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    Playing offense on social media

    Some time back the great Paul Hebert wrote one of the best pieces in the last few years over on Fistful of Talent, titled, HR Plays Too Much Defense.  You should stop what you are doing and read it, or re-read it as the case may be, then come back for a recent and I think perfect example of Paul's ideas played out in the corporate social media space. I'll wait.

    Ok, back? I told you Paul's piece was money.

    So here's my example of playing offense, or at least not sitting back and playing defense, from one of those classic 'Love them or hate them' organizations, Goldman Sachs.

    Of course you'll remember the recent resignation flame-out from former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith, who took to the New York Times op-ed page to trash Goldman's culture, draw attention to their bad treatment of clients and customers, and essentially portray the firm as a horrible, horrible place to work, one where a high-minded and formerly optimistic, but now jaded person like himself could no longer be comfortable with.

    Well last week Smith sat down with the Times once again, to talk about his soon to be released tell-all memoir 'Why I Left Goldman Sachs'.  Turns out that according to the piece in Times last week, the 'tell-all' doesn't really have that much to say, in fact the headline of the piece, 'A Tell-All on Goldman Has Little Worth Telling', paints Smith equal parts greedy, out-of-touch, and disappointed with his personal compensation, as some kind of crusader to protect customers and reveal deficiencies in Goldman's culture.

    Goldman, upon seeing the latest Times' piece, issued the below tweet from their official Twitter account:



    Man, that's a burn.  At least from Goldman's point of view, the Times' provided the initial platform for Smith's enmity and accusations, and now after some time and more details are revealed by Smith via his memoir, essentially has to admit there really isn't much there there. Goldman's swipe at the Times is, at least to my view, a great example of taking the offense, in a way that is snarky but still measured, and one that certainly seems to be in line with their reputation and culture.

    Let me be clear about one thing, I am not an apologist for Goldman at all, and their role in the financial crisis of 2008-2009 has been pretty well documented. Next year a former Goldman trader will be tried for civil fraud for his role in the subprime mortgage scandals. Goldman's hands are not at all clean.

    But that makes their little dig at the Times even more refreshing I think.  It is easy, especially when you might not have the most respected brand, to sit back, to try not to offend, to play by a really restrictive set of rules, but like Paul pointed out in the FOT piece, playing defense all the time is playing not to lose.

    Do you want to play to win, whether it is in HR, marketing, recruiting, or social?

    Then you have to score some points.

    And the Goldman example above reminds us even the 'bad' guys can get over sometimes as well.


    I'll trade you a Carl Sagan for your double of Niels Bohr 

    I am out at HR Technology Europe in Amsterdam the rest of this week, and working on about 2 hours of dodgy sleep on the overnight flight from New York last night, so today's post is totally being mailed in. If you are disappointed, please feel free to fill in the complaint form and ask for a refund.

    I am pretty sure my favorite non-reality TV show, and really the only TV show that I actually try and catch semi-regularly is Big Bang Theory. If you are not familiar with the show, it is a comedy that features as its main characters a group of four friends that all are highly educated university level scientists.  They also happen to be a bit geeky, are irrationally focused on comic books and Star Trek, talk often of how they were, (and in some cases still are), mocked and picked on by 'cooler' people, and often struggle with a world that at times seems kind of stacked against them. The good looking, socially confident, and outgoing people seem to get most of the breaks in life, while their incredible intellectual capacity seems only valuable in the workplace, and kind of a hindrance everywhere else.

    So when I stumbled upon this post on the It's Okay To Be Smart blog titled 'Scientist Trading Cards - Collect the Whole Set!', I immediately thought about the guys on Big Bang Theory, and the probably thousands of science students everywhere that look up to and hold in extremely high regard these legends of science that are depicted in the set of Scientist Trading Cards

    The trading cards, each one representing a legend of science, ranging from physics, to chemistry, to astronomy, are purposely designed to mimic the styles of famous sports trading cards of the past, (the Isaac Newton shares a design with baseball legend Brooks Robinson for example).

    Why bother taking note of these scientist trading cards? Why not just look at them as an amusing bit of fun and an interesting bit of design completed by someone clever with photoshop?

    Well, here's why I think they are worth thinking about. In the HR/Talent/Recruiting industries we seem to have been talking for ages about hard to fill roles in the technology fields, and the seeming lack of suitable, trained talent for many of our most technical and scientific jobs. And while lots of potential remedies for this problem continue to be suggested, things like getting more training for displaced workers, loosening up the H1B visa process to welcome more foreign workers, and even increasing the numbers of 'smart' automation in our businesses, we never seem to attack the problem at a basic, more fundamental level.

    Namely, convincing the next generation that science, technology, engineering etc. are not just important, but they can and should actually be careers to aspire to, and possess incredible legends, heroes, and role models - just like the professions that we routinely train our children to idolize - athletes, entertainers, and reality TV personalities. What if we could convince kids that being a great scientist could actually get them there own trading card?

    I dig the scientist trading cards. I wish they were actually real. I think I'd like the kinds of kids that would want to collect them.


    Comic Sans and Getting the Details Right

    At a prior job I worked with a colleague that had changed her default email message font to Comic Sans. 

    The first time I received a message from her, and drank in all the Comic Sans goodness, I thought it must have been some kind of a joke, or a mistake, or a little bit of fun, as I am 99% sure the contents of the message were along the lines of 'Welcome to the group, I am looking forward to working with you.'Not the same, is it?

    But as time passed and the ensuing communications I received from this colleague became much more traditional, mundane, and efficient, the Comic Sans persisted. Eventually, I could not take it anymore, and in the nicest way I knew how, (which was probably not very nice, I admit), I gave her some unsolicited advice, to drop the Comic Sans from her outgoing message template, as it was pretty hard to take anything she wrote very seriously when presented in the puerile font of a 3rd grader.

    I probably didn't use the word 'puerile' in my note. Well maybe I did.

    I can't remember exactly how she took my advice, other than her obvious failure to take heed of it - until I left that position, she never dropped the Sans from her routine.

    So this is clearly a blatant example - no one in business I have ever encountered before or since wrote emails in Comic Sans. But when I think about this former colleague, it is truly the only thing about her I remember.  She may have been very smart, capable, an industrious team member - maybe not.

    But I would not be able to separate the work, the quality, and her ability from the baffling way she chose to present much of that work, and her failure to grasp how she was coming across to her audiences.

    What's the point of this story, (aside from the fact that I found this really cool post on the favbulous blog that renders a bunch of famous corporate logos in Comic Sans and wanted to write about it).

    I guess that in communication everything, every last detail matters. And while you can't use that as an excuse to refine, review, and over think things endlessly, it also means that you have to nail the basic, essential bits or you and your message will never be heard.

    Seemingly small things, like the choice of a font, often have much larger and more significant implications than we think. And I guess if it doesn't 'feel' right, then it probably isn't.

    Happy Wednesday all - I am off to HR Tech Europe in a couple of hours, if you are in Amsterdam this week, please make sure to say hello!


    Housecleaning as a perk? It's about reducing decisions

    Yesterday at Fistful of Talent in the latest '5 Things You Need to Know This Week' compilation, Holland Dombeck included a link to this piece from Business Insider - 'Evernote Pays For Each Of Its 250 Employees To Have Their Houses Cleaned Twice Per Month', which on the surface reads mostly like another one of those classic and almost cliche, 'Tech company perks that your business would never even consider', kinds of pieces.

    I mean, we've all read enough stories about free gourmet meals, onsite car detailing services, anything goes dress codes, and even more out of the ordinary types of perks and benefits that tech companies have been known to create and bestow upon their employees. And for most of us that do not work in one of these small or start-up tech companies, our reaction to these stories is pretty standard - variously choosing from the following:  they won't work in our culture, won't scale to our size, are somehow 'unfair', and since none of our industry or location benchmarks say we have to offer them to be competitive, then we don't have to worry about them. They make for a cute story, (and easy blog fodder), but that's it.

    It was with that kind of practiced cynicism I too read the Business Insider piece about Evernote, but digging into the story just a bit deeper, buried in the original New York Times piece that BI essentially summarized, we find this gem of a quote from an Evernote employee, when asked about the 'free housecleaning' perk:

    Given that his employer is paying to clean his apartment, (Evernote VP of Marketing), Mr. Sinkov and his girlfriend do not have to quibble about cleanup duties. The value of the perk is greater than the money saved, he said.

    “It eliminates a decision I have to make,” Mr. Sinkov said. “It’s just happening and it’s good, and I don’t have to think about it.”


    The perk is valuable because it 'eliminates a decision I have to make'.

    That sounds familiar, no?  Well it should to regular readers of this blog, as very recently I posted about two separate stories about the importance of reducing (often unnecessary), decision making, as shared by President Obama and the President of the Internet, Mark Zuckerberg.

    It's not about the cash value of the perk - I suspect Mr. Sinkov can afford to pay to have his house cleaned - but rather about removing from his day-to-day the need to think about it at all. 

    And what we saw in the Obama and Zuckerberg stories continues to resonate - if you want to really, truly, and fully do great work, maybe even your best work, then anything that distracts you too much from that work presents just another little barrier that you need to get over.

    And anything, even a simple perk like housecleaning, (or dog walking, or yard work, or time off for voting), can give people on your team just a little bit of help in what for most of us seems like a Monday to Friday mad dash to get everything done.

    Think about it - what can you do today to let your teams make just one less decision?


    Buying a car, choosing your next job - more similar than you think

    The good folks at Careerbuilder recently released their 2012 Candidate Behavior Study, conducted in partnership with Inavero, and while the big, catchy conclusion from the study was boiled down to essentially read as 'Passive Candidates Don't Exist', I found even a more interesting, (to me anyway), finding from the study's data.

    According to the Careebuilder study, job candidates consult nearly 15 resources per job search, including company career sites, Facebook, online job boards, employer review sites (such as Glassdoor.com), professional and personal networks and staffing and recruiting firms – before they even decide to apply to a job. Below is a chart from the study showing how job search research stacks up against other, similarly important and complex purchasing decisions:

    Job Searching is complex

    While we have been talking for a while, (here just last Monday), about Human Resources and Recruiting looking and acting more like the classic Marketing function, but as I pointed out in my post last week, and the Careerbuilder study reinforces, Marketing is changing dramatically as well, making, especially for HR and Talent pros, the shift to more of a Marketing mindset even more challenging.

    From the report on the study's findings:

    It used to be that a consumer would go to the store and find something on the shelf for the first time and make the decision to purchase right then and there,” (Careerbuilder's) Barnes explains. “Today, however, thanks to technology that enables us to research and compare products – at any time of day, from anywhere – consumers are doing significant research on products before they even step into a store.

    Job candidates, we’re finding, are using this same approach to their job search.” For employers, these findings underscore the need to put as much effort into “marketing” their job opportunities and employment brand as they do their products, services and consumer brand. Candidates are utilizing multiple platforms to interact with employers, search for opportunities and find out what it’s like to work at companies – and they’re doing so increasingly through social media and from their mobile devices.

    That means employers need to explore and take advantage of the many and various opportunities to connect with candidates these platforms afford.

    Some quick thoughts on what this all might mean for you - the HR and Talent pro that might feel themselves in a position not at all unlike our friends over at a Big Box retailer like Best Buy, who watch shopper after shopper wander around the store, viewing and touching the merch, then immediately pulling out their iPhones to price check all over the internet, read product reviews, and figure out if their might be a better deal out there.

    1. You probably don't need to everywhere, but you need to be moving in that direction. If your candidates are hitting up as many as 15 sources of informaton to learn about your company and jobs, then having a wide (and deep) employer brand presence across multiple sources.

    2. True source of hire will become almost impossible to pinpoint. The candidate you eventually hired saw your opening via a job alert from Indeed, talked to a friend who used to work at your company, read some reviews on Glassdoor, checked out your Career site, then found someone in their LinkedIn network willing to forward their resume to the hiring manager. So - what was the source of hire?

    3. If HR and Recruiting is becoming the new Marketing, then HR pros are even more behind the game. The Careerbuilder report pulls pretty deeply from a Google-led marketing research project called the Zero Moment of Truth, (ZMOT). If you want to speak the language of the modern marketer and job seeker, then you probably need to know what the heck the ZMOT is and how it impacts your employment marketing efforts.

    I don't post about too many research reports, (honestly, there are too many to post about anyway), but I did learn a few things from the Careerbuilder research, and I recommend you check it out if you want some new insights into how candidates are searching for jobs, and how you can best adopt and adapt to these changes.

    Have a great Monday everyone!