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    Tuesday
    May032016

    Things you should never say at work #1 - "I'm not technical"

    New series on the blog launching today called 'Things you should never say at work' - hopefully that will focus on the non-obvious but still highly damaging things you should never say on the job.

    Here goes...

    (Slightly) edited for purposes of clarity and anonymity story from a former colleague of mine who has been talking to a potential client about a new (largely) technical project - the implementation of some new, pretty large enterprise systems for a mid-size manufacturing company.

    My former colleague walks into a 'discovery' kind of meeting with the two ostensible subject matter experts in charge of the two most critical process areas of the project - let's call them Inventory Management and Supply Chain Optimization.  The two client folks that run these functional areas are pretty experienced, my colleague guessed they had at least 10 or 15 years each inside the company.

    When my colleague asked them how the early pilots of the new enterprise tech had been going, what the main challenges were, how the systems were being set up in order to support the organization's workflows, etc., both client subject matter experts responded similarly. Something along the lines of: "I really don't know - I'm not technical." 

    A huge red flag for my colleague for sure, as the two primary customers of the upcoming tech implementation were not only pretty disengaged from the process, they were seemingly proud of their lack of expertise and interest in what was going on with the new technology.

    Maybe these two experts are able to get away with this open apathy towards the technology, due to years of accrued expertise and perhaps some organizational stagnation, but you can be sure their (and their kind) days are numbered.

    I would bet that almost no one reading this post today would be able to proudly declare out loud in your shop something along the lines of "That new headcount trends dashboard? No, i have not looked at it. I'm not technical'. Or, "What do I think the 10% bonus pool reduction will do to voluntary turnover? I don't know. I'm not technical.'

    It doesn't matter if you don't know about a specific technology. Tech moves so fast anyway that what specific skills that are in demand now probably won't be the same ones in demand in 2 or 3 years.

    But the approach, the attitude, the willingness to 'be' technical?

    It doesn't matter what kind of job you have now, the 'I'm not technical' card is one no one can afford to play today.

    So you should never say it. I mean it. 'Cause if I find out you did...

    Monday
    May022016

    Revisited: Talent vs. Culture in Hiring Philosophy

    Let me be very, vet clear about this: If you only have time for one podcast in your life that podcast should be the HR Happy Hour Show. We are closing in fast on 250 shows in the HR Happy Hour archive, and Trish McFarlane and I have lots more great stuff to come this year and beyond.

     But if you are like me (a little bit of a podcast nerd, admittedly), you like to mix up your podcast diet and sprinkle in some other choices. For me, one of the podcasts I almost always catch is the Bill Simmons podcast, which is probably 85% about sports, but mixes in enough other topics (pop culture, politics, tech and business), to make it a good listen even if you are not a massive sports fan.

    Recently, Simmons did a show with Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca, most well known for being an early investor and advisor to companies like Twitter and Uber. Prior to his pivot to investing in startups, Sacca was a relatively early employee of Google, (from about 2003 - 2007), helping the search giant build out its data center infrastructure. 

    In the podcast Sacca talks about life at Google and what makes Google so different as a company and a place to work. The most interesting part of the discussion starts at about the 13:30 mark, where Sacce talks about the hiring philosophy at Google, and why that was imporant. Have a listen, then some quick comments from me.

    In case you didn't catch the key comment, I will repeat it here.

    Sacca: 'One of the things they (Google) did that is kind of like an NBA team, is that they hired just for sheer capability, not necessarily for culture fit. And so they were just like 'If we get the smartest, most driven, ambitious people in the world all to work here and we will see what happens

    And so other teams were like 'Well, I don't know if this guy is going to work well with this other guy, you know a lot of raw talent but, if you look at Eric Schmidt and Larry and Sergey the owners and general managers, they said 'Let's just get the smartest people in the world here and then see what happens.'

    In the podcast Sacca goes on a little more about what the focus on talent and raw capability above this idea of 'fit' meant for Google, but I think you can get the idea from the excerpt above.

    Looking back through all the posts I have done on this topic over the years, I would say at least philosophically that I come down way towards the Google/Sacca point of view on this. I think raw talent, the ability to assemble enough of it at one time and in one place will have the most significant impact on organizational success, certainly when a company is smaller and growing.

    Focusing solely on talent and ability may result in hiring a few bad apples, and Sacca admits as much in the podcast, but in the end whether its the NBA or a tech company, the team with the best talent almost always wins.

    Have a great week, and make sure you check out the HR Happy Hour Show too!

    Thursday
    Apr282016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 244 - Global HR Technology Trends from HR Tech China

    HR Happy Hour 244 - Global HR Technology Trends from HR Tech China

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Madeline Laurano

    Listen HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour show, join hosts Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane as they talk with Madeline Laurano, co-founder of Aptitude Research Partners.   Fresh from the HR Technology Conference in Zhuhai, China, the three talk about the trends in HR technology and how they are similar around the globe.  

    Specifically, the conversation covers having Talent Acquisition as a priority and the Chinese focus on services.  With that focus, there is great interest in acquiring and using the best and most relevant HR technologies.  We also talked about the way that China officials brand their city and the benefits US organizations could gain by having that focus.  

    We also talk about the way that China uses social media in their organizations.  The perception is that they ban most of the sites we use in the US.  And while that may be true, they have alternatives that may be just as effective.  In fact, the US contingent all embraced WeChat and loved it.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widger player below:

     

    This was a really fun and lively show, and we hope you give it a listen.

    And many thanks to everyone at LRP Publications and China Star for putting on the HR Technology China conference and for inviting us to participate as speakers.

    Reminder: You can listen and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, and all the major podcast player apps for iOS and Android - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a new episode.

    Wednesday
    Apr272016

    Who makes better hiring decisions, man or machine?

    Despite two-plus decades of innovation, billions of dollars spent by organizations on HR/Recruiting technologies, and (adding in this one), 139,927,434 blog posts on the topic, hiring still remains stubbornly difficult, is often lengthy and costly, and all too often results in disaster.

    There are potentially dozens of individual reasons why this sad state of affairs persists in 2016, but I want to talk about just one in this post - the question of whether or not hiring could be improved if we relied upon people (mainly hiring managers) less, and machines, (automated job fit assessments and similar instruments) more. The source of the rest of the data in this post is from a 2015 NBER Working Paper titled Discretion in Hiring by Mitchell Hoffman, Lisa B. Kahn, and Danielle Li.

    In the paper's abstract, the authors set out to answer a simple question:

    "Who should make hiring decisions? We propose an empirical test for assessing whether firms should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions."
    A pretty good question for sure.

     

    Who (or as we shall see soon what), should have the final, or at least the most influential voice in determining which candidate to hire for a given role?

    According to the authors, hiring is hard and prone to error for two primary reasons. One, resumes, profiles, even interviews are usually not perfectly complete and able to reveal with a high degree of confidence and accuracy who is the best candidate for the job. And two, the people the firm entrusts to make hiring decisions are simply not that good at making these decisions.


    They start with imperfect information, then apply (sometimes subconsciously), there own views, preferences, and biases that may not be congruent to the organization's goals to the decision process.

    Bad information + inaccurate, possibly biased decision makers = way too many bad hires.

    So what might a remedy be to combat the 'bad information' and 'bad decision makers' challenge?

    How about improving the information, (not very controversial, surely), and removing the decision makers (possibly more controversial, as most hiring managers will claim they like to, you know, hire).

    More from the NBER paper on what they did and what they were able to find:

    In this paper we evaluate the introduction of a job test, and develop a diagnostic to inform how firms should incorporate it into their hiring decisions. Using a unique personnel dataset on HR manager, job applicants, and hired workers across 15 firms that adopt job testing, we present two key findings. First, job testing substantially improves the match quality of hired workers: those hired with job testing have about 15% longer tenures than those hired without testing. Second, managers who overrule test recommendations more often hire workers with lower match quality, as measured by job tenure. 

    This second result suggests that managers exercise discretion because they are biased or have poor judgement, not because they are better informed. This implies that firms in our setting can further improve match quality by limiting managerial discretion and placing more weight on the test.

    Less manager input/discretion in hiring led to better hiring outcomes. Across the board in this study.

    A few caveats worth mentioning, (and you should, if you are so inclined, read the entire paper here).

    This study was performed across a dataset of 15 firms hiring for high volume, lower skill kind of roles - think something like data entry, call center, that kind of thing. The kinds of jobs where it is relatively easier to come up with an accurate job test/assessment, and ones where the primary measure of hiring success is often retention.

    Also worth noting is that the researchers controlled for other measures of employee success like productivity, i.e., they were able to determine that when hiring managers overruled the job test scores in making hiring decisions that they were not in fact sacrificing longer tenure for increased near-term efficiency.

    Essentially, for this category of low to mid-skilled service roles, the researchers were able to show that all things being equal, additional managerial input and discretion into the hiring decision process only served to lead to worse hiring outcomes.

    I will close with one more line from the study's conclusion section:

    In our setting it provides the stark recommendation that firms would do better to remove discretion of the average manager and instead hire based solely on the test.

    But that conclusion only holds true for the 'average' manager, right?

    I'm sure your managers are way above average when it comes to making hiring decisions.

    Right?

     

    Discretion in Hiring, Mitchell Hoffman, Lisa B. Kahn, Danielle Li, NBER Working Paper 21709, November 2015

    Tuesday
    Apr262016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Trends in Labor Force Participation

    It's been ages since I broke off a CHART OF THE DAY post and even longer since I talked about the Labor Force Participation Rate, so let's remedy both of these situations in one shot.

    Courtesy of your pals at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, have a look at a recently published chart on participation, this one broken down by gender. As always, some insightful comments from me after the data:

    Let's break down the data a little, and see if we might (Shock!) learn something. Some observations...

    1.  Male labor force participation has been on a long and steady decline for ages. In fact, males, as a group, have been less and less inclined to participate in the labor market since at least World War II.

    2. The female participation rate increased from about 43 percent in 1970 to a peak of 60 percent in the late 1990s, from which it has remained relatively flat over the last 15 - 20 years.

    3. But despite the economic recession of 2007 - 2008 ending, the data show that between 2010 and 2013, participation declined even more steeply for both men and women. Average female participation in 2014 was 57 percent—the lowest level since 1988—and male participation was down to a record low of 69 percent.

    What should we think about when considering this data? After all, participation is influenced by numerous factors like workforce age, prospects, disability rates, desire to continue schooling, etc.

    Let's look at what the Atlanta Fed thinks is the near-term direction for Labor Force Participation:

    "As a guide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the factors pulling down the labor force participation rate will outweigh those pushing it up, and that by 2022, labor force participation will be 61.6 percent, 1.4 points below its level at the end of 2014."

    The trends and the predicted continuation of these trends suggest a labor market that is even tighter than we are experiencing currently. It seems also likely that the kinds of jobs that will be hardest to fill are not the ones that will be easily filled by simply coaxing more people back into the labor force. 

    If anything, a declining participation rate makes even seemingly 'easy' to fill jobs that much harder to fill.

    Long story short, this data suggests that filling all kinds of jobs is just going to get tougher. It's probably a good time to be a recruiter though.

    A good recruiter I mean.