tests of military basic training but does provide the same kind of shared experience and cultural indoctrination into the world’s largest social network.”

So again, I’ll call it business band camp since I’m partial to music and want to keep the metaphor going. If you’ve hired talented developer “musicians” (and many are, as well as being Rush fans I hope), then the best way for them to know is to do, and that means immediately working on whatever it is you’re composing. These band camp jam sessions, besides helping to gel your team and solidify it, broadcast outward when your jazzed employees are talking about how amazing the company is they work for.

That makes the top of the employment brand Billboard charts and a happy band camp. Rock on.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to do with Conspicuous Consummation

You earn the networker and travel badges, post your professional accomplishments and awards, display your peer and previous employer recommendations, share your articles and posts written as well as your speaking engagements spoken at, highlight your education and certification acronyms, share your social influencer scores, and you even share your Twitter stream to those who might want to wade in. You even mix worlds and share your proudest dad-icated parenting moments about your family (like I do).

Based on the economic terms conspicuous consumption and conspicuous conservation, I’ll call the above example conspicuous consummation: the relatively recent phenomenon of engaging in online activities and sharing information that highlights the best professional (and personal) self in order to obtain or signal a high social status.

I’m certainly no economist by trade or training, but I do find the field fascinating, just as I find it fascinating how we show ourselves (hopefully) in the best light online, whether we’re in a job search or just keeping ourselves relevant and marketable.

I started thinking about this more and more after listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast titled Show and Yell. It highlighted a relatively recent phenomenon of engaging in activities that are environmentally friendly in order to obtain or signal a higher social status (for example, buying a Prius versus other hybrid models). This concept was developed and analyzed by a brother and sister team of economists, Steve Sexton and Alision Sexton.

In my ripped off, I mean highly leveraged world-of-work economic concept, conspicuous consummation can be a valiant personal branding effort to get noticed, but is it enough to truly be evaluated on when seeking varying levels of employment and/or business (for the consultants out there)? The obvious answer is no, which is why we have a myriad of screening tools to choose from as employers. Then throw in the interviewing, maybe a scenario-based exercise or two, reference checking, and a few other housekeeping-to-hire activities, and we’ve got ourselves a new employee (or not).

But what if there was a way to show your current employer or prospective employer actual real-time examples of you shining in action? No scenario-based acting models – actual footage of you kicking butt and taking names. We already use surveillance cameras in places of business for preventative measures like crime prevention (not to mention identification technologies that confirm our identities via fingerprints, retinas, breath, blood, DNA…whoa, Nelly!).

Agencies, vendors and companies record external and internal meetings with consent (usually audio but I’d bet more video today too). So why not record day-in-the-life highlights and accomplishments in video?

Crazy, I know. The sheer volume of video to screen and store, the management issues, the logistics and policing and all sorts of other legal nightmares to deal with is enough to make even Google and YouTube pass out. But then there were those who said e-mail and the Internet would grind business to a halt.

Video interviewing and screening has become more mainstream, both in live virtual and recorded formats. Heck, we virtually stream events online as well as babbling industry influencers and thought leaders quite regularly now (and I write that with fondness), much of which is being recorded on the other side anyway by the content consumers.

What I’m suggesting may get the EEOC’s, the ACLU’s and many other privacy advocates blood boiling, not to mention direct supervisors, executive management, IT and legal counsel, but c’mon, we (the people) have already changed the world of work with social and smart phones, complete with still and video cameras mind you.

Talent networks screened in real-time doing real work and making real bottom-line progress could be very cool. Integrate that into our current conspicuous consummation and we’ve got something pretty powerful we’ve never had before.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeding Career Clubs in Talent Network Coffee Shops

By Kevin W. Grossman

I don’t even like coffee, but I will drink a chai latte or a fruit smoothie when frequenting a coffee shop for business or pleasure. Don’t judge; I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like coffee.

But that’s just a means to an end reason to frequent those establishments in the first place. The real reasons we go are to work, read, relax or meet like-minded people to discuss life, love and industry. Intimate, small groups that prefer face time and who might even start a career club of sorts at their favorite coffee shop to mentor one another about the world of work.

Brain freeze from the fruit smoothie I just downed – I read an article the other day titled Our Most Effective Source of Hire, and in it the author had conducted a quality-of-hire analysis in his company based on the following:

Quality of hire is defined as the percent of new hires who pass their one-year anniversary and score at least “meets expectations” on their first review. For example, we grouped together all the new hires from the first quarter of 2010. We then ran a report dating to the last day of the quarter a year later, 2011. We determined what percent of those hires were still employed and were not on performance improvement plans, etc. We did this on a quarterly basis.

What they found were the top 6 quality-of-hire rankings:
  1. Former employees
  2. Passive candidates
  3. Employee referrals
  4. Staffing agency hires
  5. Contractor conversions
  6. Job boards 

What’s interesting is that there was a 10% variance between staffing agencies and former employees, but a 20%-25% variance between contractor conversions and job boards and the top ranking of former employees. Not too surprising for those who’ve been in the hiring game for any length of time.

This also aligns nicely with where the value of talent networks come in – a place where former employees, passive candidates and employee referrals can come together, share a latte or an espresso (or a fruit smoothie) and talk career shop and find employment.

However, these networks just don’t happen. Someone’s got to take the lead and launch something somewhere in order to attract like-minded others for like-minded activities to then nurture this new type of network. Call it manufactured organic; you’ve got to seed it to breed it. Networks have formed since the beginning of time and there’s always someone or some entity forming them, leading them and nurturing them.

Ah, but what’s in a name? Naming and labeling have always changed the perception of what something is and the why of it. If we called it a “career club,” then that could imply a non-threatening collective of people helping people find, land and retain employment, as well as adapting and advancing. If we called it the “working for the man club,” that would change the perception even further — but it would still a self-contained and self-promoted ecosystem of people seeking and giving career advice (or venting about their crappy jobs and bosses).

If we called it a talent community, however, then the “talent” in talent community would actually dilute community, because it would be labeling its participants in a way that most wouldn’t label themselves as. “Community” itself can also be misleading as being to “touchy-feely,” incorporating group hugs, rainbows and unicorns. Plus, talent is for Hollywood, right? Not for us working stiffs. That’s why for those of us who created this career club, I bet we would never call it a talent community.

In fact, I bet most who join an in-person or online “community” primarily want to socialize, but only a few would join talent communities to do the same. Most of those people only want a job, pure and simple. And that’s okay, because that’s why we’ve been seeding and growing talent networks for decades.

But again, there would be a minority who would want to collaborate and commiserate with the like-minded about life, love and industry. A minority that includes former employees, passive candidates and employee referrals, and those are the folks your company wants to source and hire.

I say seed the career clubs inside talent network coffee shops. Just make sure to serve smoothies. Mixed berry with banana preferably.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hepcat Closer Detective Agency: Because recruiting is marketing is sales is customer service is retention

By Kevin W. Grossman

I lit my cigarette and took a hit. The Silicon Valley morning was cooler than I thought it would be, even though the sun shone big and bold in the sky. I shivered. Damn it, I thought. Forgot my jacket again.

I looked up and there she was -- a vision of beauty and light in a white jump suit, lit up in the sun's wake.

I hadn't seen her for years, but I tried to keep my cool. I stroked my beard as if I were bored.

"Hi ya', Doll-face."

"Hi ya’ Dickie. How ya' been?"

"Swell but not yet swelling," I said nonchalantly. I took another drag on my smoke.

Doll-face crossed her arms across her chest. "Funny guy as always. I thought I'd find you still puffin' away on those cancer sticks."

"New law; no more smoking inside. Damn health-nut do-gooders. Somethin’ about second-hand smoke."

Doll-face smirked. “Yeah, smoking was banned inside offices about 20 years ago, Dickie.”

I looked at the sky and took a hit.

Doll-face's smirk morphed to dismay. "Dickie, listen, I'm in a pickle. We’re behind on our software development roadmap and we're having a tough time findin’ qualified programmers. The bidding wars are on again. We need help with employment branding ‘cause most of the so-called applicants we're generating are colder than week-old pike on ice."

Week-old pike on ice, I thought. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it was serious. I pushed my hat back off my forehead.

"Can you help us, Dickie?"

I flicked my butt away and exhaled a smoke ring within a smoke ring within a smoke ring. "Listen Doll-face, if we can agree on my terms, then I'll warm that pike and reel them in for you before you can bat those baby blues."

"Your terms? The last time you said that I lost my shirt, if you know what I mean."

I laughed. "My way or the highway, Doll-face. You know I'll get to gettin' and get it done."

Doll-face frowned. "You know, I could just start using social media more for free and find my applicants that way."

I shook my head. "Ain't nothin' for free, baby, and it takes my hepcat magical finesse to bring ‘em in."

Doll-face pondered this one. I smiled.

"Okay, Daddy-O. Let's talk turkey, ‘cause you're the best Tricky Dick I know," she said, throwing her arms around me.

"I’m the only Tricky Dick you know, Doll-face. They don't call it the Hepcat Closer Detective Agency for nothin'."

[Wink at the camera]


And, end scene.

Over the past two weeks I’ve spent quality time with really good recruiting agencies and recruiters, first at the Recruiters’ Hub Conference and then at the ERE Expo.

No, great recruiters. Recruiters who know how to source, cold call, warm up and close a lead with nothing more than a paper clip, a rubber band and a phone. (Oh, and maybe some social pools and a cool new talent network platform to play in as well.)

Great recruiters who get great marketing and sales. Because recruiting is marketing is sales is customer service is retention, remember?

And great recruiting and marketing and sales come to fruition with great detective work, and this is where I pay homage to my father who was a police officer for over 30 years, most of which he spent as a detective in charge of forgery and fraud. He’s been recovering from cancer radiation treatments and is finally on the mend. (His is Richard and his nickname was Tricky Dick when he was on the force.)

In his own words he loved the work because he “chased people across paper” – actually he called them his clients, and he could find them and their wrongdoing with a paper clip, a rubber band, bank records and a phone.

And today, great recruiters and marketers and salespeople chase prospects across social networks as well as paper (still) via:

  • ·      Glocal Employment Branding
  • ·      Outbound and Inbound Marketing
  • ·      Internal Referrals
  • ·      Social Network Referrals
  • ·      Talent Acquisition Screening and Assessment Tools
  • ·      Targeted Talent Networks (whether they apply for a job immediately or not)
  • ·      Relationship Building

I’ve been in marketing for many moons myself, and I’ve been helping clients chase buyers across paper and online, using many different marketing tools that help with visibility and lead-gen.

But how many times do we have to talk about the difference between 500 week-old pikes on ice versus 5 highly target qualified applicants we can make offers to?

The sourcing, recruiting and hiring is always in the human touch. Just call the Hepcat Closer Detective Agency. My Dad and I will be right over.