Posted by: kentropic | September 2, 2009

10 steps to recruiting success

Recent economic news offers reasons to be cautiously optimistic about a recovery in the not-too-distant future. Even though hiring will almost certainly be a lagging indicator, now is the best time for corporate recruiters to update and re-energize strategy and tactics for finding great people.

Where to you find the big ones, and how do you land `em?

Where to you find the big ones, and how do you land `em?

Alpha Centauri

How do you attract future superstars into your orbit?

Unless you’ve just popped through a wormhole on your way back from Alpha Centauri, you know that social media need to be in your recruiting toolkit. Despite all the hype, social media aren’t a magic bullet — although they can turbocharge your networking efforts. And just as networking is still the best way for candidates to find great gigs, it’s also the best way to raise your employment brand’s visibility (and attract awesome candidates).

The key is to teach everyone in your organization how to enlist their networks in the search. This applies especially to the leadership team: they’re typically the best-connected people in your company, with the best contacts. They can expand your circle of potential referrals exponentially.

HR’s role, then, is to facilitate, answer questions and keep all the trains running on time. In practical terms, that means:

  1. Make sure there’s a competitive employee referral bonus program in place, and that everyone’s aware of it.
  2. Create custom job profiles (updated with each posting) that reflect company culture, accurately describe your needs and speak your target audience’s language.
  3. Draft simple and straightforward networking letters that staff can use as templates for outreach to their contacts.
  4. Support internal adoption of social media tools and track their use.
  5. Be the face and voice of your employment brand, and that means: acknowledging ALL applications, spotting and helping top prospects navigate easily through your process, handling logistics for the hiring managers, representing your organization at recruiting events and panels.
  6. Build and maintain relationships with relevant college or trade school placement offices and alumni networks.
  7. Cultivate specialized 3rd-party recruiters for temp-to-hire or hair-on-fire openings.
  8. Understand the business: its functional needs, financial priorities and strategic goals.
  9. Identify and keep in touch with the candidates you’ll need *next* year, or the year after (Twitter and LI are great for this).
  10. Stay curious about HR practice and the bleeding edge of innovation in your industry, and devote an hour of every workday to keeping current.

Short version: own the process behind the scenes; anticipate needs before they’re acute; advocate for change where necessary; keep score and stay ready to adjust on the fly.

Anything to add? Are there other steps that you rely on to find and attract great candidates?


Posted by: kentropic | August 21, 2009

Before you take the plunge….

"Hold the saccharine, please!"

"Hold the saccharine, please!"

The current economic downturn has given lots of us a chance to think seriously about starting our own business. If we’re suddenly unattached and unencumbered by obligations to an employer, why not? “When life gives you lemons,” etc., right? What do we have to lose?

Well, plenty — if we don’t think the matter through carefully. The best nutshell guide that I’ve seen recently comes from the always pithy and insightful Jason Seiden, who’s just written a terrific post called “Got a Brilliant Idea? Now You Need a Crash Course in Money + Business.2936450932_a3e59a042e

As usual, Jason’s right on the (ahem) money when he points out that self-employment without extremely careful and clearsighted financial planning is likely to end in disaster. In that sense, Jason’s piece reminds me of fellow Chicagoan Steve Albini‘s famous (and scathing) 1993 essay for the late, lamented journal, The Baffler: The Problem with Music.”

It all sounds a bit discouraging, and rightly so: entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you have one of those brilliant ideas Jason alludes to, and you’re ready to invest more of your own time and money in its success than you ever thought possible, then by all means jump right in!

And if you do take the plunge, here’s a cool graphic from Bud Caddell that you should hang on your office/workshop wall and study every day. It’s the most concise visual summary of sound business development strategy that you’re ever likely to find:

"Happiness in Business," by Bud Caddell

"Happiness in Business," by Bud Caddell

How many of you have taken the entrepreneurial plunge, and lived to tell the tale? What’s the most important advice that you’d offer someone who’s about to try going it alone?

Posted by: kentropic | August 14, 2009

Free RAM medical clinic in LA

2734460739_5c22b19dbfIf you’re reading this, you’ve seen plenty of ink spilled and pixels burned over the healthcare debate shouting match lately. I confess that it’s hard for me to see how reform of our Byzantine medical insurance system is tantamount to jackbooted thugs marching down my block. But this much I know: reasonable people can (and do) differ about whether the US has the “best healthcare system the world has ever known.”

Much of the rhetoric I’ve heard lately raises the specter of the Canadian system, as though that’s the worst fate imaginable. But if their system’s so bad, why is there a whole cottage industry aimed at US pharmaceutical customers buying and shipping their meds from over the border?

And can anyone seriously doubt that we need some major changes, after watching what happened in LA this week (see below)? Can anyone explain to me why this isn’t persuasive — really, conclusive — evidence that our healthcare system is broken, and badly in need of an overhaul? While we’re waiting, you can support the heroic work of Remote Area Medical here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Free RAM medical clinic in LA“, posted with vodpod
image by Greg Easton
Posted by: kentropic | July 30, 2009

scenario planning makes a comeback

multi-player chess game, by Garry Conn

My friend and former colleague Matt dropped into town recently, and we met over coffee to catch up on each other’s news. It was great to see him again: he’s a very smart guy with loads of leadership development experience — and he plays a pretty mean rhythm guitar, too.

About a year ago, Matt started studying scenario planning, and he’s grown enthusiastic about its potential to sharpen and improve talent management strategy. After listening to Matt outline the basic concepts, I’m intrigued, too. As often happens, I started noticing articles and blog posts on the topic later that same day.

one scenario planning overview, from Liam Fahey

scenario planning overview from Liam Fahey

From the Wharton Business School to the latest issue of Wired magazine, and numerous points between, scenario planning is making a comeback since its heyday almost 30 years ago.

Originally developed by military planners, the approach first appeared in a commercial setting during the mid-`70s Oil Crisis, gained wide acceptance among business strategists in the early-`80s recession, and resurfaced again in the wake of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. Clearly, scenario planning’s embrace of uncertainty and admission of a wide range of possible futures makes it especially appealing in unsettled times.

Mmmm..., tasty outcomes.

So, is this just the latest management flavor of the month, or is scenario planning here to stay? Given the ever-increasing capacity for gathering data and manipulating variables, my guess is that this is a business trend well worth studying for the long haul.

On the other hand, maybe scenario planning is just a desperate and hyper-rationalized attempt to impose order on a resolutely chaotic world. What do you think?

Posted by: kentropic | July 23, 2009

kina’ole = keeping things in perspective

Coccinella septempunctata: our friend, the ladybug

our friend, the ladybug

Ladybugs are charming little things. They’re considered good luck in many cultures. They eat aphids, which can destroy a garden. They’re the official State insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. And they’re even kinda cute (as insects go).

But you wouldn’t want one in your salad, probably.

Still, if you did find one of these on the edge of your plate, it wouldn’t be a big deal, would it? At worst, you could send your salad back and ask to speak with the manager. At best, it’s a sign that your hosts use fresh local ingredients, and you might  joke about “protein supplements” with your table companions. But either way, most people let it go and move on.

Well, what if you’re a job candidate out for lunch with prospective employers? Last year we flew a terrific applicant into town for a last round of interviews with the team leaders she’d be working with, if we agreed on an offer. The flight was smooth and on-time, and all her morning meetings were a success. Then the department VP and Director took her to lunch, and everything started to unravel.

After the ladybug made its guest appearance, the candidate’s train of thought was completely derailed — not just for the remainder of the lunch, but in all her subsequent meetings that afternoon. She had great technical qualifications, and had breezed through two rounds of phone interviews, but she simply could not regain her poise and focus after this minor glitch in the program. Given that sudden, dramatic course-changes were the daily bread of our business (advertising), that inability was a deal-breaker.

Unfortunately, a ladybug-in-the-salad proved turned out to be a great job candidate’s undoing. She couldn’t keep the incident in perspective, and she wound up talking herself out of contention for a great position.

Our ability to take the unexpected in stride is one of the most important professional skills, and we never know when it’ll be put into play. When was the last time you faced a “ladybug-in-the-salad” moment, and how did you respond?

Posted by: kentropic | July 17, 2009

kina’ole = lifelong learning

Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong (photo by NASA)

With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we have a great opportunity to stop and think about what’s possible when you get enough smart, dedicated people all working toward the same goal.

If you weren’t around to see it the first time, it might be hard to imaging how an event could galvanize the world’s attention the way this one did, or the way some of the real-time audio (“the Eagle has landed,” “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”) passed instantly and permanently into the shared culture. NASA has some very cool interactive features on its website — including restored video of the landing — that can help us all share the power of this event again.

Buzz Aldrin was one of the Apollo 11 crew, and was the second person (after Neil Armstrong) to set foot on the moon. He’s also one of the more interesting characters ever associated with space exploration, an activity which — by its very nature — attracts extremely skilled professionals whose public personas tend toward the dry side. Not much room for wacky pranksters in a high-tech tin can hurtling through space….

But what I find most noteworthy about Buzz Aldrin isn’t his career as an astronaut — although that’s clearly an amazing and inspiring achievement. No, what’s even more impressive is his new rap single, produced in collaboration with Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, Talib Kweli and Soulja Boy.

Snoop Dogg and Buzz Aldrin kickin' it in the studio

Snoop Dogg and Buzz Aldrin kickin' it in the studio


 Called “Rocket Experience,” it’s a benefit for Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation, which promotes science education.

Now, if there were ever someone who’s entitled to kick back and relax with the knowledge that’s he’s had a great life, the 79-year-old Aldrin might be it. But what does he do instead? He gets in the studio with some music industry heavyweights and more than holds his own. “I’m not too good at carrying a tune, but I do have rhythm,” Aldrin says.

That’s what lifelong learning is all about, and that’s some impressive shizzle, yo. In my book, it’s right up there with War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy learning to ride a bike at age 67.

lifelong learner & bicycle enthusiast Leo Tolstoy

lifelong learner & bicycle enthusiast Leo Tolstoy

What’s the best example of lifelong learning that you’ve ever seen?

Posted by: kentropic | July 1, 2009

kina’ole = rolling with the changes

Jason Seiden recently asked readers of his always-insightful blog what they thought were the keys to professional resilience in these turbulent times. Great question!

One new key to resilience in 2009 is: be a voracious learner about social media, and invest plenty of time and effort into becoming a “trust agent,” online and off.

Here are a few more timeless keys:

1. Any major change (like a job loss) presents a moment of crisis, but also an opportunity to change course in response. Try to travel light, in a material sense, so you can stay agile and minimize the sense of financial crisis. And acknowledge that these transitions happen to everyone eventually, more frequently now than ever (and more frequently still in the future): embrace the opportunity to explore new avenues.

2. Stay culturally curious and socially engaged: these traits will help you unconsciously develop the assets you’ll need to ride out the transition, and will help you recognize the right opportunity when it comes along.

3. Take responsibility for your professional destiny, and avoid at all costs the temptation to indulge in self-pity (beware: it can be strong and unintentionally reinforced by those closest to you, who really do have your best interests at heart but aren’t sure how to help).

Take the surfers’ approach: finding a great new gig is like catching a perfect wave. To ride one, you need to:

Duuuuude, it's all good....

Duuuuude, it's all good....

  • know where the best beaches are, at what time of day, in which season;
  • share your knowledge with others, and they’ll share with you;
  • take care of yourself and eat a good breakfast – you’ll need plenty of energy and stamina to make the most of your day;
  • get up early and get out in the lineup with the daybreak;
  • know that you’re going to wipe out from time to time, so don’t sweat it;
  • know that the perfect wave can come at any time, from any direction, so keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel;
  • be ready to paddle like hell when you see the perfect swell coming, so you can drop in at just the right time to catch the curl;
  • don’t worry if you miss a perfect wave – another will come along eventually;
  • don’t worry if the surf is flat – you can always come back tomorrow;
  • be respectful and look out for others in the lineup, and they’ll do the same for you;
  • know where the sharks are, and avoid them;
  • be glad that you’re surfing, and enjoy the day!
Posted by: kentropic | June 23, 2009

kina’ole = choosing what to look for

Nobody serves up a steadier diet of tasty, bite-sized, thought-provoking online content than Seth Godin. If you haven’t sampled his pithy and insightful blog yet, by all means do!

In a recent post, Seth gets right to the heart of the matter (as always) with a brief story that I think will resonate with almost everyone:

“Justine plays a game that involves finding yellow cars on the road and shouting the appropriate term as you see them.What you discover after just a few minutes is just how many yellow cars there are. A lot.

We notice what we choose to notice.

Consider playing a version of spotto involving great customer service or organizations going the extra mile, or employees giving more than they have to. What you’ll notice very quickly is that there’s a lot more of it out there than you would have guessed, which will make it easier for you and your team to follow suit. [emphasis added]”

In a similar vein, how many of you have noticed, immediately after buying a car, that you suddenly start seeing other people driving your car everywhere you go? I never saw so many `74 Monte Carlos on the road as when I was driving one.

So, what does that have to do with kina’ole, generally — and with HR practice in particular? Easy: if you concentrate on finding and recognizing examples of great work in your organization, you’ll find them! On the other hand, if you concentrate on finding lackluster performance, you’ll find that, too.

Now, think for a moment about your workplace, and how you contribute to its culture and atmosphere (especially in an HR role). Which approach is likely to produce greater value for the organization, and better productivity among the people you work with?

Does that mean you want to paper-over performance shortfalls, or whitewash unacceptable workplace behavior? Of course not: looking for the positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negative, or failing to act when that’s what the situation requires. But with the right attitude and motivation — the kina’ole HR approach — even corrective action and intervention can be framed with the goal of helping all parties succeed.

There’s never a shortage of people ready and willing to point out others’ shortcomings. Why not be the person who stands out by standing up for what others bring to the table? It’s a valuable point-of-view.

Posted by: kentropic | June 18, 2009

Social media networking = kina’ole?

Ms. Kris and Nohea checked out my initial posts this week and raised a good point: kina’ole isn’t a concept/feeling that usually works well in a business context. I agree — if it’s just bolted on for marketing purposes: “Shop/stay/eat here! Enjoy our kina’ole customer service!” Uh…, actually, no.

However, there’s no reason we can’t adopt kina’ole as a guiding principle for daily work life — especially in HR. Most of us spend so much time at work, and the quality of that time can be so heavily influenced by what the HR types do, that there’s tremendous potential to add value by adopting this ancient Hawai’ian philosophy of craftsmanship and professionalism.

Can business benefits flow from taking this step? Absolutely. But it’s not likely to happen if increasing your profits is your primary motive. It’s counterintuitive but true, and the the mainstreaming of social media demonstrates some basic kina’ole principles in action.

Take a browse through the posts of any social media expert you like. Go ahead and have a look around: there are dozens of them, each with a distinctive speciality or point of view, all with something valuable to contribute to the ongoing conversation about this rapidly-evolving space.

One thing they all agree upon — without exception — is the fundamental importance of giving away valuable insights and information, without any expectation of receiving something in return.

This fundamantal generosity is the sine qua non of building online credibility: when people try out your insights and find them sound, they’ll refer others your way, thereby stoking a symbiotic feedback loop that benefits everyone involved. Relationships come first; the business will take care of itself afterwards. And that’s what we find at the heart of kina’ole.

Now, imagine how that philosophy could transform the world of HR practice: recruiting, learning and development, employee relations, compensation and benefits admin.

Posted by: kentropic | June 9, 2009

What’s “kina’ole” anyway?

In a nutshell, kina’ole is an ancient Hawai’ian principle of living that roughly translates as “flawlessness” of conduct. I was first introduced to this concept by good friend Ms. Kris, who’s now a primary school teacher in Na’alehu, near the southern tip of the big Island. Lots of friends and colleagues helped me to understand the philosophy and practice of kina’ole along the way, and I’ll always be grateful for their example and their patience.

Here’s another way to describe kina’ole:

“Doing the right thing in the right way, at the right time, in the right place, to the right person, for the right reason, with the right feeling, the first time.”

That’s an amazingly high standard to aim for, if you take it seriously and try to live it. But in management generally — and HR specifically — we’re dealing with huge chunks of people’s lives, so it’s definitely worth the effort.

Part of the beauty of kina’ole is its universal application across cultures — although the word and concept are Hawai’ian, you can find versions of this basic principle in cultures around the globe, and throughout history. That’s a strong indicator, I think, that there’s something about this approach that resonates deeply and fundamentally with the way we’re all put together.

This deep resonance makes kina’ole a good cornerstone on which to build a practical system for interacting in the world. Pie in the sky? Hardly: I’ve seen this approach implemented with amazing success in a wide variety of settings and contexts, and I hope we’ll gather and share additional examples together at this blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome!

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