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    Entries in Recruiting (156)

    Tuesday
    Feb022016

    We value hard work, but we reward natural talent

    Of all the phrases used to describe a candidate or an employee, 'He/she is a hard worker' is probably one of the most valued by employers, colleagues, and the people in general. We like people that work hard. We value the effort, the grind, the grit of folks who show up, dig in, plow through - day in and day out. Some even think that 'working hard' is actually a skill akin to other technical or practical kinds of aptitudes that are often harder to find.

    After all, 'hard work', even if it is a skill, is probably one that can be 'learned' by just about everyone. In many ways you just have to decide to work hard and there it is, you are a hard worker. Doesn't exactly work that way for other skills like coding, painting, or hitting 3-point baskets.

    But as much as we value hard work,  a skill that is readily observable, some recent research suggests that we value (and reward) something more intangible much, much more - the ore opaque notion of 'natural talent.'

    Researchers Chia-Jung Tsay and Mahzarin Banaji examined what has been called the 'naturalness bias', the tendency to choose and reward so-called 'naturally talented' people over the classic 'hard-worker' in a series of experiments that were recently described in FastCo Design. Here is an excerpt from the piece: 

    "We are likely influenced by concepts such as the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream, and ideals such as a truer meritocracy, opportunity, and social mobility that can be achieved with enough hard work and motivation," says management scholar Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London, via email. "We may subscribe to these ideas, but our preference for and fascination with naturalness still seem to emerge through our actual choices."

    Tsay’s research has documented this tendency—which Malcolm Gladwell coined as the "naturalness bias"—across creative fields. A few years back, Tsay and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji asked 103 professional musicians to rate two performers based on a written profile and clips of them playing Stravinsky's Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka. The two performers were actually the same person, with one profile tweaked to emphasize work ethic and the other made to highlight natural talent.

    In questionnaires, study participants claimed to value effort and practice over innate ability. But when it came time to rate the "two" performers, they gave the natural higher marks on talent, likelihood of future success, and value as a musical company hire, Tsay and Banaji reported in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In a follow-up, the researchers found that seasoned experts favored naturals even more than novice musicians did—a finding with troubling workplace implications, given that veterans tend to make hiring decisions.

    Did you catch that? Two performers, who were actually the same performer, and the one that was pitched as having some higher level of natural talent was rated more positively and favorably than the performer who was portrayed as someone whose achievements were a product of hard work. Additionally, the more experienced and 'senior' the evaluator, the more likely they were to reward the 'natural talent' over the hard worker.

    Really interesting implications for this data, particularly in the world of talent evaluation and hiring. If the 'naturalness' bias does exist in organizations, then they could be overlooking or discounting individuals that are totally qualified and capable of performing at a high level, if their history of 'hard work' is somehow diminished in value in the eyes of the talent evaluators.

    More interesting still is that while this research appears to suggest the existence of a bias towards 'natural talent', it seems like 'hard work' is much more reliable in the long run. 

    Let's toss it back to my favorite metaphor for talent and workplace comparisons - basketball.

    'Natural talent' may account for a high degree of accuracy shooting 3-point baskets. But this 'skill' also can come and go in the course of a game, season, and career - sometimes inexplicably. 

    Playing tough, solid, and aggressive defense however, is usually chalked up at least primarily to 'hard work', which tends to be much more reliable, repeatable, and predictable. 

    It can be kind of hard to 'see' natural talent in all kinds of fields. Hard work is a little easier to spot.

    Thursday
    Jan142016

    Your annual reminder that LinkedIn is not where most people live and work

    Recently, LinkedIn released its list of The 25 Skills That Can Get You Hired in 2016, their assessment based on recruiter, jobseeker, and LinkedIn member activity and profile updates of the 'hottest' skills that their data suggest will be the ones that offer workers the best chance of getting hired or promoted in 2016. Here is the list of these 'hottest' skills as per our pals at LinkedIn:

    Pretty impressive set of skills indeed. From Data Mining to Cloud Computing to Mobile Development and User Experience Design - the list hits just about all of the current and certainly 'hot' trends in technology and business in the last few years. And as LinkedIn rightly state in their analysis of this data, these skills are likely to remain in demand for some time, at least a few years for sure.

    But as I wrote on this blog about 12 months ago when LinkedIn published their list of 'hot' skills for 2015, it is pretty easy to be beguiled by these kinds of lists, particularly when juxtaposing the LinkedIn set of hot skills with the Bureau of Labor Statistics data about what kinds of jobs people actually do, (at least in the USA).

    From our pals at the BLS, here is a chart from May 2014, (the latest period when this data is available), which shows occupations with the largest employment in the USA. Take a look at the data, then a few quick FREE comments from me after the chart.

    Did you catch some differences between what gets people hired, at least people who are on LinkedIn, and the kinds of jobs that are held by the largest numbers of people in the USA? These Top 10 occupations make up about 21% of overall US employment, in case you were wondering, down only 1% from last year in case you were wondering.

    Wonder how far down on the BLS list (and you can check the full list of occupations as defined by the BLS here), you have to go before you run in to 'Cloud and Distributed Computing' and 'Statistical Analysis and Data Mining', the top 'hot' skills for 2016 as per LinkedIn?  

    I will save you a click and let you know that all the occupations that the BLS rolls up into 'Computer and Mathematical Operations', (where most of LinkedIn's Top Hot skills would likely map), account for about 3.8M workers, that is just under 3% of all the jobs in the country, just about the same as it was last year. Sure, it is trendy to think that the LinkedIn skills represent the future of work, and perhaps they probably do, but they don't really represent the 'present' of work, not in a substantial way anyway.

    LinkedIn is a fantastic business, a staggering success, and not at all like the real world where the overwhelming majority of workers reside.

    Have a fantastic day. And don't spend so much time on LinkedIn.

    Tuesday
    Jan052016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Is it a good time to find a quality job?

    Guess what? CHART OF THE DAY is back for another year of stats, data, and information about work, labor markets, demographics, basketball, and Tom Cruise movies. 

    For new blog readers, here is a quick reminder of how CHART OF THE DAY works. First, I find what I think is an interesting chart, graph, Venn diagram, or my favorite an exploding Pie chart that helps visualize some data set I find intriguing. I re-publish the chart here with a link back to the original source. Last, I toss out 2 or 3 thoughts on the data's significance or relevance for those of us in the HR, talent, technology, workplace spaces.

    Got it? Okay, here goes...

    For 2016's first submission courtesy of Business Insider and Gallup, a look at what American's think about the question "Is it a good time or a bad time to find a quality job?"

    Some quick thoughts about the data:

    1. Gallup has been asking this question in their surveys since 2001, and the latest data from 2015 that shows the percentage of Americans that feel it is a good time to find a quality job sits at 42%, which is just a shade under the series' all-time high of 43% from 2007. Said a little differently, since 2001, according to this survey American's attitudes about the job market conditions have NEVER been more optimistic.

    2. Gallup didn't specifically survey people 'actively' looking for work, so we can assume the increased confidence in the labor market is a reflection of the broader population's attitudes. That means just about everyone is feeling if not good, at least relatively better about labor market conditions. Which translates to the likelihood of increased turnover, even for those employees that you thought were 'safe', i.e., not likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. Will 2016 be the year that more people seek greener grass elsewhere? Maybe so.

    3. The recent HR technology trend towards developing 'predictive' models for providing insights into things like attrition and retention can provide tools that can possibly help HR leaders in this area. But the key question I would ask my HR technology provider of such predictive tools is the extent to which, if at all, these tools take into account these external trends in worker attitudes. Does the tool adapt to reflect the macro-trends and environmental conditions that exist and impact organizations? Or will your 'predictive' tool really act like more of a 'reactive' tool, failing to adapt quickly enough to changing market conditions? Good questions to ask. 

    Ok that's it, I'm out.

    Happy Tuesday! 

    Monday
    Dec282015

    Best of 2015: A different view of 'Top' talent, namely that it is mostly a myth

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from May, titled A different view of 'Top' talent, namely that it is mostly a myth, that challenges our ideas on talent management and chasing 'rock star' employees.

    A different view of 'Top' talent, namely that is mostly a myth 

    Caught this piece, The programming talent myth', over the weekend and if you are in the technology space at all (as a techie yourself, someone who has to attract and recruit tech talent, or simply just someone who is concerned/interested with the 'state' of technology today (particularly when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion)), then you should carve out 15 or so minutes today or soon and give the piece a read.

    It is essentially a summary of a recent keynote speech at a developer's event called PyCon given by Jacob Kaplan-Moss, a well-known contributor to the programming language Django and the director of security at Heroku.

    In the speech Kaplan-Ross took square aim at the concept of 'Top' technical talent, (although I would argue his logic would apply to other disciplines as well), and how the dangerous myth of the 'Rock Star' programmer and the terrible programmer (with nothing really in between these extremes), is detrimental on all kinds of levels. It drives people out of technical careers and studies - if you are not a 'Rock Star' you might as well not even bother. It continues to foster and support less-than-healthy norms and lifestyles - 'Rock Star' programmers work 80+ hours a week and don't think of anything other than programming. And finally, it feeds in to what can easily develop into that 'Bro culture' that is common in many smaller startups and tech companies.

    Here is a little piece from the talk:

    Programmers like to think they work in a field that is logical and analytical, but the truth is that there is no way to even talk about programming ability in a systematic way. When humans don't have any data, they make up stories, but those stories are simplistic and stereotyped. So, we say that people "suck at programming" or that they "rock at programming", without leaving any room for those in between. Everyone is either an amazing programmer or "a worthless use of a seat".

    But that would mean that programming skill is somehow distributed on a U-shaped curve. Most people are at one end or the other, which doesn't make much sense. Presumably, people learn throughout their careers, so how would they go from absolutely terrible to wonderful without traversing the middle ground? Since there are only two narratives possible, that is why most people would place him in the "amazing programmer" bucket. He is associated with Django, which makes the crappy programmer label unlikely, so people naturally choose the other.

    But, if you could measure programming ability somehow, its curve would look like the normal distribution. Most people are average at most things.

    It makes sense if you think of programming as not some mystical endeavor that somehow one is innately born with the talent for or is not. If you see programming and other technical occupations as just ones consisting of a set of skills and capabilities that can be learned over time, (like just about every other skill), then the idea of programming talent and programmers existing on a more normal distribution curve seems the most likely outcome.

    One last quote from the piece:

    The tech industry is rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and discrimination. It is a multi-faceted problem, and there isn't a single cause, but the talent myth is part of the problem. In our industry, we recast the talent myth as "the myth of the brilliant asshole", he said. This is the "10x programmer" who is so good at his job that people have to work with him even though his behavior is toxic. In reality, given the normal distribution, it's likely that these people aren't actually exceptional, but even if you grant that they are, how many developers does a 10x programmer have to drive away before it is a wash?

    How much does the 'Rock Star' mentality and assumption play in to toxic workplaces, less inclusive workforces, and unfulfilled 'Good, but not a Rock Star' people?

    It is a really interesting piece, and Kaplan-Ross' speech is also on YouTube here, and I recommend checking it out.

    Thursday
    Dec242015

    Best of 2015: By the time you catch Google, it may already be too late

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from April, on how chasing 'Best/Top/Most Awesome Places to Work companies like Google is a tough game to play.

    By the time you catch Google as a 'Top Place to Work', it may already be too late

    Here's a quick note of caution for any employers chasing 'Top' of 'Best' of 'Most Amazingly Fantastic' organizations to work for lists - the kinds of lists that are almost always topped by legendary companies like Google, courtesy of a recent piece on Business Insider titled In terms of 'prestige', Google is now a 'tier-two' employer, says recent Comp-Sci grad.

    A quick excerpt from the piece, then some comments from yours truly, (it is my blog after all):

    When Google offered a recent grad from a top CS program a job, the new grad said no.

    That despite monthly compensation of $9,000, including a housing stipend.

    Why?

    In an email, the engineer gave us four reasons:

    • "Lower pay after tax. Housing stipend is taxed more, and several places pay more than Google. That being said, Google is still very competitive. Google's full time offer is very average (105k starting salary) and the best startups pay more."
    • "Less interesting work. It's a large tech company. The impact I'd have is minimal."
    • "Lower prestige. Outside of tech, and maybe within average CS students, Google is the place to go if you're one of the smartest engineers. However, within top CS students, it's not considered that great. Probably tier two in terms of prestige and difficulty to get an internship. I have lots of friends barely passing their CS courses that are interning there. Saying you intern at Google just doesn't get you that much respect."
    • "Less upside. For full time specifically, you get equity at a startup. If it IPOs, you make millions if you're one of the first 100-1000 employees.

    Lots to take in there but the gist is pretty clear - at least according to this Comp-Sci grad, even one of the most highly lauded top companies in the world isn't immune to being 'topped' by competitors for the best, most sought after kinds of talent. If Google, with it's history, success, mythos, and bucketfuls of cash is getting beat out (at least in the perceptions) of top recruits, it reminds everyone that while chasing companies like Google might seem like a great strategy, it eventually is a failing one, since Google can't even keep up with Google, if that makes sense.

    But there is also one other nugget in that quote worth teasing out a little and that is the way this Comp-Sci grad talks about how he and his peers think about and talk about companies and workplaces. From the quote, there definitely seems to be an odd kind of peer pressure and one-upmanship going on with these recent grads. The desire not just to get a great offer and work on great tech and projects but to be able to brag to the other kids in Comp-Sci is pretty high on the list of desires for this group.

    Interesting stuff it seems to me, and a great reminder that no one, not even Google, is immune to competition, changing values, and the need to constantly be moving forward and re-inventing their value proposition in order to keep their lofty status on whichever 'Wonderful' Place to Work list you subscribe to.

    Have a great weekend!