Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WEDDLEs Research Factoid

Most of the staffing world would instantly recognize Pete Weddle's picture from his most recent appearence on America's Most Wanted. (Just kidding Pete, but the part about recognition I think would be true.) Pete has been operating in the staffing space since before it bacame a "space" which also might say something about where his hair went.

Okay seriously, his newsletter (which is not just interesting but is also free) is something I look forward to and actually read. The "factoid" piece in a recent isssue, the opening portion of which I have pasted below, immediately caught both my eye and attention I guess because it touched one of my biggest "worry nerves" in terms of not just the future of business in a global economy, but the future of our country in general. Here's part of what Pete said:

WEDDLE’s continuously conducts both primary and secondary research on Best Practices in employment excellence and HR leadership. Among the documents we recently reviewed was a 2006 Towers Perrin survey conducted among HR executives at 250 large and midsized North American organizations. Towers Perrin asked the executives a very simple question: What is talent?.

The data below indicate the percentage of respondents that selected a specific workforce group as talent.

86% identified senior leaders

82% identified employees with leadership potential

76% identified key contributors/technical experts

48% identified entry level employees with leadership potential.
The groups are, by no means, exhaustive or even meaningfully structured, but they do provide an interesting perspective on our work as recruiters.

The article goes on to discuss and more importantly define what Pete feels employers really mean when they use the word "talent" and/or "leadership."
I have no idea if how these terms are described will finally put an end to the eternal debate over these most sought after attributes that continues to support the multi billion dollar industries that produce and sell all sorts of products and services that promise they can help us identify the DNA that produces the talented leaders every business so desparately needss and craves, but they are a good as any I've seen in a while.

We are currently putting the finishing touches on our annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, a survey now in its 15th year. While it has changed and expanded over the years as most surveys do, one question that has been there since day 1 has been to ask the recruiters who participate what are the top characteristics or attributes they are asked to find. The top three, by far and away have always been leadership, industry specific experience, and functional expertise.

It is always an area that causes a fair amount of discussion whenever I have presented the survey results to varioius groups over the years. Actually, in that presentation, there is a slide we use to try and drive home the point that while we all keep trying, for sure we have along way to go:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Support From The Field

There was one of those cute graphs in the recent USA Today "Snapshots" space that caught my eye even though my own kids are, chronologically at least, well past adulthood.

The subject of the chart was to show the percentage of children who are praised at least three times a day by their mother or father, and as Richard Dawson would say "and the survey said":

Under age 6 - 72%
6-11 - 51%
12-17 - 37%
There were a couple of things that struck me about this when I saw it other than my initial reaction of hoping that it wasn't my tax dollars that helped to fund the study, however, those hopes were dashed when I read the fine print and discovered that the source of the data came via the Census Bureau's "A Child's Day" report.

Okay, so I lost that one, but I could not help thinking as I kept looking over the stats that I would have felt much better had the numbers been reversed. Don't we all care more about positive reinforcement as we get older? Don't we feel the need more as we go through life, or is it the macho thing that since we're "grown up" we don't need that "stuff" that is really for kids?

I certainly don't mean to make a federal case out of this (no pun intended) but it just seems to me that most of the management gurus tell us as senior executives to "try and find something good" even though most of the time it feels like we're being paid to manage the "bad." Yet, if you look down he lists of the "to do's" in terms of what they say a manager should be doing, recognition is always very high on the list.

Kent Blumberg whose blog is almost totally devoted to the subject of leadership, recently had a post in which he suggested readers check out the story that Michael McKinney used on his blog to drive home the importance of providing support and encouragement rather than always feeling like the job is to point out how something could or should be better.

We talk a great deal in this country about our ability to compete on the global stage going forward as well as the fact that technology will only continue to drive productivity for so long. I wonder how much we lose in productivity, creativity, and motivation because of what seems to be a focus on pointing out mistakes.

I would guess that we have all seen the commercial featuring Peyton Manning in which one person after another is making a mistake or has some accident befall them, yet he just keeps trying to find a positive. The last scene shows him standing in front of his house with a cup of coffee in his hand as the paper boy comes roaring by on his bike and lets fly with the morning paper which promptly goes through the window with a crash. Peyton says something like "It's okay Jimmy, you still have the strongest arm in the neighborhood!"

We need to keep encouraging our Jimmies and well beyond when they are 17.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Getting It

As a recovering HR person, I have to admit that I still get an enormous amount of what they used to call "job satisfaction" from the phone calls, emails, and letters that arrive in one form or another on a daily if not hourly basis.

The subject matter of these communications covers a wide range of topics. To be sure many of them are telling us that that their new gig came as a direct or indirect result of a posting on ExecuNet which while not a surprise is still a source of an extra good feeling. In truth, and as much as I love hearing it, the ones that really make me feel good are the ones where members tell us of an experience where the linkages that come from effective networking have paid off for them in so many different ways.

I guess one of the reasons these are such a source of satisfaction for me is because quite often when someone first becomes a member while they tell us they understand the concept of networking (i.e. the what) where they are really uncomfortable is when it comes to the doing (i.e. the how).

I doubt there are many of us who have not seen the stats that have come from God only knows how many surveys by countless organizations over the years regarding how they made a job change. Networking is by far and away the most named source. Our own surveys put it at 70% of the time which is the reason we invest the time and energy we do in trying to provide members with the knowledge and tools and opportunities that help in acquiring the "how."

What got me thinking about this was an email that was forwarded to me by Judy Rosemarin who has facilitated our networking meetings in NYC for the past 13 years. The email was from David Clarke, who based on what he shared in his email is someone who clearly "gets it" and it certainly made both Judy and me smile. With David's permission, (I have masked the names of the others he mentions since I have not asked them it if is okay to use their names) he is what he had to say:

Judy - just thought I'd keep you posted, not to blow my own trumpet BUT you might be able to use these examples (in the abstract) at future Networking sessions to demonstrate to the attendees what CAN occur if people take the networking seriously......

I have arranged for James to meet with a divisional CIO at McGraw-Hill next week - the guy is a buddy of mine, our kids are in school together and we were colleagues years ago.

I got Mark hooked up with my buddy who is the MD of a gaming software company. They are actually closing down but my buddy connected Mark to a Salomon Bros. contact who needs 'gaming technologists' for something they have in the works.

Hooked up with J. and we will speak on Friday after he has the details of his interview at D&B in the Business Dev./M&A team - he wants my help in that regard.

S. and I emailed and have connected, but nothing specific. Arthur has me hooked up with the Gerson-Lehrman group.

By close-of-play today I should have S. the contacts in the Leadership Council group to get her the "ins" she needs for her target co's.

All this in 24 hours from 1 meeting - that's what is possible if each and everyone attending 'plays the game’

Best Regards,
We have been hosting executive networking meetings around the U.S. and Canada now for more than 17 years. Many people have asked us why we would do that, especially in this day and age when people can collect thousands of electronic "business cards", etc. The answer is pretty simple; we do it because the hard data as well as the anecdotal data tell us that this is where the leverage lies. Said differently, the meetings (which have always been open to both members and non-members alike) give people one more venue where on a peer to peer basis they have the opportunity to expand their personal and professional network.

For sure anytime you show up someplace where you may or may not know someone there it can feel a bit uncomfortable (another reason why all the meetings are professionally facilitated) and to some degree it is a bit of a crap shoot in terms of what you might take away from it.

That said, however, those who come to such an event with the right attitude which can come under a variety of phrases starting with "play it forward" up to an including David's "play the game" I believe "get it" and as a result will find what can be a very tough time much easier to deal with, and as I said at the outset, as a "recovering HR person" that really makes me feel good.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Networking II

Networking II is the title of a recent article appearing John Sumser's outstanding daily ezine Electronic Recruiting News whose reputation is such that it long ago became required reading for anyone who has any interest in the staffing world be they candidate or recruiter.

You should be able to find a copy of the entire article in the archive section of John's site. Well worth reading on a number of levels, but when I got to the section I have pasted below it immediately got my attention. Indeed, I went back and read it again. Why did I pause on it? In truth I would guess because like most people when I read something which supports my own point of view or philosophy, it of course catches my attention. I couldn't help but read this and say: "Right on big John!" Moreover, when it is someone with Sumser's reputation, it tends to make you puff up even more and say to yourself "see, even John Sumser says you are not crazy."

Anyway, this is the section that got me to sit up and take notice:

"Also, the theory that solid social networking involves giving without the expectation of an immediate return seemed to be hard for some people to understand.

Of course, social networks produce returns for their investors. People would never participate in them unless that was true. The trick is knowing that credit-taking and the expectation of specific return destroy the network dynamic. Networks work because their members receive unexpected benefits, because being in the network is better (for everyone involved) than being outside of it.

There's no escaping the fact that networks can only achieve effectiveness if the participants are willing to delay gratification. That's where the idea that you have to give without the expectation of return."
When we started ExecuNet way back in 1988, I can recall the conversations I had with each person who called then, and while the technology and times have obviously changed, the message hasn't:

Give first and results will follow.

Effective networking is about giving not about getting.

Help each other.

Every interaction you have reflects on you first and foremost, but it also reflects on your fellow members.

It's about being remembered and referred; make sure you are remembered for the right reasons.

Real career management is a process, not a program. It is not something that you start and stop.
When we began ExecuNet, there was, for all intents and purposes no Internet much less a term like "career-related website." Nowadays, the last number I think I saw Pete Weddle report was that there were more than 45,000 of them.

Over the years, I have been asked again and again, and even more so as the number of career-related websites continue to expand "how do you measure your success"? Reading John's Networking II article reminded me of what my answer has always been:

By reputation,

By the fact that the vast majority of our members still come to us by referral from current or former members, and

By how many search firms and companies keep coming back to post their senior level executive jobs with us
All of which translates back to what John has said in this piece:

"The trick is knowing that credit-taking and the expectation of specific return destroy the network dynamic. Networks work because their members receive unexpected benefits, because being in the network is better (for everyone involved) than being outside of it."
My belief is that this is not only true but is one of the key differences between being a "member" versus a "subscriber."

Thanks for the reminder John.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Information is Power

Is there anyone who roams in or around the staffing industry who doesn't get John Sumser's Interbiznet Bugler? Probably not, which suggests that the piece that ran in a recent Bugler announcing the coming debut of a site called CareerTours is not exactly "new news." In the off chance that you didn't see it, however, here's what was reported:

CareerTours, a national recruitment resource, has developed a new way to recruit called "Frictionless Recruiting" that will provide employers with a revolutionary new way to recruit talent while minimizing the friction inherent in the recruiting process. The innovative process will enable an organization to display its culture using web-based audio, slideshows, and video, as well as sharing a company's organizational structure and management philosophy. The service will launch nationwide on January 15, 2007.
This caught my eye because I thought it was at least one other approach in trying to help both sides of the process help each other as we continue what seems like the eternal and clearly flawed process of trying to find "fit."

I am sure that we all have seen the surveys which seem not to have changed much; at least not as far back as I can remember. Bottom line, the vast majority of those of us who have failed at some point in our careers (i.e. "got carried out sideways as they used to say) experienced that outcome not because of a lack of technical expertise, but fell victim to what has been variously described as "a lack of chemistry," "a personality conflict," or "couldn't fit in with the culture, etc." The story has played out for such a long time that in terms of age it is probably only surpassed by Adam and Eve, and the track record of those that "didn't work" makes Matt Millen's record as GM of the Lions look like Hall of Fame numbers.

When it comes to negotiations, there is an old saying that "Information is Power" and for sure I would be the last person to argue with that fact. When it comes to trying to find "fit", I think the same principal applies. The best tool either the employer or the candidate have to use as they try and make a decision that they both hope (individually and collectively) turns out to be a good one is the exchange of information.

If you read what the Bugler piece has to say about CareerTours "Frictionless Recruiting" one would think that they have found a way to electronically inject sodium pentothal into the process. Strikes me as pretty idealistic to say the least, but since they were only supposed to launch on January 15th, I guess we'll have to wait and see what they will be able to do to "keep it real" so that both parties get something other than well crafted marketing hype.

For my money, the name of the game is research, research, research, and that certainly includes talking to people who work there or have worked there. From an employer's perspective you are talking about a big bucks investment that depending on how you keep score is easily well into six or seven figures, and from the candidate's perspective, it's your life your messing around with.

Try putting a price on that.