ExtraversionFollowing my recent rant about HR’s ignorance around the power of the social, and unstructured content - “all that crap on Facebook and twitter” to the as yet uninitiated – I figured it would be useful to share some specific examples. So, over the next few posts I’m going to feature three examples that are, in my opinion, game changing stuff for HR and the associated industries.

First up, a subject close to my heart – assessment. I spend most of my waking moments immersed in the field of human behaviour, researching and designing new ways of predicting personality, behaviour and ultimately performance. The stock trade in this field are personality questionnaires, used in large numbers at many stages of the employee lifecycle from resourcing through to development.

These assessments are big business and are sold and used in huge numbers globally. The acquisition of SHL by CEB just over a year ago, signals how commercially important these solutions are.

More recently, alternatives to the stock questionnaire are emerging, including the use of images and or gameplay – examples include VisualDNA who use visuals instead of straight questionnaires and The Knack who claim to be able to predict high performers simply through observation of gameplay.

However, one of the most compelling and interesting approaches was brought to life this year, but not by a traditional vendor or new market entrant/start up but instead as part of the Wold WellBeing Project - an initiative that is pioneering techniques for measuring psychological and medical wellbeing using language in social media.  A summary of the work can be found here, and the detailed research article appears on the Public Library of Science (PLOS) One website. In short, this fascinating initiative is the largest ever study of Language and personality. Using 700 million words, phrases and topic instances taken from 75,000 Facebook volunteers, they undertook to see if they could correlate and predict personality type from an analysis of their social profiles, and they found that they could:

“The “open-vocabulary approach” of analysing all words was shown to be equally predictive (and in some cases more so) than traditional methods used by psychologists, such as self-reported surveys and questionnaires”

For anyone working in HR or the assessment industry, this is BIG news, or should be. Here we have potentially a new and equally predictive way (according to this latest research) of providing insight into personality and behaviour, without asking a single question. Perhaps more interestingly, one that potentially sits outside of the current psychology governance and compliance infrastructure – the BPS, the licensing test providers and the ‘practitioners’.

The fact that your Facebook drivel can predict your personality will be a revelation to many and I suspect will be met with scoffs of disbelief, especially from some of the established players, but this would be very short sighted, in my opinion, and if they are not already neck deep in this research then they should absolutely be.

Think about it. It isn’t so long ago that the de-facto way of assessing and predicting your personality was Astrology (It still is for some!). Then along came science and the field of psychology, which put some well needed rigour into the process, leaving Astrology behind as the psychometric equivalent of a quack cure.

Given the nature of this research, is it really that hard to imagine, in years to come, a bunch of psychologists sitting in a bar somewhere (Ok, so a quiet bar I grant you ;)) and saying:

“Remember when we used to measure personality using those god awful questionnaires? Hahahahahaha!”

I think not….

ignoranceNow that I’m back in Blighty after attending both the HR Technology Conference in the US, and the HR Tech Europe Conference in Europe  I’m just reflecting on what I saw.

I found both buzzing experiences although here were a few stark differences between the two. Amsterdam was a sea of men in suits, a stock photographers dream for those ‘business as usual” shots, and oddly at ease against the backdrop of the city itself, a place where gravity, as Dan Pink put it, “is one of the few laws that are actually enforced here”.

Las Vegas, by contrast had given away largely to the denim/chino look. Much more relaxed on the surface, but perhaps more conservative underneath? I wasn’t sure. The expo’s for both were dominated by the big guns as you would expect, but it was also good to see a good crop of small new players too.

One thing that stood out for me though was the significant amount of air time that is still being devoted to raising awareness of social and its associated benefits for the organisation, specifically the internal benefits of ‘socialising the business’. Unfortunately, A good number of the examples used felt dated, and I’m surprised, and a little disappointed, that speakers are still getting “ooohs” and “aahhs” from trotting out the fact that Facebook users outnumber the Klingon population. Or the “this company didn’t treat me well so I’m making a Youtube video about it” examples in an effort to show just how influential we annoying little people can be when we have a voice.

Despite ‘social’ being consciously pervasive in our personal lives the benefits of adopting similar principles and strategies internally remain a mystery to many in the people domain – HR practitioners, business leaders and vendors alike.

To these people, the social web is still either a marketing platform or a place where ‘those people do twitting or whatever they call it”. In other words – “not for me.” And that’s a big problem.

Consider the changes in the technology landscape since you became active online, which for many reading this post will have been around the late 90’s/millennium. Some before. Consider then what it might look in say another 13 years, or sooner. It is 2013 for Gods sake. Facebook is nearly 10, Twitter is nearly 7. This social, transparent layer has huge implications, not least for organisations. So why are vast swathes of the HR populous still largely ignorant of the impact of this shift, let alone the value it can bring?

Someone tweeted yesterday that its not the job of HR to convince the leadership of the value of embracing social, but to demonstrate the implications of not doing so. Well from where I was sitting, particularly in the European audience, HR have two hopes of achieving this, and one of them is Bob.

Get with the program HR. Ignorance is no longer acceptable. In fact, in my view, it’s bordering on incompetence.

Crappy SoftwareIn the closing session of the HR Technology Conference and Expo in Vegas, Jason Averbook told a nice little story that illustrated the difference between perception and reality nicely. He was talking about his time at Peoplesoft, and how, at a certain point in time, Peoplesoft had made their way into the much-coveted top right hand box of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise HCM solutions. In Gartner terminology, this classifies them as a ‘Leader’.

In case you are wondering, the definition of Leader in Gartner language is this:

Leaders provide mature offerings that meet market demand. They have also demonstrated the vision necessary to sustain their market position as requirements evolve.


Leaders typically possess a large, satisfied customer base (relative to the size of the market) and enjoy high visibility within the market. 

So, whilst it’s not a customer satisfaction measure in any real form, the implication is that they have a large number of customers who are happy with the product. All very dandy then? Eer.. no.

Why? Well, because, as Jason pointed out, when he talked to his customer support team, they had a very different message – the customers didn’t like the solution! A magic quadrant leader who’s customer base thought the product lacked good UX and functionality? Shurley shome mishtake!

Sadly not. And at that very moment thoughts of the average enterprise ATS entered my head. Having spent a long time in this industry, on both sides of the fence, I can say that a large proportion of ATS customers are far from happy with their solutions.

“Our candidate experience is a dogs breakfast due to the ATS integration.”

“Our application drop off rates are way too high”

“Candidates get lost in the ‘black hole’ that is our ATS”

I could go on. These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard, even in recent times. It seems that, when you get to a certain size, you start to believe your own marketing bullshit more than the feedback your customers are giving you.  But times are a changing. The strong sense that came to me from the buzz around HRTech was the wider realisation that consumers (aka employees) are driving technology development, not the CTO. Or as Jason put it:

“consumers today have better technology than businesses do for the first time ever”

As consumers we do more with less, we like 10 killer features not 1000 useless ones, we like cool UX, not shitty forms and we like it to work. In fact we almost like to feel that the software isn’t there.

Jason ventured that HR tech is at least 5 years behind the rest of the business technology market and he is probably right, although I’d say more. The challenge is you couldn’t run a retail business without a shit hot supply chain and CRM solution supporting it whereas you can still run the very same business with crappy HCM solutions. In the case of your woeful ATS, no one in the executive suite really gives a toss about the fact that talent is leaking out of your talent supply chain simply because your ATS sucks. Except the talent of course. And the recruiters.

Only time will tell if the existing crop of ATS vendors in particular are nimble enough to change their approach. After visiting HRTech, the jury is still out for me.

social-media-matters1Ok that’s a bit harsh. Of course you still matter – to your loved ones and anyone else that may be dependent on you. I’ve no wish to kick a big hole in your self esteem! No, what I’m referring to is your position as a professional in the workplace or as a consumer and your propensity to be found, hired or otherwise interacted with.

If you are in any way interested in technology you may be familiar with the increasing trend towards using social data to find someone in the case of recruitment, or more interestingly, to profile someone or predict their behaviour/potential based on their social footprint – twitter, facebook, LinkedIn (not social really) foursquare etc etc. The fact that this technology is still relatively unexploited is dividing opinion amongst lovers and haters of social alike.

You see when talking to people about this trend, the standard objections are usually something like:

“there are not enough people on social media to ensure you reach the widest talent pool”


“the people on social media are not a representative enough group to be valid”

Well I have news for you. They are wrong. Taking the first point, when it comes to finding people there are now enough professionals engaging socially (even if you exclude LinkedIn) for there to be more than enough choice. Will a truly talented individual be overlooked because they don’t engage socially? Yes, of course. But for the majority of the professions in organisations, this doesn’t matter because there is enough talent out there that does.

Furthermore, and especially for HR, social engagement is actually a pre requisite for success for future HR professionals. Without it, you are not going to understand or be exposed to the wider, big data and predictive analytics trend that will become essential to organisational success in the next 5 years.

If we are talking more widely in terms of identifying trends/patterns or behaviour then I should remind you of the hedgefund I blogged about in 2011 that used twitter sentiment as the basis for their investments. That was two years ago and at the time I blogged about it, a lot of people were skeptical. Well, the hedge fund closed soon after the experiment – but not because it didn’t work. No. they shut their doors because it DID work – and instead have spent the last 3 years building a solution to bring this capability to the mass market. 3 years ago, the sentiment patterns gleaned from tweets correlated ahead of the stock market to an accuracy of 87%. 3 years ago! Go look at the growth in users of social, including twitter, in the last 3 years and what does that tell you?

Having just returned from the HRTech Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, where I was privileged to attend as one of the blog squad, I can tell you that this stuff has still yet to make a real impact. But in amongst the expected conversation about the Cloud, the consumer driving work related tech and the range of new apps that are adding cool UX layers to your existing ATS (Awful Talent System! < blog coming on that one) there are signs that things are a changing.

The phrase “you have to be in it to win it” has never been more relevant. Especially for HR.

Glassdoor-logoIn years to come, when we look back and reflect on the impact of the social era, there will be a number of things that we will strongly identify with this period that changed the way we looked at the world, forever. And for me, one of those things will be transparency. If  you are based in the UK, you may have seen a short series currently playing on our national channel BBC2 – Robert Preston Goes Shopping. Ok, nothing to do with social, but in the program Robert charts the development of retail in the UK from the post war era to modern day and in doing so highlights just how easy it was as an organisation to control the message in terms of advertising, and influence the general public. It’s not that long ago that communication channels and messages were controlled and manipulated for corporate good, and with the general lack of ability for you and I, as Joe Public, to share experiences, the big boys never had it so good. Basically we had no choice but to believe the bullshit.

But the internet ushered in an era where this control could be undermined. In the early days of the internet, it was still quite limited and only the really forward thinking could see the way chitter chatter on forums and groups would eventually develop into full on, real time conversations where companies, brands and, more recently, employer value propositions would be laid bare. Post social, almost a single tweet can simultaneously build an employer proposition for the smallest organisation yet render the largest ‘employer brand’ useless overnight.

We live in a transparent era but in the mid 00′s things were still developing. Sure, the seeds of social were already sown with Twitter launching in 2006 but its purpose and value were yet to be fully understood by the wider masses. At the same time though, some recognised that there was potential to give a voice, albeit anonymously, to those that wanted to speak out. Glassdoor recognised this, going on to build a business from giving employees a voice. At the time it was spot on – building largely on pent up frustration, they opened up and vindicated what many employers had largely writing off as ‘whinging’. And well done to them.

But, alas, life moves on, and at social speed that means things change rapidly. As individual consumers and employees, we have spent over 10 years now sharing our views and, adding generational influences into the mix, what we see now is a population that frankly, doesn’t need or care about anonymity nearly as much. Social, and simply the experience of connecting openly, in real time, across the various platforms has changed things fundamentally.

As a result, for me at least, Glassdoor and its business model is starting to look dated. One look at the site and “Job Ads, Employer profiles” are the order of the day. Even the “Social Recruiting” tab struggles to recognise the shift, with “Job Ads, Recruiting Insights, Post a Job, Display Ads and ATS Integration” as the sub tab choices. Couple that with the lingering anonymity, trip advisor stance to reviews and I’m left thinking that there are better ways to add value to both employer and employee these days.

For example, we now live in an era where unstructured data – conversations, opinions, likes and recommendations – is beginning to demonstrate real value thanks to big data capability. This means that we are starting to see more relevant and valuable insights coming from these open and attributable conversations than we could ever previously get from anonymous reviews. And this is only the beginning. There is a trend towards a much more open, social and ‘values’ based approach to assessing your fit for an organisation where cultural markers are as important, if not more so, than hygiene factors like salary and benefits. This leads to some interesting plays in the technology space that tap into these perhaps more relevant markers.

One example that springs to mind is www.good.co (no disclaimer needed here – I don’t know them, they are not paying me and i don’t own shares!)  It’s clearly not the same as Glassdoor. It has a different proposition. But as someone interested in human behaviour and how that can significantly effect the success of an organisation, their personality/cultural led approach is interesting and has potential. I’m keen to see how solutions like these, coupled with those that draw insights from our unstructured chattering’s will re define the relationship between employer and employee.

If any readers of this blog have any interesting tech that fits this mould I would be interested in hearing about it.

Note: This post first appeared on the HRTechEurope blog where I will be part of the blog squad this year for the annual HRTech Europe Conference. Fancy joining me? Then feel free to use my discount code – GM20 – to blag yourself a 20% discount on the ticket price. Look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam!

ImageAs I emerge from quite a challenging and busy few months, one of the first blogs I read is about my pet subject – engagment – from Gemma Reucroft, who penned the rather excellent post called The E Word. In it she refers to an article recently published online by HR Magazine entitled “Whose job is employee engagement: HR, CEO or dedicated head of engagement?” Frankly, if we are still asking this question then there is no hope – someone pass me a Stanley Knife….

To the guys who wrote that open letter to The Times, I’d like to say; dudes, engagement is an outcome, nothing more. And most organisations have totally lost sight of that including yours by the looks of it. It’s not a ‘thing’ or an initiative, yet as Gemma points out, most companies treat it like a dog. Whilst the organisations who put their name to the letter might mean well, its like me writing to the Times and pointing out how important it is that I stop biting my nails – Stop pontificating and blaming others, just go fix it.

Ask any large corporate what they spend on ‘engagement’ and they will probably say a very large number, and be able to point to a load of resources and people assigned to this grand topic. BUT ask them how much they spend Trust and see what happens…. tumbleweed.

Engagement is an outcome of things like Trust, Honesty, Authenticity… If these companies want to increase engagement, they should stop wasting time scribing self promoting letters to the editor and instead invest their energies in driving these factors through the business. It’s not rocket science and it ain’t hard. #JFDI.

I will leave you with this rather good image I found on the web, which while im not suggesting should be a manifesto for engagement, is a nice reminder of the basic ingredients needed to build trust.


BE MINDFULTime certainly does fly and lookie here, it’s 2013 already. Well just. Where did the last 5 months go? For those of you that know me, you will be aware that I have been “off the grid” somewhat during that period – the tumbleweed surrounding this blog and my twitter feed being solid testament to that. Part of the reason for my radio silence is professional – this year saw me settle into my (awesome) new role with the (awesome) crew at The Chemistry Group. Did I mention it was awesome?! ;)

The other significant contributor to my absence has been personal – 2012 sent challenges in this department that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy so it has been a mix of incredible highs and deep deep lows, which, at the time, I thought I was navigating alone. But in the run up to Christmas I took a peep back into my online life – I dipped tentatively back into twitter, found a purpose for facebook and even read a few (just three in all) blog posts. I had expected to see a lot of work related posts but instead I saw personal reflection, with many of those that I have come to know well sharing similar stories of how 2012 had challenged them personally too.

Of these few posts, one really hit home, a post entitled Summing Up by Neil Morrison. I won’t quote chapter and verse here, you should read it yourself. Suffice to say that much of what Neil writes in this post resonated with me. One particular observation struck a chord:

I’m indebted and apologetic to my family, the people I hold most closest and whose love I have abused. The times when I haven’t been present, the moments that I will never get to live again, the kisses that I never offered and the hugs that I didn’t feel I deserved.

When you are on the career treadmill it is so easy to fall into this trap. It’s not as though we can’t see it happening; we know we do it. But you slip into auto pilot, promising yourself that you will make it up. That next time you will do that thing, be there when you couldn’t or maybe just simply stop and take notice. But you don’t. The spirit is willing but somehow the flesh is weak. I can’t remember who said it and I dont have the energy to research it right now (forgive me, it’s late) but whoever it was said that perhaps one of the most important things you can do as an individual is to be ‘present’ in the company of family and friends – your loved ones. ‘Present’ meaning fully engaged mentally and emotionally and not distracted by work, email, smartphones, tweets or checkins.

This was my biggest challenge in 2012 and as a result it is now at the top of my New Years resolutions list – and I would encourage you to put it at the top of yours too. No, dont just nod and say “yes” or “so true”. Do it. Affirmative action. Believe me, if you don’t, you will regret it. It may not seem that important now, but by failing to engage, by allowing this presence to elude you, you risk losing so much more than those moments alone.

So go on, be present. Don’t say “in a minute” or “I just need to finish this email” when a loved one vies for your attention. Put the laptop or blackberry to one side and take the moment. Trust me. Your work and career will not suffer as you imagine it might.

Be present. Offer that kiss…

Happy New Year folks. I’m looking forward to being present and engaged in 2013. I hope you can be too.