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    HR Happy Hour - The Job Seeker's Show

    I have been trying to keep all the HR Happy Hour show content over on the new HR Happy Hour site - www.hrhappyhour.net, but since this week's show is pretty important to me, I thought I would post about the show on both sites.

    Episode 10 - The Job Seeker's Show - September 18, 2009 8PM EDT

    The show is back to our 'regular' time slot this Friday night, September 18, 2009 at 8PM EDT.

    Episode 10 - The Job Seeker's Show

    Shauna Moerke, the HR Minion, and I will welcome a fantastic panel of guests from the Recruiting and HR world to share insights, give advice, and highlight available resources for the job seeker. We will talk about strategy, use of social media, resumes, and anything else on your mind.

    The call in number is 646-378-1086 and Press '1' on your phone to come on the show.

    Scheduled to appear this week:

    Jennifer McClure - Twitter -CincyRecruiter, and blog Cincy Recruiter's World

    Paul DeBettignies - Twitter - MNHeadhunter - and blog MNHeadhunter

    Robin Eads - Twitter - imjustagoyle - and blog imjustagoyle

    April Dowling - Twitter - adowling - and blog PseudoHR

    Deirdre Honner - Twitter - thehrmaven - and blog HR Maven (does everyone on this show have a superhero alias?)

    I hope you can tune in and pass along the show information to anyone you know on the job market that could use some great advice. 


    Six Million versus Eighteen Thousand

    According the the US Small Business Administration in 2006 (the last full year data is available) in the United States:

    Number of firms with more than 500 employees: 18,000

    Number of firms with less than 500 employees: 6,000,000

    Think about it, there over 300 times as many small businesses in the US as large ones.

    In the HR Technology space at times the news and commentary tends to be dominated by the vendors that cater the the top end of the market, those 18,000 or so big firms that have the most employees, the biggest budgets, and (typically) the most hierarchical and elaborate structures and decision processes.  I get that, it makes sense for vendors, consultants, analysts, and pundits to chase that market, heck, that is where all the money is. I have spent most of my professional career in that space as well, either working for giant companies, or working for myself and consulting at giant companies.

    But I think today the small market is really the place to be.

    To me, inside the six million small companies is where the the most exciting innovations are going to happen. Flickr - The Geekery

    And the technologies and vendors that are most interesting to me are the ones that are accessible, lightweight, and inexpensive enough to be in the reach of say a 150 person company with one or two HR professionals on staff.

    Solutions like Rypple, The Resumator, Socialcast, EffortlessHR, PbWorks, Shareflow, Kindling, and Brainpark to me are incredibly interesting and dynamic. These solutions (and scores of others) can be brought to bear by the average HR professional in the average small organization and can make an almost immediate and important impact.

    I care about what is going on with the Oracle, SAP, and Workday.  I'd like to see Oracle Fusion delivered sometime before I retire. When and if the entrenched ERP vendors fully embrace SaaS and produce solutions that are more flexible, easier to manage, and are less reviled by their giant corporate customers are very important issues for the overall HR Technology industry. I get that.

    But to me the real fun is watching what the new breed of HR Technology vendors are bringing to the table, and how the small business can exploit these tools to maybe one day rise from the ranks of the six million to the eighteen thousand. Personally, I enjoy connecting with and trying to assist HR pros at these smaller organizations.  Ironically, while there are scores of technology solutions out there that cater to the small organization, there are very few independent sources for unbiased advice and assistance with small business focused HR Technology.

    What do you think?

    Is it more fun to be one of six million, with a real chance to make an impact, or to be one cog in the wheel at a giant organization, but with at least a chance to be a star on the big stage?


    The Carnival of HR is Back

    The latest Carnival of HR is up, this time hosted by the fantastic HR Maven. The Maven chose a 'Back to School' theme for the Carnival, which is perfect for this time of year.

    As usual the Carnival brings together some of the best work from mine and yours favorite HR bloggers. Flickr - brotherxiiSome of the highlights of this edition of the Carnival are:

    Not Everyone loves Putt Putt?  by Jennifer V. Miller

    Extreme Makeover: Attitude Addition from HR Gumbo

    and Jon Ingham's post on Organisational Mojo.

    And even my little offering, 'Majoring in Facebook' made the cut this time.

    Thanks Maven for including my post, and for assembling such a great collection.


    The Essence of Technology

    I saw a post on the User Interface Engineering blog about the 'Essence' of software program design. The key concept in thinking about the essence of a system is an understanding that a program is more than just processes and widgets. From the article:

    Interaction with a product is more than how it’s used or how it behaves. It’s about a connection between two sides. One side is the customer, but the other side is much more than a product or service. To many people, the character and essence of a product and its company are identical. So, what is the essence of your product?

    The post is in the context of software design but I think it also could certainly apply at a macro level to an organization or HR department, and I  suppose also at a micro level, to an individual's 'essence' of what they offer in the workplace. In HR Technology I think these concepts are especially important, as HR solutions typically impact the entire organization, not just the 'back-office' made up of power users.

    So how can a designer of HR software, or an HR Technology professionals in an organization 'loosen up' and show a bit of humanity? 

    Humor - Can you inject a bit of humor into the product, in the design, or in the user interface? If you can't or are not willing to really strive for humor, can you at least work towards a design that attempts to incorporate some fun into the experience? For powers users that spend the majority of their workday using the system, or for line managers that may only interact with the technology periodically, injecting Flickr - brian corsan element of fun to the process and design can go a long way towards increased satisfaction and adoption. While it usually is not appropriate to copy design and process flow from popular consumer sites, at least review the ones you enjoy using the most, and see what elements or attributes you may be able to re-purpose into your HR Technology solution.

    Personality - It has been said that for software companies the culture of an organization permeates the software the company designs and markets. Since so many organizations purchase HR Technology solutions from the same dozen or so vendors, how can you ensure that the design and look of the solutions you deploy to your employees adequately reflect your culture? Take a look at a few large company recruiting sites, chances are you will find some that look and feel almost exactly the same since the largest companies tend to all buy ATS solutions from one of the same half dozen vendors.

    We did an an experiment in HR Technology class that showed the job search pages for Neiman-Marcus and Delta Dental are almost exactly the same and many more of these examples can be found. Don't settle for the vendor 'template' unless you are comfortable with a bland interface that lots of other companies use.

    Emotion - How does your technology solution actually make your users feel? Angry, confused, frustrated, or perhaps bored? Users want to feel good about their work, and for many information workers the way the systems they must interact with all day are a primary driver of this feeling.  Strip away all unnecessary elements that can detract from the user's ability to complete the task, get the information, contribute to the knowledge store, etc.  If possible, allow more experienced users the ability to bypass 'extra' steps, and help text or tutorials once they have demonstrated a level of proficiency.

    Connection - The very best designed technologies can foster a sense of connection between users and the organization.  This can be done with the incorporation of 'social' tools in enterprise systems, (tools like instant messaging, tagging, or real-time collaboration) are one way to develop connection, in this example with other people.  Alternatively, a sense of connection to the system can be enhanced by empowering  the users with increased ability to customize the interface according to their own needs, presenting lists of frequently used functions in more prominent positions, and giving more visible and auditory feedback throughout the process. Think about popular consumer sites like Amazon or Ebay, that 'remember' what you have been interested in in the past, and automatically present you similar choices on your next visit. 

    Many HR Technology solutions are getting more sophisticated, fancy, and full of the latest in design elements to make the interface more attractive, functional, and fun. That generally is a good thing.  But that may not be always what is needed, as many data intensive, high-volume functions might be better served with a simply, bare-bones design reminiscent of the old green screen days.  The key point is to evaluate the HR Technology systems you use, or are considering in the context of who will actually use them, and the impact the design will have on these users, whether they be managers, staff, or candidates.

    What great HR Technology design examples should I be checking out?  Hit me up in the comments.


    No I Won't be Your Fan

    Paraphrasing some recent comments from a C-suite executive in charge of all the corporate 'support' functions (HR, Finance, Procurement) at a mid-size organization:

    We need to be on Facebook, everyone in the organization has a Facebook profile, so I want our group to have a Facebook page.  Let me know when I can see it.

    Sound familiar?

    Using Facebook, or any other 'external' social platform for 'official' internal communications is an interesting idea, but I wonder if it really makes sense, particularly for corporate support functions like HR or Finance.

    Note: I am not talking about using Facebook and the like for recruiting; there are precedents, case studies, even 'summits' that are largely about recruiting on social networks.

    I am strictly speaking about classic 'internal' communications, the kind that are typically sent via blast e-mail or posted on an intranet. So should the average organization spend time and effort setting up a Facebook fan page for these purposes?

    Reasons why this makes sense

    Audience- Everyone is on Facebook. Well, probably not everyone, but the minute you got a friend request from Grandma you got the impression that most all of your employees are on Facebook.

    We get it- Setting up a Facebook fan page is free, can be done very quickly, and is a baby step into the new social world. Some organizations may think that setting up the fan page signals to employees that that management 'gets it', and is aware of the growing influence of social networks in business.

    Connection - If all the organization relies on mass e-mails and a static intranet for employee communications, any platform or tool that offers the potential for a more vibrant and participatory exchange of information is bound to be an improvement. You might truly generate some positive interaction with your 'fans' and increase the interest in your communications.Flickr - podiluska

    Reasons why this is dumb

    Tools first -The 'we need to be on Facebook' declaration strongly implies a 'tools first' approach to the problem.  What is the real issue you are trying to solve? What business outcome are you hoping to achieve?  It could be that the answers to those questions may lead you to a different solution, an internal executive blog, a series of podcasts, a 'live' radio show, or good old-fashioned town-hall meetings with the employees.  Yes, creating a Facebook page may be the right answer, but don't begin with the conclusion already determined.

    Ownership- You don't own the platform, the terms of service can change at any time, ads run on the sidebars you can't control, basically you have to be comfortable with a 'lack of control' that most organizations frankly are not all that comfortable with. 

    Productivity- By setting up an 'official' communications forum on Facebook you will be seen as approving and encouraging the use of social networks on company time.  Are you sure your company understands the implications of that? Are you the kind of company that worries about a drop in productivity if employees are messing about on Facebook all day? When a manager notices someone on Facebook how can they be sure if the employee is listening to the latest video interview from the CEO or playing Mafia Wars?

    Apathy- The people that you are targeting may not be interested in being a 'fan'.  In fact, you might find that you have lots of employees that are active users of Facebook that resent the fact that you are trying to 'invade' a social network with official corporate communications. In the example I referred to at the start of the post, several employees told me that there is no way they would become a 'fan' of the official company pages, as they were concerned that somehow the executives would use the platform as a means to 'spy' on the employee's after-hours activities.


    Using Facebook (or really any other external social network) for internal organizational communication might be a good idea for some firms, but without really understanding the desired business outcomes, the organization's attitude and cultural position on social networks at work, and the perceptions of the target audience then simply 'setting up shop' on Facebook seems more like a 'check this off the list' activity for someone.  For the group I was talking to, it seemed to me that more personal communication and interaction with the executives was what the employees were really looking for.  A simple internal blog authored by members of the leadership team, and that allows employee comments and discussions in my opinion was a much better solution than a Facebook page.

    That requires commitment from leadership, and an expenditure of their time and energy.  But for this organization, an authentic message from leadership would be much more meaningful than the chance to be their 'fan' on Facebook.

    If you have any examples or opinions on organizations using Facebook or other external networks for 'internal' communications I would love to hear about them.