Previous month:
December 2009
Next month:
February 2010

January 2010

Powering the Light

This amazing picture was emailed to me by a colleague earlier today. It is of a human representation of the Statue of Liberty, made up of 18,000 soldiers preparing to go to war, and was taken in 1918 at Camp Dodge in Iowa. However, while the picture is interesting it is the facts that are amazing.

FACTS: Human Statue of LibertyJPEG

Base to Shoulder: 150 feet
Right Arm: 340 feet
Widest part of arm holding torch: 12 1/2 feet
Right thumb: 35 feet
Thickest part of body: 29 feet
Left hand length: 30 feet
Face: 60 feet
Nose: 21 feet
Longest spike of head piece: 70 feet
Torch and flame combined: 980 feet
Number of men in flame of torch: 12,000
Number of men in torch: 2,800
Number of men in right arm: 1,200
Number of men in body, head and balance of figure only: 2,000

Total men: 18,000

Notice the proportions - two thirds of the total number make up the flame alone! By contrast only one ninth makes up the head, body and rest of the figure.

I couldn't help but wonder if this isn't symbolic of life. Could this be a metaphor for the effort it takes to achieve our life purpose or to succeed in meeting a goal? Whether success is to develop a useful business or a popular brand or simply "to make a difference"? If we draw the analogy that the flame is employee engagement or strategic alignment it certainly seems to be about right. What do you think?

Employee Recruitment: The Blame Game

In a coincidentally convenient follow up to my last blog, HR Magazine this week published a report that 75% of employers feel "ripped off" by recruitment agency fees. I cannot help but think that this is a variation of the theme that it is hard to find good people.

There is an old adage that says, "Always remember, when you point your finger at someone there are 3 pointing back at you!" Employers would do well to remember this, because they are probably just as much to blame as the recruiters, if not more. After all, at the end of the day, the agency simply selects candidates to fit their requirements and they:

  • Determine the job description and what they are looking for in a candidate;
  • Make the final candidate choice and accept the candidate put forward;
  • Accept the recruitment agencies terms for finding a candidate.

The major explanation given for this employer dissatisfaction is the quantity of "poorly-targeted CVs that don't meet their requirements." This also points to a failure to fully understand the recruitment process, and the choices of recruitment available. After all there are 2 types of recruiters - retained  recruiters - who get paid a fee to find a suitable candidate, and contingency recruiters, who only get paid when a candidate they put forward is employed. So in both cases the ultimate onus is on the employer.

Perhaps the article itself is just extremely shallow or the survey it was based on flawed. However, I cannot help feeling that employers are misdiagnosing the problem and blaming the recruitment industry for what is effectively a poor process. Rather than pointlessly criticising, they should be more proactive and take steps to ensure that they recruit the right people and improve employee retention rates.

Specific problems that they might look at to improve the recruitment process include:

  • Looking to recruit people rather than just fill job descriptions;
  • Look to recruit for employee personal development rather than expecting the recruit to continue doing what s/he was doing previously;
  • Recognising that a new person requires support and time to grow in comfort in the role and accommodating that need;
  • Eliminate the problems that caused the previous employee to leave in the first place.

Recruiters on the other hand, should take this report as an early warning and take a lead in working with employers to address the problem. Ultimately their livelihood may depend on it.

Are Good People Really So Hard to Find?

In a recent blog I came across the writer claimed he would be a rich man if he had received a pound for every time he had heard business owners and executives say, "Good people are hard to find." Don't you find that remarkable? I certainly do!

Just think about it. Recruiters only respond to applicants that they are willing to put forward to their clients because they apparently get so many applicants for every position. Let's be conservative and say that is 10 applicants for every job. (You can appreciate that has to be very conservative for otherwise they would surely be able to respond to every applicant!) From those 10 let's say they decide to interview 5. That means that 50% of the applicants are deemed to meet your criteria for the position.

The recruiter will interview them, verify qualifications and check references. They may even subject them to a battery of tests to further prove their mettle. From there they will create a shortlist of 3 for you to make your final choice.

In your organisation they may well be subjected to any or all of the following:

  • A number of preliminary interviews;
  • A screening process of some description that tests their psychological profile, aptitude, capability and cultural fit;
  • A second, and possibly even a third, interview.

From that you will then make a decision and offer the ideal candidate the role. Providing you haven't taken so long over this entire process that they have accepted a position elsewhere, you now have to negotiate all the terms of employment to ensure you meet their aspirations. Assuming there are no glitches there you now have someone who is:

  • Definitely capable of doing the job; and
  • Prepared to work for you on terms that have been agreed by you both and that therefore must be considered satisfactory by both parties.

In light of all this it is clearly ludicrous to say that there are no good people.  Particularly when you consider that my conservative numbers are likely to be considerably understated. How can there be a 'War for Talent'

On top of that, you will agree that everybody wants to do a good job. A new position is always stressful because new employees are anxious to please and at the same time have to learn the way "things are done around here!" So consequently, attitude is not a problem either; certainly not initially.

Why then do statistics show a recruitment failure rate of 42% within the first 6 months of employment? Rather than being an indication good people being hard to find, is perhaps rather an indication of there being few good employers?

So what are you going to do about it?

Corporate Branding, Employer Branding and Employee Engagement

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it is a particularly enjoyable and prosperous one for you all.

Of course to be so means, for most people, that it also has to be a successful and prosperous New Year for your employer organisation. Anything less and life's uncertainties become more onerous and stressful. Yet, I wonder if, like me, you question whether your employers really understand the link between employee engagement, employer branding and corporate branding? 

I started thinking about this after a friend sent me this link this morning. I was particularly struck by the term 'brand engagement' as it is one I had not previously registered. It fuses the concepts of corporate branding and employee engagement rather neatly.

The term 'employer brand' is a relatively new one and seems to have been coined by consultants as a response to the war for talent and intended to keep employers on their toes. I'd be interested to know how successful you think it has been because I certainly don't think "improving our employer brand" figures high as a strategy for many employers.

I'd also be interested to know your thoughts on the correlation between employee engagement and corporate branding, for 2 reasons.

Firstly, the list of the bottom 25 lowest-rated companies included in this survey includes some pretty well known companies. Thus, despite the undoubted link between engaged employees and corporate performance, I have to question the link between employee engagement and corporate branding.

Secondly, the list comprises only companies that have 25 or more people complain about the company they work for. This must:

  • Preclude a large number of companies that might otherwise make the list;
  • Skew the results towards the larger companies with the greatest number of employees and the greatest brand awareness.

Since not everyone works for a great brand this therefore suggests that more people are unhappy in their work than we would like to admit. On the other hand, there are a great number of people, such as hospital workers, firemen or policemen, who provide exemplary service without in any way identifying or being identified as part of a corporate brand. In which case, it is possible the attempt to link corporate brand and employer brand may be tenuous at best. What do you think?

Hopefully you can still have a happy and prosperous New Year even if you don't work for a prestigious corporate brand.