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    Can I Work There if I Live Here?

    There are really only a few, perhaps ten or so, major decisions that people take in their lives that have such significant and long-lasting impact on the quality of their lives, their happiness, their financial and physical health, and even their legacies, that they usually require long and careful consideration before they are taken. 

    Where to go to college, what career path to pursue, what kind of job to take, where to live, whether or not to continue to date that slacker in hopes you can change him, (cut him loose, you know he will never change), and so on.

    But for job and career related decisions, at least for now when the majority of jobs still require reporting most days to a central work location, be it an office, store, factory, etc. - geography and it's associated impact on the decision process is an ever-present but at times under appreciated part of the complex dynamic. Sure, companies and candidates both spend lots of time evaluating skills match, career objectives, company culture, salary and benefits, and the like, but often questions like 'How long will it take me to commute each day?' or 'Can I afford to live anywhere near where the facility is?' or 'Are there any childcare options on the way to the office?', are not typically emphasized in interview and assessment process. Sure the candidate thinks about these issues some, but often only as a secondary set of considerations to the actual job itself, and usually the candidate is left to sort out the answers to these questions on their own.

    And these are critically important questions, ones that will effect the potential employee's likelihood for success, and certainly their quality of life outside of work. So how can organizations try to better help candidates address these concerns, as well as provide some insight to the challenges that the candidate (or even the existing employee base), might be facing in terms of geography, commuting time, and other real-world considerations?

    How about with an interactive map that shows office locations, median real estate costs, average commute times, and other practical, real, and really important data points to help candidates and employers make more informed decisions? Take a look at an example of what such a map would look like, this one for the San Francisco area: (click here, or on the image to try the map out yourself).

    This map was created by Stamen, a Design and Technology studio from San Francisco.

    To work with the tool, simply plot your starting point or destination point on the map, then on the left side, select from different modes of transit, ranging from car sharing to biking to walking. After that, you can indicate the desired length of commute, and the housing price range you can work with. After your selections are made, the map then shades in all the neighborhoods that lie within your parameters. It tries to help answer the basic question - 'If I live here, can I afford to work there?'

    For people and potential employees not familiar with the area, this kind of a tool is a fantastic resource, and one that I could see a large employer in any given market or geography using to both inform, educate, and even attract candidates.

    If you are say recruiting hard to convince a candidate to leave an area like San Francisco to come to perhaps, Birmingham, (cultural capital of the South), you could clearly and in an interactive manner demonstrate some of those 'quality of life/cost of living' angles that you play up on the phone. And additionally, having access to this kind of interactive data would better inform company leaders planning the next office location, or possible re-organization. You could easily develop this tool a bit further to plot the addresses of employees and build some intelligence to calculate changes in average commute time, energy use, and even impact on company happiness (a stretch, but just go with it), that would accompany a physical office move.

    What do you think - would like to have a tool that allowed you and your candidates to better assess more of the real-life variables in the recruiting process?

    Have a great weekend!



    Overexposure - no, not a Weinergate post

    We are reminded once again from our pal Anthony Weiner about the dangers of overexposure.  One person's 'refreshing level of interaction and community building' is another person's, 'Creepy stalking of a potential lunatic.' 

    But things are piling up over here at HR Happy Hour HQ, and I wanted to post links to a few events coming up here, (if nothing else, so I could refer to it, and know what I am supposed to be doing).

    Today, Thursday June 9th at 1:00PM ET, I will be presenting a free webcast for the Human Capital Institute, underwritten by recruiting technology solutions provider SelectMinds.  You can still register for the webcast here, and I will upload the slides to Slideshare (and embed them here), once the presentation is complete.

    Update - as promised, the slides from the HCI Webcast are up on Slideshare here, and also embedded below:

    Tonight, Thursday June 9th at 8:00PM ET, the HR Happy Hour Show (sponsored by Aquire), is back live, with a show called 'You Still Can't Fire Everyone'. My guest will be Fortune Magazine Editor and author Hank Gilman who will talk about his recent book, You Can't Fire Everyone: And Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager. You can listen live tonight on the show page here, or by calling in to the listener line at 646-378-1086.Cool graphic!

    Next week, Thursday June 16th at 12 Noon ET, I will join Kris Dunn and Mark Stelzner for a free webcast/conversation called 'Authority on Talent', for the folks at Plateau Systems. KD, Mark and I will talk about HR’s role as the Authority on Talent in the organization, focusing on the following questions: 

    • What do HR leaders need to establish this authority?
    • What’s different now from previous “seat at the table” moments for HR?
    • What role does technology play?

    It promises to be a lively and interesting conversation, and I hope you can check it out and join the fun.

    Finally, today I am up on Fistful of Talent, having a good-natured debate with KD, on whether or not companies should automatically pay severance packages to so-called 'bad hires'.

    And then looking ahead to the rest of June, we have upcoming HR Happy Hour shows on social recruiting, the influence of gaming and social competition on employee wellness programs, and a trip up to see our friends at Rypple as we take the show out on the road. And the second installment of the new 'HR Happy Hour - Europe' series will get organized this month as well.

    Busy times and unlike our pal Congressmen Weiner, I promise to keep all communications on the straight and narrow.


    Webcast - Thursday June 9th - The Social Referral

    Tomorrow at 1:00PM EDT I will be presenting a webcast for the Human Capital Institute and made possible by support from the recruiting technology solutions provider SelectMinds titled - 'Referrals Powered by Social Media'. The basic premise of the presentation is that while source and quality of hire studies consistently demonstrate that referrals, (employee, alumni, even customer), are a high quality and important component of an integrated sourcing and recruiting strategy, than many organizations fail to adequately capitalize on their stakeholders' existing networks to further and enhance their referral programs.

    Advances in technology, coupled with the rise of the extended networks of staff and other interested parties as a valuable and highly leverageable asset for recruiting, have given rise to a new set of tools, processes, and approaches to referral programs, and the most forward thinking organizations will sense these trends, and take steps to capitalize on them to enhance their sourcing efforts, power and challenge their employees to participate in critical recruiting activities, and augment and develop the unique employer brand and value proposition in the market.

    I plan on talking about the importance of a healthy referral program as a key component of a robust recruiting strategy, some of the barriers to implementation and performance, (and ways to address them), and the increasingly important role new technology solutions play to help make these so-called social referral programs scale, perform, and impact the organization.

    One of the points I will try to make is that technology-enabled social referral programs really share most of the same challenges as old-fashioned, paper or email-based, programs of the past. Communication, motivation, ease of use, responsiveness, and connection to the organizaton's important objectives are just as important today as they always have been. The new technology certainly makes the processes and the mechanics easier to administer, and the best new technology can even lead to better referrals, but if the fundamentals are not in place, then the program will prove ultimately disappointing.

    You can register for the free HCI webcast here, and again the presentation is scheduled for Thursday June 9, 2011 at 1:00PM ET

    I hope you will join me tomorrow!


    The Big Picture Thinker, or Making Candidates Tap Dance

    When trying to find the best candidate for the job, how many interviews are too much?

    When do your standard questions become a little insulting or the screening surveys you have carefully crafted go too far, and in the process turn away candidates with the background and qualifications you are seeking, but feel taken aback by having to prove themselves during your application process?

    I started to think about this while reading a recent post on The Daily WTF blog, a site normally centered around tales of dodgy computer programming, clueless end users, and mostly amusing but not really cruel hijinks and frivolity for the geeky set. Every so often The Daily WTF shares a job interview story, and while normally kind of fun, the 'Big Picture Thinker' yarn is one of the best I have seen.

    So the story goes something like this:

    After an in-person technical interview for an unnamed development, (or possibly managerial position), the company sends a standard, (but simple), technical aptitude test to the candidate. The test is meant to help gauge written communication skills. But in this case, not only did the hiring manager forget to attach the test to his email, he surprisingly found himself dealing with a candidate that clearly did not feel it necessary to 'prove' himself by taking the test. Take a look at the candidate's response:


    From: Thomas B-------
    Sent: Friday, April 08, 2011 10:37 AM
    To: James S------
    Subject: RE: Written Test
    When a big picture thinker with nearly 20 years of experience in 
    IT sends you a resume and cover letter like mine and says that he 
    can help you win a client that is pulling in 1.3 Billion per year, 
    here's what you don't do:  
      1. Set up an interview with a couple of in-the-box thinking 
         Microsoft drones with questions on minutia.  
      2. Hand him a test to see what his "style", attention to 
         detail, and problem solving approach is.  
    Here's my style: I am certain that I can run circles around your 
    best developers with my own, original, incredibly efficient model; 
    but more importantly, I am a director that can help them run 
    circles around their own current misguided misconceptions.  But I 
    am thankful for this lesson, as I have learned that I need to add 
    a cover to my cover letter that reads:  If you are an in-the-box 
    thinking Microsoft house, and you find yourself regurgitating 
    terms like OOP, MVC, TDD, BDD, Cucumber, etc..., without really 
    understanding what it all means and how much it is actually 
    costing your company to have bought into that industry pushed 
    bullshit, then DO NOT contact me.  I'd save you too much money, 
    and you obviously do not want that.
    So the question now is:  Did I pass the test?
    The answer is: Fuck yes I did.
    Thomas B-------
    PS. You forgot to attach the quiz.  
    Do this: Print out a copy of it, ball it up, and throw it at 
    your own forehead, because that's what I would do if I were 


    Classic, and kind of instructive. Sure, Thomas B. the candidate in question is quite likely a pompous jerk, and doesn't seem like the type of employee that would be a great addition to the team. But it is also likely that he probably did possess the basic technical qualifications for the job, and that his experience and resume details would have borne that out. 

    I get the need for organizations to be careful, thorough, and sure, (or as sure as you can be), before pulling the trigger on a new hire. The stakes are high, the pressure to find top talent is palpable, and the costs of making a bad hire are high. But at the same time making candidates unnecessarily jump through hoops, answer incredibly basic questions, and otherwise put them into a kind of disrespected and subservient position is not really warranted either.

    So the next time you are about to administer that 'test', think about whether or not you too should 'print out a copy, ball it up, and throw it at your own forehead.'


    Can Games Make You Healthy?

    Last week marked the official launch of Keas, the latest entrant in the growing market for technology-enabled platforms to support employee wellness/fitness. Keas attempts to drive and encourage better habits, increased levels of exercise, and more adherence to the healthy behaviors we all know we should be exhibiting, but for some reason are not. Keas - Goal Setting Page

    Actually, I think we know the reasons - exercising and eating right kind of stink, and given the choice, too many of us are quite happy to have another donut or sleep in on Saturday instead of biking 12 miles to the Whole Foods to have some kind of a green energy drink concoction.

    So Keas, like similar solution offerings like Redbrick and Virgin HealthMiles, has turned the 'Eat Less and Exercise' spiel, (that as we said we ALL know, and mostly ignore), into a social game. Once an employer has signed on with Keas, employees can form fitness and wellness challenge teams, set their individual and team goals for things like walking, yoga, eating vegetables, and taking health quizzes, (and lots more), track their progress and results using the Keas portal or their smartphone, and finally and at the discretion of the employer, receive cash and other rewards for participating and/or winning team challenges.

    Keas in particular, emphasizes the social and gaming aspects of what are all essentially behavior tracking services, in order to advance in the game, or 'level up' to use the gamer term, the entire employee team (usually 5 or 6 people), must achieve their goals together. This 'we are all in this together' factor produces some interesting dynamics - employees are more motivated to meet their goals for fear of letting the rest of the team down, and everyone is more encouraged and supportive in a social sense to try and 'win' the game.

    And while cash and other rewards can be a part of an organization's social wellness program, these rewards might not really be the ultimate driver of participation. According to a recent article about Keas and some of the other similar services in the Wall Street Journal, one executive observed that participants were more motivated by the social aspect than the cash, stating "In the beginning, I thought it was going to be about the prizes,” but, “People like being on teams, people like to be social. We had people going for walks together, we had people sharing recipes.”

    The basic premise seems to be that turning activities that the nation's growing obesity rates, levels of chronic but often preventable disease, and spiraling corporate health care costs tell us we simply are not doing enough of on our own, into a social, interactive, and competitive game, will somehow engage a mostly disinterested, (and really busy), workforce into changing our behaviors not only for our own good, but for our wellness teams and our organizations.  Maybe it will.  The execs from Keas are claiming high and sustained levels of engagement from beta users of the platform, and Keas and other companies in the space have attracted some significant venture capital to build out and market their gaming/social/get off your butt and take a walk solutions.

    I think it is an interesting and an area of workplace technology to keep and eye on, although I do worry a little about potential 'real' work ramifications or implications for someone perceived as letting down their wellness teammates in some kind of vegetable eating contest. 

    What do you think - can these kind of games drive real and meaningful behavior change?