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    Three stories you should be able to tell candidates

    One more take based on the recently concluded NFL Draft, that annual and remarkable spectacle of talent assessment, evaluation, and management that plays out live, and on TV each spring.

    This year, my alma mater, the University of South Carolina was represented exceedingly well at the draft, with 2 players selected in the draft's first round, and a total of 6 players selected overall. For South Carolina, this was by far the most players it has ever had selected in a single year at the draft, and also serves as a kind of reward and validation of the last college football season that saw the Gamecocks finish with a school-best 11 victories, punctuated with a fantastic win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

    For schools that play at the highest levels of college football, the number of their players that are selected in the NFL draft has several implications. At the surface, it is a measurement of the quality of last season's squad, the more players selected by NFL talent evaluators, the better. But second, and for the colleges perhaps more important for the long term, having players selected for the NFL draft serves as a powerful recruiting tool. For many of the very best and in demand high school players that have plenty of options in where to play their college ball, the track record and history of a school for preparing and placing players in the NFL is an important and powerful factor in the decision process. Put simply, if a school has a history of success in preparing players for the NFL, (Alabama, Ohio State, Miami, LSU, etc.), the more likely it is that top high school talent that sees the NFL as their goal will choose those schools. And a virtuous circle is formed - the school sends players to the NFL, more top prospects that have the NFL as a career aspiration take notice and attend the school, they in turn progress to the NFL, they help the school have success on the field, and on and on. 

    In college football recruiting the 'stories' are easy to see. Players move from the school to the NFL in a highly public manner. But inside organizations, these kind of success stories are often harder to envision and describe to candidates and prospects. While in the recruiting process, the organization typically talks to the fantastic opportunities that await candidates should they choose to join, it can be difficult for the candidate to appreciate or even accept these stories as more than another part of a recruiter's sales pitch. In that light, I think there are three kinds of success stories that HR or Recruiting ought to be able to articulate to these top players, the ones that have lots of other options for their next career move.

    One - Come here, and here's what incredible opportunities are possible if you decide to make a long-term career here. Take a look at Joe Bloggs, he came in at about your same age, at a similar job, and now he is the head dude in charge of XYZ Division.  In fact, I'd like you to meet Joe, let's set up a lunch for you two to talk.

    Two - Come here, and build the skills that you can take anywhere you'd like to go in your career. Do you know, (insert name of the most famous company alumni you have), he/she spent three years here back in the 90s and now they run their own company. In fact, we still work with him/her from time to time and I am sure we can arrange a call if you'd like to learn more about how working here really set them up for their future success.

    Three - Come here, and build the skills that you can take anywhere you'd like to go in your career, leave if you think you need to, but come know that we will welcome you back somewhere down the line. Here's where you tell the story of a high-profile re-bound hire that illustrates the possibility and flexibility that makes choosing your company more attractive to the candidate. The sports world is certainly full of these kinds of tales, of players that left a team only to return later in their careers.

    Bottom line, when selling your opportunity, whether it is to a top athlete deciding on a college, or a top technical developer, both who have plenty of options, being able to paint a compelling and realistic picture of all the possible career scenarios, and how your organization can best help the candidate make the most of them, offers your side the best opportunity to land the talent you need.

    And don't forget, being open and accepting of what the candidate might want to do after he or she leaves your organization might be just as important as what they can or want to do inside your organization.


    Should you give the assessment if you don't care about the results?

    Last week America's second most popular sporting spectacle took place. No, not the beginning of the NBA playoffs, but rather the annual National Football League player draft, an incredible three days of televised talent assessment, evaluation, and selection. The NFL draft, once a largely behind the scenes administrative event, has grown over the years into a multi-day, multi-media extravaganza, with an entite cottage industry of draft 'experts' and advisors seemingly making a really good living not actually evaluating players for the actual teams, but rather appearing on TV to inform and share with fans and viewers their opinions of draft-eligible players, offer their speculation on which players will be selected by which teams, and comment more generally on how well or poorly each team's talent evaluators did in making their player selections.

    Making the 'right' selections from among the large pool of eligible talent, (almost all American college football players that have graduated from school, exhausted all of their college eligibility, or have declared themselves 'eligible' to be selected), like talent selection in any business, is challenging, complex, and incredibly important. On a good year, anywhere from 10-15% of a team's total active roster can be supplied via that year's draft. 'Hitting' or making the right picks, like finding a rare or overlooked talented player in later draft rounds, or avoiding 'missing', by bypassing players that later turn out to have unsuccessful playing careers often eventually means the difference in overall organizational success or failure.

    All the teams know how important the draft process is, and thus, over the years more and more steps and components have been introduced to the pre-draft player evaluation process. From intense study of college game video, to a battery of physical tests and measurements, and more recently, even formalized tests of a potential player's cognitive and reasoning capability, in the form of what is called the Wonderlic test. The Wonderlic consists of 50 questions to be answered in 12 minutes, and is meant to give teams a general feeling for the overall thinking and reasoning capability of a player, as well as provide a means of comparison with all the other potential players who also take the test.

    Most years the draft process ensues without much mention of the Wonderlic test as a part of the player evaluations, except only, and as happened this year, when a particularly high-profile and anticipated top draft choice caliber player gets a really low Wonderlic score. This year Morris Claiborne from LSU, regarded as one of the Top 10 available players in the draft reportedly scored a 4 (out of a possible 50) on the Wonderlic. A score of 4 is really, really bad, according to ESPN it was the lowest reported score in more that 10 years, (for comparison, an average score is about 21).

    Despite the alleged poor score, Claiborne was indeed selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 6th overall selection. So apparently the disastrous Wonderlic score did not impact Claiborne's standing and attractiveness as a candidate for the NFL. In fact, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated the test score was 'not an issue at all', and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett remarked, 'We talk about the test scores, but we also talk about 'What's his football IQ', also seemingly dismissing the value of the Wonderlic as a means to predict future performance as an actual football player.

    Now of course the Cowboys reps might be trying to defend their selection of Claiborne and downplaying the significance of the Wonderlic score is certainly in the team's self-interest, but the ESPN story linked above also refers to Claiborne's view that the test was essentially meaningless and not at all important in determining his ability to actually play football at the highest level. He is quoted as saying -  "I mean, I looked on the test and wasn't nothing on the test that came with football, so I pretty much blew the test off."

    Sort of an odd situation, the player, (candidate), and the team, (employer), both essentially admitting that one of the common if not primary assessment tools given to all players doesn't have anything to do with the actual job, and as soon as the assessment results don't fit with what our more traditional and time-tested evaluations tell us, (like actually watching the candidate play football), they will essentially be discarded from consideration. Seems like a big waste of eveyone's time.

    Now sure, you can argue with me that Caliborne, as a top player in this year's draft was not ever going to be impacted by his score, (good or bad), on the Wonderlic, and that the test is really meant for use as a supplementary measure or data point for players whose football talents are more questionable, and that it can be used to help make decisions between closely related prospects.

    But the league made Caliborne, and other 'top talent' take the test. And I bet, if you look closely at your organization's recruiting practices as well, you might find similar examples of making 'top talent' run through hoops or perform silly, eventually meaningless, exercises because 'that's just our process.'

    Claiborne didn't really have an option to decline the test, the NFL has an effective monopoly on professional football in America. But any 'top talent' you might be recruiting? Well they likely have plenty of options. You probably want to make sure your process understands that.


    HR Happy Hour Show Tonight: Gaming Health and Wellness

    The HR Happy Hour Show is back live tonight at 8PM ET after a couple of weeks off while I lived the exceedingly glamorous life, (mostly I sat in airports and taxis), with what should be a really fun show about wellness, and more specifically, about how organizations are using gaming principles and gaming technology to drive participation and better outcomes.

    Listen to the show live starting at 8PM ET on the show page here, using the listener call in line 646-378-1086, or on the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    You can also follow the backchannel conversation on Twitter - just search on hashtag #HRHappyHour

    Our guests tonight are Dr. Rajiv Kumar the founder and chief medical officer at ShapeUp, the leading global provider of clinically proven, social networking-based employee wellness programs; and Fran Melmed, the owner of context, an award-winning communication and change management consulting firm that specializes in wellness and health care consumerism.

     Some of the topics we will hit upop tonight on the show:

     Common workplace wellness challenges

    • Why wellness can be more than just fun with games
    • How insurers and consumers are adopting health games
    • Why health games are proliferating and succeeding in the workplace.

     It should be a fun an interesting show and I hope you can join us!


    Media and Consumer Tech Trend #2 - The End of Complexity

    Last week the analyst firm Gartner issued an interesting press release sharing their '10 consumer macro trends shaping the technology, media and service provider markets over the next 10 years', and on Monday I blogged about one of the trends Gartner called out, the importance of understanding the customer profile as you create products and services, and perhaps more importantly, as you make decisions on hiring and promotion into leadership roles.

    Today I want to hit upon another of the Gartner consumer media and tech trends, the one titled 'The Death of Complexity'. For some context, here is the take from Gartner on how in the consumer media and tech space, complexity can often be seen as a negative:

    The Death of Complexity

    The consumer market is becoming progressively less tolerant of complexity. Although consumers tend to buy products with ever-richer features, they often prefer those that are simple and intuitive. The ability to provide appealing and intuitive user interfaces has become a critical point of differentiation among competing technology providers. As technology becomes more complex, vendors need to invest more in keeping the user interface simple and intuitive. (Providers) therefore need to focus on simplifying technology, pricing, brand messaging, and feedback and interaction, and consider offering chargeable help services for consumers challenged by installing and configuring new equipment and services in their homes.

    I know what you are thinking, that is such a no-brainer kind of viewpoint that it should not even have made a list of trends or predictions. I mean, who doesn't want simpler, easier, and more accessible technology?

    Well mostly everyone, I think.

    We continue to want more and more capability from our technologies while simultaneously demanding that they become easier and easier to use. And that is perfectly fine, in fact, these increasing demands and requirements are what often spur fantastic innovations and solutions. But when the 'I want the product to be simpler' desire involves giving up capability that we feel like we have a right to or that we can't do without, well then often the simple becomes the complex.

    So the technology solution providers, both in the consumer space and those that build technologies designed to support enterprise users, (also becoming increasingly harder to distinguish), are challenged to balance the simplicity vs. capability ledger all the time. And while achieving the correct balance is certainly tricky, the ones that manage it most effectively are likely to stay one step ahead of the competition.

    But here's the thing about simplicity, it seems to me that everyone is in favor of simpler and easier to use technologies for a little while. Until something new comes along. Something that does that 'one more thing' or has the one extra bell or whistle. And then the simple solution we loved for so long start to look, well maybe a little too simple.

    Right up until the point where the tools we have can't do something that the other guy's tools can.


    Regretful Turnover and Saying Goodbye to the NJ Nets

    Yesterday the NBA's New Jersey Nets played their final game in their soon to be former home court in Newark, New Jersey. Next season the team moves to its latest new home, this one a brand new arena in Brooklyn, NY, where they hope their fortunes will improve, the basketball hotbed of New York City will embrace them as the 'other' NYC team, (NYC will always be the Knicks town), and more highly prized free agent stars will be more likely to want to play for the team.

    In the USA, professional sports franchises are usually seen as community assets, and when new franchises become available, either through league expansion or the occasional team relocation as in the Nets' case, you typically see cities trying to one-up each other for the chance to have one of these pro teams call their city 'home'. While the long-term economic benefits that accrue to a city or even a neighborhood from having local professional sports are certainly debatable, that usually has not stopped cities from making concessions, raising local taxes, funding arena construction and committing to infrastructure improvements and the like, in order to attract or in some cases retain a pro sports team for their city.

    But not all locals or more specifically local government officials feel the same way about pro sports teams, at least not every sports team. In the case of the Nets' exodus from New Jersey, Garden State Governor Chris Christie offered these remarks among others (emphasis mine) :

    ''My message to them is, goodbye,'' Christie said at an afternoon news conference at Newark Beth Israel Hospital where he signed a bill to promote organ and tissue donation. ''You don't want to stay, we don't want you.''

    ''That's one of the most beautiful arenas in America they have a chance to play in, it's in one of the country's most vibrant cities, and they want to leave here and go to Brooklyn?'' he asked. ''Good riddance, see you later. I think there'll be some other NBA team who may be looking to relocate and they might look at that arena and the fan base in the New Jersey and New York area and say, 'This is an opportunity to increase our fan base and try something different.'''

    Christie could be forgiven for not expressing any sadness or disappointment at the loss of the Nets, given their 35-year history playing in New Jersey has been mostly unsuccessful, uninspiring, and uninteresting. Apart from 2 appearances in the NBA finals in the early 2000's, the Nets have largely been a forgettable bunch, (this player being the exception).

    But even still, Christie's ripping of the Nets and their decision to leave New Jersey offers us a chance to think about what we do and say in our own organizations when faced with a dissapointing resignation of an employee that we truly need, one that we fought hard to land, and that for we perhaps even made some concessions in our own hiring and business processes to secure.

    Big giant flame-out resignation letters (or blog posts or videos), on the employee side often make the news. It is always fun to read about the dirt and dysfunction of organizations we know and sometimes admire. Usually, unlike our pal Christie, employers take the high road, refrain from commenting publicly, and go on with their business hopefully addressing any truths or lessons learned as needed.

    Bashing someone on the way out, for making the best career decision for them, seems like an incredibly petty and short-sighted approach to handling regretful turnover. Unless you can honestly say you were deceived or can prove you have been played, (neither true in the Nets' case), then I think you'd be much better off wishing the departing employee well, taking actions to stay in touch, and working your angle as 'This is still a great place to work' as you walk the person out the door.

    Sure sometimes that can be really tough. And sure it is much, much easier to bark 'good riddance', but aside from giving you about 30 seconds of hollow satisfaction, how does that really help your cause?

    And all this spoken as a New Jersey native who never cared one bit about the Nets!