Applicants – and Paintings Without Prices

Applicants – and Paintings Without Prices

Synopsis: A short piece on value.

If you ever get a chance to walk around an exhibition at an auction house it is an odd experience. The exhibits have a guide price – and you are essentially being told what holds more value than other things. The ugly piece that you can’t work out the point of is somehow worth ten times the price of the one that you’d love to be able to afford.

Value is detemined by the market

  • What did this piece sell for before?
  • What is the artist selling for currently?
  • What is in fashion?
  • Who else might be bidding?

The market is somewhat shaped by likes and dislikes – but they might have been hundreds of years old. A good example is this painting – the world’s most expensive painting – that maybe should or shouldn’t be the world’s most expensive. The market trends for it to reach that price have been set over time.

If you go to a museum or gallery the experience is different. Unless you are an art buff you are free to meander without the guidance and shackles of value. You know the works have been curated and are ‘valuable’, but beyond some of the more immediate suspects (the super famous ones) you are just there for the experience. And I bet almost all of us would rank 300 paintings in a gallery differently. But also place the obvious contenders (‘Look, I know that one!’) near the top of our lists. For more on why have a read of this.

The job market is a similar forum of strong and weak signals about value. I saw a post from a well regarded and experienced professional the other day bemoaning artificial standards in job descriptions.

Applicants are often expected to

  • Have a degree
  • Have degree or equivalent
  • Have relevant sector experience
  • Come from a role that paid at a similar level
  • Come from an organisation with a recognisable brand

These are all understandable (if not always suitable or desirable) shortcuts to enable us to give nominal value to people when we aren’t experts. I worked for an organisation a few years ago that was just starting out – as it has grown that looks better on my CV – despite my work there not being great and it disappearing into the distance in terms of recency. It’s familiar.

We take weak signals and seek to place value. We see this failure in the market and society in undervaluing caring responsibilities and overvaluing, arguably, poor leadership.

Similar to an art gallery I guess the challenge is discerning not just what other people would be happy to pay for something – but whether you, personally, would place the same value on it.

That’s the challenge of hiring in a broken marketplace – value is in the eye of the beholder.

A selection of theHRDIRECTOR blogs

For the past few months I’ve been writing a blog for theHRDIRECTOR on a monthly basis, as have a few other familiar faces. I thought I’d pull the ones I’d written into one place and pick out some of my favourites by other folk

Mine, mine….ALL MINE

Exit Management – Dignity Costs Nothing – why  provoking an extreme reaction can be useful – and why sometimes exit management can cause less than useful reactions…

The Policy Policy – why most business isn’t really about risk mitigation, it’s about sustainable growth – so we need to stop hiding

Confessions of a Retention Expert – I worked on engagement, I worked on retention, I worked on culture. This is what I noticed we got wrong. I’m an expert in getting it wrong. 

Are recruiters just estate agents for people? – my most popular post so far – focusing on whether recruitment incentives (particularly agency) are so broken that they inevitably lead to poor outcomes.

And the best of the rest 

Fortune doesn’t favour the brave – Fortune doesn’t favour the brave, but Carl will tell you who it does favour.

The Bill and Ted Principle Tim Scott does something excellent for you

Managing Carers at Work – a great post by Gemma Reucroft on a problem that is already here and can’t be ignored

Change: Friend or Foe – some thought provoking case studies from Helen Amery

And finally, The Pros and Cons of Blogging by Ian Pettigrew

 

 

It’s your career – why do you want to leave?

I wrote this in response to the coverage of Massive Monday. The busiest day of the year for people starting to look for a new role. Except I’ve now delayed this blog – as there is a great blog from Mervyn Dinnen telling everyone to to calm down. So I did.

For whatever reason over the past few months I’ve been besieged by people wanting a catch up to talk about leaving their current role. It’s the best kind of besieging – it’s the kind that makes you feel trusted and worthwhile. I’m not complaining.

Here is what I’ve told most of them – and most have said it is helpful.

If you are asking the question ‘should I leave?’ it’s normally because you already know the answer. You already think you should leave, but if I say it too you’ll feel it is validated. You are more than probably about to tell me that you like the people you work with, but that the role leaves you ‘unfulfilled’ or your boss ‘just doesn’t get’ the way you work. The answer is the grass isn’t always greener, but unless you think the current situation will improve then it certainly makes sense to look elsewhere. Not storm into the a meeting with your boss and resign, but check out other options.

I’m going to level with you – I have no idea how good you are at your role. So I’m not going to agree with you when you say your talents are wasted or your boss is evil. But I do know that’s how you feel and that counts. Your happiness isn’t something I can reason out. If you are unhappy (or you think your boss is a muppet) I’m unlikely to change that over a coffee and you are unlikely to change it without changing role.I know you’ve worked so hard to build up a reputation with your current employer, but that is only of use to you if it can get you into a position you enjoy. Otherwise what you are telling me is just a distraction. This is about you, not how others perceive you.

And I know the people are great… Nearly everyone always says that when they leave. You’ll feel the same when you leave your next place. You’ll find people you thought you shared a deep relationship with were only colleagues and not friends. It is the way of the world. There are even more cool people just waiting to be met in the next place. You rarely lose great relationships, you add to them.

If you are worried about being able to afford to change jobs or that you’ll have to take a step down in seniority. It’s your choice, I’m not going to insist you drop your income. You came to me. It’s a tough economy and these are your gambles and choices. Everything has a risk. Your current risk is that you get up each morning for the foreseeable future and don’t enjoy a large chunk of your day. Only you can decide if that is a tolerable trade off for what you see on your payslip. I’d just challenge you to imagine a different future (a real one, not one where you just suddenly become Mark Zuckerberg) and make an informed choice.

If you aren’t qualified to do whatever it is you want to do then you have three options

stay put OR get qualified OR try and find a role without being qualified.

I can’t help with the first couple of options, the third is tricky, but it is possible.Why don’t you start researching that rather than worrying about that?

If you don’t know where to start then you start by accepting you are going to leave and then I guarantee that will unclutter your brain enough for you to be able to start planning for the future. You are currently overwhelming yourself with the enormity of choices you are trying to make – just break it into smaller steps.

  • Decide to leave
  • Decide what that means for you
  • Work out what you want to do
  • Work out what you have to do to get that
  • Start moving towards it.

Then you get to go into work each day knowing that you are making progress towards something better and I can tell you that everyone I speak to who ’emotionally resigns’ finds everything just that little bit more tolerable.

So you are telling me to leave? I’m telling you that you are asking that question for a reason and the person best placed to answer it…isn’t me

Thanks to Merv for the music choice too

Business Sexy

Let’s talk about sex.

Brief Encounter
Brief Encounter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I read a blog by Neil Morrison about making HR sexy (http://change-effect.com/2013/09/29/get-your-sexy-on/). I agree with it entirely, if you want people to do things differently they need to be interested, if you aren’t going to make things interesting – well, you fall at the first hurdle.

Quite often we take lessons from ‘real life and apply them to business. I think that sometimes we can benefit from doing the reverse. It reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago about how business best practice can be applied to both relationships (and sex).

Before I continue I’d like to make the following disclaimer: I’m happily married (‘no recent experience’) , I’m useless with the opposite sex (‘no track record in this sector) and I’m therefore giving this advice confident in the fact I’ll never need to use it.

Think of it like being a bit like bad exec coaching.

So, on to the lessons from business that you can apply to your very private life…

Market strategy – when choosing a partner you either need to be first to market (not literally, they may have had other joint ventures previously) or you need to be able to commit wholeheartedly to delivering a differentiated offering. Try to stay away from crowded sectors when advantage may be competed away before you can establish a commanding market position. You want to enter an untapped market and create significant barriers to entry for other interested parties. Occasionally you may find an opportunity that is potentially high yield, but has been dismissed by other investors. Depending on your risk appetite you may want to ‘go early and go big’ in this instance.

Recruitment policy – recruit for attitude and train for skills. This is where the sex comes in. The conversation I had was with a lovely woman looking for a new partner and they listed all the attributes any potential partner would need. It took some time. It was a long list. It finished with ‘good in bed’.

I explained that their wish list would exclude every male on the planet, except a younger George Clooney – and I’ve always told my wife that everybody knows he is really poor in bed. Accept that if you find someone you like then you should invest time working on the team dynamics in the bedroom. Whether you attempt this inhouse or as an away day event over a weekend is entirely up to you – but the point is the hiring decision should be based on fitness and potential, rather than current competence. Yes, I suppose you could read ‘fitness’ in a couple of ways in that last sentence.

If you do use psychometrics within the recruitment process be clear on how much of the decision this will inform and ensure that all feedback is constructive and timely. People can get offended if, in certain intimate situations, you explain that you are disappointed that they aren’t more of a completer finisher.

Above all remember that a disappointing candidate experience will have an impact on your broader brand.

Onboarding/induction – the individual was most likely a poor fit with their previous organisation, so it is worth dealing with any angst from this in the onboarding phase, whilst not dwelling on any painful experiences. Depending on your individual policy you may have a probation period. Be clear with individuals what situations may cause them to fail this probation – bringing particular attention to the fact that they are contractually obliged to refrain from working for a competitor whilst engaged by you.

Next move onto some tiered skills training to get them to match your performance requirements. I would advise against the use of an external coach during the training. The training environment usually cannot comfortably contain a third participant and it can make a significant negative impact on dynamics in a traditional structure.

Alongside this you will be undertaking a cultural induction – letting them know exactly how we do business around here. It is really important to be clear about your own Values and ensure that your recruit will be comfortable with them over time. This is particularly important if you expect them to be employed, longer term, in producing successors within your family business.

Performance reviews – my wife runs these quite relatively effectively for me. I get regular on the spot feedback from her combined with more formal reviews .I know these are formal reviews as

i) I’m expected to provide detailed evidence of having made a contribution and this is given considerable scrutiny

ii) she regularly sets me clear targets at the end of the conversation that are very specific, measurable and most certainly time bound. We differ on whether they are achievable and reasonable.

iii) She will also revisit these conversations (regularly) and refer to agreements made within them over the course of the year.

I’m expecting a performance review right after she reads this…

No – they didn’t

The thing about time is that it is a great concealer. As we move away from any incident our brains are rapidly working overtime to make us the rational and courageous heroes of that piece.

Let’s think about what that looks like in the workplace.

Do you remember that incredibly heated meeting you had, the one where you kept your calm, but that guy you don’t like was shouting? It didn’t happen that way, it really may not have http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24286258

Do you remember that time you had to decide between rival tenders – one from a company that you had gone out for drinks with (they just bought the drinks, no biggy) and one you hadn’t seen before? You probably didn’t choose as fairly as you think you did  http://www.livescience.com/23902-brains-unconscious-bias-decisions.html

Do you remember all that great work your new hire did this year (you just clicked at interview, great gut instinct) and all the examples of ‘old thinking’ you saw from others? Not as clear cut as you might think. http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/10/halo-effect-when-your-own-mind-is.php

Derren Brown
Derren Brown (Photo credit: lwpkommunikaci

You don’t think the way that think you do. Which means that you are always a little bit further away from reality than you think you are.

What does that mean? Shouldn’t you just stop contributing – after all you may be relying on false memories or ignoring a bias.

No. Don’t stop. Everyone else is too.

Continue with confidence, it’s the only way anyone ever makes a difference. Just continue with humility and an understanding that you are fallible. Ask others for their view of the world and give it credence.

Understanding that you aren’t as right as you thought you were will help you be right more often. That is as right as you may get.

I’ve failed people

Fail Road
Fail Road (Photo credit: fireflythegreat)

I’m failed people and I’m embarrassed.

Most of the time your brain is working double time (in the background) to build up a retrospective rationale for the things you have done -so that you can sleep easy at night, in the sound understanding that you did the best you could.

That is why your mistakes are always understandable but other people’s are indicative of a lack of competence. If you think you are a balanced reviewer of your own efforts – you aren’t.

So when I openly admit I’ve failed – it means I’ve been so rubbish, that even my built in mental defence mechanisms can’t muffle the clanging sound of my errors.

What did or didn’t I do?  

I’ve never hired anyone with a disability to work in HR (that I’m aware of). I’ve never worked with anyone with a disability (that I’m aware of) whilst in HR. I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed a candidate with a disability.

I’m not unique in this – a recent twitter chat confirmed lots of HR professionals have the same track record. That just makes us as bad as each other – it doesn’t make me any better.

I’m sure I’ve had multiple conversations with other people outside of HR about how they should have an inclusive hiring policy and the talent they might be missing out on. I just never stopped to think about what I was doing enough to realise my hypocrisy.

For the past half decade I have been senior enough to have influence on issues like this and to call out a lack of inclusion (with respect to disability – I’ve actually worked in quite diverse teams otherwise). It never crossed my mind.

I have no idea how many people I have hired directly in the past few years where I have failed to think as effectively as I should. It never crossed my mind. 

I’ve been a hypocrite. It isn’t a lack of openmindedness – it is a complete lack of thinking. Complete negligence on my part.

I’m not blaming fear, politics, the organisation I worked for – this is my repeated failing on a very personal level. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal. I just haven’t done anything useful.

so… I’m making a change.

The next time that I recruit I will challenge my own approach and see if I can give someone a chance that they probably already should have had –  but they don’t due to failings like mine.

I’m also making the opening chapter of the upcoming book (Humane, Resourced) a showcase for some great observations by Anne Tynan on this issue http://annetynan.wordpress.com/ . When people read the book the first chapter now will be one provoking their thoughts on this issue.

In short – I’m going to influence where I can.

What change can you make?

You can wait for your professional body to create an initiative – or you could just act differently on your own. If enough people do that then we don’t need any other form of intervention.

There are good people whose talents we are missing out on. That is a business problem.

There are good people who are just missing out. That is an issue of right and wrong.

PS – I realise that people can get sensitive about the wording on topics like this. Please respect the intent rather than concentrating on ‘I wouldn’t have put it like that’…I reserve the right to be clumsy yet well intended.

 

Moneyball – essential HR speedreads (part 2)

Moneyball (film)
Moneyball (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the second in a series of quick summaries of essential business/HR books (the first, The Drunkard’s Walk, can be found here http://wp.me/p3wxuY-4H) . As with the first review, I hope the lessons are useful, but also that you read the books in due course. I chose them because they are good books that you might not have recommended or given to you as straight ‘HR texts’.

Moneyball (The Art of Winning an Unfair Game)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moneyball-Winning-Unfair-Tie-In-Editions/dp/0393338398

Moneyball was hijacked as book and subjected to the unenviable and unfair fate of having up to a billion articles written about it suggestion it was all about ‘big data’. The book does focus on data – but there are far richer lessons to be enjoyed regarding teamwork, culture, innovation and bravery.

Essentially, the book provides an insight into the workings of a baseball team from Oakland that, due to having a limited budget, chose to hire more diversely; finding talent outside of the normal profiles for successful baseball players. They purchased players that might have unorthodox actions or techniques, but who could still be productive.

The team went on the longest winning streak in baseball history, using a strategy of hiring players based on actual results, rather than perceived desirable skills (informed by some cool data analysis) and getting the most out of them.

A short clip from the movie…and then the lessons from HR.

Lessons for HR

It’s not all about data. It probably never will be. Most summaries of the book focus on the level of analysis that went into the hiring decisions. What is often neglected is that the team’s success only really kicked off when they traded two high performers OUT of the club, due to the negative impact they were having on others around them. They valued and understood team dynamics and made a brave change as a result. The ability to let go of talent that didn’t fit was as important as the ability to acquire.

Performance is in the aggregate. When the team lost high performers it looked for where it could replace their contribution in the aggregate of the next hires i.e I don’t need a replacement star if I can hire two upper quartile replacements. This meant that over time they increased average performance, whilst ensuring that they were less reliant on individuals.

Results matter, not the way they are achieved. The team’s analysts looked at what won games of baseball and made teams a success. They ignored traditionally sexy or glamorous measures, like how many home runs people could hit or how fast they could throw – and simply looked at how good people were at hitting a baseball and stopping other people hitting baseballs. Focusing on metrics that mattered, to the exclusion of all other noise helped focus their hiring policy and how they used their strengths. As you can see in the clip identifying the problem, the real problem, is always key.

They stayed true to their vision. Having identified that they needed to compete in a different way to other teams the management’s strategy came under both external and internal pressure. They had a vision, they stuck to it and they were prepared to take accountability for failure as well. They understood they were playing a game they could lose, but they were passionate that they were playing it in the best way they could. It paid off. You can’t be right all the time, but to fail through lack of commitment. That is a real loss.

‘If you don’t stick to your principles when times are tough, they aren’t principles; they are hobbies.’ Jon Stewart