We create the culture (when) we hate

Social media isn’t what it once could have been. Perhaps it was always destined to be this way – factious, opinionated, angry and blaming. Perhaps it is just places a magnifying glass on the society that we are creating, that’s playing out in front of our very eyes. Perhaps it is a bellwether of something more deep rooted that’s going on around us every minute of every day.

James Marriot wrote a brilliant piece in The Times a few weeks about the importance, in some respects, of social conformity in ensuring thoughtfulness and meaningful discourse. The idea that simply through the presence of others, the expression of ideas is likely to be more thoughtful and we more considered in our views. And we’ve all heard the sage advice to write nothing that we wouldn’t say to someone in person.

But the social norming of social channels is entirely different to sitting in an office, a pub or in a debating chamber. Many years ago I wrote that the problem with the democratisation of the media was that it places a voice in the hands of the “dull, feckless and boring”. I’m not sure that is entirely fair, but it certainly creates a false sense of importance through audience and – at the extreme – a blue tick on Twitter suddenly gives a legitimacy that historically would only have been given by an organisation willing to pay for a view or opinion, or through a public mandate.

There is a clear argument to be made that this is a good thing. Remove the shackles of economic or political barriers to entry and open up the airwaves to anyone, let the most popular thrive. In the same way that I’ve spoken about the dangers of choice, popularism brings with it more downsides than it does up and fuels the increased polarisation that we see in so many situations. “It’s complicated” or “I can see both sides” wins fewer short term support than an over simplified, energised opinion.

Which is why one of the biggest game in town now is blame. Whatever the situation, the moment or issue, somebody has to be singled out and responsible for anything that we disagree with – and as publicly as possible. At the same time fuelling the division and the polarisation that is already spreading like a poison in our social and political discourse and pretty much every aspect of society.

Take the recent period of extreme hot weather (yes that’s a fact it was extreme) and immediately the social verse was full of opinions about how it “wasn’t really that hot” and that health experts were some how trying to dupe us, to spoil our fun. Alongside the extreme and ill formed opinions, “I went to Ibiza once and it was way hotter than this”, we get the misinformation both idle and intentional that then follows. (See the false weather map as an example). The powers that be couldn’t be considering the minimum mortality temperature or likely excess deaths, there was bound to be an ulterior motives. And we, through the power of our social presence, we’re going to point that out.

But of course, this isn’t about weather or temperature it is about how we, each and every one of us, contribute to the culture and the society that we live in. When we get likes or retweets by shouting our view point louder, when we feed the bravado of others by doing it back to them. When we are hurtful or spiteful or divisive. We spread hurt, spite and division much further than our original premise. Our actions facilitate the actions of others whether they agree with our view points or not – we are condoning a way of behaving. And that culture, those behaviours, the belief that there is someone always at fault spreads pervasively and causes misery throughout our communities and even into our workplaces.

Dignity, respect, curiosity and inclusion is built on acting dignified being respectful, remaining curious and seeking to include. It doesn’t happen because we wish it to be so, but only through the integrity of our actions.

Ten reasons we don’t care about candidate experience

We love talking about candidate experience. I hear time and time again how important it is, yet the reality is that most of us are pretty dreadful at it regardless of whether we are HR or recruitment professionals.

The fact is that most recruiters don’t care about candidate experience, and here’s why:

1) We build dodgy website experiences – Most online application processes make getting in to Berghain look like a piece of cake. At a recent event I was at a roundtable of recruiters roundly condemned every single major ATS. And yes, whilst we can be a whiny bunch, there’s some truth in it. If these were e-commerce sites, we’d be losing money.

2) We don’t have time to give feedback – This is probably the defining question that sets out where you are on candidate experience. People tell me they just don’t have time, and I’ve got sympathy with that. But then don’t say you care about candidate experience, because you don’t.

3) We create mystery processes – Would you order something without a delivery time? Enter a competition without any rules? Our single-minded focus on making sure people don’t know how to get a job with us is something to behold. I mean, if people knew, they might hold us to account? And we’re too busy making sure they have a good experience to deal with that.

4) We don’t understand our own biases – I’ve heard too many recruiters….I could actually stop the sentence there and it would be enough…but let’s indulge…I’ve heard too many recruiters say, “I would never consider someone who xxxxx”. Bias? Who knows, but the chance is yes, absolutely. Get yourself here. Now.

5) We allow indefensible criteria – “The manager wants to only see people who can hold eleven marshmallows in their mouth and still hum the national anthem. Apparently the last two job holders could do that and they were both top performers”.

6) We value operational efficiency over optimal pathway – Every process redesign I have ever seen in recruitment has been to make things easier for the recruiter and the line manager. Not once have I seen people take on more work to make the candidate’s life easier. Not once.

7) We want to separate recruitment out from the employee cycle – Centres of excellence, outsourced solutions, service centres. Can you imagine setting up your business so that you sold a product without actually being aware of the quality of the build, design and the delivery times? No, me neither so how can we give candidates a great experience if we don’t know what’s going to happen when they’re hired?

8) We STILL use social media to sell – Even the companies lauded for using social media well are way, way, way behind the customer service functions of most businesses. Candidate experience? Don’t ask us questions and we won’t need to respond. See our FAQ and in the meantime, click this link. Thanks.

9) We work office hours – People enter the recruitment process when they’re not at work. For example, we’ve been using the awesome HireVue technology now for nearly three years. Our data shows that over 50% of people use the system outside of 9-5 and the most popular day is…..Sunday. We know this as a profession, but want to speak to a recruiter out of hours? We’re in the pub. But, don’t let that worry you, just enjoy the experience.

10) We serve the business not the candidate – I’m not saying this is wrong, it’s a thing, it just is. Every time we will put a line manager before a candidate because simply we care more about their experience. I know. I’m not wrong.

Don’t believe me? The REC have just launched the results of their research in to candidate experience, you can get it here.  And whilst you’re at it, join up to the Good Recruitment Campaign here.

Let’s stop talking the talk.

Just because you can

There are many things that this increasingly connected, digital world enables us to do. We have opportunities and possibilities beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers and seemingly each day the horizon proves to be just a staging point for greater and further exploration.

Society, human interaction and behaviour is changing. No more or less than it has changed in the past, just differently and perhaps more quickly. The things that we accept now, would make our grandparents blush. The things that they accepted would have had the same effect on theirs. It is just the way that the world works, develops and moves on. For better, for worse, for ever.

Increasingly, lives are being lived in a potentially more open way. The fact that I can express these thoughts in public, promote and publicise them through social tools and yet also share the music that I’m listening to, what I’m eating and what I’m doing seems normal to me, but perhaps less so to my parents. My children in turn will share things that will make my toes curl. They probably are. I don’t want to think about that.

As employers, as organisations, we have to constantly readjust to the changes. We have choices about how we harness, use, or ignore the opportunities that this world offers us. We can see, follow, know more about our employees and our future employees than ever before. We can understand how they work, how they socialise, what they do. We can see in to their lives in a way that was previously impossible.

But as employers we need to think incredibly hard before delving in to the private lives of employees, even when they’re presented in public. The increasing societal acceptance of openness isn’t an invitation to blur the boundaries between the professional and the personal. The ease of access to the “private” lives of employees, shouldn’t be mistaken for a willingness to allow employers in to it.

The received wisdom is that employees need to think hard about their social footprints and the impact that this can have on their employability. My belief is that this will change, instead employers will need to think hard about their invasion in to the private lives of employees, no matter how public the private. Do you want to work for an organisation that is willing to spy on the things that you do in your private life? Do you want to be employed by someone who makes judgments on your ability to do a job based on your choice of activities at weekends?

Article 8 of the European Human Convention on Human Rights sets out the right to respect for private and family life. We’ve seen the backlash against “government snooping” as a result of the Snowden leaks. The individual publication of personal information in to public spaces isn’t going to abate or diminish, regardless of whether people are looking for a job or not. Their expectations of how organisations use this information is. And their perceptions of organisations that handle this situation badly will be less than favourable.

At the end of the day, we employ employees to work. We are interested in what they do and deliver in the sphere of the organisation, in their role as paid agents. Before the internet, before the advent of social tools, we wouldn’t send references to the pubs and clubs that were local to a prospective employee, we didn’t send them to the various social groups or political parties that they might have been members of, we sent them to their previous employers and educational establishments. We did so because that was the information that we were interested in, anything else would have seemed perverse and wrong. And funnily enough, despite the ability to do otherwise, it still is.

Just because something is easy, doesn’t make it right.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

What lies beneath?

When the politician stands up and says that politicians aren’t delivering enough. We applaud.

When the policewoman stands up and criticises the failings of the police force. We consider them brave.

When the surgeon tells us lives are at risk because of falling standards. We’re shocked but supportive.

When the banker talks about the loss of control on risk taking. We say, “at last”.

But, when a HR person says the profession is underperforming?

We tell them to stop being negative and “get involved”.

Funny that. Don’t you think?

The thing is, in order to improve you need to highlight the deficiencies. In order to challenge the norms, you need to raise the possibility of other alternatives.

It isn’t whinging or whining, it is challenge.

And sometimes when behaviours are so ingrained, when opinions are so homogenous, when thinking is so linear, you need to make a bigger noise to wake people from their stupor.

To get us thinking, to get us reflecting, to get us talking.

But yes, if you want to really want to change the world of work, you do need to get involved……..inside a company, on a permanent basis.

Over the long-term.

A tweet isn’t going to change anything, a blog won’t make things happen, I promise. Even if you post it on LinkedIn.

We need to identify the issues, but identifying the issues isn’t providing the solutions. Because the solutions aren’t generic.

Take the, “we don’t need policies” schtick. Go and try that one in a petrochemicals company.

Or the, “we don’t need measurement, we need conversations” diatribe. Take that one into the operating theatre of a heart surgery unit.

We need to challenge the thinking, the perceived wisdom, but the real creativity and problem solving needs to take place in the organisations themselves. And they need to be tailored, compatible with the overall systems and reinforced over the longer term.

The provocation is above the waterline, the real change happens beneath.

Solutions start with identifying problems. There is nothing wrong in identifying and calling them out that damages the profession.

But ignoring them, closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears and going to your happy place, well trust me, that does.